Testing innovative practices and their impact on spelling skills

We hear a great deal about the Dictée 0 faute ("No error dictation") and the Phrase dictée du jour ("Sentence of the day") in educational circles, but are they really effective?

This project was undertaken to examine the impact of the use of these two innovative dictations, something that had hitherto never been done. The study was carried out over a school year and involved 21 teachers, 40 classes and more than 900 students from Grade 3 to Secondary 3.

Our results show a very positive impact on students' grammatical spelling skills during the school year.

Our results show a very positive impact on students' grammatical spelling skills during the school year: in dictation, the average student made 4 to 5 fewer mistakes in grammatical agreements, while a "normal" improvement is considered to be between 1 and 1½ fewer mistakes. Even better, this improved grammatical knowledge extended to the production of written texts, in particular among students who were below the class average at the beginning of the year. Given that students at every level are getting better at making the proper agreements when they write and that the gap between strong and weak students has been reduced, we could say that these practices have the effect of "levelling upwards"! There seems to be no need to resign ourselves to heterogeneity within the classroom.

The role of the teacher is paramount to achieving this level of improvement. He or she must be well versed in the new grammar and well trained in how to conduct discussions on grammar during Dictée 0 faute and Phrase dictée du jour activities in order to encourage students to use manipulations to support their grammatical analysis. Teachers also need support in the form of practice communities, including access to an expert such as an educational consultant to assist them in adopting the most "effective" teaching gestures to help their students.

Main researcher

Marie Nadeau, Université du Québec à Montréal


Research report

Call for proposals

Deposit of the research report: April 2014