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IMG_2941Last week we had a great event at Boston’s NPR news station, 90.9 FM WBUR where we brought together teachers, administrators, and public radio reporters to talk education. As we toured the station with Boston Public, Newton, and Boston Latin teachers and administrators, it was clear that engaging content is the glue to drawing anyone into a listening experience. It doesn’t matter whether we are teaching long term English learners or trying to get our own children interested in public radio in the car, it’s the same dynamic.

Delores Handy, one of WBUR’s reporters on urban issues and education, stopped by to talk about the educational climate of Boston over the years. Louise Kennedy, WBUR’s Senior Editor of Education also took a couple minutes to talk about her experience as an educational reporter at WBUR and her future project plans to cover real teacher stories.

We helped start that conversation right away at the WBUR office by listening to Kathy Brucker, a Boston Public School ESL teacher, who shared how she uses public radio lessons in her classroom. Her students are normally reluctant to participate, but they jump at the chance to learn about current events saying, “It’s real life, it’s stuff that kids are really interested in.” She has found so much value in using these stories in her existing curriculum and using audio stories to tap into higher level content for her ESL students. She called out the “Reluctant Hero” story IMG_2935which brought more depth into her ESL 2 classroom discussions, shedding light into what it means to be a hero, especially when comparing prior ideas of heroes to people with supernatural powers like Superman.

Kathy harnesses students’ enthusiasm for current events and to work on their language skills through close reading and close listening.  As she plays the podcast audio, she also projects the text transcript so as all her students can follow along. Brucker finds that students get the most from listening to stories multiple times: first listening to the story individually to understand the main idea, listening to the story independently a second time while completing the provided ELL language practice organizers, and then listening as a class and discussing the content.

Listening to Kathy Brucker share how audio helps her students in the classroom reminded me of the article I read this week, “The Value of Using Podcasts Class” from The Atlantic (by California English teacher, Michael Godsey).  Both Brucker and Godsey found that the combination of audio and transcript allowed for reading breaks and helped students learning English connect the text to the pronunciation.  Godsey wrote in his article, “I knew [the authentic transcript] would be a bonus to my lessons this year; I didn’t know it would be a game-changer.”

Whether you are teaching English learners or not, listening to engaging current event audio lessons for your class is sure to be a hit. If you are interested in using engaging audio content with authentic transcripts for your class, contact us to request a demo.  Our PREMIUM product includes slower audio speeds that still have authentic voices, as well as the interactive transcripts with the ability to stop and play from any word, or even replay the same word over again, to understand vocabulary in context.