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Today’s blog is republished from the Strategic EdTech blog, written by Urvi Morrison, founder and CEO of Strategic Edtech. This post was published on April 24, 2017. 

The emergence of “fake news” and “alternative facts” in today’s political scene and corresponding media frenzies makes it even more important for us to be discerning of fact versus fiction. A growing number of resources have been created by various educational organizations to help educators teach students how to recognize “fake news.” However, to develop open-mindedness to all perspectives, we must learn and teach others to be both critical and empathetic. Reading the news is no longer just about acquiring information but also about discerning truth while developing empathy for others’ perspectives.

In a recent article published on MindShift, Dr. Brené Brown says “empathy consists of four qualities: the ability to take the perspective of another person, staying away from judgment, recognizing emotion in others, and communicating it. She defines empathy as “feeling with people,” and notes that it’s a “vulnerable choice” because it requires a person to “tap into something personal that identifies with the struggle of another.”

Educators can all agree that students should learn empathy. Only through employing empathy can we understand the motivations and experiences of others. MindTools explains that “developing an empathic approach is perhaps the most significant effort you can make toward improving your people skills. When you understand others, they’ll probably want to understand you – and this is how you can start to build cooperation, collaboration, and teamwork.” Although we cannot necessarily teach empathy, we can teach and build upon habits that increase empathic thought and actions. This begins with educators regularly practicing empathy. We often forget that we need to exercise our empathy muscle by engaging in challenging discussions and being vulnerable ourselves – especially around contentious issues or topics.
Listenwise is an incredibly robust and rich edtech tool to teach students about the world and current events; however, it can be used as a professional empathy development tool for educators as well.

These three steps utilize Listenwise to help any educator or administrator further their empathy development:

  1. Create a Community of Practice (CoP) around empathy at your school – a group of educators and administrators
  2. Each CoP member creates an account on Listenwise and chooses 2 articles that they have experienced debates around, are contentious, or are challenging topics students are interested in. Check out these suggestions from Listenwise to use when building empathy skills.
  3. Each CoP member adds each article from the group to their “Favourites” tab for bookmarking
  4. The group is charged with reading the same 2 articles from the list within a week, answering the reflection questions provided by Listenwise
    1. Create an in-person CoP meeting at the end of the week for members to discuss the article, share their reflection answers, and provide insight on how their students see these news pieces
    2. Encourage the group to answer: “What is my viewpoint on this article or topic? How do I feel when I encounter a fellow educator or student how shares the opposite perspective? What can I do as an educator to be respectful of all viewpoints and teach my students to be respectful and open minded?”
  5. The following week, choose 2 new articles from the list and follow the same process as described above

By answering the questions listed above, engaging in discussion around opposing viewpoints, and reading the same articles that the students would be using in class, this process will eventually help educators and administrators practice not only their own professional empathy but also learn to guide students in discussions that lead them to practice empathy. Today’s global political scene creates a perfect opportunity for all of us to practice a little more empathy.


Are you podcasting in your classroom? Podcasting is a great way to provide deeper learning for students and empower them to have their voices heard and shared with a wider audience.  And students love to engage with audio content!

(View the full infographic)

Podcasting also hits speaking and listening goals and is a cross-curricular activity. Best of all, you don’t need a lot of equipment to get started. The tools you need to help your students create their own podcast stories are in their pockets or their laptops.  This guide will help you select the technical tools your class will need and part 2 of the blog will lay out a curriculum of how to teach them to write like a public radio reporter. See below for some student podcast samples, and a checklist of equipment to get you set up to start creating!

Listen to Adam Pizzi’s Class Podcast

Listen to Mr. Godsey’s Class Podcast:

Here’s a list of basic equipment and software that you need (including your computer):

A Recording Device: Many computers have built-in microphones. This will be useful for recording the student/reporter’s voice but you’ll also need a portable mic.  Students can use their smartphones or you can purchase recorders and microphones.

Audio Editing Software

  • Soundtrap – (Mac, PC, Chromebook, iPad) FREE trial, low cost subscriptions for schools
  • Garageband (FREE on Mac only)GarageBand comes pre-installed on most Apple computers. Also free on ipads.


