VoiceThread and Early Learning

This is a guest post by Sarah Diaz, VoiceThreader and Kindergarten teacher.

I had first used VoiceThread as a student in graduate school. I loved the idea of sharing media, narrating it, and giving/receiving instant feedback. As a student, I enjoyed the freedom it gave me and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to create new projects. I began to think of how I could use it in my kindergarten classroom. There would be challenges because their knowledge and skill sets are limited. As emergent readers and writers, they would not be able to use all of the features on VoiceThread; however, young learners are exceptionally good at thinking beyond the box, and I wanted to see what they were capable of.

I began by presenting them with VoiceThread as a digital story. I took pictures and narrated an alphabet story, Max Grover’s “The Accidental Zucchini”. The class roared with laughter after hearing a favorite story in a familiar voice on the computer. They wanted to watch it over and over.

Once I had their attention, I asked them if they wanted to create their own alphabet story and make a VoiceThread as I had done. They were very excited. Each child chose two letters, listed two things that began with that letter, and made their letter pages for our class book. In the past, this is where the class book was assembled and the project ended. Now, I took pictures of my students’ work and recorded each of their voices reading the work aloud. When the big debut of their class digital story came, the students were so proud to share their work with each other, other classrooms, and their families.

This was the beginning of my students’ use of VoiceThread. Since this project, I have created different digital stories for the students to listen to, and they respond by using the comment feature. They have given predictions, opinions, and compared different texts through either recording audio or video. It serves as a formative assessment for me on their comprehension skills of the story and in their language development.

I am an international teacher. The majority of my students are English language learners who are not from our host country. Developing their English language skills and having the ability to share my class’ stories with their families from all over the world is important. Technology helps tremendously in keeping my classroom connected to our families and global community. Parents and relatives alike can view our stories, and see their child’s growth for themselves.

One of the joys of VoiceThread is that it can be used in any subject, at any level, in any class. Young students can be shown which buttons to press after the visual content has been added for them, but the stories are still their own. Now that there is a VoiceThread app, my students have an easier time making stories with the class iPads. It has been one of the tools that significantly added to my students’ 21st century skills and continues to amaze them with what they are capable of with technology.

Sarah Diaz has been a kindergarten teacher for the past 11 years and has worked with students in public, private, and charter schools in the United States and abroad. She is passionate about early childhood education, STEM, and digital storytelling. Catch her on twitter @SarahDiaDiaz for more ideas from her kindergarten classroom.