Feedback on Writing
I provide feedback to my students using mp3 files. I record them using the free audio editor and recorder Audacity (you can download versions for Windows, Mac and Linux/Unix).
I have found providing recorded oral feedback via an mp3 file to be a very useful addition to my feedback arsenal. I needed a little time to get into the swing of things but once I did, I loved it (and so too did my students). It’s very easy. I just record the feedback, save as mp3 and then e-mail it to the students.
I would suggest reducing the file size to 32 kpbs (if you can) so files don’t clog up e-mail InBoxes.
Here’s an example text. I write numbers on the text where students need to focus their attention. When I record the feedback, I ask the students to look at number one, and then provide the feedback, and then do the same for #2, etc.
Teachers have asked me if it’s quicker than providing written feedback. In my experience, it takes a little longer if the text is short but saves time if the text is longer. Using audio files also saves time if you want to provide more extensive and comprehensive feedback.
Here are some of the things I initially had to get used to:
- Finding what to say and how to say it to be of maximum benefit to students.
- Starting a new sentence again if I made a mistake (in Audacity you just select the mistake and delete it, as you would do with a piece of text in Word).
- Cutting down on umms and ahhs.
- Creating an easy to recognize naming system when saving the mp3 files. I used the class name + student initials + writing task name (e.g. DF2-05_AM_cities.mp3).
- Finding the time and a quiet area to get into the habit of recording feedback.
- Some people might say they don’t like the sound of their own voice, but this disappears after a while.
Here are the reasons why I like and recommend using sound files for feedback:
- Students like them
They really pay more attention to what’s on a sound file than what I write on paper. They also seem to get ‘excited’ at receiving one in their mail.
- It makes a change from red ink
Whatever colour ink you use for correction, it’s usually messy business. Some students might need a microscope to read your notes. I know my corrections can sometimes look more like a maze of insertion marks and words.
- It practices listening
Listening to the corrections is a valid and authentic listening task. Students are usually quite motivated to listen and will press play several times to make sure they got it all.
- It’s an activity in itself
This is a sneaky one – The audio provides students with a whole new activity of listening for specific information and re-engaging and correcting their text. Great for recycling language and getting students to think.
- It makes the students rewrite the draft
Always a good thing. In my experience, they are more engaged in the rewriting process with audio correction than with my scrawled notes.
- It gets students used to metalanguage
The audio files are a good opportunity to reinforce grammar terms they might not be so familiar with. This is particularly useful for lower levels. Audio files give students more processing time to work out exactly what those big, confusing words are the teacher keeps saying in class (like present progressive, apostrophe, adjective…).
- It is quicker than writing if there’s a lot you want to say
- It’s useful with tiny handwriting on A8 paper
No matter how hard I try to convince my students of the virtues of A4, I still get essays on Post-It-note-sized paper. You need an ultra thin pen and a microscope to notate these. Using numbers and audio makes this process cleaner and easier.
- It forces me to think more carefully about grading my speech and saying what I need to say as succinctly as possible.
So, I thoroughly recommend using audio to provide feedback. However, if you really want to push the boat out – use audio and visual. This is one of my New Year resolutions. Russell Stannard has excellent tutorials on how to use screencasts in providing feedback on writing:
Or check out Vance Stevens’ list of screencast software: