From March, 2015

Lessen Time Grading with Voice Comments

I am always looking for ways to help teachers deal with the grading load that comes with teaching English.  (See previous posts Resources for Grading Essays and Giving Effective Feedback and Incorporating Student Reflection: Effective Efficient Feedback Continued).

Then today, Ben Baptist showed me the voice comment feature in, and I thought it was another great tool to give efficient and helpful feedback to students.  It is also very easy to use for teachers.

Ben and I experimented with the tool by grading the same six-page AP essay at the same time.  He typed his comments using the traditional commenting tools, and I inserted a generic “Voice Comment” to highlighted text and then recorded each voice comment as I read the paper.

I was able to complete my comments on the essay four minutes earlier than Baptist, which means that for his 85 AP essays, using the voice comment feature could save him five hours and forty minutes!

It basically works like this:

1.  When you open a paper to grade it, click on the icon that is the second from the right icon (see highlighted icon below).

Bottom Right

2.  When you click this box, you will see the following screen.  I have clicked “record” in this screen shot by selecting the microphone.


The features above are as follows:, from right to left

  • Red button pauses and records
  • Black bar shows your voice recording so that you can ensure sound is working
  • The blue square allows you to save and download the final comments when you are finished
  • The trash can deletes comments

3.  When you select the microphone (shown as a red pause button above), you will see this box


4.  Select “Allow,” “Remember,” and “Close”

5.  From here, you can begin voice comments.

The feature can be paused and restarted, so I commented on the paper as I went by highlighting text, adding a Quickmark comment I created called “Voice Comment,” and then recording my actual voice comments as I went along.  I would start my comments by saying aloud, comment one, comment two etc.

When I finished reading the paper, I added my overall feedback at the end. In total, my voice comments were about a minute and a half; you can record up to three minutes of comments.

The one thing that needs to happen before this tool can be useful is the microphone must be turned on in order to record comments.  You can check this in the following manner

1.  Click apple

2.  Click System preferences

3.  Click sound

4.  Click Input

5.  Make sure the mute is not clicked and the sound is turned up on input

If teachers decide to use this feature, please send me feedback and let me know how it goes!

Just on a lighthearted note, I found this video where a teacher (fictional) describes his “grading process.”  It is maybe one step up from the infamous “stair method.”

Socratic Seminar: Racism in To Kill a Mockingbird and in Modern Day

As part of the To Kill a Mockingbird unit, the ninth grade team plans to have students participate in a Socratic Seminar using To Kill a Mockingbird and other non-fiction and multimedia sources.  The central topic of the seminar is racism in society.

The post, Students Coaching Students Socratic Seminar: A Step-By-Step Process, will provide guidelines for the Socratic Seminar model where students coach students in the discussion process.

Socratic Seminar Questions

  1. What is racism? Is it a belief, an illness, an action, etc?
  1. Is racism still a major problem in society today, and what causes racism?
  1. Has racism affected you or people you know?
  1. What are the effects of racism in society? Explain.
  1. What are the effects of racism on individuals (both the aggressor and the victim?) Explain.
  1. What lessons can people learn from Atticus Finch?
  1. Do you think Atticus Finch would have taken the case to prosecute George Zimmerman if he were asked? Why or why not?

Non-Fiction Articles

Multimedia Sources

Handout for students with questions and a list of sources: