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Addressing news in the classroom can be a source of unease for some. The abundance of inflammatory language in the public sphere, attacks on journalists, and frequent confusion between fact and opinion can present challenges when trying to teach current events. All of the information and disinformation circling around the media can make having productive conversations hard. And yet, teachers across the country want their students to be informed about what is happening in the world outside of school.

It’s important to connect students to what is happening in the world around them in order to broaden their perspectives and deepen their appreciation for the relevance of what they are learning in the classroom. Teachers have an important role in helping students know where to go to be informed about global events, the economy, the environment, and politics so they can make the best decisions for themselves and their communities. In an effort to support news discussions in a constructive, unbiased, informative way, we’ve tried to pull together some more helpful tools and resources below.

These resources can help teachers to set the scene for talking about news and current events–to create a safe space, where people might feel comfortable having differing opinions, and where everyone feels welcome to speak up and share their views.  

  • Facing History and Ourselves has great resources to help you create a positive classroom culture. Check out this resource on how to create safe spaces for differing opinions in the classroom and this one about fostering civil discourse.
  • Teaching Tolerance also has a helpful guide for teaching civil discourse.
  • The New York Times also offers guidance for encouraging civil classroom discussions. How do you handle conversations in your classroom in general? What structures and rules are in place to ensure that they are constructive and civil, yet promote real learning and growth? How do you invite all voices? What happens when someone states an unpopular opinion? Read more here and find relevant lesson plans.

In addition to exploring the resources above to see what might resonate with your teaching needs, check out our Listenwise current events for daily news stories curated for the classroom to engage your students in learning about what’s happening in the world outside of school. Our debate stories posted on Fridays offer good opportunities for students to exercise civil discourse in discussing multiple perspectives on contemporary issues.

This #WorldGeoChat Twitter conversation on using current events in classrooms includes tips and takeaways from teachers on how they try to connect current events to their students’ lives and personalize teaching in order to drive student engagement.

There were some good words of advice from teachers on how to tackle difficult conversations in their classrooms.

Others offered advice on where to start if you haven’t talked about current events before.

Get creative! Please feel free to comment and expand our resource base with things you use in your classroom to facilitate discussions about current events.

Get ready for National Media Literacy Week on November 5 – 9, 2018.

Media Literacy Week highlights the importance of teaching children and teens digital media literacy skills to ensure that their interactions with media are positive and enriching.

In honor of this year’s theme for Media Literacy Week, we are launching a contest, called Fact or Fake. In three weeks (on November 7), we’ll launch a Listenwise Scavenger Hunt on our website. You can participate in the contest any time between November 7 and November 21.


Contest Summary: Do your students like riddles, puzzles, or detective stories? Then get out your magnifying glass and participate in our Listenwise Scavenger Hunt! Through a Listenwise quiz, students will be given clues to find Listenwise stories related to the contest theme, and then they will be asked to apply their media literacy skills to identify facts and fakes. The goals for students include exploring Listenwise, learning about media literacy, and, most importantly, having fun! To participate, simply assign the quiz on the contest’s current event to your students and let them search and explore Listenwise stories to hunt down the answers. The quiz will guide them through everything, so they can participate individually, in small groups, or as a whole class!

How to participate: Starting on 11/7/18, assign the quiz on the Contest Current Event story (that will be published on 11/7) to your students. Your students’ quiz submissions will be your contest entries. The contest will run through 11/21.

Stay tuned for November 7, when we’ll release the current event with the scavenger hunt quiz and the prizes. Make sure you have a Listenwise Premium account or the 30-day free trial  by then so you can assign and submit student quizzes.


Until then, here are some great media literacy resources to help prepare your students:

Did you know that October is National Bullying Prevention Month? It’s a perfect time to focus on creating positive classroom culture. According to a 2011 NCES study, 28% of U.S. students reported having been bullied at school. Last week we collaborated on a webinar with Facing History and Ourselves, for which we collected audio stories from public radio on Listenwise and teaching resources from Facing History focused on using storytelling to develop positive classroom culture.



