Dictogloss – Shrewsbury Staff Inset

This term the EAL Department delivered an Inset session to colleagues in the Senior School to help ELLs with their writing.

Over the course of our work this year a number of concerns have been voiced by mainstream colleagues about writing proficiency.  We looked at the four chief concerns and decided on a strategy that would help to address them.

These were the concerns:

•Students find it difficult to write in the correct register
•Students have problems with their tenses
•My curriculum is overloaded with content and therefore I do not have time to teach language
•I don’t know enough about grammar to teach it to my students
It seemed to us that a dictogloss would be a perfect solution to these concerns.
You can read more about how to do a dictogloss at an earlier post on this blog.  In this session we wanted to reiterate some of the advantages of using the tool.
A dictogloss uses a real life example of the kinds of text our mainstream colleagues are wanting their pupils to recreate in their own work.  As such this helps to deal with three of the four key concerns straight away:
  • In using the dictogloss you give the student direct experience and practice of the genre which interests you, addressing the register concern.
  • Because you are using text drawn from your subject you can double up langauge learning with curricilum learning, killing two birds with one well aimed stone.


  • A specialist teacher will know the genre inside out, and therefore the grammar asociated with it.  There is no need to know the meta langauge or ESL jargon in order to point out where something sounds right and where it sounds wrong – addressing the ‘I’m not a langauge specialist’ concern.

In order to help address the issue of tense we suggested that they add one extra reading to the dictogloss where they ask the students to note down only the verbs that they can hear.  Having listened for, then noted the tense form, they stand a better chance of precision in their use of tense in their own work.

The presentation is on the school intranet here*.

*only available onsite


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