iPods During Writing? Support the Voice Trait


Voice is one of the hardest Traits to teach. It requires a young writer to harness their personality and make their uniqueness shine through in their writing. This Trait requires a lot of support and should be modeled through read alouds of famous authors and author studies.

Voice Memo App (built in)

To support my young writers I have them use the Voice Memo app. As a prewriting activity, I have them record themselves sharing their idea or story. Often when a child orally tells their story, they naturally demonstrate their personality. Then, when they finish writing their story, I have them listen back to their first recording to see if they integrated any of the ideas and sentences they used in their initial recording.

Also, I have them record themselves reading their writing aloud when they finish their story. They can listen to their story to see if their sentences sound original, if their personality comes through, and if they sound confident. I also have them self-assess their use of the Voice Trait using a kid-friendly rubric. Allowing my students to self-assess, helps them to have a clearer understanding of their effective use of the Voice Trait. Follow this link to find an excellent 6 Traits kid-friendly rubric (www.middleweb.com). You can use this rubric to adapt one for your students’ needs. If you do not have a lot of experience creating rubrics, I recommend using Rubistar. This is a great resource that will not only help you to create your own rubrics, but also allow you to search for rubrics that are already made.

Here is a rubric I adapted for the Voice Trait from the Middleweb.com site:

    • Excellent: My writing is really individual and powerful.
        • My personality comes through.
        • My writing sounds confident.
        • When my friends read this they feel as though the I am speaking to them.
        • My writing is full of feeling.
        • I did a lot of showing, not telling.
    • Okay: My individuality fades in and out.
        • My true feelings and emotions show up sometimes.
        • When my friends read this they will know what I mean, but they may not laugh or cry.
        • I used more telling than showing.
    • Needs Work: This writing is not quite me yet.
        • My personality does not come through.
        • I used too much telling.
        • My writing sounds robotic.

This blog entry is part of a series focusing on integrating iPods during the writing block with a focus on the use of the 6 +1 Traits of writing. Please return to find out about specific apps I use to support the other traits of good writing.

Please share other ideas to utilize iPods to support the Voice Trait!


iPods During Writing? Support the Idea Trait


Any published piece of writing you read is inspired by a well crafted, specific idea. The topic the writer chooses to engage in should be something they are deeply connected to and can be narrowed to a small focus. Imagine you are looking through a telescpope at a rainforest scene. In the scene you can see many details, such as: butterflies fluttering near flowers, snakes slithering up a tree, branches hanging, water trickling, and a monkey peeling a banana. Sure the writer can write about all of the details they see in the scene. But consider turning the telescope around. Narrow in on one of the details. The story really lies in the monkey peeling a banana. The details describing how the monkey found the banana, the monkey’s expression, and the delight in the monkey’s face after he takes his first bite provide a narrowed topic that will keep the writing focused, clear, and specific. Here are some apps that I use to help develop and support the Idea Trait:



To support my students with the Idea Trait, I use the Simple Mind app. This app is a mind mapping app that will allow your students to create supporting details for their topic. Here is an image that demonstrates how my students utilize this app to support their writing idea.

Built in Camera!

Also, I use the camera! Many times my students are writing about topics they can easily take an image of. They can also screen capture images from the web to help support their idea. They can use these  images to add details to their Simple Mind app to support their topic.

Built in Voice Memo App

Sometimes talking with a friend before they begin writing works to help develop their idea. Students can work with a partner to discuss their topic idea and they can record their conversation using voice memos. They now have an oral documentation of all of their ideas. Also, after they write their piece, they can refer back to their original voice recording to add more details during the revision phase.

This blog entry is part of a series focusing on integrating iPods during the writing block with a focus on the use of the 6 +1 Traits of writing. Please return to find out about specific apps I use to support the other traits of good writing.

Please share other ideas to utilize iPods to support the Idea Trait!


Dr. Seuss Day Goes Digital- Truffula Tuesday


“UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot,

nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Lesson Objective: Students will generate ideas about how to protect the Earth and share their ideas by creating a comic strip.

California Common Core Standards: 

Reading Standards for Literature:

  • Key Ideas and Details- Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.
  • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas- Use information gained from the illustrations and text in print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of characters, setting, and plot.

Writing Standards:

  • Production and Distribution of Writing- Use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing.

Supplies: Class set of iPods, iPads, laptops, or other hand-held devices. Ability to email you. Lorax mustache and straws.









Voice Memos (built in)

iPod/iPad Camera (built in)


Links to AppStore:

Dr. Seuss App: The Lorax


Comic Touch Lite (free) or Strip Designer ($2.99)

Digital Read Aloud and Discussion

Today our digital read aloud on the iPad will be The Lorax. After the read aloud our discussion will be:

What do you think Dr. Seuss meant when he wrote, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not?” Students will do a Think-Pair-Share with a partner. They will record their conversation using Voice Memos on their iPods. Having them voice record their conversation allows them to be held accountable for their partner sharing. I do this regularly as a routine and every now and then ask them to email their recording to me (so they know that I am checking in on their work).

