Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Teach Foundational Writing Skills with Dictated Sentences

By Laura Scott

Expressing your thoughts in writing is a complex task, especially for beginning writers. Dictated sentences offer a scaffolded writing experience, allowing teachers to slowly teach students the strategies they need to become strong writers.

This blog is organized into four goals to use with dictated sentences to help beginning writers achieve success. These goals and strategies can be applied to any writing, not just dictated sentences. Once students have a strong grasp of the goals, teach them how to apply what they learned with dictated sentences to other writing experiences. Watch the video below for an overview of this blog or scroll down to continue reading.

Goal 1: Create a Strong Verbal-to-Written Language Connection

Do you have students who can tell you an elaborate story but struggle to write a sentence? Use the 3 R’s listed below with dictated sentences to strengthen students’ ability to convert verbal language into written form. Eventually, students can apply these skills to writing about their own ideas.

  • Review—Review any unknown vocabulary or phrases in the dictated sentence.
  • Repeat – Ask students to repeat the dictated sentence before they write it.
    • While repeating the sentence, hold one finger up per word or tap the table for each word.
    • Draw lines for each word of the sentence. Students can touch each line for each word while they repeat the sentence.

  • Reread – If students need help remembering what word comes next while they are writing, ask them to reread what they have written. This will trigger their memory for what word comes next.

Goal 2: Master Concepts of Print

Based on your students’ levels and needs, choose print concepts to reinforce during or after writing the dictated sentence.

  • Sentence Mechanics – Practice capital letters and ending punctuation.
  • Directionality – Point to the beginning and ending of the sentence. Point to the first and last letters of a word.
  • Words versus Letters – Count the words in a sentence. Find the largest word in the sentence. Count how many letters are in the word.
  • Spaces Between Words – If students struggle to put spaces between words, try these scaffolds while writing the dictated sentence.
    • Draw lines for each word. Students can write each word on the lines.
    • Teach students to create a “finger space.” After writing one word, put your finger next to that word to create a space, then begin writing the next word. 

Goal 3: Learn Strategies to Write New Words

Dictated sentences are ideal for students to practice applying their phonics knowledge to writing. The strategies listed below encourage students to break down unfamiliar words into sounds, word parts, or syllables to make them easier to write.

  • Stretch the Word – Put two hands together, and while saying the word, slowly pull your hands apart, “stretching” the word's sounds. Write the sounds you hear.
  • Find Small Words & Sound Clusters – Use familiar small words or sound clusters inside larger words to help with spelling.
  • Syllable Boxes – Chunk larger words into syllables. Draw a box for each syllable. Ask students to write the sounds they hear in each syllable, then put the syllables together to make the word. 

    Goal 4: Understand How to Edit & Revise

    It is never too early to instill the lifelong skills of editing and revising.

    • Reread What You Write Out Loud—This strengthens the verbal-to-written language connection. It is also easier to hear your mistakes than just read them.
    • Check Your Work – Encourage beginning editors to ask themselves these questions:
      • Does my sentence make sense?
      • Am I missing any words?
      • Do I have a capital letter and ending punctuation?

    Since dictated sentences are learning tools, it is okay if they have mistakes. It is not necessary to fix every error. Choose one or two target concepts to reinforce. This encourages young writers to feel comfortable writing, taking risks, and being creative.


    Are you looking for materials with dictated sentences? Each of Hameray’s 44 Vowel Matter Books includes extended practice with 3 differentiated dictated sentences. The sentences contain words with the book’s highlighted vowel combination. This is an excellent supplement to any phonics program, providing easy-to-use resources that support vowel learning and meaningful dictated sentence practice.


    Laura Scott taught English Language Learners of all ages for twelve years and spent three years as a bilingual coordinator and co-teacher in dual-language K-1 classrooms. She is part of the Hameray team. Laura values giving a voice to all students by supporting teachers as they bravely try new approaches to learning in their classrooms.