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Today’s guest blog is written by teacher advocate Erik Eve, an 8th grade Social Studies Teacher in Lindenhurst, NY. He teaches honors classes using PBL, blended learning, and Google Classroom. Find him on twitter @mrevelindy.

In today’s classrooms it seems that students are always on devices and their social interaction is very limited, so I wanted to make my classroom a place where the computers are a tool and communication is at the forefront of their learning.

My classroom is an online, paperless, Google Based Classroom.  I use Google and its applications like Docs, Sheets, Drawing, Sites, Slides and Forms.  I also use other programs and apps to supplement my class as needed (Listenwise and Quickrubric are two of my favorites!)

My class is also a Project Based Learning, student-centered learning environment where students sit at stations of two or four and some of them on bouncy ball chairs.

In order to focus on building my students communication skills here are some activities I do in my classroom…

One activity I like to do in the beginning of the year is assign each student to research and share a “Hi-STORY”.  The student is asked to memorize any “story” from American history.  They can be funny, serious, informative or just a story that they like.  The students are empowered to self-direct their own learning to choose their topic and then they present the story in front of the class on their scheduled day to share out.  This activity helps them stand up in front of a group, gain confidence and learn a story from history.  By the end of this activity, they will have heard sixty stories from all over the world and time periods.

In the beginning of the year I also like to give students group projects so they have to collaborate to work with partners, triples and quads to finish different assignments. Communication is the key to success. By setting up these workgroups, my students are required to speak to each other and communicate and collaborate. Individuals are put into situations where they must plan out what they are doing, and build interpersonal skills such as sending emails and texting to get their ideas across.

As the year goes on, we build onto more collaborative processes. One project I like to give is a court case. For the court case I assign roles to each student. Some of them are lawyers, witnesses etc.  I also have a judge, ADA and assistant prosecuting attorney. Students have four days to research and then we put on a trial in class. Good communication is the key to success in this activity.  If the students cannot convey their ideas or points, then the case could be won or lost. The students are so busy learning about their roles and the procedures of the court that learning American History isn’t even on their mind.  At the end of the trial, the history is embedded in their memory through this engaging activity.

The other project is to have my students create their own news cast. During the news broadcast, students are divided up into teams of five, six or seven. Their task is to put on a 40-minute news broadcast about a particular time during the 1920s or 1930s. They all have roles such as the anchor person, reporters, guest stars etc. They have three weeks to put this together and a week of the news. Communication is absolutely essential.

A lot of educators ask me, “don’t you have any problems with the kids speaking and communicating with each other because some kids just don’t get along?” and the famous $1,000,000 question, “when the kids work in groups, isn’t there often one or two kids that does most of the work while the rest just fool around?”.

Well to answer those questions. Yes, kids don’t always get along, but I make sure that I solve any drama immediately something arises and work through the drama with them. From my experience as a teacher I have concluded that most times kids do want to work together and want to do well. However, every now and then a kid just has a bad day or may even struggle with a bad reputation.

I find that if we all speak together, it helps. The kids have to use gentle comments and suggestions to help each other along. I also use “Work logs” on most of the assignments.  A work log is where you log what work you have done in a particular day on an assignment. The kid who has really struggled to work on the assignment will have nothing there.  If I see a kid that hasn’t logged little or anything, I grade the project accordingly. The kids figure out really quickly that they have to put in the effort. I ensure that the projects are embedded throughout instruction and directly tie their tests to the projects so if they don’t do anything they won’t do well on the test either.

I believe that communication is the key to being successful in most things in the world and the classroom is not an exception. The most successful people that I have met are great communicators.

I hope that these suggestions give you some insight and advice in how you as a teacher can better facilitate learning experiences to help improve your student’s communication and collaboration skills. If you have other activities or lesson plans you like to do that supports student collaboration, please share in comments.

Today’s guest post is written by one of our teacher advocates, Sebastian Byers, about his experience at ISTE. Sebastian is a science teacher at Union County Virtual in North Carolina. He is a North Carolina PBS Digital Innovator 2017 and Digital Innovator All-Star 2018-2020, a panelist for PBS Climate Conversations webinar series, featured in this PBS blog, Master Teacher Trainer for Public Media North Carolina, Digital Ambassador for NC Department of Public Instruction, and Kappa Delta Pi educational honors society member. He is also a Fellow for the North Carolina Science Leadership Association.


