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COVID-19 School Closures May Result in Significant Learning Loss

With this year’s school closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the typical “summer slide” is likely to be more drastic than usual. Our blog post on fighting summer learning loss, notes that providing engaging summer learning resources to support ongoing literacy skill development among low-income students can be especially helpful. This year, the gaps are expected to be more stark. See below for more information about those gaps and the need to address them. 

Photo by ERIC ZHU on Unsplash

Given the strong link between listening and reading comprehension, listening to Listenwise stories over the summer can help students to maintain and develop literacy skills. Lexile audio measures on every story can help teachers and students find stories at an appropriate level. Students who have an account can search for stories that interest them. Students with limited access at home can subscribe to our podcast, Listenwise News Bites, which features several current audio stories each week. See below for a selection of stories that would make great listening choices for summer 2020. 

Summer Listening 2020

This year we have compiled summer listening ideas, which include a variety of topical and thematic lists of stories that we have published on our blog. These stories can entertain and educate, and many can potentially help to foster reflection and cultivate constructive conversations during this eventful summer as American history continues to unfold on a daily basis. 

Stories of Black History

This list includes stories about the black experience in the United States, both historical and contemporary. Current headlines are filled with the Black Lives Matter movement that is striving to address the many injustices facing African Americans today. Recent stories about George Floyd, police reform, and systemic racism can provide good starting points for reflection and discussion. 

Stories of Asian Pacific American History

This list includes stories that highlight Asian American experiences and heritage. Two sample stories that offer important perspectives on Asian American culture and history are Immigrant Entrepreneurs and Entering the U.S. During the Chinese Exclusion Act. A story about Asian Americans in Film offers provocation for discussion about stereotypes in popular culture.  

Stories of Latinx and Hispanic History

This list includes stories about the experiences and heritage of Latinx people living in the United States. Stories such as Themes of Belonging: Sandra Cisneros and California Teen Lives Between Borders raise issues of identity, community, and culture. A story on the Impact of Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric on Hispanic Kids offers a great opportunity to deepen understanding of the impact of prejudice faced by many kids in American schools. 

Stories of Native American History

This list includes stories about the experiences of Native Americans in the United States. Stories like Resisting the Trail of Tears and Wounded Knee and Sioux Native Americans reflect the history of oppression and violence against Native Americans. Other stories such as Native American Veterans Memorial highlight important contributions of Native Americans to U.S. history and culture. 

Stories of LGBTQIA+ History  

Following Pride month, these stories about the experiences and history of LGBTQIA+ people in the U.S. are especially timely. Supreme Court Decision Protects LGBTQ workers reflects the ongoing struggles that LGBTQIA+ people have faced throughout history, as well as the progress that has been made. A story about adding singular “they” to the dictionary discusses how language and culture change over time.  

Stories of Women’s History

This list of stories focuses on the history of women and their struggle for equal rights in the United States. Stories such as Michelle Obama on Becoming and The Lasting Legacy of Little Women reflect both the timeliness and the timelessness of issues related to women’s roles in society.

Stories to Promote Social and Emotional Learning

This list contains stories about supporting and promoting social and emotional learning, including self-awareness and social awareness. For example, a story about how animals display emotions and another about college students collaborating on an invention can prompt useful reflection and discussion that builds social and emotional understanding. 

Fun, Engaging Podcasts to Hook Students into Remote Learning

This list offers some fun, light stories that are sure to keep students engaged throughout the summer and beyond. Stories like How New Emojis Are Created and Struck By Lighting and Reconnecting can hook students in, offer emotional appeal, and broaden their knowledge all at the same time. 

Staff Picks 

This list includes a diverse selection of stories that Listenwise staff recommend. Some favorites include Squirrels Are Listening, Supreme Court Women, and Moon Landing Anniversary

Information about Learning Loss Related to COVID-19 Closures

If you have favorite Listenwise stories to share, please note them in the comments. 

Happy summer listening! 

Suddenly switching over to remote learning was hard. And while there’s no sign of remote learning going away, there are definitely ways we can make it easier! 

As teachers moved into remote instruction, they became more dependent on using Listenwise platform features for managing assignments and had some great ideas for improvements. So we’ve made a number of updates to our assignment processes that will make it easier and faster for all teachers and give them more control. Most of these new features apply to both written assignments and quizzes.

  1. Assign to multiple classes at once
  2. Schedule assignment availability
  3. Assign with specific time due in local time zones 
  4. Share assignments to Google Classroom more conveniently


Here’s a few more details about each of them…

1 – Assign to multiple classes at once

This should speed up the assignment process for teachers using a common assignment across multiple classes. You can set the assignment details all on one page, and it’s totally fine to have different due dates for different classes or pick just a few students from one class but assign to all of another. 

2 – Schedule assignment availability

This feature request really popped to the top of the list when teachers started remote instruction. Now that students were online for school work outside of class time, teachers asked for more control about when students would get access to new assignments. We added a new “Date Available” option so teachers can set a date and time in advance if they don’t want students to get the assignment immediately.

3 – Assign with specific time due in local time zones 

Without kids in the classroom, it’s hard to say “submit your assignments now.”  So we’ve added an optional “Time Due” for all assignments and quizzes. Of course having a “time due” wouldn’t be so easy if it weren’t in your local time zone, so we’ll be setting up each Premium school with the appropriate local time zone. Local time zone will apply anywhere you see a time setting or submission time stamp. 

3 – Share assignments to Google Classroom more conveniently

We’ve made it more convenient to share written assignments to Google Classroom by providing that option right on the “Assign” page. If you’ve created your classes by importing a roster from Google Classroom, this option will be available automatically, similar to what you’ve experienced with assigning quizzes. If you don’t set up classes with Google Classroom, it will be hidden. 

Have other suggestions for remote learning features? Thoughts about these new feature updates? Please share in the comments below!

We continue as a company to reflect on how we can better support educators in teaching about social justice in their classrooms and including diverse perspectives all year long. For Listenwise stories that are relevant to the black experience in America, check out our blog posts on “Teaching about George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Why Black Lives Matter” and “Stories of Black History.” Our goal is to continue to share high-quality stories from reliable sources and empower educators to fill in gaps in the curriculum and incorporate a multitude of perspectives and voices, including those of students. 

Picture Credit:
TJ Gehling

Today is June 19th, also known as Juneteenth. Though it has long been celebrated in African-American communities, it commemorates a history that has been marginalized and still remains largely unknown to the wider public. The day is also sometimes called “Juneteenth Independence Day,” “Freedom Day,” or “Emancipation Day.” On June 19, 1865, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people were freed. Juneteenth commemorates that important event. A 2018 Vox article titled “Why celebrating Juneteenth is more important now than ever,” explains that the holiday represents “how freedom and justice in the US has always been delayed for Black people.”

On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday in Texas through the efforts of Al Edwards, an African-American state legislator. The successful passage of this bill marked Juneteenth as the first emancipation celebration granted official state recognition. Edwards has since actively sought to spread the observance of Juneteenth all across America. A staff writer at The Atlantic eloquently captured the significance of the day: 

“I think it should be considered the truth of American independence. July 4 only represents when white men in this country were made free. If you think about the masses, Juneteenth represents the true fulfillment of what people believe to be that declaration, and what people believe to be freedom in this country.” – Vann Newkirk II via WBUR

To learn more about Juneteenth from a primary source, listen to an interview with Laura Smalley, a Texas woman born into slavery and freed when federal troops came to Galveston. Many people have tried to increase national recognition of Juneteenth. In 2017, 90-year-old Opal Lee walked around the country in order to raise awareness and urge the U.S. government to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday. 

Now, in the midst of protests and public conversation about police brutality and the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and other African-Americans, there is renewed interest in commemorating this important day.

We encourage educators to learn more about this historic day and incorporate it into the curriculum. Culturally responsive teaching and inclusion of diverse perspectives and multicultural resources in the curriculum are important for all students, not just students of color. It is important to teach black history year-round, and not only the injustices, but also the resilience, the victories, and the many cultural and societal contributions of African Americans to the United States and the world. 

What do you think it will take to have everyone in the United States achieve the full recognition of the dignity of black people? This is a discussion question from our January 11, 2017 current event “Comparing Black Lives Matter to the Civil Rights Movement” that is still relevant today. 

As our country grapples yet again with the extrajudicial killing of a black man in police custody, parents and educators are feeling the need to help children process this moment. We aim to empower educators to create intentional space for students and community members to engage in meaningful dialogue. We at Listenwise stand in support of black lives and racial equity.

It is clear that we as a nation need to do more in our classrooms to talk constructively about race. We have compiled a list of age-appropriate news stories from Listenwise that examine America’s history of violence and oppression, racial bias, structural racism, and police brutality, as well as the rights of Americans to gather in protest. We hope that listening to these stories and those of students can support your school community’s efforts toward positive change. 

Here are some other high-quality resources that can help in addressing these issues with kids:

We invite educators to consider how to seize this teachable moment, ensure diverse representation within the curriculum, and help students think deeply about issues of race and racism all year long. You can explore a larger collection of Listenwise black history podcasts on our blog.

Updated on 7/7/20

June is Pride Month, which is held each year to honor the June 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, an event that kicked off the movement for gay rights in the United States. Pride Month was celebrated nationally for the first time in 1999 under President Bill Clinton. It is a time to celebrate the contributions of LGBTQIA+ individuals, bear witness to their history, and take action in fighting for liberation and equality. 

Queer history was cultivated through significant oppression and violence and has driven towards liberation by the work of countless activists and allies, some of whom lost their lives in the battle for civil rights. By listening to stories of LGBTQIA+ history, students may feel more connected to and accepting of their own identities, develop a deeper consciousness and understanding of shared histories, and feel empowered to serve as allies. 

Listenwise Stories: 

Other Resources: 

There’s no question that the coronavirus pandemic has changed all our lives and has affected students in many ways. As schools around the country have closed and students have been homebound and learning remotely in recent months, everyone has faced enormous shifts in their routines and social lives. Sometimes, however, we may not fully understand how the pandemic has impacted students until we ask them. 

One of our teacher advocates, Erik Eve, created a lesson using Listenwise current event stories focused on COVID-19 in a way that activated student choice and voice. His class of 8th graders from Lindenhurst Middle School in New York were directed to choose any podcast from the Listenwise podcast collection focused on COVID-19 and write personal reflections about the story’s relevance to their lives. You can read a sampling of these thoughtful and illuminating reflections below.

If you want to share these reflections with your students and invite them to write their own, you might also ask them to listen to this Listenwise story featuring students reflecting on their experiences during the pandemic. After reading and listening to student reflections from across the country, along with other Listenwise current events about the pandemic, your students might share their own reflections, thoughts, or feelings in whatever format they wish (e.g., Google Doc, Flipgrid video, audio podcast, video chat, online discussion forum, etc.). This can help students feel connected to each other and discover shared and/or new perspectives on how this strange time is affecting people’s lives.

Read student reflections from Erik Eve’s class:

Annika Bisogno listened to:
Coping Without a Job During the Pandemic – 4/30/2020

Now I know what a lot of people are thinking, students have it easy during the break (or Coronacation which is a mix of the words corona and vacation) but that is not the case. After listening to the audio story “Coping Without a Job during the Pandemic”, I learned about the things that adults have been thinking about and their concerns. But I am here to tell you what teenagers in middle school are thinking about. My name is Annika and I am an 8th grade honors student at Lindenhurst Middle school, and to tell you the truth, this “vacation” is really getting to me. At first I was like whoopy no school, but that feeling quickly dissipated and now i’ve never missed school more. The adults in the video pondered if people will ever gather again or why is my unemployment taking so long, but students today don’t have the time or the energy to be panicking about the future, because we are panicking about when our work is due and how overwhelmed we are. Each day we are assigned a plethora of work to complete and even if due dates are spread out it’s still agonizing. It’s all new to us and speaking from personal experience I have a hard time focusing on work at home. Remembering back to when we did have school, sports and clubs, I didn’t even do my homework at home but went to the library instead. However, looking more towards the optimistic side, because nobody likes a whiner, there are things that keep me calm and at peace with my studies and just over all being trapped in my house. Getting ready in the morning actually really soothes the feelings of stress. I even do my make up because it helps normalize things. I’ve picked up new hobbies and overall improved my mental health. Just because I am stressed doesn’t mean I can’t do the things I enjoy. It’s hard to make time for the things I enjoy but in the end I make it work. I think an important thing to remember is that everything will be alright in the end :).”

