After composing their audio compositions, the teachers of record and teachers-in-training in the course responded to this question: How does this project inform your understanding of audio composition’s role in the classroom?
Amy: Currently I work with English language learners (ELLs) in the 6th grade. This audio project has really made me think about how I teach them composition. Most of us, when creating this project, started out with some form of a script. We recorded our projects off the scripts, often multiple times. Writing something down, recording it, and hearing it out loud is an interesting process. We realized that some sentences that sound great on paper actually sound horrible when spoken aloud. We were then able to edit and fix anything that did not sound great. I think using a version of this project will help my ELLs with their speaking and writing. I have noticed that the sentences they write sometimes look correct on paper, but do not sound correct. Using a similar activity to this project would allow them to write something and hear their mistakes. Most of my students also cannot fully express themselves on paper. They have trouble connecting the ideas their heads to what they want to write. However, they have no problem articulating their complex thoughts through speech. This project will allow them to engage in a process of speaking, making mistakes, and editing those mistakes out. It would also greatly help with their speaking overall, as they will need to articulate so everyone can understand them. I think all students can benefit from this project. It is a fun creative assignment that allows one to be a creator, editor, and performer.
Anne: Our students have been raised in a testing culture that privileges the product rather than the process, so getting them to think about their work as a process can be difficult. When students are unfamiliar with a mode, instructors can better guide them in carefully thinking about and reflecting on their composing process. This metacognitive move concretizes the habits of mind that students need to be successful in college.
Dan: I am continuously faced with the challenge of teaching students the rhetorical decisions involved in composing. Too often, young writers do not realize that every move affects the audience in a particular way. The affordances of this audio project—such as the layering of vocals, sound effects and music, pacing and timing of musical cues, and even the quality of the vocals themselves—have the potential to make the rhetorical effects more tangible. The immediacy of audio composition lends itself to helping students understand how their choices enable them to achieve their purpose.
Danah: As someone who works in a school predominantly populated by ELL students, the idea of employing an audio composition assignment in the classroom is particularly exciting to me. I view it as a fun and alternative way to engage students who might otherwise have difficulty connecting with and completing a traditional, alphabetic essay. Students who speak a native language other than English may greatly benefit from the chance to compose freely without the added concerns of grammar, academic language, or spelling, building confidence and fluency. An audio assignment has the potential to help students develop complex analytical skills while offering them an opportunity to explore and demonstrate those skills in a mode that may be more comfortable for them in light of their ongoing language acquisition process.
Julia: This assignment is unique in that it allows students not only to compose with their own voices, but to reinscribe the voices of others to make new meaning. The ability to mix old voices with new ones vastly expands the possibilities for creation; students can compose using just their own voices or by weaving their voices with others’. They even have the ability to make new works by remixing others’ voices exclusively. Since students decide how much or how little they rely on their voices, they have freedom to set their own affordances and constraints.
Megan: Asking students to compose in an unfamiliar mode like audio helps to illuminate the rhetorical nature of composition. When composing in a more familiar mode, like the alphabetic, students are often unable to see the invisible (either because more normalized, or suppressed in an inauthentic assignment) influences that purpose, audience, or exigence have on their individual texts. This distance between the student and the assignment is reminiscent of the alienation effect in theatre arts described by Bertolt Brecht, in which the conventions of the drama are disrupted to allow the audience to consider them critically. Enacting a similar project in my high school ELA classroom with an audio assignment will empower my students to understand themselves as writers who make sophisticated and informed rhetorical decisions, an understanding that will transfer to their writing in other genres and modes.