Great podcast episodes for students and teachers

There are lots of teachers who love listening to podcasts and want to share that passion with their students. But many aren’t sure how to justify using podcasts in the classroom. That’s how I got started. I wanted to use Serial as a primary text for at least a few weeks, but I wasn’t sure how it would fit in with Common Core or how it might affect my students’ reading habits. It turned out that, for a variety of reasons, Serial worked better than most texts I’ve assigned. Plus, I learned that using podcasts with transcripts actually increases literacy skills and vocabulary acquisition.

Some teachers come at podcasts from a different need. They want to mix it up in their classrooms or want their students to practice listening skills. With just a little preparation, playing a podcast in class is as simple as hitting a few buttons.

I asked my fellow educators for their favorite episodes, considered some student-appropriate episodes that my high school classes have really liked, and came up with a small but solid list of must-listens. It’s organized into two categories: podcast episodes that can be shared with students in grades 9-12, and episodes teachers might find personally interesting (but aren’t for students). One important note: The student recommendations here are for teens and up since some of the themes are too mature for younger students. (You can find ideas for younger students here.)…Read More

How podcasts can improve literacy

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.

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.…Read More