Definition: Dictogloss is a classroom activity where learners first listen to a short text and then are required to reconstruct it afterwards. 

Target level: intermediate or advanced (3rd year and above in secondary; 4th semester and above in university)


Skills: listening, interaction, reading, writing


Paso 1:  Escucha mientras tu profesor(a) lee un breve pasaje sobre el día de los muertos. 

Paso 2: Con otra persona, debes reconstruir el pasaje de memoria para después presentarla a los demás miembros de la clase. 

(instructor only)


Create a short text of four to five lines (maximum 50 words with short sentences). The text may or may not target vocabulary and grammar, depending on the instructor’s lesson.

Example [38 words]:

El día de los muertos es una fiesta de México. Tiene lugar el 1 de noviembre. Ese día las personas recuerdan a los muertos. Preparan dulces, panes y otros postres. Muchos van al cementerio para honrar a los muertos.

Note: Prior to reading, you may preview any key vocabulary items quickly for the students (e.g., on overhead, muertos = the deceased; recuerdan = they remember, recall; honrar = to honor).

Step 1: Read the text to the class twice. The first time, read at the normal pace for your class. The second time, read with pauses, allowing time for students to “process the information.” Sample directions to students: “I’m going to read a short passage to you. I will read it twice. Pay very careful attention. After the second reading, I will put you in groups of two or three and you will have to reconstruct the passage in Spanish as best you can. Are you ready? Put your good listening ears on!”

Note: Students just listen. They do not take notes or do anything else. This forces them to listen closely.

Step 2: In groups of 2 or 3, students work to write out the passage as best they can remember.


Note: Students may use English to work out some ideas depending on their level. This is fine, and even expected, but they will be creating a text in Spanish.


Call time and ask one group to read its passage out loud. After the group has finished, ask, “Does everyone have exactly the same thing?” Most will not, so call on another group to read theirs. “Do you hear any differences?” You should repeat once more. After three groups present their passages, display the passage on overhead or PowerPoint and ask students to compare with what they reconstructed. Lead a discussion about what differences there were, what words they could not remember, and so on.

Follow up: Remove the passage from view and lead a discussion about the content.




¿Dónde es la fiesta del día de los muertos? ¿En qué país? [México]


¿Cuándo es? [1 de noviembre]


¿Adónde van muchas personas para honrar a los muertos? [cementerio]


¿Hay una fiesta similar en Estados Unidos? [Memorial Day.] Y ese día honramos a los que murieron en las guerras. 

¿Uds. celebran el día memorial? 

Tips for using a dictogloss: Keep passages short. Keep sentences short, too. You may use cultural information or even an interesting story you make up [see example below]; there are no rules on content. Be sure to engage learners in discussion about the content afterwards and personalize where possible.


Sample dictogloss passage [non-cultural, 34 words]:


Paquito es un perro abandonado. Ahora está en la Sociedad Humana para la protección de animales. Paquito quiere ser adoptado. Cada día espera una familia. Pero Paquito tiene un problema. Solo tiene tres patas.

Sample dictogloss passage [with grammar focus, estar used with adjectives four times; 40 words]:

Marlena es una estudiante universitaria. No está contenta con su compañera. La casa siempre está desordenada. Su compañera nunca limpia nada. Eso no le gusta a Marlena. El cuarto de Marlena siempre está ordenado y limpio. ¿Qué debe hacer Marlena?

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