This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.
I have been a fan of public radio for decades. The quality of reporting, the depth of storytelling, the luxurious length of time spent on a single feature, it helps me to dig in, to learn with my senses, to actually care about a topic because I’ve gotten to know the people involved.
Every day, dozens of exceptional stories are published on public radio, and they have the potential to offer our students that same rich experience, helping them connect to the content in ways written text can’t reach them. Imagine listening to an interview with Elie Wiesel when learning about the Holocaust, or having your study of the Civil Rights Movement include activist Franklin McCain’s description of participating in a lunch counter sit-in. If you happen to catch a broadcast on a topic you’re teaching, that’s lucky. If not, you might try to find something in a station’s website archives, but otherwise that outstanding content is tucked away, hard to find unless you know exactly what you’re looking for.
Now that has changed. The people at Listenwise have made it their mission to bring public radio podcasts directly to the classroom. They curate a growing collection of professionally produced podcasts, organize and tag them into categories, and build a set of outstanding instructional resources around each one. With Listenwise, teachers can easily use podcasts as classroom texts, amplifying content and giving students practice in required listening skills.
How it Works
Suppose I’m a science teacher wanting to teach about ecosystems. I can plug that term into the search bar on Listenwise, and I’ll get a list of all the podcasts in their library that have some connection to ecosystems. Here’s just part of my search results:
Let’s say I choose the one about overfishing. When I click on that, I go to a page where the podcast itself is embedded in a player right on the page. I also get free resources to use with my students: a graphic organizer that helps students follow along as they listen plus a list of listening comprehension questions, so I can monitor whether students are really paying attention.
Notice that some of my search results were marked with a content area label, while others were called “Current Events.” The Current Events stories, which are added every weekday, don’t have the player embedded on the page; instead, these link right to the original podcast on the page of whatever public radio outlet originally produced them. Listening comprehension questions are provided for these as well.
So far, everything I’ve described is completely free, an excellent set of tools for finding just the right stories to complement your content. But Listenwise also has a premium subscription for schools and districts that offers so much more.
Premium Subscriptions: ESL Differentiation, Lesson Plans, and More
Listenwise Premium, which is only offered on a school-subscription basis, includes an incredible set of support materials and tools to help you and your students get the most from the podcast library. The supports include:
Interactive transcripts that allow students to read along with the podcast while they listen, highlighting each word as it is spoken. This offers incredible scaffolding for English language learners, not to mention any other student who just wants a little extra support. Because the vocabulary used in public radio reporting tends to be more challenging, seeing those words written down can go a long way toward boosting comprehension for any student.
Variable playback speed, giving students the option to play the podcast at its original speed or slowed down. This is another feature that’s wonderful for English language learners.
Vocabulary lists defining key terms that appear in the podcast. The lists are divided into several tiers, which allows you to differentiate for students if desired.
Standards-aligned lesson plans for science, social studies, and English language arts, which help teachers build solid lessons to accompany each podcast. Lessons can also be searched for by standard.
Listen to this lesson on Child Soldiers here.
Another key feature of Listenwise Premium is the ability to create student accounts. This allows teachers to set up classes, assign podcasts to some or all of their students, customize lessons and discussion questions however they like, and assess student responses, all inside the Listenwise platform. Using the site this way makes the most of flipped or blended learning, allowing your students to consume content on their own and freeing you up to interact with students one-on-one or go more in-depth with class discussions of the content. This video demonstrates how to set up a lesson with Listenwise Premium:
Helping You Meet Listening Standards
Aside from the fact that public radio podcasts are superlative in quality and simply offer students a break from the way they typically consume content, these podcasts help teachers satisfy state and national standards that require students to develop listening skills. As a former English language arts teacher myself, I will admit that these were the standards that often got left behind. It was easy to find ways to have students work on writing, reading, and even speaking, but I rarely made time to explicitly teach listening skills, as the Common Core requires. Part of the reason for this oversight is that I didn’t have a lot of materials available for listening practice. With the podcasts on Listenwise, such as the story about the Freedom Riders, or the legal impact of Upton Sinclair’s book, The Jungle, that problem is solved.
21st Century Learning Made Simple
We live in a time when digital content—in the form of text, video and audio—is available to us like never before. Still, we only have so many hours in a day to find the materials that are just right for our students; that lack of time can keep us doing the same things the same way. With a tool like Listenwise, you can easily bring your classroom into the 21st century without sacrificing time or quality. In fact, with the years of experience public radio stations already bring to the table, you get the high standards of old-school journalism delivered with high-tech efficiency; truly the best of both worlds. ♦
Want to learn more? Listen to my podcast interview with Listenwise founder and CEO, Monica Brady-Meyerov: