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How well do your students listen? Can they distill main idea or make inferences?

We are excited to announce that we’ve added multiple choice listening assessments to Listenwise Premium. Teachers now have the ability to assess and track 8 different student listening skills! There is no doubt, listening skills have a major impact on children’s career and college readiness, and we are excited to provide new ways to help teachers support student success.

Try it now! Test your own listening or try it (for free) with your students!

We have seen that there are very few curriculum products that address listening skills in middle and high school, which is what inspired us to launch some huge changes to our Premium package today.

How did we create these unique assessments? We designed our multiple choice assessments across 8 different aspects of listening comprehension. This past Fall and Winter we beta tested the auto-scored quizzes with teachers and students across the U.S and received amazing feedback:

“I was surprised to discover through Listenwise that my students needed more help with identifying evidence and understanding inferences. The data from my student assessments was revealing and I’m reworking my approach to instruction in these areas. With Listenwise, listening has now become a class routine, because I see how much impact it has on my students.”

–Lisa Goldman

For more information:

If you have our Premium version you can access the quizzes right away, and if you don’t have Premium access and want to learn more,  contact us here or call us 617-855-8053.

Today’s guest post is written by Andrew Garnett-Cook, a 7th and 8th grade social studies teacher in Brookline, MA.

This past December, I took three days away from teaching to be a co-presenter for Listenwise at the National Council on Social Studies Conference in Washington D.C. I was really excited to meet other Social Studies educators to discuss the value of using public radio stories in teaching, for developing listening skills as well as social and global literacy.

Over these three days, I was rejuvenated by informal conversations and was reminded anew of how much teachers across the country hunger for new ways to engage their students in the value of learning about the past.  I, myself, have discovered new and meaningful ways to engage my students in learning about the past, especially using Listenwise curriculum-aligned stories. During the conference we presented two stories that educators can use to connect the past to present-day issues.

The first story, entitled “Insight Into What It’s Like to be a Refugee” is about a Doctors Without Borders traveling exhibit designed to put people in the shoes of a refugee. The story offers rich opportunity to engage students in a range of topics in American history and places the listener in the shoes of a Syrian refugee. Among things the listener is asked to ponder is what possessions he or she would take if there was little time to decide and you could only select a small number of items. A thought experiment like this helps foster empathy for the displaced. Also, a story like this one can be used in a number of different places in a U.S. or World History curriculum. Topics where this story could connect well include the Jewish Refugee crisis in World War II, Chinese exclusion, or even the expulsion of Jews from Roman Palestine in the 1st century. The themes that tie them all together (being a stranger in a strange land, the impact of war on civilian populations) are ones that transcend time periods. They are universal human experiences brought into your classroom.

The second story, entitled “Climate Change and Human Migration” also presents an exciting opportunity to connect human experiences across time. The story presents new research to help answer the question of why our human ancestors left Africa in prehistoric times. This story fits nicely in an Early Humans unit but it can also be used in science curriculum as well. Through this story, teachers can engage students in larger conversations about the uncertainty of what is known about the past and how new evidence can fundamentally change our understanding of what happened. It also helps open conversation about the impact climate change has had on the human experiences over thousands of years and what its implications for the future might be.

The challenge for any social studies teacher is to figure out ways to make the past relevant to our experiences today. This is not easy. However, public radio provides a lot of opportunities for teachers to bring current events and new research into classes.

Are you finding new ways to teach history within the context of current events? Share what you are doing in the comments below.

Find our slides from NCSS here.

With our new search feature that allows students to search for stories from their homepage, it’s a great opportunity for students to use Listenwise to help support research with other reports and projects. Students can use these stories in research papers, to find evidence to support their opinions, or to find interesting topics they enjoy.

The following guide will show you and your students how to cite a Listenwise audio story and create a bibliography or list of sources.

First, Identify this Information

  1. Listenwise URL
  2. Listenwise Title
  3. Public Radio Title
  4. Public Radio Reporter
  5. Public Radio Source
  6. Public Radio Air Date

On the Listenwise site, this is where you will find each piece of information.


