We English teachers constantly look for ways to streamline the writing evaluation and feedback process. How many hours have we spent writing comments on student papers only to watch one of the following disheartening things to occur: 1) The student glances at the comments before stuffing the paper to the bottom of her backpack (or worse—the trash). 2) The student can’t read the teacher’s chicken scratch scrawl which deteriorated over the hours spent grading.
One thing we know: The best way to help students improve writing is not by writing red marks all over their papers. The best way, the only way that really works, is to have a one-to-one conference with that student and his or her writing. I haven’t been able to make that happen in my seventh grade classroom. The problem is that when I am talking to one student, the rest need to be working independently, not something I can generally count on. Also, it simply takes too long for me to talk to every student. We’re talking a week, not a class period.
Here’s a possibly solution. I’m experimenting with audio memos to give students the feeling of an individual conference. I record a message and students listen to my comments on their own while looking at their own writing. They can even rewind if they need to hear it again. The downside is that students need to be motivated to do this on their own and they need to have the technology (smart phone, tablet, or computer) to access the audio memo. The upside is that I can say much more to student writers than I would write. It is much easier for me to talk through one hundred and fifty papers than to write through them. Also, I think students can understand what I’m saying much better than they can read my messy handwriting.
There are multiple apps out there for recording audio messages. The one that is working best for me is called Audio Memos, available at the iTunes store. I like this app because it can sync to my Dropbox and then I can attach the file to our school’s learning management system. When students click on the attachment it automatically plays the .wav file, no downloading required.
Here is the sample audio memo I recorded: Test Memo
My students are currently revising their blog entries based on the audio memo feedback. I am waiting for them to tell me whether or not it helped them. Fingers crossed!