Overview and Application
There is a single download associated with this activity (available in both PDF and Microsoft Word formats) that contains a script page and answer/note-taking/reconstruction worksheets for up to four different sections of an overall text.
As with other listening applications, the first thing a teacher needs is a text to work from. In addition, the teacher needs to decide how many 'chunks' (or sections) can or should be applied and how long and complex these are according to the age, level and experience of the students to which the activity is to be applied. It is generally recommended that teachers first utilize short texts with short sections to build up students' familiarity with the exercise, and then gradually increase the amount of material to be listened to and applied as students demonstrate better ability and confidence with it.
After a text has been selected and pasted or typed onto the script page, it needs to be broken down into 1-4 sections. I generally try to make sure that sectioning corresponds to paragraph breaks, to ensure that each section is likely to have its own main idea and development. It is also possible to use different multiple short texts as sections, but I have found it more beneficial to use one overall text, as comprehension with one part can often assist understanding in other parts, and there is usually a certain amount of vocabulary and language structures that are repeated (giving students more of a fighting chance!).
Below is an outline of how I then apply the activity - bear in mind that it is possible to alter this to make it more or less difficult for your students.
A) First, read the entire text aloud at normal speed, and do not permit students to take notes or write anything. Ask them to concentrate on the general content and flow of the reading.
B) Next, return to your first 'section'. Read it aloud in isolation, slightly slower than normal speed. Once you have finished reading it, allow students to pick up their pencils and start taking down notes in the 'notes' column of the first section of the worksheet. Ask them to try and jot down what they think are the most important details, and the things they think they will need to recall in order to reconstruct this part of the text later. At this point, do not allow them to start 'reconstructing' the text.
C) Read section 1 again, at normal speed, allowing students to view their notes but not write anything. Following the second reading, allow them to alter or add to the notes they have already made.
D) Following that, ask the students in pairs or groups to compare their notes and help each other with details one or another student has missed or to settle disagreements they may have with each other concerning the accuracy of the notes taken.
Repeat steps A through D for the other sections you have allocated to your text/script.
Finally, read the whole text again at slow speed, allowing students to look at all their notes. Then read the whole text again at normal speed, allowing students to alter or add to the notes as you are reading aloud. Then ask the students (in their groups) to start reconstructing each section of the script together, giving them one more reading of each section if you think they need it.
Note that this is quite a lengthy process, depending on the length of the script and how many sections you allocate. I often give the final reconstruction work as homework (in cases where students cannot access the script in other materials they have - if they can locate the script then there is every likelihood they will simply cheat and change what they wrote to match the original text).
Do not be unduly concerned if students cannot come up with perfect reconstructions, or for that matter even highly detailed notes based on their listenings. This activity is as much about listening training as it is overall performance and proficiency. The notes section of the worksheet has deliberately been kept small and narrow to encourage students to convert a long listening into a short summary that includes the most important information. In reconstructing the listening texts, look to see if students accurately included all the important details, and whether they applied appropriate grammar to express it.
Linking to the Activity from a Reading Syllabus
Texts from a reading syllabus can be used for this activity in much the same way as was outlined for "Dictation" and "Listening Comprehension". The key point is that it needs to be something that can be broken down into clearly manageable sections.
Interestingly, there is considerable room for a crossover in skills between Reading Comprehension and the "Dictogloss". For extended listenings which may be repeated more than once (as per this activity), students can be encouraged to apply many of the same skills they should be learning for reading - for example "skimming" (listening to the whole thing to try and get the overall message or theme) and "scanning" (listening for specific details/information important to an understanding of the text), as well as main idea identification. By comparing results in reading and listening for the same text, a lot can be learned about students' preferred learning styles and how much they manage to comprehend when they are listening versus reading.
Using reading texts that have already been covered in class reinforces the learning that took place in the reading class, and a comparison of original versus reconstructed texts can give both learners and teacher insights into what they are or are not 'picking up' in the content, vocabulary and structure of the language.
On a final note, it is important that students not be allowed to know which particular readings are going to be utilized in a dictogloss ahead of time, as it may simply encourage them to memorize whole texts. That is not the general purpose of the dictogloss, so try to keep them on their toes and don't let them know which part(s) of their reading content will feature in an upcoming dictogloss.
Linking to the Activity from Grammar or Writing
This is where the dictogloss really flexes its usefulness. For grammar, the work produced through the reconstruction in groups allows students to discuss their interpretation of which grammar would be most appropriate or accurate to ensure that the text they produce is as close as possible in meaning, content and function to the original script. If students have already studied or been exposed to particular structures that appear in the script, it is interesting to note whether students can identify them when listening and then reapply them in the actual reconstruction. Comparing the original script with their own written versions allows for good review and self-correction.
In terms of writing, students' own written work can be applied to the dictogloss, and if feasible, students can even be encouraged to utilize their writing to create a dictogloss of their own whch they then apply to the class. There are plenty of creative variations that can be applied here. For example, in a fairly structured writing task with a clear topic the whole class wrote on, teachers could take select paragraphs from different students' work, edit them so that they are more correct or appropriate, and then combine these to form a 2-4 part dictogloss with 2-4 varying points of view or main ideas. The people who wrote these paragraphs could then be selected as 'group leaders' to help others get down notes and details and then reconstruct the paragraphs read aloud. It can be interesting to see if students recognize the differences or changes made to their writing for the script, and whether their reconstruction incorporated more or less of the teacher's corrections.
The dictogloss also helps to build skills that can be reapplied in future writing tasks, especially in terms of turning brainstorming into fuller written accounts, but also to get students into the habit of comparing their own production with target L1 norms in order to be able to start finding mistakes and correct them.
This has been deliberately left quite general (with a general letter grade allocation overall for each section of the dictogloss worked on) in order to give teachers options according to what they want any particular dictogloss activity to focus on. For example, a teacher may like to put more explicit emphasis on how well students take notes rather than how perfect the reconstruction is (generally my own personal preference), whereas another teacher may be more concerned with how well the students notice, record and then use specific vocabulary or grammar.
However assessment is applied, remember that it is only fair that students first be warned about what kind of performance in particular the teacher is looking for, so that they have a chance to allocate more of their attention to getting that feature done rather than others.