1. Listenwise URL: https://listenwise.com/current_events/729-louisiana-flooding-closes-schools
2. Listenwise Title Louisiana Flooding Closes Schools
3. Public Radio Title Many Baton Rouge Area Schools Remain Closed Due To Flood Damage
4. Public Radio Reporter ROBERT SIEGEL
5. Public Radio Source NPR
6. Public Radio Air Date 08/23/2016

Next, Put the Information in this Format Below

This is our suggested format. If your school uses APA or MLA formats, simply use these pieces of information and organize it in a way that is consistent with your citation conventions.


Public Radio Reporter. Public Radio Air Date. “Public Radio Title.” Public Radio Source. [Audio blog post.] From Listenwise: “Listenwise Title.”  Listenwise URL


Siegel, Robert. (7 Dec 2016). “Many Baton Rouge Area Schools Remain Closed Due To Flood Damage.” NPR. [Audio blog post]. From Listenwise: “Louisiana Flooding Closes Schools.” https://listenwise.com/current_events/729-louisiana-flooding-closes-schools

As humans, we have so many important ways we convey and understand information as we communicate.  We are born with ears, and are never actually taught how to listen—it’s understood how to do it, we just start. As kids we grow up learning how to speak by listening to the people who are close to us, and imitating others. Almost everyone enjoys listening to radio, watching videos, talking on the phone. All of these things help to grow these skills, just by doing them repetitively, but how often do we focus on the these skills that we take for granted? How often do we consciously think that we are learning to read when we listen?

The other language skills such as reading and writing are things that we have to be explicitly taught. Researchers have found that the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing are all integrated and contribute to one’s understanding of the world around them. Reading and listening are receptive skills; writing and speaking are productive skills. And according to research, there are substantial correlations between these four language processes. So when students are listening they are also advancing their other language skills.

While listening and reading share many comprehension processes, there are differences in the way the information is processed. Readers often remember more details and can go back to the text. Listeners construct understanding as they listen and often come away with an overall understanding of ideas (Absalom and Rizzi, 2008). Students who are successful at reading comprehension understand at the sentence level as well as at the understanding the text as an integrated whole (Perfetti, 2007).

Comprehension = Decoding Skills + Language Skills

Reading comprehension involves both decoding print and understanding language. Once students can decode text, their comprehension is dependent on understanding language. (Catts, Hogan, and Adlof, 2005). Students who have not mastered decoding can still learn language skills by listening to stories and content read aloud. Students can listen on a higher language level than they can read, so listening provides a way to improve students’ language skills, making complex ideas more accessible to students and exposing them to vocabulary and language patterns that are not part of their everyday speech (Fountas and Pinnell 1996). For example,students may be able to listen to and understand the plot and character development of Don Quixote and his inner journey, but not be able to decode enough words on their own to make sense of the content while reading.

Increasing Language Skills by Listening

Language skills are essential in creating a mental representation of the whole text to understand it. Higher-level language skills can be developed by listening to stories. This develops language skills in all students, even those who struggle with decoding. Therefore, listening can be used to develop these essential language skills with students of all reading abilities. These language skills can then influence and enhance their reading comprehension. For example, when teaching the comprehension skill of compare/contrast, students can listen to a story about the traditional view of Genghis Khan  as a conqueror and compare that to an author’s view of Genghis Khan as a visionary. Students can learn to use high-level comprehension skills by listening to the content and working with the concepts.

