3 Voice Typing Activities on Google Docs

A private student reminded me about the Voice Typing feature on Google Docs, and since then I’ve been considering effective ways to use it as a learning tool. Do you know how to find it? Open up Google Docs and create a new file. Go under Tools and select Voice Typing.
voice typing image a

Then click to turn on the mic and start speaking.
voice typing image b

1. Individual oral reading. 
By turning on the mic, a student becomes aware that their pronunciation must be clear enough to be correctly typed on Google Docs. Feedback is limited; none can be given on intonation or rhythm at the sentence level, but the clarity of words can be checked. The basic goal is for text on Google Docs to match the text a student is reading from. Note that punctuation will be absent in the voice-typed text, but the word match between documents is easy to check. Students can use a paper copy of a text for oral reading practice or they can refer to a digital copy on their smartphone. I recommend reading a text from my Oral Reading Fluency series. Once the word match is checked, the student can create an audio recording on their smartphone in order to self-evaluate their rhythm and intonation, which can be compared to my model in the given video.

2. Moving from an oral account to a written one.
Students can retell a story or report on a news event using voice typing. While recording, their focus should be on the content. Once they finish speaking, they can choose what to keep and what to change. Filler words, for example, should be deleted. Sequence markers and transitions words may need to be added. The next step is to format the sentences using standard punctuation.  My playlist on writing skills can serve as a reference. Alternatively, students can peer edit, exchanging documents and taking on the task of punctuating a partner’s document. Google Docs easily allows file sharing between users.

3. Creating a chain story.
Whether you partner a student in a private lesson or have pairs work on a single device in the classroom, turn-taking allows for more than one voice to create a single voice-typed text. I suggested variations of chain stories in the past, for instance, where a set of phrasal verbs could guide the group narrative. (See 2009 post.) I’ve also thrown out the idea of using a grab bag filled with physical props to inspire a story. (See 2011 post.) The basic idea is to move from an oral account to a written one, but students are collaborating to form one narrative. You can create a stronger focus on specific grammar or vocabulary by stating what must be included.

Final thoughts.
If you haven’t tried voice typing on Google Docs, I suggest you do your own experiments to test out what it can and cannot do. To add punctuation, you must actually say “period” or “comma” or whatever punctuation park you want typed. If students are using voice typing with a strong focus on speaking skills, it makes sense to hold off on the punctuation and let speaking flow naturally. Editing can take place later.

The technology isn’t the perfect pronunciation tool, but voice typing is a way for students to create a sense of accountability when working independently. In my experiments, I purposefully mispronounced words in English, changing vowel sounds and shifting word tress to the wrong syllables. I discovered that Google Docs is quite forgiving, and my words were still correctly typed. I also did shorter tests in French and Russian and found that the technology accurately recognizes my non-native speech.

Got more ideas for the voice typing feature? Please share.

Photo credit: Headphones, Mic, Headset, Microphone by PDPics. Retrieved from the Public Domain at https://pixabay.com/en/headphones-mic-headset-microphone-390335/.


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