I had a wonderful time at the 2018 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference & Expo in Chicago. I had flown into Chicago before on the way to a trip out west but had never spent any significant time in Chi-town before. Chicago reminds me of most Great Lake cities but on a much grander scale. Even during the summer, it was not hard to envision the howling wind coming off the Great Lakes that were such an impressionable part of my childhood.


ISTE can be a bit overwhelming so I zeroed in on small manageable experiences that I believed I could use in my classroom. Don’t get me wrong there are amazing things that defy description at this conference, but for a humble science teacher from the suburbs of Charlotte, North Carolina I felt a bit like Fievel in the big city. So, I was more than happy to answer the call from Listenwise when they reached out to me to help with the booth at ISTE.


Last year my conversation with the representatives from Listenwise on the floor was one of the highlights of my conference as I came away with the impression, nice folks, great product that I can use right away in my classroom. Fast forward one year, I found myself working the Listenwise booth as part of the inaugural Listenwise Advocate program. I got to meet a good number of people, teachers, technology coordinators, and product developers who were all very impressed with the Listenwise product.


One of the most salient points from most conversations was that educators are looking for real-world examples for their content. As KQED examines in Mindshift Applying the Power of Stories to Excite Students About Science about a couple who have developed several unique science camps in Chicago, “students remember experiences, they retain what they learn through experience much better than what they retain through lecture and note taking”. Whether math, science, social studies, or ELL teachers are looking for good stories that their students can relate to. Several features of the Listenwise product satisfies a growing demand for educational resources. As a high school science teacher, I work tirelessly to take rote science knowledge and wrap it into a good story, based in the real world and that leads to a unique learning experience.


Students in our classrooms are wired into their world more than ever before. Through social media, students can explore a vast array of information right at their fingertips. The challenge as a teacher is to convince these students that their devices are tools that can do more than view videos from their favorite blogger. Another unique predicament we face in the social-media age classroom is persistence of word of mouth exchanges of information. Many of our students are exposed daily to hearsay, misbeliefs or strongly worded opinions that they take as fact.


As a science teacher, I work diligently to show my students examples of bad science practices, bunk studies, and poorly drawn conclusions. To grow my student’s science skills, I look for sources of information that are interesting to the student, grounded in reliable sources, and promote the positive use of technology. After talking with other teachers on the floor at ISTE I know I am not alone in these needs.

Listenwise provides a platform that hits all these buttons. The stories curated into Listenwise lessons are from trusted sources like NPR, the titles are catchy and interesting to the students. A further plus is that Listenwise allows me to use student devices for a positive purpose in the classroom. I know a lot of teachers who have a ‘no cell phone’ policy, including one teacher who puts phones into a safe at the beginning of class. Instead of separating students from their devices, why not let them use the device to gather a broader perspective on the world around them? Why not ask them to create content and stories using listening skills?


Listenwise has been well received by all my students, even the hard to reach students that are a feature of every classroom. After listening to the story, my students often wish to share with me and classmates their experiences, opinions, and questions about the subject of the Listenwise story. I use this enthusiasm to challenge my students to become storytellers, interviewers, and commentators themselves. Many of the persons I spoke with on the floor at ISTE loved to tell me and the other volunteers how much they love public radio. I do too and the brilliance of Listenwise is that allows me as a classroom teacher to share this joy with my students in a well-designed and supportive product.


The power of listening is transformative, and I am happy to help my students become science investigators, examiners of social policies, and questioners of their place in school, community and society. I look forward to heading back to school this Fall and bringing more Listenwise stories into my classroom.

We can’t believe the school year is ending, but here are some awesome story highlights by student request. Not all these stories were published this past year, but these were stories that students this year mentioned as their favorites…Enjoy!

Afghanistan’s Romeo and Juliet

The story of “Romeo and Juliet” is a fictional Shakespearean tragedy about star-crossed lovers. In Afghanistan, falling in love with someone from a different background can get you killed, especially if you are a woman.


Recycling poop in Space
Scientists are finding ways to recycle other waste products including feces.  Listen to hear more about the next steps in making recycling poop in space a reality.


Debate: Should All Kids Get a Trophy?
Many kids receive a trophy, medal or ribbon for participating in sports, science fairs, or other competitions. Some think it’s sending a dangerous message to kids, telling them that they will be rewarded regardless of their effort or success. Some think the trophies are an important marker of participation and they mean something to kids.


