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https://hallr.com/december-dilemma-acknowledging-religious-holidays-classroom/It’s December, which means for teachers and students that winter break is coming up soon. While the upcoming winter break aligns with some winter holidays (Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Day), others have already started this year (Hanukkah.) Regardless of whether or not you or your students celebrate any of these holidays, you can explore these Listenwise lessons and other resources to learn more about them and discuss a diversity of religious and seasonal traditions.  Opening student ears and minds to the wonderful ways that people celebrate around these times can be a great way to promote inclusivity.


PBS has some informative videos to help you dig deeper into the winter holidays, which you can find here. Colorin Colorado also has a great blog post on “Culturally Responsive Instruction for Holiday and Religious Celebrations.” Teaching Tolerance also offers some resources to support “Rethinking Winter Holidays” in ways that are inclusive, respectful, and equitable.


We also have some great teaching resources related to winter holidays on Listenwise. Listen to the stories below to help you teach context around Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas, as well as other religious holidays that fall at different times of year.


Hanukkah (December 2-10, 2018)


Christmas (December 25, 2018)


Kwanzaa (December 26, 2018)


Other religious traditions and holidays


“The purpose of education is to cultivate thoughtful, informed, competent, creative, and compassionate students who, filled with a sense of wonder and an appreciation of life in all of its diversity, see themselves as active participants in creating a more just society.” -Facing History staffer and veteran educator Doc Miller


For our second collaborative webinar with Facing History and Ourselves, we explored how teachers can set up space for social and emotional learning (SEL) in their classrooms by teaching current events and using high-quality audio resources. Listen to this webinar to find great resources to help you establish safe and reflective classrooms and choose which current events and issues to address with your students.

Here is a link to the webinar slides.


These Facing History resources were mentioned in the webinar:

These Listenwise stories on immigration were also highlighted:

These additional Listenwise stories address SEL competencies and skills articulated in the CASEL Framework:

November is National Native American Heritage Month. Teaching students about the culture, traditions, music, art, and world views of indigenous peoples is important to celebrating our shared sense of humanity. Celebrate this month with your students, and check out some of the Listenwise stories and other resources that could be helpful in bringing Native American Heritage Month to your classroom this month and throughout the year.


As we head into Thanksgiving week, it’s important to recognize that, as Teaching Tolerance explains in their Thanksgiving Mourning lesson, “For some Native Americans, Thanksgiving is no cause for celebration, but rather serves as a reminder of the devastating effect of colonialism on indigenous peoples.” They offer valuable resources to use with students to help them think critically about American holidays and history and to read and listen to different perspectives. Here are some questions they provide to engage your class in thinking about the experiences and perspectives of Native Americans:


  • How and why do we celebrate Thanksgiving?
  • Why do some people think Columbus Day should not be celebrated?
  • What is the story of Thanksgiving from a Native American perspective?
  • How have Native Americans been impacted by population expansion in the United States?


Teaching Tolerance offers other teaching resources to help promote understanding of the Native American experience. For example, their lesson Teaching Thanksgiving in a Socially Responsible Way raises the point that “Native Americans have been speaking out and writing back against the colonialist narrative of Thanksgiving for as long as the American narrative has existed.”


Thanksgiving is just one timely topic to touch on this month, but there are plenty of others you can connect to the theme of Native American heritage. Explore our Listenwise stories that showcase voices and perspectives of indigenous people and discuss themes of culture, identity, stereotyping, racism, and privilege:


Here are a few more high-quality resources that can help you bring indigenous peoples’ perspectives into your classroom:


Please share with us in comments any other resources that you use to help promote understanding of indigenous peoples’ cultures, histories, and perspectives.

Our media literacy scavenger hunt is live! You can find all the contest details on our current event for November 7, 2018, but you can read the specifics below as well…

In celebration of Media Literacy Week (Nov 5-9), this scavenger hunt contest invites students to apply their media literacy skills to identify facts and fakes. As students take the scavenger hunt quiz, they will be given clues to find Listenwise stories related to the contest theme. Once they have found the right stories, they will need to listen to them carefully and hunt down the answers to the related questions. Participation in this scavenger hunt will offer students an opportunity to explore Listenwise, learn about media literacy, and, most importantly, have fun!

