Dictation is an exercise used in schools when teaching language. Brunfaut and Banerjee (2013) describe dictation as, “an exercise in which a selected passage is read aloud to students in carefully chosen chunks at a speed that is slow enough to allow them to copy it down”. Dictation is used as a way to test many aspects of language, such as spelling, punctuation and grammar, which is why the exercise is held in such high esteem in France, as Valette (1964, p431) explains that the student, “is examined on his knowledge of orthography and his understanding of grammatically agreements”, which is a difficult aspect of the French language to grasp.
Through my observations at this school, I have noticed that each teacher approaches dictée differently. Teachers of Cycle 3 approach the exercise in a more traditional way by reading out a passage for the children to listen to and copy, which they then discuss in part. Where as teachers of Cycle 2 tend to recite short phrases for the children to copy before they progress onto full texts. As well, each teacher reads out the text differently, some repeat small chunks as many times as necessary and others limit the amount of times a single phrase can be repeated. I think this highlights how important it is for a teacher to know the pupils in their class well, as they will have tailored their approach appropriately to suit their needs.
As the French language is such a prominent part of the French curriculum, teachers use dictation techniques quite regularly throughout the week. Due to falling standards in French children’s reading and writing skills, with studies showing that, “the CM1s are now significantly behind the average of the European Union countries,” (Pirls Survey) the French Education Minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, has proposed daily dictation nationwide, in an initiative called, “une dictée par jour” (Le Point, 2017). French newspaper, L’express (2018), reported that this initiative was just one of four circulars published by the Government, which Blanquer described as, “a national reference of text” providing recommendations to teachers.
Brunfaut, T. and Banerjee, J. (2013) ‘Dictation’ in Byram, M. and Hu, A. (ed.) Routledge Encyclopedia of Language Teaching and Learning. Available at: https://books.google.fr/books?id=XxZbhSsqnUQC&pg=PT470&dq=teaching+dictation&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwizptXA6LLaAhWMHsAKHdrQCj44ChDoAQg1MAM#v=onepage&q=teaching%20dictation&f=false (Accessed: 15 April 2018).
L’express (2018) ‘Dictation, Mental Arithmetic, Reading: the recommendations of the National Education to teachers’, 26 April. Available at: https://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/societe/dictee-calcul-mental-lecture-les-recommandations-de-l-education-nationale-aux-enseignants_2003741.html (Accessed: 28 April 2018).
Le Point (2017) ‘A dictation a day: the Blanquer Formula to raise attainment levels’, 12 May. Available at: http://www.lepoint.fr/societe/une-dictee-par-jour-la-formule-blanquer-pour-remonter-le-niveau-05-12-2017-2177440_23.php (Accessed: 28 April 2018).
Valette, R. (1964) ‘The Use of the Dictée in the French Language Classroom’, The Modern Language Journal, 48(7), pp. 431-434.