The Listenwise collection includes a variety of stories to help you structure classroom conversations about bullying. Each audio story includes questions to guide discussion among students. Stories such as Psychology of a Bully,  Portrait of a Bully, and Looking Back on Bullying can help to shed light on the experience of being a bully. These stories can help students understand why bullying happens, build empathy, and consider how to address underlying causes of bullying behavior. Stories such as A Positive Response to Bullying, Lunchtime Anti-Bullying App, and 13 Reasons Why Not can help to inform constructive responses to bullying. These stories highlight various approaches to addressing bullying in schools and feature students who have chosen to be upstanders and made inspiring contributions toward reducing the negative impact of bullying.


To help you create a comfortable space to talk about these Listenwise stories about bullying (or other sensitive topics) in your classroom, we recommend these Facing History resources, which offer useful guidance for establishing a safe classroom environment where students can tell their own stories:


Here are some uplifting Facing History resources that showcase student upstanders:


You may also want to explore Facing History’s full collection of resources on Bullying & Ostracism.


Students have a unique power to prevent bullying. More than half of bullying situations (57%) stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the student being bullied (Hawkins, Pepler, & Craig, 2001). This Listenwise blog post focuses on how proactively teaching kindness can help to build a positive, inclusive school climate and reduce bullying. Efforts to teach social and emotional skills such as empathy are increasing in many schools, aiming to address important aspects of learning that are strongly correlated with success.

How do you handle bullying in your classroom? Please comment and share reflections on using any of these resources or others you have found helpful in addressing bullying in your school.


Student engagement is key to building a safe, positive school culture that increases achievement, fosters creativity and community, and decreases boredom, alienation, and drop-out rates (Marks, 2000). Providing opportunities for student voice and involvement in your classroom is an important factor in building positive classroom culture. In the 2016 article “Giving Students a Voice,” published by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Gretchen Brion-Meisels details five ways to integrate student voice into your classroom practice. One way she recommends cultivating  a great educational experience is engaging students “in studying and assessing their school.” At Listenwise, we think that you can extend this even further and try to engage students in studying and assessing the world around them.

A Listenwise story that can help to get your students excited about surveying and researching their lives is “Mall Culture Used to Connect Teens”. Coming to us from Youth Radio, the story features Madeleine Veira, a youth reporter who tries to investigate the interesting disappearance of teens from malls. You might ask your students to discuss the places that they hang out and where teens in general typically hang out nowadays. Another way to engage student voice  is to discuss what they would like to report on if they were to become investigative reporters and potentially develop a project with that focus.

Another great resource on empowering student voices in the classroom is the Edutopia article “Establishing a Culture of Student Voice”. In the article, John McCarthy talks about how journaling can make students more comfortable sharing their thoughts and emotions in the classroom. The ability to write them down and organize them can make speaking up in the classroom less intimidating and more enjoyable.

One way to get students journaling effectively is to invite them to respond to stories about interesting, relevant topics. Three Listenwise stories that can be leveraged for this purpose are “Identity Across Generations,” “Growing up With a Single Mom,” and “California Teen Lives Life Between Borders”. “Identity Across Generations” is part of the NPR Generation series, and it features an interview with a mother and a daughter about their experiences as members of the LGBT community from very different generations. The other two stories offer explorations of other youth voices at interesting intersections in their lives.

You might optimize student choice by inviting students to select a Listenwise story on any topic of interest, listen to it, and respond via writing, online discussion, or small group discussions. For example, they might choose a current event and report the 5 Ws (who, what, where, when, and why) or choose a debate story and write an argument, taking a position and supporting it with evidence from the story. They might choose different stories on a given topic such as climate change or elections and then share what they learned in small groups using the jigsaw method. You might also engage students in developing their own podcasts, using Youth Radio stories in the Listenwise collection as models.

Inviting your students’ involvement in the classroom and creating a classroom where they feel encouraged to participate at appropriate times are important keys to promoting their success as learners and community members. See below for more Listenwise stories that can provide avenues for your students to discuss and explore their own perspectives and experiences, as well as more resources addressing the benefits of uplifting student voice and strategies for pursuing that goal.


