July 2011
Monika Floyd, Harvard University Institute for English Language Programs, and LuAnn Sorenson, University of Illinois Intensive English Institute

For many classroom instructors, recasting, a reformulation of what a learner says, is a daily occurrence:

Student: The ton of the feedback should be positive.

Teacher: The tone of the feedback should be positive.

After recasting, instructors have to wonder whether the student will remember the correction, given the ephemeral nature of the feedback. In fact, learners often misperceive oral feedback on their spoken errors (Mackey, Gass, & McDonough, 2000; Gass & Lewis, 2007; Kim & Han, 2007). For corrective feedback to be effective, it has to be noticed and understood as corrective by the learner (Schmidt, 1990; Mackey et al., 2000). Oral feedback studies have shown that phonological feedback has elevated perception because of its high communicative value and salience (Mackey et al., 2000; Gass & Lewis, 2007; Kim & Han, 2007). Instructors can improve students’ ability to notice their oral errors and remain unobtrusive through explicit written and recorded corrective feedback using the iPhone Voice Memo App.

There are several student-centered formats that allow the instructor extra time to focus on individual performance: student presentations, student-led discussions, panel discussions, fishbowl discussions, Harkness discussions, and debates. During these activities, the instructor can carefully monitor the students’ performance and provide personalized written feedback using dedicated feedback forms. The written memo is accompanied by recorded feedback, an effective way to make corrective feedback salient and memorable for learners.


The written feedback form that the instructor fills out during the student presentation or performance contains the name of the student, the pronunciation error and correction, phonetic spellings, clarifying comments such as short definitions and words that rhyme, and instructions on what to do with the feedback. For the example from the introduction above, the written feedback would appear as follows:

Student Name:


Pronunciation Feedback

Be careful with the following words:

ton (2,000 pounds = a very big amount)

tone (sound)

ton: /tʌn/ vs. tone /toʊn/

short longer


The correct pronunciation rhymes with:


Check your e-mail for a recorded feedback. Add word to your pronunciation log.

The instructor retains the written feedback for making the voice memo and gives it to the student once the recording is made.


Originally envisioned as a way to capture thoughts, memos to self, or business meetings, the iPhone Voice Memo App is a productive tool for language learning as well. The Voice Memo App comes installed on the iPhone (and the iPad) and can be downloaded as a free app through iTunes. For iPhones updated to OS 3.0 or later, an iPhone voice memo can be created in a few easy steps (Drenn24, n.d.).

1. Open the Voice Memo app. (The icon is an old-fashioned white microphone on a blue background.)

2. To record a memo, press the button on the bottom left of the screen (the silver button with a red circle in the center). A red bar will appear at the top of the screen to let you know that recording has started and how much time has elapsed.

3. To pause the recording, press the pause button on the bottom left. Press the red circle record button to continue recording to the same memo.

4. To stop the recording, press the black square stop button on the bottom right.

5. To view your saved iPhone memos, click the button on the bottom right. (When not recording, the button has three horizontal lines.) This will bring up a list of all of your recorded voice memos. From here you can listen, label, share, delete, and edit the recordings in M4A file format.

6. To label the memo with your student’s name, click on the desired recording, click again on the arrow to the right, and select Custom at the bottom of the list. A keyboard appears for you to type in the student’s name.

7. To edit a memo, click on it, and choose Trim Memo. By squeezing the audio bar at the ends with your fingertips, you can delete from the beginning or end of the recording by clicking on the yellow Trim Voice Memo button.

8. To share the memo with your student(s), select the voice memo you want and press the large blue Share button at the bottom left of the screen. Select Email or MMS (multimedia messaging service). For e-mail, students will need Quicktime software (www.apple.com/quicktime/download) or VLC Media Player (www.videolan.org/vlc) to listen to the recording. Some students may prefer MMS to e-mail if they use their


Audio clip here

When I heard this word several times, it was easy to keep it in mind and now I know how to pronunciate singular and plural form of the word "half." ―Aisulu

Once concise, targeted voice memos have been recorded and shared, they should be used to help students keep track of their own pronunciation needs. Have students collect voice memos in dedicated folders for easy reference. Using the recordings, students can assemble a personal pronunciation journal or error log for reviewing individual problem sounds in meaningful contexts.

The iPhone Voice Memo App allows for easy, individualized corrective feedback that motivates learners to attend to accuracy in speaking. The written feedback is the instructor’s guide for making the recording and, for the learner, a supplement to the recording. The recording also extends the saliency of the feedback because students can return to it again and again. This is explicit feedback that is neither disruptive nor transient. As one student put it: “I think it is an amazing idea. It’s more effective way to know my mistake and remember.”


Drenn24. (n.d.) How to create an iPhone voice memo. Retrieved 22 December 2010 from http://www.ehow.com/m/how_5276826_create-iphone-voice-memo-html

Gass, S. M., & Lewis, K. (2007). Perceptions of interactional feedback: Differences between heritage language learners and non-heritage language learners. In A. Mackey (Ed.), Conversational interaction and second language acquisition: A series of empirical studies. (pp. 79-99). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Kim, J., & Han, Z. (2007). Recasts in communicative EFL classes: Do teacher intent and learner interpretation overlap? In A. Mackey (Ed.), Conversational interaction and second language acquisition: A series of empirical studies. (pp. 269-297). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Mackey, A., Gass, S., & McDonough, K. (2000). How do learners perceive interactional feedback? Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 22, 471-497.

Schmidt, R. (1990). The role of consciousness in second language learning. Applied Linguistics, 11, 129-159.

Monika Floyd, PhD, is a preceptor at in the Harvard University Institute for English Language Programs, Cambridge, MA, and LuAnn Sorenson, MA, is a lecturer at the University of Illinois Intensive English Institute, Urbana, IL. Their research interests include corrective feedback in spoken and written forms.