Julia Wlodkiewicz listened to:
States Lock Down To Protect Lives – 3/26/20

Around a month ago, New York State closed. The schools closed, the libraries, places of work, with only essential workers being able to work. As you definitely know, this is due to the coronavirus or COVID-19. This has changed my everyday life, as long as everyone else’s for a most likely, prolonged period of time. I can’t go to school, I must complete my schoolwork online. This whole situation is very stressful, especially since me and my whole class are supposed to go to high school next year. The regent exams have been cancelled, which was really a slap into reality for me. Some of my classes this year were solely preparing me for the regents. It was like I finally realized, “This isn’t temporary. It’s going to last for a while.” While this transition hasn’t been easy, I feel that it is more important to protect the lives of my community and those around me rather than risk having them fall ill or even die. I know many people feel isolated right now, I feel it too, but we have to stay strong right now. We have to protect each other now, so that we can be with each other later. I respect the governor’s choice in locking down the state, if that is what is going to stop the spreading of coronavirus.

Khrystyna Blyshchak listened to:

Avoiding Coronavirus – 5/5/20

I listened to the podcast “Avoiding Coronavirus.” It was published only 2 months ago, but it feels like it’s been forever. I listened to the podcast when it was first released, and now looking back, I wish more was done sooner. In this podcast, Steve Inskeep and Allison Aubrey talk about coronavirus testing and how it is very limited. Today, with the state that I’m from (New York) being the state with the most cases, testing for the virus is crucial. If testing was more available during the early stages of the virus, we probably could’ve been able to contain it better than we had. Many people who didn’t show enough symptoms were sent home. In the slight chances that they could’ve had the virus, they probably spread it more unknowingly. Since there wasn’t enough testing and the virus kept spreading, schools were shut down and kids had to go into quarantine. On May 1st, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York announced, “Given the current situation, K-12 schools and college facilities will remain closed for the rest of the academic year and will continue to provide distance learning.” Because of the virus, I will be missing out on school trips, memories, graduation, getting to say goodbye to all of my teachers, and much more. However, even though I am upset, I’m glad that Governor Cuomo took action in closing down schools for everyone’s safety. I have family members that could potentially be easily infected by the virus, and I wouldn’t want myself or any of my siblings bringing the virus back into our home from school. Currently, school isn’t the safe environment it has always been in my district, so I’d rather continue learning from a distance. In the podcast, the spokespeople provided us with ways we could help stop the spread of the virus. Those extra steps did help a lot of people, but not enough to stop the spread. I hope that, unlike the other pandemics in years beyond my time, we have the right technology to find a vaccine and treatment course to prevent fatalities from the virus.

Michael Fiocco listened to: 

Containing the Coronavirus Outbreak – 2/13/20

This story pertains to my life because my father, Keeth Fiocco, works at the Jacob Javits Convention Center as an Electrical Steward of Local Union #3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. For two weeks he and his fellow electricians all worked tirelessly to convert the largest convention center on the East Coast to a hospital that is able to house over 2,500 patients.

The decision to convert the Javits Center to a hospital was made by Governor Andrew Cuomo on March 27, 2020 in response to the need for additional beds in anticipation of a surge of COVID-19 patients that New York hospitals could not contain. After this monumental decision was made, the production quickly began on turning the giant convention center into a field hospital. For this to work, necessary life saving equipment needed to be imported from other areas. One piece of equipment were ventilators which are used to help people breathe when they are unable to on their own. Another item that was needed were hospital cots where the patients would stay and rest when they arrived at the Javits. Additional machinery included the Oxygen Concentrators, which are machines that purify oxygen for patients who have too little in their blood.

To install everything The National Guard, The Army Corps of Engineers and The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) worked in unison with the Local #3 electrical workers, as well as the other trades, to prepare to save their fellow New Yorkers. To keep the operation going at all times there were constant shifts in workers to keep them fresh and healthy as well as additional workers on emergency call. My Uncle, Christopher Erikson Business Manager of Local Union #3, along with his son , Christopher Erikson Jr. Business Representative of Local Union #3 for the Jacob Javits Center, also helped by reevaluating the contracts signed by the workers and allowed flexibility in shift times and work hours to alleviate the financial hardship the Javits Center was undergoing while insisting that everyone had appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks, latex gloves and eye protection.

When the patients arrived they came in through the third floor loading dock where the medics would assess them and then be placed in one of two zones, the recovery area where they would just be monitored or the emergency care area where the patients needed more critical care. In the rooms where the patients stayed they were given a sleeping cot, a chair and an oxygen concentrator as well as other needed equipment. At night the lights are dimmed but never turned off completely and the patients rarely get any silence, instead there is always a quiet murmur in the distance.

As well as turning the Javits center into a field hospital my father was also tasked with working the sound system when The Governor would hold a press conference at the Javits Center. When I asked him how he felt during the program he said: “I felt really nervous and didn’t want to mess up because it feels like the whole world is watching me and even the smallest mistake won’t go unnoticed.” While watching, everything went well and they even used the audio of one conference to make an inspirational video, lifting the spirits of New Yorkers everywhere.

As we continue to see the fight against COVID-19, looking at my father always reminds me there are silent heroes that are putting their lives in danger everyday to make sure all hospitals, including the makeshift ones, are running efficiently. We clap for doctors, nurses, and first responders, let us all remember that there are others in the shadows that we clap for too.

We are always looking for more ways to share the great podcasts we feature every day in our Current Events collection at Listenwise. Recently, with the closure of schools, we realized it’s more important than ever to give students a variety of ways to connect with these stories. How could we make it easier and require less bandwidth?

The answer: The Listenwise News Bites Podcast

We select three of the best stories from our recent current events and turn them into a weekly podcast with thought-provoking questions posed to the listener. The podcast is hosted by veteran public radio reporter (and founder of Listenwise) Monica Brady-Myerov. It features primarily stories from NPR, a leader in balanced reporting. The podcast format offers a few advantages over listening on the Listenwise website or a mobile device. 

  • Low Bandwidth – Accessing a podcast on a smartphone requires minimal bandwidth over a short period of time. Once you’ve downloaded the episode, you can listen off-line. This is great for students who have limited access to broadband internet and might be using hotspots for internet access. And if they subscribe through the Apple app (or wherever they get their podcasts), your students will be delivered an episode weekly.
  • Independent Listening – The podcast inspires independent listening. Teachers or parents don’t need to assign the podcast, as they would on the Listenwise platform. We know the engaging, funny, and informative stories will keep young listeners interested in listening on their own.
  • Thought-provoking – Listenwise is produced by the same curriculum developers who bring you the listening comprehension and discussion questions and teacher resources on the Listenwise platform. Each story in the podcast is followed by a question for student reflection, such as, “What can you do to help people during the coronavirus pandemic?” 
  • Relevant and Fun – Informative, engaging podcast stories are curated for kids ages 7-18. Currently, many stories are related to the coronavirus pandemic in some way. Each podcast episode also features a 30-second Weird News story that is unexpected and funny. Did you hear the one about the falling iguanas? Or how alligators can help you keep your social distance? 

If you are a parent looking for informative podcasts that won’t feel like school, you will love the Listenwise News Bites Podcast. If you are a teacher who wants to give your students something fun AND educational to do over the summer, tell them to download the podcast today on Apple Podcasts!

After our emergency transition to fully remote learning, many teachers are somewhat exhausted but settled into their plans for finishing out the school year online. Now as we turn our minds towards next school year, we have more time to be intentional about our instructional design. We don’t exactly know yet what’s coming, but we know that we need to be in a position to be flexible as schools consider hybrid instructional models. 

There are lots of educators who are thinking through how schools will adopt a hybrid model (part of the time in school buildings and part at home), with the possibility of moving back to remote learning for shorter periods of time if necessary. We’ve already shared some great ways to use Listenwise in remote learning. Now we want to help teachers think through what elements of Listenwise instruction are best suited for the classroom and what students might do remotely at home.

The great news is that Listenwise has always been designed for teachers to pick and choose which resources they want to use face-to-face in the classroom and what they will ask students to do online. And regardless of how you blend your instruction, the power of a great high-interest story will impact motivation and engagement. You may want to start the new year with some particularly fun stories or stories that help students get to know each other before you delve into curriculum topics.

Many Listenwise teachers were accustomed to having students do all their Listenwise work during classroom time. Now it’s time to ask what are the most important parts of that instruction to retain for live class time (either in class or via video chat), and which parts can be effectively done independently by students. 

Flipping the Classroom

One good option is to have students listen on their own and take the quiz online first. Then you can take a look at the online quiz results to see where you might offer instructional support when you discuss the stories with students in the classroom. And if you have to move back to all remote learning, you can easily transition your discussions online.

This is similar to the flipped classroom approach, which was the most popularized model for blended learning in middle and high school classrooms prior to COVID19. We can learn from this approach how to shift direct instruction and consumption of information to remote time and use face-to-face time for guided practice and discussion to deepen student understanding. Perhaps students might do a first listen on their own and answer some comprehension questions. But some activities may benefit from direct teacher support in class, such as a debate or responding to a longer writing prompt based on one of our discussion questions.

Scaffolding Instruction

If you typically do a lot of scaffolding and pre-teaching of Listenwise stories before or during listening, you may want to take the reverse approach, where you listen together the first time and help students activate prior knowledge. Then you can ask students to do a follow-up activity independently, where they can listen to the story again as they do the written assignment or take the quiz. 

If you’re working with students for whom you expect the Listenwise content to be quite challenging, definitely take advantage of Listenwise’s tools for scaffolding and differentiation. Listenwise Premium includes interactive transcripts, slowed audio, word lookup and text read-aloud. In addition, teachers can create different assignments for different groups of students if needed. Now is really the time to use these features, when you cannot be there to answer questions in real time while your students are working. You may even want to record a little video with suggestions for your students about what to do if they have trouble understanding a story. 

Weekly Learning Routines

Many teachers find weekly learning routines to be very helpful for students in the classroom, especially in elementary school. But they are also an important tool for helping students transition to online learning and know what is expected of them at any age. Common routines include “Listenwise Wednesdays” or incorporating a required listening activity into each week’s independent literacy block. Think about how these routines will work when you have less time in the classroom. Here are some integration strategies that might offer helpful tools to support you and your students in moving seamlessly between remote and hybrid schooling.

Want more expert advice about how to utilize Listenwise in blended or remote learning? Listenwise is now offering a great new professional development workshop for groups of teachers from a school or district. Even better – it’s affordable and delivered totally remotely!  Contact us to learn more about our professional development offerings.

Are you currently using or planning to use Listenwise in other innovative ways? Do you have additional ideas for hybrid instruction? Please share them in the comments below!

English language learners (ELs) may need extra support when learning remotely, as many do not regularly hear English spoken at home. Listenwise offers a curated collection of more than 2000 podcast lessons featuring engaging nonfiction audio stories that can give students practice listening to naturally spoken English. These stories are full of academic language and background knowledge related to current events and popular curriculum topics in English language arts, social studies, and science, sourced from public radio and other producers of high quality educational audio content. 

The Listenwise platform offers many features to support listening comprehension among English language learners, including interactive transcripts, slowed audio, and embedded dictionaries. The flexible platform can be used in a variety of ways with learners at all levels. Two experienced teachers who have been using Listenwise with their ELs, Tatiana Dobrodomov and Alyson Noble,  share some of their teaching strategies and lesson ideas below. Both educators use Listenwise with Google Classroom, and each offers examples of incorporating Listenwise into both synchronous and asynchronous remote instruction. 

Teaching Language and Literacy Skills through Current Events 

Tatiana Dobrodomov teaches beginning, intermediate, and advanced English language learners at  Union High School in Camas, Washington. She assigns her students a current event each Friday to develop their reading, writing, listening, and critical thinking skills, while also building background knowledge in science, social studies, and other content areas. 

Tatiana selects current events that relate to her curriculum and are relevant to her students’ interests. For example, she recently selected “Drive-Through Coronavirus Testing,” as students had been building background knowledge about the subject for a while, and she felt they were confident enough to handle the story and interested in studying the topic in depth. She asked students to listen to the story independently first and then discuss it together. 

Tatiana asked her students to preview key vocabulary before starting to listen to the story on their own. She encouraged them to listen as many times as they needed, at a slower pace if desired, in order to fully understand the story. Then she led a class discussion through Google Hangouts Meet video chat after everyone was finished. According to Tatiana:  

Even newcomer students were able to complete most activities independently, comprehend some difficult concepts, and build confidence in English. The beauty of the Listenwise selections and support tools is that they all have interesting and engaging topics that make all students, regardless of their English language proficiency level, wonder and explore even challenging concepts with minimal or no support. 

