A couple of years ago, I read Snoder and Reynolds’s article  How dictogloss can facilitate collocation learning in ELT.

They used dictogloss with a twist, to enhance verb-noun collocation learning. They added and tested two types of pre-tasks.

  1. One was form-oriented which induced structural elaboration; learners worked with the form of the target chunks before the dictogloss. For instance, identifying parts of speech, word order, spelling, spoken form, etc.They named this variation the STRUC dictogloss.

2. The other was a  meaning-oriented pre-task which induced semantic elaboration of target chunks; learners worked with the meaning of target chunks before the dictogloss. L1/L2 translation, matching collocations to their definitions, etc. They called this variation the SEM dictogloss.

Their findings

  SEM dictogloss was more effective than the STRUC dictogloss in promoting collocation learning.

To prepare a SEM dictogloss:

1 Decide on a topic appropriate for your learners.

2 Find a short text (< 150 words) on that topic.

3 Read the text and highlight all verb–noun collocations . (The authors focused on verb-noun collocations but there is no reason that the findings would not apply to other types of collocations or formulaic language)

4 Identify the collocations/chunks.

5 Select a suitable semantic elaboration pre-task activity depending on learner proficiency.

I’ve used..

 the SEM dictogloss and I’ve noticed it does help learners to focus on the meaning of the chunks before the dictogloss. It also facilitates text reconstruction, especially if you ask ss to use the collcoations as key phrases when reconstructing the text.

Another useful modification might be..

 focusing on the spoken form, e.g. students listen to the teacher reading a list of collocations (including potential features of connected speech) and transcribe what they hear. This pre-task would also facilitate collocation recognition, wouldn’t it? This would be STRUC dictogloss though, but useful decoding/bottom up practice in my opinion.

Another interesting read..

Leo Selivan (thanks, Leo!) shared this articel on twitter: Learning multiword items through dictation and dictogloss: How task performance predicts learning outcomes.

Generally speaking..

It is difficult to predict whether learning outcomes will be better after dictation or after dictogloss. On the one hand, dictation might be more beneficial than dictogloss because the students are less likely to write down inaccurate word strings which subsequently need to be supplanted by the appropriate MWIs. On the other hand, dictogloss requires more retrieval effort than dictation, and successful retrieval is known to be beneficial for knowledge retention (e.g. Candry, Decloedt & Eyckmans, 2020).

The study

The authors compared three activities: dictation, dictogloss and answering comprehension questions. They found that dictogloss was the most useful in terms of promoting incidental multiword item (MWI) learning.

They used a pre-test, which  was a cued form-recall test, consisting of separate sentences with blanks for  the  missing  words  of  the  target  MWIs,  but  with  the  first  letters  of  all  the  missing  words, plus L1 translation of the chunk.

For example: Those who smoke have an i____________r___________ of heart disease. (2 words; a rise in the chance that something bad or dangerous may happen; 增加风险)

This is quite interesting. It’s like a dual focus on form and meaning, isn’t it? Perhaps it could yield better results. I will definitely try this pre-task!

What do you think?

Dictogloss fans, have you tried any of these pre-tasks? If not, would you?

Let me know in the comments!


Barry Lee Reynolds read my post and has recently uploaded a video where he explains this version of dictogloss.


Snoder, P. and Reynolds, B.L. (2018) “How dictogloss can facilitate collocation learning in ELT,” ELT Journal, 73(1), pp. 41–50. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/elt/ccy024.

Yu, X., Boers, F. and Tremblay, P. (2022) “Learning multiword items through dictation and Dictogloss: How task performance predicts learning outcomes,” Language Teaching Research, p. 136216882211172. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/13621688221117242.