A Plan to Publish the Podcasts


All the software is quick and easy to learn, but here are some useful tutorials for beginners:

If you are creating podcasts in your classroom using different technology and tactics, please share ideas with us in comments! Stay tuned for the Podcasting Part 2 blog for ways to help you think about best practices for preparing interviews and stories, and structuring the format and content of your podcast.  

We are thrilled to announce that we’ve been selected for the 2017 class of the AT&T Aspire Accelerator program! Now in its third year, the program brings together startups that are tackling the most pressing challenges in education. This year’s class puts us alongside seven other innovative ed-tech organizations.

During our time in the program, we’ll receive financial investment, mentorship and access to expert services from AT&T and others. The Aspire Accelerator is part of AT&T Aspire, the company’s $400 million commitment since 2008 to support education and connect the learning revolution to the young people who need it most.

We can’t wait to get started! Karen and Monica will kick it off this weekend in Utah. Learn more here and stay tuned for updates!

Do kids even enjoy podcasts? Lindsay Patterson wrote in Current that “kids are far from passive listeners. Podcasts are a perfect medium to engage children’s natural curiosity, engagement and delight.”

Molly Bloom, a producer of a kids podcast called Brains On! seems to think so as well…

“There are a lot of kids who love Radiolab. Kids are read stories that don’t have pictures and they can follow it, easily,” said Bloom. “So kids can definitely consume audio-only content and enjoy it. It engages their imagination in the way that watching a television program probably doesn’t.”

At Listenwise, most of our content is curated from NPR stories that is produced for an adult audience. The content and the vocabulary doesn’t always fit a young audience below 5th grade – so we’ve compiled a list of educational podcasts for kids if you have a younger child who you want to teach listening! And we just partnered with Tumble, so we plan to have more Tumble curated content!

Did we miss any of your favorites? Share with us in comments below-


Podcasts for Preschool to Elementary

Tumblea science podcast created to be enjoyed by the entire family. Hosted & produced by Lindsay Patterson (science journalist) & Marshall Escamilla (teacher).







Brains On!® a science podcast for curious kids and adults from American Public Media. Co-hosted each week by kid scientists and reporters from public radio, this podcast is appropriate for all ages.






The Radio Adventures of Eleanor Amplified: An adventure series for the whole family brought to you by WHYY. Eleanor is a radio reporter going after the big story, and she values good journalism, seeking the truth, and sparking conversation. Appropriate for all ages, but recommended for kids 8-12.





But Why: Produced by VPR, this podcast is crafted by kids! Kids ask questions and the podcast will find the answers. Questions range from “how is chocolate made?” to “do bumblebees have hearts?”, so there is something to interest everyone!






Ear Snacks: Featuring kids, they’ve interviewed 60 kids, 35 experts, and even 2 giraffes to create a podcast that is “fun and smart food for thought” for their young and curious audience. Recommended for kids 2-7 years old.





The Show About Science: Hosted by 6 year old Nate, each episode features interesting facts about science and interviews with scientists. From ants to evolution, Nate make science fun and approachable for both kids and adults alike.





Storynory: Storynory is a collection of audio stories for kids. Choose from fairy tales, classic tales, educational stories, and originals from the Storynory team. Most stories are around 15 minutes, so they’re great for bedtime stories.





The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian: Enjoy this serialized science-fiction story with your kids on your next road trip! This series follows the adventures of a group of friends aboard a space station as they explore planets, encounter aliens, and solve mysteries. Recommended for kids ages 5-10.





Saturday Morning Media: Focused on providing quality, family friendly entertainment, Saturday Morning Media features 5 different podcasts. From a one minute long history-focused show to a video podcast of a beaver telling jokes, there’s something for everyone in the family to enjoy.





Story Pirates: They take original stories from kids and turn them into sketch comedy musicals. Their missions is to celebrate the ideas of kids and empower them to feel confident. While the shows are live across the country, you can listen to every performance on their podcast.





Podcasts for Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers

These aren’t curated specifically for the classroom, so it’s always best to look into the content before you listen with your kids.


Book Club for Kids: Best for teens and tweens, this is a podcast for readers! This show features young readers talking about books, with a celebrity reading from the book in each episode. Kitty Felde has hosted since 2000 and received numerous awards including the prestigious “Literacy in Media” award.





Shabam: A science show without all of the science jargon. From Fooly Boo, this science show blends real science with fictional stories. Each season focuses on a main story — Season 1 features three kid separated from their parents during a Zombie apocalypse!