Language Skills

    • Literal Knowledge: Students need to recall descriptions, facts and details to understand the meaning. This includes understanding information that is explicitly stated.
    • Vocabulary:  Students who understand content as a whole are able to construct a mental model of the story. This allows them to find the meaning of unknown words by interpreting them within the context of the story. They are more likely to choose the correct meaning of words with multiple meanings, as well as discover the meaning of words by using the context. Also, when they hear idioms and figurative language they are able to understand them within the whole context, rather than as individual words.
    • Inferencing: Students who have high comprehension make inferences as they listen, connecting pieces of text together. They fill in missing information from their prior knowledge and experience, and go beyond the literal meaning of the content (Bowyer-Crane & Snowling, 2005).
    • Main Idea: When listening, students generalize the content as a whole and identify the main ideas of the information presented. They interpret the information and how it all contributes to a main topic or issue.
    • Summarizing: When students are asked to summarize what they heard, they identify the importance of each detail and retell the key points of information and explain how they contribute to the overall ideas.
    • Analyze Point of View: Students listen to identify and evaluate the speaker’s purpose and main ideas.
    • Evaluating Reasoning: Students  evaluate the reasoning , credibility, and relevance of a speaker or author’s ideas and information.

Using Listening to Improve Reading Comprehension

After seeing the connections between the four language skills, there is much importance in teaching and assessing listening and speaking skills in schools. By growing one skill, students are developing their other language skills. There is strong evidence that higher-level language skills are critical to good reading comprehension and its development. These higher-level skills play an important role in a reader’s or listener’s construction of the meaning of a text. Each of these skills can be taught and assessed in students of all reading levels, by using high-quality listening resources. Developing and practicing these skills while listening can contribute to increased comprehension when reading. These skills can be taught through targeted instruction, discussions, and monitoring progress to meet the needs of all students.



Catts, H. W., Hogan, T. P., & Adlof, S. M. (2005). Developmental changes in reading and reading disabilities. In H. W. Catts & A. G. Kamhi (Eds.), The connections between language and reading disabilities (pp. 25-40). Mahwah,NJ: Erlbaum.

Bowyer-Crane, C., & Snowling, J. (2005). Assessing children’s inference generation: What do tests of reading comprehension measure? British Journal of Educational Psychology, 75, 189-201.

Hogan, T. P., Bridges, M. S., Justice, L. M., & Cain, K. (2011). Increasing higher level language skills to improve reading comprehension. Focus on Exceptional Children, 44(3), 1-19.

Perfetti, C. A. (2007). Reading ability: Lexical quality to comprehension. Scientific Studies of Reading, 11, 357-383.

Are you using a free teacher account and wondering how to have your students access the stories?  

Perhaps you told them to go sign up and they came back to you asking for a class code? We’re here to help!

In the free teacher version, we use “listening links” to simply let students listen to the audio story on their own device.  No student signups.  No class codes.

What is a listening link and how does it work?


In the top left corner of each lesson you’ll see an orange assign button with a link icon. You can use that to get a listening link, which is just a link to a student view of that story. Copy the URL and then share the link however you typically share resources with students. You can even share these links to your Google Classroom!

Do you have other questions about how to navigate the Listenwise product? Check out our most frequently asked questions in our FAQ page.

PS – Premium users can use listening links too!

Have you ever wondered how to explain Listenwise to colleagues? Well, we just created a short 90 second video to share our story. See if you can spot the preview of new features in the video. Watch to see what’s coming this January!

How would your students do on a listening comprehension test?

If you are interested in how Listenwise might fit into your classroom read more about how teachers use Listenwise or see our list of features.

Happy Listening!


Today’s guest post is republished from June 22,  2016. Today’s post is written by Scott Petri, a High School History Teacher in California. Follow him on twitter @scottmpetri.

Thirty-two years ago, Donald E. Powers wrote Considerations for Developing Measures of Speaking & Listening. It was published by the College Board, which expresses how important these measures are to a student’s academic success, particularly in their Advanced Placement programs, yet has not validated any standardized tests to measure these skills. This synthesis on some of the research on listening offers advice to teachers enrolled in our MOOC Teaching Speaking & Listening Skills.

Research shows that students can listen 2-3 grade levels above what they can read. Listening while reading helps people have successful reading events, where they read with enjoyment and accuracy. Listening while reading has been shown to help with decoding, a fundamental part of reading. The average person talks at a rate of about 125 to 175 words per minute, while we listen and comprehend up to 450 words per minute (Carver, Johnson, & Friedman, 1970).