The Best & Worst Halloween Candy

Some people rank their favorite candy based on texture or according to the proportion of ingredients such as the ratio of chocolate to caramel. What candy would be on your favorite list?


Teen Girls in Kabul

In Afghanistan, getting an education can be very difficult. Girls in particular face many challenges getting an education and may never even have the opportunity to use the education they receive. Listen to learn how three teenage girls in Afghanistan deal with school and how they plan to accomplish their dreams despite the odds.


March Madness Bball Corruption  

Money, secret deals, and big names in college basketball are involved in an ongoing federal investigation. Listen to learn more about these corruption charges.


Debate: Should Animals Be Allowed in Cafes?

One of the newest trends in coffee shops is welcoming animals. In South Korea, one cafe welcomes raccoons, a typically wild animal that can be dangerous.


Two Paths Leading up to 9/11

While al-Qaida operatives were training and planning the attack against the United States, the US public was distracted by domestic politics and scandals. Listen to learn about what led up to that historic day.


If your students had other story favorites, leave us a comment and share with other Listenwise teachers! Have a great summer!

We are excited to be named a SIIA Education CODiE Award Finalist for the Best ESL, ELL or World Language Acquisition Solution (for a second time)! The SIIA CODiE Awards are the premier awards for the software and information industries, and have been recognizing product excellence for over 30 years. Learn more about the CODiE finalists here.

The awards offer 91 categories that are organized by industry focus of education technology and business technology. Listenwise was honored as one of 152 finalists across the 39 education technology categories. We were a finalist for this same category in 2016, and are thrilled to be a finalist again.

Our product is well suited for english learners (ELs). Listening is a great equalizer, allowing ELs to access the same content as native speakers while they are improving their reading abilities. Through our NPR stories and lessons students can listen to authentic academic language spoken in context.

“We strive to create content that creates meaningful and rigorous educational experiences for all middle and high school students. Being honored for producing an outstanding learning resource is a prestigious and special achievement for Listenwise. ” – Our CEO and Founder, Monica Brady-Myerov.

Winners will be announced during a CODiE Award Celebration at the SIIA Annual Conference & CODiE Awards in San Francisco on June 13.

We mentioned our continued collaboration with Facing History and Ourselves in a previous post if you want to read more about it here. See below for Today’s News, Tomorrow’s History lesson and included resources. This series connects Facing History’s themes with today’s current events using public radio to guide and facilitate discussions around the social issues of our time. Today’s post was originally published on Facing History LA’s blog.

Education is often the key to successful integration of immigrants and refugees into new countries. Understanding the laws of the country for newly arrived people is also critical. In Sacramento, California a new program was started to help refugees and immigrants understand their legal rights in the United States. The goal of the “Understanding Your Rights” program in Sacramento is to protect the rights of every individual who comes in contact with the legal system and provide understanding of the laws if they become the victim of crime or when renting housing, as well as to understand their constitutional rights and civic responsibilities.

The program was developed in collaboration with the district attorney’s office, police department, and schools. It was sparked by an increase in refugee groups moving into the area and a concern to educate them on their basic rights. Many immigrants from places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Russia may be hesitant to go to police officers, so they need education in how American laws may differ from their own country. Included in the training are victim rights, how to interact with law enforcement, the criminal justice system, and their role in the community. This program benefits immigrants and refugees in increasing their understanding as well as benefiting law enforcement by increasing the chance that criminal activity is reported.

The “Understanding Your Rights” program is offered on campuses across Sacramento, in a charter school network that teaches adults English, citizenship, and job training. Listen to hear more about this new program that will help people understand the laws in the United States.


Join the conversation:

  • What is the goal of the program to educate refugees and immigrants?
  • What are the reasons people might support or oppose this program?
  • Why do you think people who are from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Russia might be afraid to contact law enforcement officials?
  • What is your opinion of this new program? Do you think it will be successful in meeting the goals? What do you think would need to be included in this program to make it successful?