More Resources on Student Voice and Participation

Listenwise Stories for Your Classroom

*asterisk denotes that the lesson has a quiz available for Premium Users

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) call for several Key Shifts in Language Arts that have implications across the curriculum. Listenwise can help teachers of many subjects address these shifts.

Shift 1: Regular practice with complex texts and their academic language

Listenwise audio stories are engaging complex texts full of academic language. They are authentic texts sourced from public radio, typical of those that students may encounter in their adult lives, and they are selected for their potential to support teachers and students in making connections between the curriculum and the world outside of school. Students can listen to each audio text multiple times, with or without reading interactive transcripts simultaneously, in order to deepen their understanding. Listenwise audio stories offer all students access to complex texts, regardless of reading level, which, in turn, can help students improve their reading skills. Lessons include selected academic vocabulary words to highlight, as well as comprehension questions and embedded text tools, which can support students’ understanding of the texts and also expand their vocabulary. Academic vocabulary appears in context within all Listenwise stories, providing opportunities for students to practice strategies for learning new words. This week’s current events, for example, include the following words: aftermath, democracy, archive, predatory, and disparity.

Shift 2: Reading, writing, and speaking grounded in evidence from texts, both literary and informational

Listenwise stories are selected for their relevance and interest value, as well as their potential to promote critical thinking and analysis. Stories featured in lessons and current events can provide rich fodder for high-level classroom discussion and/or analytic writing tasks. Text-dependent listening comprehension and discussion questions associated with each story invite students to listen closely to complex audio texts and interpret, analyze, synthesize, evaluate, or apply information, supporting their ideas or claims with evidence from the text. Quizzes include questions that ask students to identify supporting evidence for a specific claim within a text, so teachers can assess those skills and use the data to inform instruction. Lessons noted as including extra supports for English language learners contain close listening protocols, which can help to scaffold such learning activities. This week’s current events, for instance, include the following text-dependent questions:

Shift 3: Building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction

Podcasts featured in Listenwise current events and lessons provide content-rich nonfiction stories on a wide range of topics that can help students build background knowledge, which is critical to both listening and reading comprehension. The Listenwise team curates public radio stories based on their educational value and potential for engaging students, so the current events and lessons in the Listenwise platform offer a dynamic collection of high interest, highly relevant, high quality content that can be used instructionally in many ways. These content-rich nonfiction stories are written by skilled professional writers for a large audience that reaches far beyond the classroom, so they expose students to mentor informational texts about a host of captivating issues. This week’s current events, for example, address a variety of topics, including the social impact of hurricanes, democratic participation, research on using microbes to fight infections, the value of ancient artifacts, and the civic engagement of sports figures.

Listenwise can help teachers address many Common Core standards across all four literacy strands: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. In addition, it can help to support teachers in attending to all of the “key shifts” in expectations embodied in the standards. If you are using Listenwise with your students in ways that help you address the CCSS key shifts, we would love to hear about it!

If you are using the free version of Listenwise, try the 30-day free trial of Premium (click on the button in your dashboard) so that you can try all of the extra lesson supports, additional vocabulary words, and listening quizzes.

Today is the International Day of Listening. What does that mean? It’s a day to increase awareness of the value of listening and provide resources to help people develop better listening skills and strategies. The main idea behind this day is that “Listening makes us better humans.”

We believe in the power of listening, and it seems that more and more people are believing in the power of listening as well. The numbers continue to show that more and more people are listening to stories and podcasts.

(See the whole infographic)


In order to increase awareness about listening, find great listening instruction resources on our teacher support center:


The theme for this year is “Listen—even when you disagree.” Here are some of our stories for you to explore:

Time to dive into the International Day Of Listening!

This fall as you are trying to implement new things in your classroom, try crowdfunding on DonorsChoose to raise the funds for Listenwise Premium. Connect to a thriving community of donors who are eager to fund your classroom projects.


What is Donors Choose?