Listening has been identified as one of the top skills employers seek in entry-level employees as well as those being promoted. Even though most of us spend the majority of our day listening, it is the communication activity that receives the least instruction in school (Coakley & Wolvin, 1997). On average, viewers who just watched and listened to the evening news can only recall 17.2% of the content.

Listening is critical to academic success. Conaway (1982) examined an entire freshman class of over 400 students. They were given a listening test at the beginning of their first semester. After their first year of college, 49% of students scoring low on the listening test were on academic probation, while only 4.42% of those scoring high on the listening test were on academic probation. On the other hand, 68.5% of those scoring high on the listening test were considered Honors Students after the first year, while only 4.17% of those scoring low attained the same success.

Students do not have a clear concept of listening as an active process that they can control. Students find it easier to criticize the speaker as opposed to the speaker’s message (Imhof, 1998). Students report greater listening comprehension when they use the metacognitive strategies of asking pre-questions, interest management, and elaboration strategies (Imhof, 2001). Listening and nonverbal communication training significantly influences multicultural sensitivity (Timm & Schroeder, 2000).

Understanding is the goal of listening. Our friend Erik Palmersuggests before students engage in purposeful listening, their teachers should tell them what to attend to. We need to teach students what to respond to, how to respond, and when to respond. For example, today we are going to listen to five speeches. For each speech, we are only listening for LIFE. After each speaker finishes, clap, then take a minute to evaluate the level of passion they put into their speech. After that write down three suggestions on how they could improve the LIFE in their speech (i.e., instead of emphasizing:you stole my red hat, try stressing, you stole my red hat).

A classroom teacher who reads Powers (1984) College Board study will understand that speaking, listening, reading and writing are all tightly correlated. Empirically measuring oral communication skills requires many hours of assessment on small, controlled populations. It is the opposite of what we experience in public schools where it is not feasible for us to precisely measure each skill. The important takeaway here is that teachers need to prepare their students to actively listen, avoid distractions, and teach listening and speaking with core academic content by training students to evaluate how well various speaking functions are accomplished by their classmates. While there are reliability issues with classroom peer review models, the benefits of “learning by evaluation” far outweigh the negatives.






michaelopitzToday’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. 

Listening is at the heart of language development. At the moment of birth, babies have approximately twelve full weeks of listening experience and as children develop, so do their listening skills; listening becomes a vehicle for comprehension development. Due to its importance, here are five reasons for explicitly teaching listening:

  1. Learners develop an ability to discriminate sounds. Listening iearnvolves the identification of the differences among sounds. This identification and discrimination leads children to the understanding that sounds are grouped together to form words.
  1.  Students realize the value of listening. Listening makes up a great percentage of a student’s day, both in and out of school. Expanding their views of listening and the benefits of using good listening skills can impact how they use listening. For instance, listening precisely to verbal instructions has a direct impact on student’s success in the classroom. They know exactly what they are to do as a result of being able to perform this type of listening.
  1. Students learn to listen for a variety of purposes. There are many purposes for listening, such as to determine a speaker’s intended message, being able to thoughtfully respond to a speaker’s message, and to appreciate music. The good news is that teachers can actually teach children how to listen for a variety of purposes, which is one of the main goals of the Listenwise curriculum. Teaching students how to listen is far different from simply expecting them to develop this complex language art by listening for longer periods with no specific focus.
  1.  Listening enhances children’s ability to use the other language arts. Teaching listening allows students to follow directions, understand expectations, and make sense of oral communication. As children improve as listeners, they learn to use the same strategies to improve their command of the other language arts. For example, when children ask a question (speaking), they then listen (listening) for the response which might clarify what they need to do to complete a given reading or writing task.
  1. Students understand the relationship between listening and reading. Listening, like reading, is an active process. Listening and reading require the use of similar thought processes such as predicting and self-monitoring to attend to the conveyed message for the construction of meaning. And let’s remember that reading a word is much easier if it has first been heard!