Youth Radio: The program’s mission is to “revolutionize how youth tell stories and the ways people connect with next-generation journalists and artists.” Through the program, low-income young people ages 14-24 discover journalism, and learn how to produce a podcast and articulate their stories. This podcast is the result of their six months of work in the program!




Science Vs. This show aims to debunk myths and tell the true stories behind popular topics. Using science and facts, Science Vs. determines whether ghosts could exists and what the organic food label really means. Some episodes are not appropriate for younger kids, so we recommend reviewing them before you listen.





Past and the Curious: For history lovers, Past and the Curious presents under-shared stories in the hopes of inspiring children, parents and anyone who loves a great story to appreciate the past. They aim to help their audience discover “that we are all human; and we always have been.”’





Stuff You Missed in History Class: From the HowStuffWorks team, this podcast has an episode for every topic imaginable. Stories cover culture, art, science, and politics both in America and around the world.





Gastropod: This show is all about food! Looking at food through the lens of science and history, Gastropod interviews people and visits places to discover the surprising science behind the world of food.





Flash Forward: Each month, this podcasts takes on a possible scenario and considers how the future would play out. What if California left the United States? What if robots take over farming? Listen to find out!





Earth Day is celebrated in 192 countries on April 22nd, but you can celebrate all month long in your classroom! We put together this collection of current events and lessons related to issues affecting the environment around the globe. Expand students’ knowledge of environmental issues and challenge them to become advocates for environmental protection.

Check out our previous Earth Day collection for a longer list of lessons. Here are our most recent Earth stories from the past year below:


Current Events:

   The Challenges of Creating a Recyclable K-Cup

   The Footprint of a Loaf of Bread

   Wildfires Caused Primarily by Humans

   Debate: How Can We Address Global Pollution?

   Wind Power on Forest Land

   Storing Rain Underground

   Air Pollution in France Leads to Temporary Ban on Sports

   Solar Powered Plane Makes Historic Around the World Trip

   How Wind Affects Wildlife

   Universal Recycling Law Keeps Food from Landfills



   Extreme Heat

   How the Weather Influenced ‘Frankenstein’

April is National Poetry Month! First celebrated in 1996, the Academy of American Poets organized the holiday to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States. During Poetry Month, help your students explore the stories and people behind the most famous poems with these Listenwise stories. We suggest kicking off your poetry lesson with this story which shows students the relationship between poetry and music. You can listen to an audio poem each day from the Poetry Foundation, or participate in Newsela’s poetry month challenge!

Find a few audio resources from the Listenwise site below.

Current Events

    America’s First Black Poet

   Francis Scott Key: Lawyer, Poet, and Creator of “The Star Spangled Banner”  

    Maya Angelou, Poet, Author and Civil Rights Activist, Dies at 86

   Walt Whitman’s ‘Leaves Of Grass’

   A Friend Remembers Robert Frost

   The Life and Poetry of Sylvia Plath

   Lord Tennyson and the Real Light Brigade

   Rudyard Kipling’s Poetry


Lesson Plans

   ‘Beowulf,’ Paganism and Christianity

   Translations of ‘Dante’s Inferno’

   Gary Soto’s Poetry

   Poetry Reflecting World War I

   The Life of Langston Hughes

   Poet Seamus Heaney

   Modernist Poet T.S. Eliot

   Poet Emily Dickinson, an Eccentric Recluse

   The Life of Sylvia Plath

   Maya Angelou’s Life and Legacy

Other Poetry Resources

From Edutopia

From Share My Lesson

From Facing History

For ELLs from Colorin Colorado

From the National Council of Teachers of English


How did we decide which components of listening to measure and assess in our listening comprehension quizzes? We identified core elements included in research based reading assessments, given the correlation between listening comprehension and reading comprehension.

Speaking and Listening is now an anchor standard in the Common Core ELA standards and the Smarter Balanced consortium has already included listening questions in their assessments.

In fact, listening now comprises up to 20% of the SBAC ELA test.

Despite this newly assessed skill, there are few resources that specifically address listening in middle and high school. This has led to disparities in student performance and placed teachers in a challenging position.