Make sure you have a Listenwise Premium account or the 30-day free trial so you can assign and submit student quizzes in order to participate.


How to enter:

You can access the quiz any time from Wednesday, November 7 through Wednesday, November 21, but be sure to submit your answers before 11:59 pm EST on November 21st to be entered into the contest.

How to win:

Prizes will be awarded to the highest total class quiz score, the highest total student submissions from one teacher, and one random lucky winner!

What you win:

Win headphones for your whole class and an Amazon Gift Card! First prize is a set of classroom headphones and a $100 Amazon gift card. Second prize wins a set of classroom headphones and a $50 Amazon gift card. Third prize is a $50 Amazon gift card.

Teachers, this is how the contest will work:


Students, this is how the contest will work:

Addressing news in the classroom can be a source of unease for some. The abundance of inflammatory language in the public sphere, attacks on journalists, and frequent confusion between fact and opinion can present challenges when trying to teach current events. All of the information and disinformation circling around the media can make having productive conversations hard. And yet, teachers across the country want their students to be informed about what is happening in the world outside of school.

It’s important to connect students to what is happening in the world around them in order to broaden their perspectives and deepen their appreciation for the relevance of what they are learning in the classroom. Teachers have an important role in helping students know where to go to be informed about global events, the economy, the environment, and politics so they can make the best decisions for themselves and their communities. In an effort to support news discussions in a constructive, unbiased, informative way, we’ve tried to pull together some more helpful tools and resources below.

These resources can help teachers to set the scene for talking about news and current events–to create a safe space, where people might feel comfortable having differing opinions, and where everyone feels welcome to speak up and share their views.  

  • Facing History and Ourselves has great resources to help you create a positive classroom culture. Check out this resource on how to create safe spaces for differing opinions in the classroom and this one about fostering civil discourse.
  • Teaching Tolerance also has a helpful guide for teaching civil discourse.
  • The New York Times also offers guidance for encouraging civil classroom discussions. How do you handle conversations in your classroom in general? What structures and rules are in place to ensure that they are constructive and civil, yet promote real learning and growth? How do you invite all voices? What happens when someone states an unpopular opinion? Read more here and find relevant lesson plans.

In addition to exploring the resources above to see what might resonate with your teaching needs, check out our Listenwise current events for daily news stories curated for the classroom to engage your students in learning about what’s happening in the world outside of school. Our debate stories posted on Fridays offer good opportunities for students to exercise civil discourse in discussing multiple perspectives on contemporary issues.

This #WorldGeoChat Twitter conversation on using current events in classrooms includes tips and takeaways from teachers on how they try to connect current events to their students’ lives and personalize teaching in order to drive student engagement.

There were some good words of advice from teachers on how to tackle difficult conversations in their classrooms.

Others offered advice on where to start if you haven’t talked about current events before.

Get creative! Please feel free to comment and expand our resource base with things you use in your classroom to facilitate discussions about current events.

Get ready for National Media Literacy Week on November 5 – 9, 2018.

Media Literacy Week highlights the importance of teaching children and teens digital media literacy skills to ensure that their interactions with media are positive and enriching.

In honor of this year’s theme for Media Literacy Week, we are launching a contest, called Fact or Fake. In three weeks (on November 7), we’ll launch a Listenwise Scavenger Hunt on our website. You can participate in the contest any time between November 7 and November 21.


Contest Summary: Do your students like riddles, puzzles, or detective stories? Then get out your magnifying glass and participate in our Listenwise Scavenger Hunt! Through a Listenwise quiz, students will be given clues to find Listenwise stories related to the contest theme, and then they will be asked to apply their media literacy skills to identify facts and fakes. The goals for students include exploring Listenwise, learning about media literacy, and, most importantly, having fun! To participate, simply assign the quiz on the contest’s current event to your students and let them search and explore Listenwise stories to hunt down the answers. The quiz will guide them through everything, so they can participate individually, in small groups, or as a whole class!

