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13 ways to use a voice recorder in class

Previously only carried by reporters in press hats, thanks to smartphones, voice recorders are now in everybody’s pocket. Whether you choose to use your phone’s app or buy a simple recorder and microphone, you’ll find there are countless ways to use voice recorders in class. Here are 13 ideas to get you started.

Improve pronunciation and fluency

This is a classic – and with good reason! When learners record themselves speaking they can be made aware of their pronunciation challenges and work towards eliminating them. Students can use these in peer and self-reviews or you can provide feedback on short recordings.

More efficient brainstorming

Some students write slowly or struggle with perfectionism when writing. Enter the voice recorder. When students are asked to brainstorm in pairs or small groups, have them record their ideas instead of writing them. They can be revisited later if necessary or used as a base from which to create more detailed notes.

Get speech ready

Ask students to record their speeches before making oral presentations. Later, they can listen to themselves in pairs and identify where they tend to stumble over difficult pronunciation, “um” and “ah” excessively, or lose the thread of their speech. You may even ask your students to record their narrations to their Powerpoint presentations as a twist on live slideshows.

Update your materials

On the other hand, if you have an archive of Powerpoint presentations or other digital content you may find it’s effective to create narrations to play with them. This enriches your teaching materials and gives you added flexibility as to how you’d like to use them in upcoming semesters (perhaps to present new themes in class, embed on a website or blog, or emailed as attachments to your students).

Create voice overs

Try having your class create voice overs for scenarios depicted in videos (with the sound turned off!), magazine clippings, or stock images. These types of activities can be used to explore vocabulary surrounding feelings, greetings, small talk, describing likes/dislikes and scenes, storytelling, interjections, expressions, slang and more.

Compile to-do lists

Those to-do lists on random slips of paper are easily lost – and you may not even understand your own handwriting hours later! Combat this by using your phone’s voice recorder to maintain a constant flow of “notes to self” about student requests, items to research, questions for your department, or ideas for future lessons. Revise your recordings at the end of the day and delete those you no longer need to reduce digital clutter.

Set homework

How often do your students forget to copy down the homework or simply not listen when you set it? Try asking them to record you as you set the day’s homework. (The moment needed for the students take out their phones to record your instructions may even provide a point of focus!) Similarly, write the homework on the board and ask them to record themselves describing the task in their own words.

Create podcasts

It’s likely that a sizeable portion of your students are already podcast fans. Use that existing interest to fuel a semester-long podcasting project. Topics and genres are limitless. Students may choose to interview subjects, discuss current affairs, talk about a special interest, dissect English grammar or vocabulary, revisit history, tell stories, and so much more.

Practice transcribing

Have students transcribe a text read by you. Alternatively, ask them to record themselves reading texts and later swap them with a partner to transcribe.

Record yourself teaching

With your students’ permission, record a segment of class time as part of your own self-evaluation process. Hint: choose a time of day when you feel refreshed and don’t record more than 30 minutes – it’s just too much to listen to later!

Storytelling

When working on narrative structures, students may enjoy recording themselves narrating short stories in small groups. These can be swapped with other groups and notes taken on character, structure, language, and storytelling devices.

Complete self-evaluations

Ask students to record a few quick thoughts about their progress at the end of each lesson or after the week’s final class. This will become a useful reminder of the challenges they faced throughout the semester, their growth, and the strategies they used to improve.

Create student portfolios

Over time, learners can compile a collection of voice recordings that show their progress from beginners to advanced speakers. These can be included in a student’s e-portfolio alongside their presentations, blog posts, voice overs, scripts, videos, mind maps or other projects.

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