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South Jordan Journal

Mountain West Montessori students produce podcast for reading fluency

Mar 11, 2020 01:38PM ● By Julie Slama

First grader Kekoa Angilau records his narrative about Tonga with eighth grader Eloise Fund for a podcast in the Mountain West Montessori Academy’s new soundproof recording booth. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Mountain West Montessori Academy second grader Jacob Mons wrote a narrative about Brazil. After practicing it aloud several times for his teacher, he stepped into a soundproof booth, put on huge headphones and began reading it in front of a microphone the size recording artists use.

“My mom lived there,” he said. “I can’t wait for my family to hear the recording.”

Eighth grader Eloise Fund was overseeing the recording.

“I thought it would be great to be trained on it so I could record a podcast for my group skit in English,” she said about wanting to be a podcast sound technician.

That is the dual purpose of the newly installed soundproof studio, said MWMA director Angie Johnson.

“In this program, elementary students revise their writing to a standard of excellence then rehearse and record their stories with the help of middle school students, who have been trained to operate the recording equipment,” she said. “The repeated practice and recording increases reading fluency in an authentic setting, and both elementary and middle school students learn how to take on a real-life hands-on project.”

The result will be episodes that will be part of the existing series, “Do You See?” podcasts, which can be heard on iTunes, Spotify, Spreaker and the website of the charter school, which houses about 320 kindergartners through ninth grade students. Already, Johnson and other teachers and staff have created 30 broadcasts in the series, which began in March 2019 to address a variety of subjects so parents could learn about educational and school topics.

The sound booth and recording equipment purchased for the Podcasting for Reading Fluency program came from a $15,000 innovation grant from the Utah Board of Education.

The first student stories’ episode is anticipated to air in March.

“We’re very excited about this,” Johnson said. “It’s a big community builder at the school. The younger students feel famous, like they’re rock stars when they see the equipment in the sound booth and think it’s cool, they’re recording in there with older students. Our families will get to hear their children reading their own work.” 

The educational program reinforces the school’s philosophy of making interdisciplinary connections and gaining hands-on learning experiences, she said. 

Johnson applied for the grant last summer and learned in August, the school was awarded the funding. The sound booth was installed in the school library by late December. 

“We were thinking outside of the box and thought it would be a good way to share all kinds of students’ writing — persuasive, informative, narrative,” she said. “We’re hoping it helps with students’ writing and reading fluency.” She added that they will analyze data from fourth grade students to determine the effectiveness of the program. “Students now are motivated to revise their writing because they want to participate in the podcasts.”

Sixth grader Ava Harper recorded “The Green Man,” one of several stories she has written.

“I rewrote it because I wanted to make it the best I could,” she said. “I’m excited. I’m nervous, but it’s fun.”

Eighth grader Antje Altamirano recorded Ava’s story.

“It’s cool to interact with kids,” she said. “Learning how to use the recording equipment is good experience.”

Together, Antje and the other seven middle students of the recording team learned how to record younger students with an audio mixer board. Then, they individually demonstrated how to use it to Johnson before proceeding to record.

“We even had a piece where they learned to interact with kids, make them feel comfortable and confident, because they are mentors to our younger students,” Johnson said.

About 15 stories are expected to be aired on the first 30- to 45-minute podcast. 

First grader Gideon Horsley pointed to his illustrations in his story to Eloise.

“My favorite part of the story I wrote is the general on the phone,” he said. “We should play his theme song.” 

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