How to participate: Starting on 11/7/18, assign the quiz on the Contest Current Event story (that will be published on 11/7) to your students. Your students’ quiz submissions will be your contest entries. The contest will run through 11/21.

Stay tuned for November 7, when we’ll release the current event with the scavenger hunt quiz and the prizes. Make sure you have a Listenwise Premium account or the 30-day free trial  by then so you can assign and submit student quizzes.


Until then, here are some great media literacy resources to help prepare your students:

Did you know that October is National Bullying Prevention Month? It’s a perfect time to focus on creating positive classroom culture. According to a 2011 NCES study, 28% of U.S. students reported having been bullied at school. Last week we collaborated on a webinar with Facing History and Ourselves, for which we collected audio stories from public radio on Listenwise and teaching resources from Facing History focused on using storytelling to develop positive classroom culture.



The Listenwise collection includes a variety of stories to help you structure classroom conversations about bullying. Each audio story includes questions to guide discussion among students. Stories such as Psychology of a Bully,  Portrait of a Bully, and Looking Back on Bullying can help to shed light on the experience of being a bully. These stories can help students understand why bullying happens, build empathy, and consider how to address underlying causes of bullying behavior. Stories such as A Positive Response to Bullying, Lunchtime Anti-Bullying App, and 13 Reasons Why Not can help to inform constructive responses to bullying. These stories highlight various approaches to addressing bullying in schools and feature students who have chosen to be upstanders and made inspiring contributions toward reducing the negative impact of bullying.


To help you create a comfortable space to talk about these Listenwise stories about bullying (or other sensitive topics) in your classroom, we recommend these Facing History resources, which offer useful guidance for establishing a safe classroom environment where students can tell their own stories:


Here are some uplifting Facing History resources that showcase student upstanders:


You may also want to explore Facing History’s full collection of resources on Bullying & Ostracism.


Students have a unique power to prevent bullying. More than half of bullying situations (57%) stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the student being bullied (Hawkins, Pepler, & Craig, 2001). This Listenwise blog post focuses on how proactively teaching kindness can help to build a positive, inclusive school climate and reduce bullying. Efforts to teach social and emotional skills such as empathy are increasing in many schools, aiming to address important aspects of learning that are strongly correlated with success.

How do you handle bullying in your classroom? Please comment and share reflections on using any of these resources or others you have found helpful in addressing bullying in your school.


Student engagement is key to building a safe, positive school culture that increases achievement, fosters creativity and community, and decreases boredom, alienation, and drop-out rates (Marks, 2000). Providing opportunities for student voice and involvement in your classroom is an important factor in building positive classroom culture. In the 2016 article “Giving Students a Voice,” published by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Gretchen Brion-Meisels details five ways to integrate student voice into your classroom practice. One way she recommends cultivating  a great educational experience is engaging students “in studying and assessing their school.” At Listenwise, we think that you can extend this even further and try to engage students in studying and assessing the world around them.

A Listenwise story that can help to get your students excited about surveying and researching their lives is “Mall Culture Used to Connect Teens”. Coming to us from Youth Radio, the story features Madeleine Veira, a youth reporter who tries to investigate the interesting disappearance of teens from malls. You might ask your students to discuss the places that they hang out and where teens in general typically hang out nowadays. Another way to engage student voice  is to discuss what they would like to report on if they were to become investigative reporters and potentially develop a project with that focus.

Another great resource on empowering student voices in the classroom is the Edutopia article “Establishing a Culture of Student Voice”. In the article, John McCarthy talks about how journaling can make students more comfortable sharing their thoughts and emotions in the classroom. The ability to write them down and organize them can make speaking up in the classroom less intimidating and more enjoyable.

One way to get students journaling effectively is to invite them to respond to stories about interesting, relevant topics. Three Listenwise stories that can be leveraged for this purpose are “Identity Across Generations,” “Growing up With a Single Mom,” and “California Teen Lives Life Between Borders”. “Identity Across Generations” is part of the NPR Generation series, and it features an interview with a mother and a daughter about their experiences as members of the LGBT community from very different generations. The other two stories offer explorations of other youth voices at interesting intersections in their lives.

