Text Reconstruction (or Dictogloss)

Polar bear walking on ice

In this collaborative strategy, students listen to a short text about their current unit of study several times and reconstruct the text together. This strategy is part of Colorin Colorado's ELL Strategy Library and can be used to support academic language development for all students.

Strategy Overview

How This Strategy Supports Language Development

As students listen to a short text multiple times, they take notes, confer with partners, and work with others to reconstruct the text by focusing on including key vocabulary, complex sentence structures, and discourse markers.

Text reconstruction is a strategy that builds listening comprehension and develops students' ability to use complex sentence structures in their own writing. Working with a partner to negotiate the meaning and structure of the text also builds their speaking skills. This strategy provides a mentor text for students and the time to practice and focus on one or more aspects of that text.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Read:  The teacher reads a short text about the unit of study with familiar vocabulary and concepts.
  2. Listen: Students listen for comprehension first. 
  3. Partner Share:  Students orally share their understanding of the text with a partner.
  4. Read: The teacher reads the text again.
  5. Listen and Take Notes: Students take notes trying to capture exact words and phrases from the text.
  6. Partner Share: Students share their notes with a partner. Partners fill in any missing information on their own notes.
  7. Read: The teacher reads the text again and students add more details to their notes.
  8. Partner Share: Students work in teams to reconstruct the text as closely as possible to the original text. 
  9. Compare: The teacher projects the original text. Students compare their reconstruction to the projected text.
  10. Analyze: The teacher analyzes the original text for grammatical structures, discourse markers, and/or punctuation.

Lessons Learned

  • Choose a short text that takes one minute or less to read aloud. For younger students, start with just one sentence.
  • Choose a text with familiar vocabulary and concepts that come from the current unit of study.
  • After the first reading of the text, encourage multilingual learners to discuss the meaning of the text with their partner in their heritage language, when possible.
  • When students take notes, teachers can provide a word bank with some key words they should listen for. 
  • Monitor students’ comprehension after the first reading. Clarify any misconceptions about the meaning of the text so students can focus on the sentence patterns and vocabulary.
  • Monitor students’ discussions during each sharing opportunity. Provide support as needed.
  • Purposefully partner students so that entering and emerging level learners have support from their peers. 
  • Celebrate phrases and sentences that the class reconstructed exactly like the original text. 
  • Analyze the language in the text after students have compared their final text to the original. Teach a mini-lesson about one linguistic feature (clauses, conjunctions, etc.).



  • Purposefully partner entering and emerging students with a more advanced English speaker or a partner who speaks their same heritage language.
  • Provide a visual word bank with labeled pictures of key terms students will hear in the text. 
  • Give students a paragraph or sentence frame for the text so they only have to listen for words and phrases to complete the blanks. 
  • Encourage students to focus on just the words they know and write down whichever words they could understand, even if those words were "the," "and," "but," etc.


  • Partner developing students with more advanced English speakers or those who speak the same heritage language.
  • Provide a visual word bank with labeled pictures of key terms students will hear in the text.


  • Partner these students with those who speak the same heritage language or with heritage English speakers.


Co-Teaching Considerations

Content or Grade-Level Teacher

  1. Choose or write an appropriate text for the grade level and unit of study.
  2. Highlight essential content vocabulary and share these words with the ELD teacher so they can create a visual word bank.
  3. Decide on the linguistic feature to focus on during the analysis and comparison section of the activity. 

English Language Development Teacher

  1. Purposefully partner students for the activity.
  2. Consider reading a modified passage about the same content to a small group of students at the entering and emerging levels.
  3. Create a visual word bank with labeled images and translations, if necessary, for students to use while listening to the text. 
  4. Support partnerships during the text reconstruction process.


Content AreaType of TextSample Text
Second grade:  ScienceShort informational text (one or two sentences) that describes an animal using adjectives and clauses. Students use this to describe the animal they are researching for a project.

"Polar bears have large furry feet and short, sharp claws, which help them walk on the slippery ice."

Source: Animals of the Ice (NOAA)

Fifth grade: MathMath word problem with multiple steps. Students use this mentor text to write their own word problem with similar operations and steps but in a different context.

"A student completes his homework in 1 hour and 34 minutes. How long, in minutes, does it take the student to complete his homework?"

Source: New York State Department of Education

High school: Language ArtsOne short paragraph describing or detailing the setting of the novel. Students use this mentor text to learn how to write with embedded noun clauses and descriptive language for their own personal narrative

"It was already one of the hottest mornings on record in the hottest summer anyone in Oaxaca City could remember...Jugs of water steamed like pots on a stove."

Source: Lotería by Karla Arenas Valenti