Keep the conversation going with Facing History:

  • See how students at one Facing History school laid a foundation for humanizing immigrants with this video from Not In Our Schools: No Human Being Was Born Illegal
  • Consider the importance of creating a safe and reflective classroom environment for these conversations with Contracting.
  • Sometimes it can be helpful to move outside of our direct experience in order to gain the distance which can help us think through a complicated issue.  These resources can help students explore immigration in Europe to enlighten questions and themes which may be relevant in the US as well.
  • Interaction between law enforcement and those who have been marginalized or targeted by law enforcement can be fraught with tension.  In the unit Facing Ferguson: News Literacy in a Digital Age, one lesson explores the challenge of changing beliefs when it comes to law enforcement.  What might this suggest for any fruitful engagement around educating immigrants about their rights?
  • This story highlights what immigrants can learn in America, but what can we learn from them?  This poem provides a window into the enormity of the decision to leave home.


Explore more stories about refugees and immigration from Listenwise.

Teacher Advocate, Erik Eve, an 8th grade social studies teacher from Lindenhurst, NY visited us with his class of 46 students last week. We were thrilled to host a podcasting workshop with an amazing, exuberant, and articulate group of students.


After a half day together the students left with podcast recordings ready to edit into a full podcast. The topic of hurricanes was chosen by Mr. Eve, since Hurricane Sandy affected so many students and families in the area. Students shared their experiences, listened to each other, and then translated that into their own podcast. The students split into four groups, each with a topic related to hurricanes, including causes, effects, and how people help each other afterward.


The first half of the workshop was spent learning about what makes a good audio story. We listened to a great story on Listenwise about Kendo swordfighting, and then listed the components of good storytelling. Then students learned how to create a podcast. They listened to Listenwise stories about hurricanes to gather facts and information, and then were free to create their own content based on their topic. In four groups, the students collaborated to assign roles, write the script, edit, practice, and record their own podcasts on hurricanes. Students directed their own learning and each group took their podcast in a different direction.


The end result was better than we could have expected! We’ll share the final project, which will also include a community component where students interview leaders, volunteers, and homeowners who survived Hurricane Sandy back in Lindenhurst.


Here are some takeaways as to why some of the students liked learning with podcasts…

Does this sound interesting? Try this student-directed project yourself! Choose a topic and find Listenwise stories that students can listen to for background information gathering, then let your students create a script and produce their own podcasts. Feel free to use NPR as a resource for ideas on how to write for audio and how to record. Happy podcasting! Find more podcasting resources on our teacher support center.


Today’s guest post is written by WOW in the World, a STEM-oriented podcast for students K-6.

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, Wow in the World is holding a very special contest. Through our Teachers That Wow Contest we are seeking amazing teachers wowing their student’s worlds every day. We know you’re out there and we want to celebrate you! Families can find contest details and rules at https://tinkercast.com/teachers/. If you can best express how your teacher inspires you, there is a chance you could win a video call from Guy and Mindy for your class. Think of it as a virtual classroom visit!

But wait, there’s more! We’re also offering teachers everywhere free access to Wow in the World’s weekly digital resources for the rest of the month! Why? Because we love teachers and we want fabulous ones like you to bring even more WOW into your world- your classroom world that is! Our hope is that while listening to the show with your students, you’ll all learn something new and perhaps be inspired to further explore that something together. Lucky for you, we at Wow have lots of resources to help you do just that! Like the free Conversation Starters we post online with every episode, as well as, all of the digital resources available to our members. We’ve got tons of extension activities like experiments, crafts, recipes and related book lists to keep the WOW flowing in your classroom. Check out our most recent ones right here.

Wow in the World is a STEM-oriented podcast for K-6 students hosted by Guy Raz (NPR’s Ted Radio Hour, How I Built This) and Mindy Thomas (Sirius XM’s Kid’s Place Live). Every week, Guy and Mindy guide curious kids and their grown-ups on exciting journeys into the wonders of the world around them.

For every episode, we pour through peer reviewed scientific journals looking for stories of hope, innovation, progress and discovery that spark a sense of wonder and compel grownups and children to lean in and say “WOW”! Then we tell those stories through a fun fact meets fiction narrative that’s as zany as it is brainy. Recent episodes have invited listeners to explore the who, what, when, where, why, how and wow of topics such as antibiotic resistance, climate change, and the future of artificial intelligence.

We look forward to lots of classrooms joining us on this big adventure!

Keep on WOWing,

Team Tinkercast

We are excited to announce the launch of our new podcast, Talk Sup.