Tatiana recommends Listenwise stories as a “great activity to develop listening comprehension and language confidence in a non-stressful way.” She says that Listenwise is easy to access for students and teachers, with clear instructions and minimal additional planning required.  She notes, “There are many audio stories to choose from, and many new stories are being added each day. It’s a great supplementary source, and all students enjoy it.” 

One of Tatiana’s students reflected on the Listenwise experience:

Listenwise plays a role of a source that sums up most relevant problems in one short podcast. It’s really cool as events in every single recording are happening now, so that’s another reason to try to understand what people are talking about. Besides that, I still learn English, and Listenwise helps me to train my listening and analyzing skills.

Integrating Podcast Lessons into the Curriculum

Alyson Noble teaches students at ELD levels 1 & 2 at Granada High School in Livermore, California. She appreciates that Listenwise offers many scaffolds and supports to help ELs with remote assignments, such as slower audio, transcripts, vocabulary, translations, and picture dictionaries. She also likes that there are ELA lessons, as well as interdisciplinary lessons that involve science and history. Alyson recommends checking the difficulty of the passage using the Lexile audio measure to make sure that the assignment is appropriate for the class. She loves the current events and debate topics because they “allow students to activate prior knowledge and acquire new information in order to hold meaningful discussions.” 

To find stories that are appropriate for her students, she searches topics that relate to what the class is reading to make the information more relevant and meaningful. When teaching remotely, she creates a listening assignment, including discussion questions and/or a quiz to assess students’ understanding. Alyson explains, “The grading is very easy to do remotely because students submit their typed answers, and I can type my feedback in the Listenwise website.” 

Alyson assigned her students the lesson “Psychology of a Bully” to accompany two short stories they were reading about people confronting bullies. She thought the podcast might offer a different perspective, as it features someone who had been a bully in the past. Her students listened to the audio story independently using the scaffolds, including the listening organizer, and then answered the discussion questions. Here is one student’s written response to a question about empathy:

You can increase empathy on yourself and in others by being with them, trying to talk to them of their problems, or what they feel inside, and to make them feel like they have somebody to talk to in life and know that they care about them, make them feel important in life. 

This example of an assignment that students worked on asynchronously on the Listenwise platform is one way that Alyson uses Listenwise with her ELs. 

Using Podcasts in Teaching Writing

Alyson also recommends using a story such as “Love Poems from Kids” as a way to jumpstart a writing assignment. She taught a writing lesson based on this story, which includes a collection of poetic responses from students around the country to the prompt, “Love is…”  She met with students via a synchronous meeting platform and used the featured poems as mentor texts for students’ own creative writing. She describes how she taught the lesson, starting with listening to the audio story as a group: 

We listened to a poet and poems written and recited by students to start a poetry writing assignment. We discussed metaphors, symbols, and imagery in the poems we heard in order to give the students ideas about their own poem. I gave additional examples of how to write the “Love is…” poem and explained how they could describe different types of love. They could talk about familial love, romantic love, platonic love, love for a pet, love for a sport, etc.

In this lesson, Alyson engaged students in listening to an audio story together and discussing it in real time before working remotely on a related writing assignment. 

Many thanks to Tatiana and Alyson for sharing their expert teaching practices with the broader Listenwise community! 

Related Resources

If you have any teaching ideas, strategies, or tips for using Listenwise with English language learners, please share them in the comments below.

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month! The Listenwise collection features a variety of stories about the experiences and contributions of Asian and Pacific Americans, addressing topics such as exclusionary immigration policies, sword fighting traditions, and representation of Asian Americans in Hollywood films. Explore podcasts that highlight the challenges and triumphs of Asian Pacific Americans and learn about their cultural heritage. 


Listening to podcasts featuring authentic voices can connect students to specific moments in time and promote understanding of others’ perspectives. Our podcast lessons below can be flexibly integrated into instruction in a variety of ways. Use these podcasts to help students learn about the generations of Asian and Pacific Americans who have shaped and enriched America’s history.

Listenwise Stories

Politics & Society

Culture & Identity

History

U.S. 

World 

Other High-Quality Resources