Cell phones and tablets allow for immediate audio and video recording. Students typically begin by making silly recordings of greetings and funny sayings.
Since most of us are initially surprised at how our voice sounds on a recording, we watch British Radio 1 Scientist, Greg Foot’s YouTube video, “Why does your voice sound different on a recording?”, which explains the inner ear and how vocal fold vibration causes the bones of the skull to vibrate. Students quickly become accustomed to hearing themselves and master skills operating the recording and playback buttons.
Students participate in generating word lists and sentences with their target words. We practice the sentences before recording, using a highlighter pen to underline target sounds on a cue card. Students make three recordings and choose the best recording to save. The QuickVoice app lets you label, store, organize, and send audio recordings.
For families who have access to technology, we send the recordings by email or text message. Students are encouraged to provide a description and directions to their parents/caregivers, such as, “This is me saying my /s/ words. Remind me to pull my tongue back, and lift the sides of my tongue to touch the insides of my top teeth.”
We make audio recordings at regular intervals. We compare current speech and prior recordings to show progress, such as, “Remember when it was hard to say words with ‘s’ and ‘th’ sounds together? You can totally do this now!”
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Video recordings let us monitor articulatory movement. Using a cell phone or tablet camera, you can focus the entire video on the mouth. Students hold a flashlight to provide extra lightening to the mouth. Video recordings let us view the best productions and pinpoint placement differences that change the quality of the sounds.
Students can direct their own mini-movies using the Apple iMovie app. A video recording of target words can become a mini-movie with sound effects, a musical score, introductory titles, and fancy transitions between scenes. Students can be cinematographers, recording each other and splicing together scenes for a montage video.
Watching and listening to recordings hones our observational skills. We can attend to small details and change the rate of presentation (slow, speed up, or freeze the recording) to pinpoint specific examples. Observation is different from interaction. In an interaction, we are conscientious about the thoughts and feelings of the other person. We are simultaneously considering the needs of our communication partner and how we are presenting ourselves. We are busy organizing our thoughts and caring about how we are perceived.
Recordings free our attention from the burden of interaction. We can study recordings objectively in a relatively decontextualized manner without worrying about the requirement to respond directly to the speaker. Students are often able to recognize their most successful and most challenging productions when they focus on watching themselves. Recordings let us study our speech.