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We often focus on literacy and language skills when thinking about what English Learners need to succeed.  And certainly that is an extremely important element! But one thing that struck us in the feedback from teachers using Listenwise is the impact of a relevant, captivating story.

We hear over and over how students will naturally work with challenging language and content if it’s meaningful to them. Getting kids into academic conversations and engaging with the content is so critical.  Once they are engaged, we can provide the right level of scaffolding to boost them up to the next level.

Here are some teacher observations about the impact of a well chosen audio story:

“My ELLs love using Listenwise. The content has been a stretch, which has been wonderful for them. What I like best is that although it emphasizes listening, it also involves reading, speaking (academic conversations), writing and vocabulary development. The students’ favorite stories were A Reluctant Hero since they all connected emotionally to the story, Immigration, Identity and Esperanza Rising, since the repatriation of Mexicans after the war really struck a chord with them and Foot Binding since they had some background knowledge of this practice, but were captivated by the story.”

-Anabel Gonzalez, Mooresville Graded School District, NC


“I teach students from many different countries. Listening to these audio stories allows me to capture and retain the attention of my students. They also describe similar situations to those my students have lived through, which allows them to own their learning. I recently used a story about the Middle East called Between Two Worlds: Aleppo. My students listened intently for the similarities in the lives they left behind. This resource has transformed learning for my English learners at all levels of language proficiency.”

-Sam Perez, Lowell Scott Middle School, ID


“Listenwise focuses on one of the most challenging areas for ELLs–listening. The Listenwise site provides teachers with an opportunity to choose from many diverse topics geared towards improving students’ listening and comprehension skills and also broadening students’ vocabulary base. My students were able to connect the information they learned from the Social Media and the War in Syria, lesson to a magazine article they had previously read about the Syrian refugee crisis. The media and text tied together nicely and the questions led to interesting conversation that included many insightful comments. Also, the Listenwise resources provide background information which is essential in helping ELs comprehend the subject matter and context of the story.”

-Tamar Jeniski, Weston, MA


I used the story Lost Boys of Sudan with my students. I have found they often need visuals to help their comprehension, so I used the Listenwise vocabulary and created a slideshow with images along with maps of Africa to trace their journey. Then we showed a video from the lesson before they listened to the slowed audio version of the story. My students discussed the cultural differences and how the past affects the future. We’ve been able to get a lot out of the one story, and I think it will help my students see their own challenges in a new light.

-Lynn Porier, Hyattsville Middle School, MD