I will then ask the class, what are the lessons Dr. Seuss wants to teach with this book? I want to guide the discussion to the following ideas:

    • Protect the environment
    • Save the trees
    • Protect animal habitats
    • Don’t be greedy
    • Reduce, reuse, recycle
    • Buy things you need (don’t be wasteful)

Edmodo Posts

After our discussion, each child will login to Edmodo and write a post about how they can help protect the environment. I want them to post their idea to Edmodo to be certain that they don’t all write the same idea. They will need to review other posts and make comments on others’ ideas. Their post is to prepare them for creating a simple class movie.

Lorax Mustache Craft

Students will create a Lorax mustache on a straw (to be used in the comic strip).


Create a Comic Strip: Using Comic Touch Lite or Strip Designer

Once we have reviewed everyone’s posts students will partner up to take each other’s pictures using the built in camera on their iPod. They will use their Lorax mustache in the picture.

Next, they will open up one of the comic strip apps (either Comic Touch Lite or Strip Designer). In both of these apps, students are able to access images in their camera roll. They will select their Lorax picture and add a speech bubble. Their speech bubble will say the sentence they posted on Edmodo.

Here is a Strip Designer sample:

Here is a sample using Comic Touch Lite:

Students can email you their pictures and you can put the pictures together in Power Point or Keynote to create a class book that you can upload to iBooks. See a previous post of mine called Best Uses for iBooks: Turn Your Keynote or Power Point Presentation into an iBook for step by step directions about how to create an iBook.

Happy Truffula Tuesday everyone!



Voice Memo App for Fluency and Comprehension Development


You can go out and spend a ton of money and time trying to find the best app to use in your classroom. But stop spending hours in the iTunes store and save your money to spend at Barnes and Noble. One of the best apps that I use daily in my classroom is one that comes free on your iPod, straight from the factory. Go into your utilities file and viola! There it is… the most useful, bang for your buck app of all. Yep… Voice Memos.

The Voice Memo app is simple. There aren’t any ninjas or dancing bears. There isn’t any fancy motion feature or any levels to master. You simply record your voice! I have used this app for personal reasons many times, but I have found so many ways for my students to use this app in the classroom with their iPods, especially to support reading fluency and comprehension.

How often have you heard yourself read aloud? Now think, how often have your students heard themselves read aloud? Never thought about that, have you? Most kids know what a good reader should sound like. After all they listen to you read aloud to them in an enthusiastic voice on a daily basis. They have heard their parents or older siblings read to them, as well. But most kids have no idea what they sound like! Not in my classroom. My students know exactly what they sound like and can even reflect about their own read aloud capabilities. Everyday my students record themselves reading aloud using the Voice Memo app. When they finish recording they title their recording, listen to it, and reflect using a student-friendly rubric. I call this the RECORD, LISTEN, REFLECT model to using the Voice Memo app. I provide my students leveled passages (according to his or her reading level). I have been using the Read Naturally passages as well as the fluency passages from our Language Arts curriculum. They get one passage a week and record every day. My students are beginning to notice (on their own) the benefits of repeated readings! With each reading and recording their fluency rate increases, their intonation improves, and ultimately their comprehension improves. Teachers in my district have been utilizing the Voice Memo app for many years with great results. We have seen student test scores improve and the joy of reading has become the reward for many struggling readers. This is a great ROUTINE for any grade level or any reading level.

Another skill teachers are always seeking to improve is comprehension, right? Students in my classroom use the Voice Memo app to help monitor their comprehension. Gone are the stickies stuck all over the book! Now my students can record their questions, note details, compare and contrast, reflect, and summarize using Voice Memos. One of the many ways I have my second graders use the Voice Memo app is to retell their books they are reading. I have taught my students to use the story yarn to retell a story. The story yarn includes when, where, who, problem, first, next, then, and last. After reading their book (and before they take an Accelerated Reader quiz) they can record their summary on their iPod. Then they can email me their oral summary so I can have a better idea of wether or not they are ready to take an Accelerated Reader quiz. Plus I have a record of their summarizing skills and know exactly who needs intervention. Another way I have used the Voice Memo app to support comprehension is to have my students read two pages, then record what they remember. Then they hit pause, read two more pages, and continue the recording again. They repeat these steps until they get to the end of the book. When they are finished, they have a retelling of their entire book! This is great for them to listen to just before they go to take an Accelerated Reader quiz.

The possibilities of the Voice Memo app are limitless! Get creative and think of other ways you can guide your students towards mastery using this free app. Sometimes the simplest of things can be the most ingenious!

Please share with everyone ways you have found to use the Voice Memo app!

Here is a link to a Prezi I created for a staff development session I did for teachers in my district.