I have been using VoiceThread a lot this year with my students. VoiceThread is a great online tool that lets you link or upload pictures, add video, and audio narration, and leave text comments and “doodles.” Many folks end up using it like PowerPoint for final projects, but I like to use it for concept development from the start of a thematic unit. I’m going to go through the steps I used in one Voice Thread as an example. Are we ready campers?

This is an important part of vocabulary and language development, critical when you are working with English Language Learners, or students with a learning disability. We’ve all used K-W-L (Know, What I want to know, what we Learned) charts. VoiceThread is a great way to make them interactive and visual.

The VoiceThread was for a unit on friendship. Since I have a large number of English language learners, starting with the visual is the best approach. Even if they don’t have the vocabulary, they know what friendship looks like. I started by locating Creative-Commons-licensed pictures on flickr with the word “friend” in the title or the tags. I then shared the pictures with the class by showing them on the digital projector, and had them help pick out the pictures they thought showed friendship. In addition to letting them show what they knew about friendship without reading or writing, their choices also let them express their creativity.

These were the first photos I added to the VoiceThread. The important thing is to get the URL for the photo (you can do this by right clicking on the picture in your browser and selecting “copy image location”). The tool in VoiceThread to add flickr photos will only access your photos, not pictures posted by others.

Next, I had students “show” what friendship looked like. This is an important part of vocabulary development because it lets students show what they know, AND it helps them create examples for others to view. Acting out is great way for both language learners and students with social/emotional issues to show what they know, and to practice appropriate social behavior. You can upload pictures to VoiceThread from your computer or memory stick.

This is where I have students add their voices. I had students tell me what people were saying in the pictures showing friendship. This is oral language practice for the students, and another way to show what they know about social skills.

Next, we’re ready to work with words. This should be at least a little ways into the unit to get the most interesting questions. For primary, I have them come up with oral questions they have about the concept, and I type it into a PowerPoint in front of the class. You can upload a PowerPoint slideshow directly into VoiceThread, just like you can with a regular picture.

You should be far enough into the unit that they will be able to provide some answers to the questions. This is where students can perform higher-order and deeper thinking. I usually do this by calling the students back in pairs or triads, and asking them to pick a question to answer. I have them go through their answers one time before I hit “record.” They then record their thoughts into the VoiceThread, showing what they’ve learned. All during the process, I have students checking to see new things that are being adding to the VoiceThread, so they can see it building. Voila, your K-W-L is done. -ALICE MERCER

Photo credit: Mii Friends from natliej’s on Flickr