Sunday, March 2, 2014

Improving Reading Fluency with Audacity

Today is Dr. Seuss's birthday, so in honor of that, I want to share with you a reading activity I recently did with my class of 6th graders. They went from boring robot readers, to students filled with excitement and emotion as they read. Their fluency scores should soon be flying off the charts (If only it were that simple!). I have noticed that each year, my class is different (I know what you are thinking, "how profound"). What I mean by this is that some years my students LOVE to read. They do it alone, with partners, and chorally as a class; you name it, they read it. Other years, the students feel like reading is a chore, no matter what we read or do with reading.

We've tried reader's theater, book clubs, and reading novels as a whole class. Nothing was working. It happened to be the simple, short activity that got my students excited to read. We just called it "PowerPoint Poem Recordings". Yes, that's kind of a mouthful, so I'll take new name suggestions for this activity in the comments below ;).

Reading in front of the whole class whether alone or chorally can get some kids nervous, but when I gave my students microphones it all changed! Suddenly reading was fun. It was fun to speak into the microphone. It was entertaining to make different voices. It was cool to hear yourself recorded. Actually, my favorite part of all this was that they heard themselves read, and they practiced until they got it right. They wanted their project perfect.

 I started out using a free program you can download from the internet called {Audacity}. Next, I passed out poems written by Shel Silverstein and Kenn Nesbitt I had typed up on card stock. Any poem or story would work for this activity.
(A typed poem and microphone.)

                                           (The program Audacity opened up on the computer.)

Students also need a microphone and headphones. Depending on your technology, this could be done during reading centers, in the computer lab, or during a scheduled time on the computer as assigned by the teacher. There are 16 desktop computers in my classroom so we did this activity as a whole class, with students making recordings with a partner.

First students practiced reading their poems several times. They loved to make voices, read at different paces, and take turns reading with a partner. Somehow listening to themselves read was a lot more fun than just "plain old reading". Next, when they were done recording, students exported their audacity wave file as an MP3 and saved it in an easy to find location.

Then, students opened PowerPoint and designed slides with clipart and pictures to go along with the poem they recorded. Last, students imported their MP3 file of their poem into PowerPoint.While in PowerPoint, students clicked on the Insert tab. Then they clicked on Audio, which is in the top right hand side of the screen. The kids then chose an audio from file which happened to be their recording. Once the audio file was in the PowerPoint, clicking on the playback audio and then choosing the play across slideshow option allowed for their poem clip to play when they began their PowerPoint. I found this was best, because then as the slideshow played, students were able to click from one slide to the next as the poem progressed, and the right pictures appeared to match the audio.

My students enjoyed this so much we now have a reading center during reading rotations called PowerPoint Poem Recordings. What type of activities and rotations do your students do during reading in the upper elementary grades? I am always looking for new and creative ideas for my classroom as well!

Below is a sample PowerPoint Poem Recording done by me, because of student privacy, I did not want to share any of the children's work.


  1. What a fun idea! As for the name of this activity, how about 3PR? (for the 3 words beginning with P & Recording)

    1. Oh I like 3PR! I like how it sounds like CPR. Like we are reviving our reading with this activity...thanks for the idea;)

  2. This looks like a great lesson! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks Alisa, I appreciate your kind words!