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Audio. Podcasts. You Need Them.

“I don’t like the way it sounds,” my student proclaimed after listening to a recording of himself. I had to tell him that I felt the same way about mine.  It’s a little weird to put your voice out there. It can be so much more personal than the written word. But I want to talk about how much more powerful the spoken word can be.

So why do I say that? Because after a certain point in school, some people say fifth grade, students traditionally need to “read to learn.” In other words, they need to be able to read well in order to access the knowledge of math, science, history or even English. By using podcasts, products like Read Please (a software that reads text aloud) and other audio, we are allowing low-level readers to access high-level information. For example in my class, Mario was able to listen to his peers’ stories and edit them for content, which developed his writing skills, without having to struggle with the reading. But even better than traditional oral input, these high tech options allow students to go back and relisten to difficult/complex parts of a reading and make sure they understand what is being said. In essence, students get to learn more content. While this won’t specifically enhance their reading skills, it will build their understanding of the world. Then, they have more to build on when they read.

On the web, audio can be put in everywhere. It is good for directions and introductions, like on my class website. It can help students understand what to do without requiring them to understand written directions. So for all the teachers out there working with low-level readers or building web content for ESOL students, don’t forget audio. It is priceless!

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