You might optimize student choice by inviting students to select a Listenwise story on any topic of interest, listen to it, and respond via writing, online discussion, or small group discussions. For example, they might choose a current event and report the 5 Ws (who, what, where, when, and why) or choose a debate story and write an argument, taking a position and supporting it with evidence from the story. They might choose different stories on a given topic such as climate change or elections and then share what they learned in small groups using the jigsaw method. You might also engage students in developing their own podcasts, using Youth Radio stories in the Listenwise collection as models.

Inviting your students’ involvement in the classroom and creating a classroom where they feel encouraged to participate at appropriate times are important keys to promoting their success as learners and community members. See below for more Listenwise stories that can provide avenues for your students to discuss and explore their own perspectives and experiences, as well as more resources addressing the benefits of uplifting student voice and strategies for pursuing that goal.


More Resources on Student Voice and Participation

Listenwise Stories for Your Classroom

*asterisk denotes that the lesson has a quiz available for Premium Users

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) call for several Key Shifts in Language Arts that have implications across the curriculum. Listenwise can help teachers of many subjects address these shifts.

Shift 1: Regular practice with complex texts and their academic language

Listenwise audio stories are engaging complex texts full of academic language. They are authentic texts sourced from public radio, typical of those that students may encounter in their adult lives, and they are selected for their potential to support teachers and students in making connections between the curriculum and the world outside of school. Students can listen to each audio text multiple times, with or without reading interactive transcripts simultaneously, in order to deepen their understanding. Listenwise audio stories offer all students access to complex texts, regardless of reading level, which, in turn, can help students improve their reading skills. Lessons include selected academic vocabulary words to highlight, as well as comprehension questions and embedded text tools, which can support students’ understanding of the texts and also expand their vocabulary. Academic vocabulary appears in context within all Listenwise stories, providing opportunities for students to practice strategies for learning new words. This week’s current events, for example, include the following words: aftermath, democracy, archive, predatory, and disparity.

Shift 2: Reading, writing, and speaking grounded in evidence from texts, both literary and informational

Listenwise stories are selected for their relevance and interest value, as well as their potential to promote critical thinking and analysis. Stories featured in lessons and current events can provide rich fodder for high-level classroom discussion and/or analytic writing tasks. Text-dependent listening comprehension and discussion questions associated with each story invite students to listen closely to complex audio texts and interpret, analyze, synthesize, evaluate, or apply information, supporting their ideas or claims with evidence from the text. Quizzes include questions that ask students to identify supporting evidence for a specific claim within a text, so teachers can assess those skills and use the data to inform instruction. Lessons noted as including extra supports for English language learners contain close listening protocols, which can help to scaffold such learning activities. This week’s current events, for instance, include the following text-dependent questions:

Shift 3: Building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction

Podcasts featured in Listenwise current events and lessons provide content-rich nonfiction stories on a wide range of topics that can help students build background knowledge, which is critical to both listening and reading comprehension. The Listenwise team curates public radio stories based on their educational value and potential for engaging students, so the current events and lessons in the Listenwise platform offer a dynamic collection of high interest, highly relevant, high quality content that can be used instructionally in many ways. These content-rich nonfiction stories are written by skilled professional writers for a large audience that reaches far beyond the classroom, so they expose students to mentor informational texts about a host of captivating issues. This week’s current events, for example, address a variety of topics, including the social impact of hurricanes, democratic participation, research on using microbes to fight infections, the value of ancient artifacts, and the civic engagement of sports figures.

Listenwise can help teachers address many Common Core standards across all four literacy strands: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. In addition, it can help to support teachers in attending to all of the “key shifts” in expectations embodied in the standards. If you are using Listenwise with your students in ways that help you address the CCSS key shifts, we would love to hear about it!

If you are using the free version of Listenwise, try the 30-day free trial of Premium (click on the button in your dashboard) so that you can try all of the extra lesson supports, additional vocabulary words, and listening quizzes.