Our SIS elementary library now has approximately 60 children’s books with audio narration thanks to our grade 1 students. As part of a reading unit on oral fluency, grade 1 teacher Ria Hennigar was interested in the idea of creating audio books but also wanted her students to have an authentic purpose and audience for their productions. Their ECC (Early Childhood Center) reading buddies provided them with an audience with limited reading abilities and, in some cases, developing English vocabulary. The audio books, which could be read/listened to at the library or at home, would give ECC students more opportunities to develop their reading and listening skills. The production of these audio books also tied in perfectly with grade 1’s social studies focus on community and being a helpful community member.
To create these audio books our ES librarian, Gaylene Livingston helped pull a selection of library books that matched with grade 1 student reading levels so students could be successful in reading them aloud. Then students chose books based on their ‘just right book’ criteria and ‘tested’ them out reading to themselves and then with partners. To prepare for recording the books, students listened to audio books and noticed how to use clues from the text and images to inform dialogue and expression. For the ‘turn the page’ sounds, Mrs. Hennigar consulted with our ES music teacher, Kimberly Sheppard, to choose appropriate instruments to use such as bells and triangles. Partners then practiced reading their books, taking turns reading and using the instruments to indicated when it was time to turn the page.
To produce the audio recording, students used Voice Record Pro app on their classroom iPads. After their first recording, students would listen and critique their work. Was it loud enough? Could I follow along? Did I use appropriate expression? Was my reading accurate? Many students wanted to record again to improve their recording and Mrs. Hennigar commented that many students do not usually pay such close attention to their oral fluency and were very motivated to say words correctly and to be understood.
As student audios were produced, Mrs. Livingston and I developed the process to gather the audio files and add them to a new blog with each audio book as a post with the recording and an image of the book cover. From these posts, QR codes were generated and placed on ‘stickers’ inside the cover of each book to provide access to the recordings. (Mrs. Livingston also tagged the books in the library system so any books with audio can be easily found.)
In addition to Mrs. Hennigar’s classroom, students from Ritu Bohara and Michele Hussey’s grade 1 classrooms also contributed audio books to the collection. With the creation audio books completed grade 1 students have been testing them out and also visiting ECC classrooms to share their audio books and to teach the younger student how to access and use the audio recordings.
Mrs. Hennigar was happy with the increased motivation her students had with improving their oral fluency and creating a product for our beginning readers. This project also provided opportunities for collaborative partner work and service learning for our SIS community. Next year, grade 1 and the ES library will continue to promote the audio books and they plan to produce even more!