I’m going to confess, I did not bring podcasts into my English classroom with any intention of improving my students’ literacy skills. The idea came from a more selfish place: My wife and I were enthralled by the first few episodes of Serial, and I wanted to share our excitement for the amazing story with my students. Like almost everybody, they were hooked by the pilot episode and begged me for more.
Using Serial turned out to be a huge academic success for a variety of reasons, most of them related to critical thinking, listening comprehension, and the art of storytelling. While I felt guilty that the students weren’t doing as much reading from a traditional text, they voluntarily studied maps, evaluated clues, argued with each other, and wrote twice as much in their journals as they previously had. Perhaps most satisfying to me, they were engaging in adult conversations with teachers, parents, and administrators who were listening to the same podcast.
Related content: 6 ways to help students collaborate on awesome podcasts
I began using other podcast episodes and excerpts as both primary and supplemental texts. While I was teaching the concept of racial bias, my students were visibly moved by a This American Life episode called “Is This Working?” When I taught the differences among slander, libel, and defamation, they loved listening to Bill Simmons’ rant that led to his suspension from ESPN. All of this had a tremendous and visible effect on the students’ level of engagement, critical-thinking habits, and writing skills, but the traditional reading component was still missing.
How #podcasts can improve literacy
The eSchool News Multimedia Presentation Systems Guide is here! It features strategies to help you integrate engaging and media-rich tools into the classroom, and it offers a look at how these tools engage students and strengthen student voice. A new eSchool News Guide will launch each month–don’t miss a single one!