Sounds Like Fun: Booktrack Classroom + Google Chrome in Kate Baker’s Classroom


Kate Baker changes the writing experience for her students with Booktrack Classroom and Google Chrome



Kate Baker is constantly on the hunt for new tools to push her high school students to higher levels of achievement. At Southern Regional High School on the east coast of New Jersey, she frequently uses her school's cart of Chromebooks and utilizes a BYOD model to enhance learning. She also makes sure to balance tech use with plenty of face-to-face collaborative activity. 

As a result of Kate's use of Booktrack Classroom for Google Chrome, Kate has watched her students develop high-level literary analysis skills, and transform from individuals who complete assignments to writers who publish their work.




Like many teachers across the country, Kate and her colleagues often ask students to strictly structured five-paragraph essays in order to demonstrate their understanding of a given topic. These essays sometimes communicate the mastery of higher-order thinking skills, but for many students, words alone are not adequate to express their understanding of an author's tone, intent, and purpose. And once a student can identify those qualities in a piece of work, how do you get them to add that layer of meaning to their own work?

Kate also wanted to make essay writing more of an event than an assignment -- she wanted students to approach essay writing with the same enthusiasm that they approach creating a video or an art project. Her students were naturals when it came to music. Many of them regularly listened to music while they read or worked on assignments. They could easily pick out playlists for books they've read, but they had no way to bring this knowledge into the classroom.

When Kate began using Booktrack Classroom through Google Chrome, she discovered she had a tool that could leverage her students' existing preferences for auditory enhancement to develop their literary analysis and writing skills.




CBlog2Kate first came across the Booktrack Classroom Chrome app through her district's Tech Tuesday newsletter. After playing around with the creation tool independently, Kate decided to use the platform for a writing assignment about the Odyssey.

Students were originally tasked with writing a standard five paragraph essay about Odysseus' leadership skills during his journey from Troy to Ithaca. Kate then had her students take the assignment one step further, and asked students to add sound to their writing using Booktrack Classroom. Kate gave them an overview of the tool, and once they were logged in, it didn't take them long to become fluent users:

"Students learn best by doing. When one encountered an issue, another jumped right in to assist. They did not need me to lead them: a gentle push in the right direction and they went exploring on their own."

Kate's musically inclined students were particularly engaged. As students began adding layers of sound to their work, they also began easily discussing the layers of meaning in text.

"Students usually have trouble detecting tone in a text, but with Booktrack, the tone is immediately evident when listening to the sounds and music added to the text,"  Kate said. 


Kate seized on this learning opportunity and had her students create a second soundtrack for their essays. This time, instead of making the sounds match the tone or feeling of their essays, she had them take a satirical approach. Students who once struggled to explain satire in a text were now easily demonstrating their understanding of rhetorical devices through sound.


"By using something the students are comfortable with (music, in this case), they can analyze text at a much higher level, and subsequently intentionally create layers of meaning in their own work."




With Booktrack Classroom for Google Chrome, Kate's students can now develop a deeper understanding of text by reading Booktracked versions of classic texts, and students can then demonstrate their understanding by writing their own work through the studio component of the app. The process of adding soundtracks to their work has changed the way Kate and her students approach writing assignments.

"Students talk about their work more like authors now," Kate said. "They know when a piece is ready to be 'published' or if it needs more work. I've also noticed a difference in how they choose their words when they write in Booktrack, because they now know their writing needs to convey a distinct tone in order to fully get their message across."
Kate also leverages the library of titles in Booktrack Classroom to engage reluctant readers. She finds that giving students the option to read a novel or a play in the Booktrack environment often results in more students completing their reading assignments.

With so many ways to use Booktrack Classroom's Chrome App, Kate has encouraged her colleagues to bring the technology into their classrooms as well to create more engaging learning experiences. By empowering students to experience stories and create narratives in an engaging, multi-sensory approach, Booktrack Classroom allows teachers like Kate to meet their ultimate goal -- to help students cultivate a life-long love of reading and writing.