Tools of the Trade: Voice Recorders
by Kelly Virgin
For years, as a part of my regular classroom writing revision routine, I have instructed students to read their writing out loud. They do this with partners; they do this with me; they do this in corners of my classroom with themselves. I have even acquired a few Toobaloos (a semi-circular tube that students can hold up to their head like a telephone), and when my students aren’t fake phoning each other across the classroom, they are mesmerized by how up close the sound of their own voices become.
But this year I have taken it a step further. This year I have my students record themselves reading their writing out loud. This allows them to actually experience their writing as the audience of their writing. The effect has been noticeable. Just today, I had a student who is a regular work dodger, ask to come back during lunch to make some changes to his writing and then to rerecord to see if it “sounds better.” I regularly notice students cringe when they hear a stumble in their writing and then see them return to the piece, without prompting, to revise. On a few occasions, I’ve even noticed students playing excerpts of their writing out loud for each other. With the help of some simple technology, these recorded writings have seamlessly blended into our writing workshop routine.
At the suggestion of PAWLP fellow, Brian Kelley, I use this app-based voice recorder every time I meet and conference with a student about his or her writing. The ease of use and quality of recording works wonderfully to not only capture the students while they read pieces of their writing to me, but to also record our entire writing conversations.
While this app boasts professional recording capabilities, I regularly make use of only a few key features. First, the app enables me to record for any length of time and it allows me to pause and resume recording when needed. Therefore, I can use it to record any reading or conversation and I can easily work the recording around the normal interruptions of a busy classroom environment. Once I am finished the recording, I can quickly rename and share the file with my student. I typically send the audio file to their school email address and they follow up by adding it to their personal writing folders on Google Drive. However, as is evident in the screenshot, the app invites users to share or save in a variety of ways.
While the app is extremely user friendly and quick and easy to install, it is limited to iOS only. However, several of my students with iPhones and iPads have downloaded it for themselves and I have never had to give a tutorial on its use.
Web-Based Recording Options:
I have explored several web-based voice recorders, but my favorite so far is online-voice-recorder.com. With a simple click of the record button, this site records for any length of time. It also allows the user to pause and resume recording and provides a prompt to save as an mp3 file when finished. One drawback to this site is, depending on the length of the recording, it can take up to several minutes to process and save the file. Additionally, this site does not allow the recorder to edit the recording other than trimming off the beginning or the end. I was able to integrate regular use of this web-based recording program with relatively little instruction.
Other web-based recording options include:
- Speakpipe.com – This site is equally user friendly, but it only allows up to five minutes of recording time. A benefit to the site is the ability to create a free account and save recordings to the online server.
- Vocaroo.com – This site is also simple and extremely user friendly. After recording, the site creates a unique link to the audio and enables the user to either embed, share, or download the audio file. However, this site does not allow the user to pause and resume recording as needed.
- Simple Audio Recorder – For Chrome web browser users, this provides the option of adding a simple extension to the browser. Once installed, a mic icon appears and lives next to the address bar. Users can simply click on the icon to begin recording and click on the icon again to stop. After recording, the user is prompted to save the recording as an audio file. While this extension is very user-friendly, it is limited in saving capabilities and doesn’t allow for pausing or editing.
In an article titled “Teaching the Writer’s Craft“, Penny Kittle explains, “I teach my students to listen to their writing… The daily rereading, listening, and tuning of their writing has a huge effect on my students’ understanding of the power of their voice and the rhythm of their words.” With this in mind, I give my students opportunities to record their voices so that they can hear the power and the rhythm of their words for themselves.
Kelly Virgin is in her twelfth year teaching English for the Kennett Consolidated School District and has been a PAWLP fellow since 2010. She is a proud bookworm and loves sharing her passion for reading and writing with her students. This spring she will facilitate the Strategies for Teaching Literature course on Tuesday evenings.
Thank you so much for sharing the tools and strategies for empowering students to become their own editors/to self-conference. In addition, recording your conferences with students is also a great strategy/time saver. The details and screen shots are so helpful. I plan to implement your suggestions this coming semester. The timing couldn’t be better! Many thanks!