Benton Lewis, who teaches 11th grade ELA in Clovis, CA, has used Listenwise and seen his students’ listening scores rise by 12 percentage points from 2015 to 2016. Lewis states, “I think, just logically speaking, at least part of that is due to Listenwise.

With listening skills tested in 15 states, Listenwise stories and quizzes provide practice and instructional support in helping students master the Evidence Statements of Claim #3 on the SBAC along with meeting the CCSS Listening and Speaking Standards. An alignment of these components with Listenwise assessment components is outlined in the chart below.


Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium Claims

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is comprised of claims and targets that together can be used to make statements about student achievement. The claim is a broad statement that will outline the outcomes achieved with mastery of the standards within it. Listenwise helps students master Claim #3, and helps teachers measure progress toward student mastery.


Claim #3: Speaking and Listening

Students can employ effective speaking and listening skills for a range of purposes and audiences.


Common Core Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening

The Common Core Anchor Standards define the skills and understandings that all students must demonstrate at the end of each grade. To meet the Speaking and Listening Anchor standards, students must have opportunities to take part in a variety of rich, structured conversations which requires that students contribute information, respond to what others have said, and analyze and synthesize ideas in various subject areas. Listenwise helps students meet these standards and helps teachers provide rich resources to practice and track progress in these skills.

SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

SL.3 Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.


Listenwise Alignment

Listening is key to all effective communication. To improve student listening skills, we need to be able to gather data on their skills, target specific areas of need, and then be able to provide personalized instruction and practice.

At Listenwise we support teachers in their practice by providing instructional support in 21st century skills, specifically listening. In order to best build listening skills, we identified the 8 key elements of listening and aligned them to Common Core State Standards in Listening and Speaking, Reading, and SBAC evidence statements. There is a direct link between what we are measuring and the standards taught on the CCSS and what is being assessed in the SBAC Claim #3.

We developed ways to help students practice the discrete skill of listening with a multiple choice formative listening assessment. Within these assessments we included questions on these 8 key components, so teachers can analyze data by key listening strands. By looking at overall quiz data and breaking it down by key listening component, teachers can see patterns and identify needs, both for a class and individual students who might need additional support, and then move forward to meet those needs.

Already we’ve seen that teachers who have been using Listenwise are seeing growth in their students’ listening outcomes. Benton Lewis, an ELA teacher from Fresno, California saw a 12% increase in SBAC listening performance from 2015 to 2016. He’s excited to go further now that the assessments are available.

“Being able to look at the [listening] strands and who did well and who didn’t, allows us to reteach…so we can do more focused teaching on those lessons at a later point.” said Lewis.

How did we decide what 8 key components of listening we wanted to track and assess? We identified elements that are seen in reading assessments because we know the important connection between reading and listening. While listening and reading are both comprehension skills, the kinds of natural speech found in these audio stories is not organized as a well-written essay, with a topic sentence or linear progression of ideas. Students need to practice identifying and summarizing the most important ideas in the audio. When students are listening to a speaker’s voice, they can also pay attention to the tone, emphasis, and pacing of the speech to make inferences and identify the speaker’s point of view.


The Key Components of Listening

      • Literal Knowledge: A question about descriptions, facts and details including  information that is explicitly stated is asked in each quiz.
      • Vocabulary: A question about word meanings is asked in each quiz, identifying the meaning of words in the context of the story.
      • Inferencing: A question asking students to make an inference as they listen is included in each quiz, connecting pieces of text together with student prior knowledge and experience, that goes beyond the literal meaning of the audio content.
      • Main Idea: A question asking students to generalize the content as a whole and identify the main ideas of the information presented is asked in each quiz.
      • Summarizing and Drawing Conclusions: Students are asked to identify a summary of the audio content and its overall ideas, or draw conclusions by making a judgement about the information provided in the audio story.  
      • Point of View and Speaker’s Purpose: Students listen to identify and evaluate the speaker’s purpose and why they are sharing this information. Students also identify the point of view of the story or the viewpoint of a speaker in the story.
      • Analyze Reasoning: Students  evaluate the reasoning , credibility, and relevance of a speaker or author’s ideas and information.
      • Finding Evidence: Students identify quotes or statements in the audio that provide evidence to support their thinking and inferences about the content.