As these five reasons show, explicitly teaching listening better positions learners to be critical listeners. They are better able to interpret what they hear in our media-driven society. Consequently, they are more astute consumers of information, goods, and services.

lessons_001Looking for evergreen lessons that you can always teach? If you are teaching about copyright law, here is a fun story to discuss with your class: Animal Rights and Constitutional Law.  Discuss whether monkeys have the rights to their own camera “selfies.” Another interesting story is how censorship works. This story explores Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel ‘Maus’ which has been met with pushback because of the cover art.

Here are some more ideas for lessons to teach with your class.

Politics and Leadership

Listen to this story, Life in Russia Under President Putin, as a journalist deep dives into ‘Putin country’ to learn more about why people think Putin is such a popular leader, what challenges Russians continue to face under Putin, and what the U.S. still needs to understand about its former political arch-rival. Want to learn about another controversial leader? Listen to this story about Napoleon Bonaparte of France and his Battle of Waterloo. Or, if you are teaching religion, lessons from the life of the prophet Muhammad focuses on what this religious leader was like as a person, including how he treated others, what he liked to eat—even how he wore his hair. If you are teaching more general political lessons, here is an informative lesson about Gerrymandering, the manipulation of the boundaries of voting districts in a way that favors one political party. Another very relevant and culturally responsible topic to teach is Xenophobia and the Power of Fear. Listen to this story about statements Donald Trump has made and discuss how the power of fear and anger can lead to hate and discrimination.

Military History and Expeditions 

As you are searching for more relevant stories to connect to your history or religion curriculum, your students will be motivated to listen to how the 12th century Inquisition in Europe has created a template for modern torture today. For more Russian history listen to The History of the Russian Cossacks, a paramilitary group. If you want to teach more about discovering new land and passages, this is a great story about the famed Northwest Passage, and the doomed expedition.

Authors, Books, and the Human Experience

What books have you been reading lately? We have great stories that relate to books and authors students are learning in their classrooms. Listen to this interesting story about how the weather might have influenced the writing of ‘Frankenstein.’ Hear from the writer, Joyce Carol Oates herself, how her early life shaped her not only as a person, but as a writer. Another author, Toni Morrison, had her creativity sparked by real life events, and is believed to be inspired by ghosts.

If you are reading ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God,” this is a great story about how Zora Neale Hurston broke barriers with her strong characters. Learn more about Edgar Allan Poe and the Legacy of Ray Bradbury. Or, explore ‘The Little Prince:’ a Commentary on the Human Spirit to learn more about how the book is a reflection on life and death.

Stories about Nature

Hankering for summer? Listen to the “Ode to the Sprinkler,” and learn more about Gary Soto’s poetry as he writes about the ways that sprinklers shaped his view of summer. Or, if you want to get more scientific listen to this great lesson about climate change, and how it influenced human migration. Or, learn about a famous environmentalist and human rights activist Wangari Maathai, who was also the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Did your teacher send you to the student sign up page to listen to our stories or podcasts?  Are you a little confused as to what to do from here? Don’t have a class code?

If you have not been given a “class code” then you need to go back to your teacher and ask them to send you a “listening link” for the story. We use “listening links” so that you as students can listen to the audio story on your own device.  No need to create an account yourself. No need to deal with class codes. Tell your teacher to look for the orange assign button with link icon in the top left corner above each story- just like this picture below.

All your teacher has to do is copy the URL and then share the link with you. You just click the link (or paste the link in your browser) and you’ll be able to access the story without any hassle of creating an account and logging in.

BUT, if your teacher uses the paid (Premium) version of Listenwise, let them know they do need to login to Listenwise and create a class in their account in order to get a class code for you. Here is a video to help them figure out how to create a class and enroll students. Once they provide you with a class code, you can go to the student login and create an account.


Happy Listening!