February 1, 2010
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Telling your students that they need to become fluent readers is an abstract concept that will help neither you nor your students. You can give them examples of what fluent readers do, model reading in a fluent way; but they will not truly understand the idea until they experience it themselves.
Learn by Doing
To get this first-hand experience, I had a fifth grade class bring in a book they were currently reading. They recorded themselves reading 2 pages of the book using Audacity and exported the file as an Mp3. The next lab session, they opened up the file and listened to themselves, and while they were listening, they rated their fluency using this Fluent Reader Self-Eval checklist.
Some things the students found out about their reading fluency from this activity were:
- Pace – some found they read too fast or too slow
- Expression – hearing themselves enabled them to decide whether or not their expression conveyed meaning
- Punctuation Signals – a lot of students forget to pause at comas and periods
- Voice Inflection – when reading narration or dialogue, it’s often difficult for students to change their voice. When they hear themselves reading, they really pick up on this.
You don’t need to use Audacity to record your students. Portable voice recorders can be used. Another idea is to have the students record their voice directly in a PowerPoint presentation and use the check list to add details about how their fluency can improve.
PowerPoint Voice Recording (v.2003)
PowerPoint Voice Recording (v.2007)
Fluent Reader Checklist
December 4, 2009
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Is podcasting something you’ve wanted to do for a while, but have just never set aside the time to get it going? Podcasting enables students a tool to publish what they are learning, and also, it allows parents and family members to be able to not only hear their loved ones via the internet, but also to subscribe to a podcast via iTunes.
Setting the Stage
The first hurdle is finding a site to host our recordings, as iTunes does not host directly. There are many pod-hosters out there. One I recommend is called Podbean (http://www.podbean.com). Podbean is easy to set up a free account (100mb storage space is pretty limiting, so if and when things grow, I may decide to upgrade to a paid subscription), and the layout is similar to other blog sites, so the learning curve is fairly easy. Once you have your account at podbean set up and your first podcast recorded, you can submit your feed to iTunes (go to this page for the step-by-step procedures within iTunes). It took about 24 hours for iTunes to review my feed and accept it (I’m not really sure how critical they are with the review procedure as my only podcast at the time was me saying, “This is a test.”). Once accepted, you have a direct iTunes link you can send out so parents, grandparents, teachers and students can subscribe to your podcast and then whenever you add a new recording, iTunes will alert the subscribers. Cool!
Nuts and Bolts
Now that the foundation is laid, it’s time to add the excitement – students’ voices! I’m using Audacity (free download) to record and convert to MP3s as it’s an easy program and the recordings come across crisp and clean. The microphones we use in my lab are Audio Spec C-100m, which are basic, middle-of-the-line mikes. We’ve rubber-banded a piece of Kleenex over the tops of the microphones to act as wind screens and this low-tech fix really does the trick in reducing the loud gusts of winds that students somehow always seem to produce while recording. After the recording is to the student’s liking, they “export as MP3” to a shared folder. From there, after checking the recordings for quality and ensuring they didn’t give away any personal information (last name, address, phone number, etc) I upload the files to my podbean account. From there, iTunes updates the new recordings automatically in a matter of a few hours.
Give it a Listen
If you’re curious, the next time your in the iTunes Store, do a search for “SAS Geckos” and you’ll find us. You can also check us out on Podbean: http://sasgeckos.podbean.com
Got some other ideas about podcasting in the elementary classroom? Leave us a comment.
November 13, 2009
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One of my 4th grade classes is learning about electricity and magnetism in one of their Foss Science units and they are getting into Morse Code. I thought we’d get a first-hand feel of how the Morse Code alphabet works so here’s what I did. I first played them the Morse Code alphabet video (which you can find in my Vodpod section on the left side of this page) and then had each of them do a search to find the Morse Code alphabet (you can also print it out to save time – my way saved paperJ). They then each opened up Audacity and recorded either their name or a question, using their voices for the dots and dashes. They then exported the sound as a WAV and brought it into PowerPoint to make a finished product that they can share with their classmates. The classroom teacher is obviously teaching them more about the history of how Morse Code was developed and the students all know that the code was not created by human voices being recorded onto computers.
My lab was filled with sounds of beep, beeeeeeeep, beep, but they really took to the project and have a better understanding of the way the Morse Code works.