Example of a question on the component of Literal Knowledge:
listening assessment question on literal knowledge

Example of a question on the component of Speaker’s Purpose:

listening comprehension quiz question on speaker's purpose

Example of a question on the component of Finding Evidence:

listening comprehension quiz question on finding evidence

If you have Premium Listenwise access you can access the quizzes right away. Log in and look for the Quiz icon next to lesson titles. We are adding new quizzes every week.
If you don’t have Premium yet,  your students take our Listening Challenge for free!

Today’s post is written by Michael F. Opitz, professor emeritus of reading education from the University of Northern Colorado who has investigated numerous literacy topics, including listening over two decades. His substantive research on teaching listening resulted in his book, Listen Hear! 25 Effective Listening Comprehension Strategies (Heinemann, 2004). He is the author of and coauthor of numerous books, articles, and reading programs. Read his first blog here called 5 reasons why you should teach listening and second blog called 7 guidelines for teaching listening.

Several years ago, Thomas G. Devine noted that we learn more through television, radio, and movies than we do in formal schooling. Without a doubt, speakers are in a powerful position to influence listeners and teaching students how to listen is imperative for them to be able to think for themselves. This is exactly the focus of Listenwise.

Understanding how to teach listening necessitates understanding of the different types of listening that you want students to develop. Each level has corresponding skills.

Discriminative listening is foundational to the other levels. For example, being adept with discriminative listening puts students in a better position to listen for specific details (i.e., precise listening), use vocal expressions and nonverbal cues to make decisions about the speaker’s message (i.e., strategic listening), use nonverbal cues to determine a speaker’s perspective (critical listening), and use sounds to appreciate what they are listening to (i.e., appreciative listening). These are ways that foundational discriminative listening skills come into play in other listening levels.  That said, one level is not necessarily a prerequisite to the next. Students can be adept with one type of listening, yet not with another and they can develop listening skills at all levels simultaneously. These skills also cross grade levels. Sixth graders, for example, can be taught to listen precisely and critically. Much depends on the intended purpose for the listening experience and conveying that purpose to students at the start of a listening lesson.

Discriminative listening is being able to listen to pertinent sounds as well as being able to distinguish between verbal and nonverbal cues. Tongue twisters are one way to help students develop the ability to hear differences among sounds whereas showing students how to use their voices to convey various emotions to listeners is a way to teach them how to use verbal cues. Having students attend and interpret the speaker’s mannerisms (e.g., smiles, crossed arms, clenched fists) is a way to teach how nonverbal cues convey the speaker’s message.

Precise listening helps ascertain specific information. Teaching children how to recall details, how to paraphrase information, how to follow spoken directions are the types of skills that call for precise listening.

Strategic listening is basically helping students listen for understanding. Teaching students how to connect the ideas they are hearing with their prior knowledge about the topic, how to summarize information, how to compare and contrast information, and how to make inferences are skills associated with strategic listening. This level calls on listeners to concentrate on the intended meaning.

Critical listening is all about helping learners not only comprehend the spoken message, but how to evaluate it. They are able to scrutinize and analyze the message, looking for logic and statements that either support or negate the stated message, in order to be convinced that the speaker is credible. Teaching students how to recognize bias, distinguish among fact and opinion, and detecting propaganda techniques are skills that enable them to listen critically.

Appreciative listening is appreciating the overall style of the speaker and is fairly individualistic. As we listen at this level, different aspects of what we are hearing catch our attention. This is why some might enjoy listening to some types of poetry, songs, musical scores more so than others. Teaching students how to recognizing the power of language, appreciate oral interpretations, and understand the power of imagination are ways to help learners become appreciative listeners.

In summary, there are five listening levels and each has associated skills. These are shown in the table below. Teaching listening skills to students is about showing them how to listen rather than telling them to listen.


Listening Level Brief Definition Associated Comprehension Skills
Discriminative Listening to pertinent sounds as well as distinguishing between verbal and nonverbal cues •Phonological awareness

•Vocal expression


Precise Listening to ascertain specific information •Finding the meaning of words from context

•Recalling details

•Following directions

Strategic Listening to gain an understanding of the intended meaning •Predicting

•Making an inference

•Identifying main ideas

Critical Analyzing and evaluating the message •Recognizing bias

•Distinguishing between fact and opinion.

•Detecting propaganda techniques

Appreciative Listening to appreciate the oral style •Recognizing the power of language

•Appreciating oral interpretations

•Understanding the power of imagination