Record a Story

Read a story and do basic sound editing.

Before the session, decide if members will work in Audacity or Soundtrap. Then either download Audacity to Club computers or navigate to Soundtrap and create a free account for your members to use. You can write the username and account somewhere visible to everyone. Do a quick sound check on the computer(s) before you start.


Computer or Phone


Listen to a Story

Listen to the story How Wisdom Got Out, a folktale from Ghana. What do you notice about how the narrator used his voice while reading? Were you interested in the story? Why? How did this experience compare to watching a video of a story? Jot down your ideas and/or share them with someone else.
Before the session begins, write the following questions on the board or chart paper:
-- Were you interested in the story? Why?
-- What do you notice about how the narrator used his voice while reading?

At the beginning of the session, read the questions aloud and ask members to think about them while they listen to a folktale from Ghana, an African country. Play How Wisdom Got Out. Then ask members to share their thoughts about the questions on the board. Encourage them to respond to each other and build on one another’s ideas. Next, ask: How do you think listening to a story compares to watching a video of a story?

If you want to share more examples with members, get started with this list of youth audiobook websites.


What Do You Want To Read?

Choose a children’s picture book, a short story or an excerpt from a chapter book to read aloud. If you choose a children’s book, you could donate the book and your recording to an elementary school classroom to help younger readers or to an organization for people with visual impairments. You could also record something for an online volunteer project, like LibriVox, which makes public domain audiobooks available for free on the internet.

Choose something that takes just a few minutes to read aloud. Practice reading it a few times. Then, look at these tips for improving your delivery. Choose one or two things you think you could work on and read the text again.

Does your story include any important noises that you could include in your recording? For example, if your story includes a character walking up the stairs, you could pause after you read that sentence and record yourself stomping your feet. If a phone rings in the story, maybe you could record a phone ringing as you read. If your story includes a lot of dialogue, you could ask a friend to play the part of one of the characters. Or you could change your own voice to represent different characters. For example, if a giant is talking, you could make your voice sound deeper. 

Ask members to choose a children’s picture book, a short story or an excerpt from a chapter book to read aloud. Members could find stories online or in books. If you want, you can decide that the whole group will read pictures books. If you go this route, have a selection of short picture books ready and available for members to choose from.

Ask members to practice reading it aloud a few times. Of course, aloud doesn’t have to mean loud! Have members whisper read while they are practicing if there are a lot of people in the room.

Then call the attention back to the group. Say: Listen as I read part of this book. Chose a book and read about 30 seconds worth. Read mumbly and too quickly. When you’ve finished, ask: What did you notice about how I read? Was it easy to listen to? How could I make my reading better?

Read the same passage a second time. This time read more slowly, with better enunciation, and add emotion — you could even use funny voices for different characters. Ask: What did you notice I did differently this time? Was it easier to understand the first or second time? Why? Ask members to practice read the books once or twice more, incorporating some of the ideas you just spoke about.

If you’d like to turn this project into a volunteer opportunity, members could burn their recordings on CDs and donate them to an elementary school classroom. For older members, LibriVox is a volunteer-led project to make public domain audiobooks available for free on the internet.



If you are using a PC, download the free sound editing software Audacity. If you are using a Mac, you can download Audacity or use GarageBand. If you prefer to record yourself without downloading anything, you could use Soundtrap.

If you don’t know how to use your recorder, then experiment with it first. Try to record a test by pressing the toolbar button with a red circle. After you stop recording, play it back. If you are in a room with background noise, use headphones. Does the recording sound OK? Is your voice a good volume? If you get stuck, search for an online tutorial.

When you feel confident about reading aloud and using the recording program, record your text. If you make a mistake or get disturbed by a noise, like sneezing or a door shutting, don’t start all over again. Instead, continue recording, but stop reading for a few seconds. Then go back to start the sentence again from before the interruption. You can edit out noises later. 
As a group, watch this video tutorial on recording in Soundtrap. Then, have members log into the site and do a few practice recordings. Before they begin recording their stories, be sure to explain: If you make a mistake or there is a noise, like sneezing or a door shutting, don’t start all over again. Instead, continue recording but stop reading for a few seconds. Then go back to start the sentence again from before the interruption. You can edit out mistakes after you finish recording.

To prepare beforehand for this activity, read this blog post from a teacher who regularly uses Audacity in her classroom. The post includes a basic tutorial and resources.



Play back your recording. While you listen, note any mistakes or interruptions that you would like to edit out. Write down the time that the interruption occurred during the recording. For example, maybe there's a sneeze at 37 seconds.

After you have listened to the whole recording, go back and cut the sections you don’t want. Experiment with this and simply learn by doing. If you get stuck or want a little background knowledge before giving it a try, use online tutorials like the Audacity Manual. If you prefer you can look up specific tutorials, like this one on YouTube.

After you cut and edit your recording, play it back. Make sure the words still make sense. After you are happy with all your edits, save the file.

Model how to cut out a bit of sound in a recording. In Audacity or Soundtrap, record yourself reading something. Purposely mispronounce a word, pause, and re-pronounce it correctly. Play back the recording, noting the timecode in which the error occurred. Next, use the selection tool from the toolbar and select that second or two of time during the recording and cut it. Here is the online Audacity Manual. And here is a video tutorial you could watch as a group.

This project is written for beginners. If some members are more experienced with audio recording and need a challenge, you could encourage them to add sound effects to their records. They can use Free Sound Effects to download effects, like thunder or footsteps.



How would you like to share your audio book recording? Would you like to play it for a group of your peers? Would you like to share it one-on-one while the listener reads along? If you recorded a children’s book, would you like to share the book and the recording with a younger member or group? After you share it, ask for feedback.

When you’ve incorporated feedback and saved your final audio file, upload your audio file to earn a star.
If you have a large group, invite members to vote, by show of hands, how they would like to share their projects. Options can include group share, partner share, “blind” share (members close their eyes while listening individually with headphones to a randomly selected peer’s project), or read along with a younger member. Facilitate informal feedback through discussions with group shares and written “sticky note feedback” for individual or partner shares. Ask members if anyone would like to donate the story they recorded to LibriVox, and help them with the process if so.

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