Activity 7: Walking Lyrics-Dictation

This activity, called Walking Dictation or Messenger and Scribe, is a variation on the classic dictation. Students do the dictation independently, so it is best if the phrases they dictate are a little less challenging than ones you might dictate yourself. (Note: This activity gets students up and out of their seats. For more activities that get students moving, please see the four-part series of articles titled “Back to the Future: Low-Tech Activities for a High-Tech Classroom.”)

Create a Walking Lyrics-Dictation in 5 Easy Steps:

Step 1: Prepare a song-lyrics worksheet by deleting 8-10 phrases from a song and replacing them with blanks for writing (a cloze exercise).

Step 2: Number the phrases in random order (that is, not in the order in which they appear in the song) and post them on the walls around the room. You can list all the phrases on one sheet and post multiple copies (so that the students acting as messengers don’t have to crowd around one copy), or you can post each phrase on a separate slip of paper and post the phrases randomly around the room.

 Step 3: Divide students into small groups (or pairs), and distribute the worksheet. Play the song once; students follow along on their worksheets.

Step 4: One student from each group (the messenger) gets up, finds a phrase on the wall, memorizes it, and recites it to the group members, who write the phrase down on their own paper (not in the blanks on the worksheet). The messenger continues going to the wall, memorizing phrases one at a time, and reciting them to the group until all the phrases are dictated. (Students can take turns being messenger.) When the dictation activity is complete, write the phrases on the board or project them on a screen so that students can check their writing.

 Step 5: Play the song a few times while students fill in the blanks with the missing phrases.

Thanks to: Taylor, a teacher in Japan, who posted the sequence of steps for this activity at

The first story in Unit 1 of True Stories Behind the Songs is about the circumstances that led George Harrison to write “Here Comes the Sun.” The song “The Sound of Sunshine” by Michael Franti is a great supplemental song not only because it fits the theme of the unit but because it, too, has a story behind it. (That story is available for free download under Stories on the navigation bar.) Below are phases you could delete from “The Sound of Sunshine” to make a lyrics worksheet.

Examples of Phrases Deleted from “The Sound of Sunshine”

    • it’s 6 o’clock
    • but the sun is hot
    • where I learned to swim
    • this storm to pass me by
    • but not my friends
    • where the summer never ends
    • like suntan lotion
    • relax your feet
    • the sun goes down