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English Language Learners Find Their Voices Using VoiceThread

Written by Grace Raffaele
July 22, 2011

A VoiceThread is a collaborative, multimedia slide show created with online software that holds images, documents and videos and allows people to  leave comments using text, audio, or video. You can share  VoiceThreads with friends, students, and groups of people for them to record comments too.It is a creative multi-media tool with a built in response mechanism.

In much the same way as short Twitter postings were my entré into blogging, I thought this might be my foray into audio technologies which I had so far managed to avoid. My first VoiceThread was an experiment using the “Where I’m From” poem described by Linda Christensen in her book “Reading, Writing and Rising Up”. This seemed like a fun and easy way to try this out but was also a writing activity teachers at the high school where I was working used often with their recently arrived second language learners.

Although I enjoyed playing around with my own first VoiceThread, I was even more interested in its application in the classroom. I was new to the all ELL high school where I was working as a teacher-consultant for the New York City Writing Project and was noticing how prominent and effective the use of visuals was to the all-English instruction going on here. I was sure the teachers I worked with would find ways to use the image collection aspect of the program. What I did not realize was just how powerful the audio part would be for them as well.

The history teacher who created a series of questions for students to respond to on a VoiceThread said that one student who had hardly spoken during the Fall semester worked diligently on his answers over and over again until he had a lengthy response – far more than he would have attempted in front of the class.

The English teacher who had students put their “Where I’m From” poems into VoiceThread said she thought the privacy of the process of recording and rerecording gave students an opportunity to work on their language skills in a non-threatening way while, at the same time, giving them an authentic public audience for the final product.

Through a variety of creative projects, it became clear that VoiceThread could support multiple literacies including speaking, listening, observing and composing. Please take a look at the following pages to see how these creative teachers and students made use of the program. The link below will take you to VoiceThread’s informative site where you can join on a limited basis for free and try it our yourself. Enjoy!

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