Muddling through the blogosphere

Why I Love Audacity


(Reposted from Know ELLs ning)

Do you have favorite technology tools for helping your students become more comfortable with their speaking skills?  I have a few favorites, but lately and for a number of reasons, Audacity has been at the top of my list.

For a starter, Audacity is  a free download and works both on PCs and Macs.  The program allows students to record and import audio files  – and edit them.  From a basic activity such as recording students’ reading fluencies to a  more sophisticated project such as Rob Rozema’s amazing collection of student-created (pre-service teachers) YA Casts, Audacity  offers many possibilities for ELLs to practice their speaking and listening skills.

Audacity is  also simple to learn. How many other software programs can you introduce with just a 1-page (double-sided) handout. And for those who want more involved tutorials, I’ve listed online resources on  a wiki, including my latest favorite, a very complete, well-explained Audacity Basics video tutorial from Mindy McAdams.

The appeal of  Audacity to students is that they can edit all or just parts of a recording. For the past few months, I’ve had the privilege of observing Teresa Cheung’s 4th graders delve into Audacity to edit their Stories from Heart audio interviews. Once students see how easy it is to zoom in and delete an “er” or “um,” or shorten a pause, or amplify a section that’s too low, or remove background noise, etc., they become active sound editors. I love watching the confidence level of ELLs grow, as they relax, knowing how easy it is to redo words or even a single word until they’re satisfied with the output.

But more importantly, as Teresa’s students listen, for instance, to Chase’s mother explain how she came to be born by a waterfall, or Devina’s grandmother talk about growing up in Berkeley in the ’50s, or Anthony’s mother talk about her childhood days escaping Laos,  the students take pride in sharing and preserving family stories, cultures, and languages. As the collection builds, so does the celebration of common threads and diversity in Ms. Cheung’s classroom, along with an appreciation for the power of the human voice.

Please join this conversation and share ideas and literacy tools that are working for you and your students – or questions you might have.

And please invite your students to leave comments on the Stories from the Heart posts!


  1. Gail
    I am a big fan, too, for all the reasons you cite and also the visual element — students get to “see” their voice, which is pretty fascinating.

  2. When I do a workshop series with teachers, I usually introduce Audacity first, and then VoiceThread, which is also a favorite tool. Funny thing, though, with the students, if they’ve used Audacity (the free version), they feel a bit limited by having to completely re-do their VT audio recordings, rather than zoom in and fix exactly what they want to change.

  3. Pingback: Anonymous

  4. Hi Gail,
    Thanks for pointing us to Teresa Cheung’s wonderful collection of “Stories from the Heart.” This is a terrific example of PBL for elementary students. It’s easy to see the value for improving reading and speaking fluency, and using digital tools for an authentic (and important) purpose. I also love the role this project creates for parents to get involved in their students’ learning. I plan to share it with educators who wonder, can elementary kids really do PBL?

  5. Hi Suzie,

    I will pass your comment onto Teresa, whose teaching-from-the-heart style continues to inspire me every time I drop by her class.

    As luck would have it, and thanks to funding from a grant, I have some professional-quality footage of Teresa introducing a compare & contrast lesson that draws from the students’ interviews. Besides snippets from her teaching the lesson, the footage includes an interview with Teresa and a couple of students. So if you would like to provide your participates with a glimpse into her classroom and the Stories from the Heart project, I should have this piece online very soon.

  6. Dear Gail and Suzie,

    Thank you so much for your interest and support of my students’ work. They have gained much practice in speaking fluency, as most of my students continue to acquire English as their second language. Perhaps equally important, this project has given students and families the opportunity to learn about their family histories. They are so proud of their work!


  7. Pingback: Favorite Free Online Tools for Educators – Stepping up to “the challenge” | BlogWalker

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.

Skip to toolbar