The Scavenger Hunt Dictation: a Hyper-Active Activity for Teaching English to Young Learners

If you’ve ever wanted to see your kids crawl under a desk while learning English, then have I got the activity for you! Probably one of my favorite things to do with young learners during the first few days of class, this variation on the running dictation is adapted to be just a bit more active, and I can guarantee you that it’ll get even the most reluctant students itching to get out of their seats.

The Scavenger Hunt Dictation

Young Learners (11-16) || Any Level || Groupwork || Listening/Writing (Spelling)/Language Awareness

Materials Needed

4-6 Post-it notes/index cards:  These should be printed with one sentence each of target language, preferably on a related subject. I usually prepare a short, five sentence paragraph and write one sentence on each Post-it.



The basics are the same as any other running dictation: one student copies a text that they cannot see with the help of their teammates, who run back and forth, dictating the text to the writer. The twist is that for this activity, the teacher turns the task into a scavenger hunt, hiding pieces of the text throughout the room.

Before class, print your index cards or write your post it notes and place them throughout the classroom. Try to put at least two of them in places that are not obvious, such as under desks or behind window curtains. I also usually keep at least one post-it note with me, to make it easier to demo the activity to the class.

Once you’re ready to run the activity, break the class into teams: if there’s a large number of students in the class, teams can work with up to three runners, though more than that gets cumbersome. Demo the activity with the first post-it note, placed at the front of the class where everyone can see it. Explain that the writers can’t leave their seats, and the runners must tell the writer what to copy.

At this point, I also usually make three rules VERY CLEAR:

1. Writers cannot leave their seats.

2. Runners are not allowed to shout.

3. No one, and I mean NO ONE, touches my post-it notes. That includes you, Vlad.

I find that kids turn even this demo into a bit of a race. But once all your teams have a copy of the sentence on their papers, the real fun begins. Tell them how many more sentences they need to copy and let them loose. Watch what happens. Enjoy the moment. Make sure that Vlad gets a time out when he tries to carry the chair attached to post-it note #3 across the room to his writer, because I SAID NO ONE TOUCHES MY POST-IT NOTES, VLAD. And when it’s all done, give the winners a round of applause, double-check the text, and use it as a jumping-off point for your next grammar or vocabulary activity.

It’s that easy. Have fun!

Published by thatexpatgirl

Traveler, Reader, Writer, Scribbler. Go ahead and email me at

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