Talk Sup is a podcast that listens to superintendents. We strive to elevate Superintendents’ voices, philosophies, and goals to highlight the great work that educators are doing in their communities.

We also get personal. We want you to really get to know what motivates, scares, thrills and excites superintendents.

Our first episode highlights Paul Gothold, the San Diego County Superintendent of Schools, and a 25-year educator who has championed educational equity.  

You’ll hear Dr. Gothold share the key to his success in Lynwood School District and his three priorities for San Diego County in order to reach all students across the county, especially historically underserved students.

You’ll also learn what makes Dr. Gothold cry. Listen here.

In episode two, listen to Dr. Richard M. Sheehan, who serves as the Superintendent of the Covina-Valley Unified School District. Dr. Sheehan visits every classroom in the district four times a year. He shares a memorable classroom visit story, where all the preschoolers surprised him by wearing felt beards. Listen here.

We hope you find the content interesting and engaging! Have a listen on Apple itunes, Stitcher, or wherever you find your podcasts.

If you have a superintendent that you would like to highlight please connect with us at info@listenwise.com. Provide contact information and we’ll be sure to reach out. We look forward to sharing your stories.

We will be adding conversations with superintendents throughout the school year, so stay tuned!

There are many ways to set up a listening lesson with your class. Here are some ideas to help you get started and have students find out more about themselves and their listening styles.

When presenting Listenwise to your students and listening to a story together as a class, there will be a wide variety of listening styles in the room. Some people close their eyes and remain perfectly still. There are always a few fidgeters: pen-flipping, leg-swinging, chair-rocking people. Some people doodle and some people stare into space, or at the teacher, while they focus on listening to the content. As you can see in this picture, some people even style hair while they focus on listening.

You will find a variety of listening styles in your students. Here are a few suggestions for you to help students identify the listening style that works best for them.

First, choose 3 stories that your students will be interested in. For the first story, have everyone listen with their eyes closed or heads down. Since the goal is to have students understand what they listened to, when the audio is finished students could answer the comprehension questions or take a multiple-choice quiz. They could also write a summary of the story. And then to encourage metacognition, students can free write their thoughts to reflect on how well they listened in this style.

You can repeat this process with the next two stories, maybe having students fidget or move while listening to the second story, and lastly have students read the transcript while listening to the third story. You could get student suggestions on how they might want to try listening to the next story, and listen in that style.


Here’s a quick recap to help you find your listening style:

  1. Choose stories
  2. Identify a style to try out
  3. Listen to a story
  4. Check comprehension
  5. Free write about how well they listened


After completing the 3 or so exercises, have your students compare their free write for each listening style and cross-reference that with how well they understood each story based on the written summary, questions, or quiz. Then they can use that style when they listen to stories going forward.

Students can make modifications as they continue to listen and discover what works best for them to increase their understanding while listening. To encourage this thinking, be sure to ask students, “How well did you listen?” This question will encourage them to be metacognitive about their listening comprehension and make changes if needed.

Share your experiences with what works best for your classroom and your students!

We are excited to build on our collaboration with Facing History and Ourselves, a nonprofit international educational and professional development organization with offices all across the U.S. and in London and Toronto. Their mission is to to engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice, and antisemitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry. They have amazing resources for teachers where you can find compelling classroom resources, learn new teaching methods, meet standards, and make a difference in the lives of your students.

We’ve been collaborating with Facing History and Ourselves over the past few years by contributing to their blog, Facing Today, with the series Today’s News, Tomorrow’s History. Each blog focuses on a theme found in a Listenwise audio story and includes resources from both Listenwise and Facing History. You can view the collection here or check out our latest lesson about the future for teachers with DACA or read about  What Students Understand about Slavery.

We are now expanding our collaboration to have California themed lessons with Facing History Los Angeles on their blog, Learn + Teach + Share. In California, Listenwise has collaborated to support a professional development session with an emphasis on listening skills (using a story on removing Confederate monuments) and has started contributing monthly blog posts. Check out the latest blog about helping immigrants and refugees understand their legal rights in Sacramento and stay tuned for upcoming resources!

We will continue to build on this great synergy between our organizations to continue to provide resources and content to educators like this 30-minute webinar on how listening is a pathway to empathy. The discussion explores using actions to increase our empathy toward those that look and act differently from us, who believe in different things, or who live in different places.