Donors Choose is a platform that connects classroom teachers with anyone who wants to help a classroom in need. Bring learning opportunities to life by posting a project; request books, technology, field trips—anything you’ve been dreaming of for your students. Then tap into the DonorsChoose network and reach out to your own. (Over 75% of teachers reach their funding goal).


How does Donors Choose support my Listenwise subscription?

You know what your classroom needs. DonorsChoose wants to help you get it.

  1. Sign up for a Donors Choose Account.
  2. Describe your class and create a project
  3. Spread the word and raise funds – tweet at us @listenwiselearn and we’ll share it!
  4. Receive access to Listenwise Premium once funds are raised! **Big donors will pay off all projects listed on DonorsChoose once in a while**

Here is a “how-to” guide we made to help you set up your DonorsChoose project with Listenwise.

If you create a DonorsChoose project, be sure to let us know so we can help spread the word!

Today’s guest post is written by Listenwise Teacher Advocate, Andrew Garnett-Cook. Andrew is a 7th and 8th grade social studies teacher in the Brookline Public Schools in Massachusetts. He teaches Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations and U.S. History. You can read his other Listenwise blog about teaching history with current events here.


As a veteran history teacher, one of my goals is for students to understand that what they read in a textbook is not, and should not be seen as, the definitive and final word on any historical topic or event.  Especially when learning about the ancient world, what I try to emphasize is the uncertainty about what is known about whatever civilization we are studying. After all, what we know is based to a considerable degree on what has survived from a civilization and how experts in diverse fields ranging from geology to climatology to archaeology interpret that evidence.  In fact, new discoveries often both answer and raise new questions about the past, encouraging us to reexamine what we thought had been settled history. For me, this is what makes learning about the past both challenging and exciting. This should be a mission of any history teacher: To teach about the past in a way that reinforces the fact there is always something new to learn.  


This is a big reason why Listenwise is such a valuable tool.  Curated stories on Listenwise include several examples of stories having to do with new theories and discoveries that have fundamentally shifted our thinking about the past.  One example of such a story, titled “Climate Change and Human Migration”, is a story about how climate science has contributed to our understanding of when early humans left Africa and why.  We listened to this story during our unit on early humans. My goal was for students to understand and be able to explain why early humans would have left Africa 100,000 years ago and begun migrating to other parts of the world. Bringing in new research, this story explains the new thinking, which is that climate change substantially contributed to why early humans left Africa.  Through this story, students get to explore more deeply how different disciplines contribute to our understanding of the past. The story also allows for students, through close listening, to judge the claims and evidence presented to support them.


Another story on Listenwise that helps students explore new research is the story titled “A New Human-like Species.”  This story is about the classification of a new species of human ancestor called Homo Naledi.  We also used this story during our unit on early humans. We were learning about “human time” and how early humans are believed to have evolved, starting with australopithecines and going through to homo sapiens.  Through this story, students explore how our understanding of human evolution can change based on new information.


While kids could have done these stories for homework, we listened to both of these stories in class. Kids listened, answered discussion questions, and we talked about them both in small groups and as a whole class.  Finally, I had students do some reflective writing on how these stories added to their understanding of the past. Both of these stories provide a rich opportunity for my students to dive into new research into the past and explore how people go about the process of interpreting evidence from the past, and how new information can both answer and raise new questions about the past.  Our understanding of the past is not settled. New research is being done all the time into the past and the results of that work can force us to shift our thinking about history. Listenwise provides valuable resources for sparking student exploration of new research, engaging them in rich discussions and shaping new understandings of the past.

One of the biggest enemies of meaningful learning is boredom. As a team continually striving to grow and learn ourselves, we are very conscious that learning happens best when we are interested and engaged. With this in mind, we are excited to bring you some new lessons and quizzes for the beginning of the year that will hopefully help keep your students engaged in the classroom! Try these new stories for back-to-school hooks and let us know what your students think.


Still A Spy Vs. Spy World
This startling and engrossing story comes at just the right time politically. This story features the 2010 arrest and indictment of 10 Russian nationals who were masquerading as regular Americans. These agents, part of what the United States Department of Justice calls the ‘Illegals Program,’ allegedly endeavored to infiltrate many different areas of life and industry in the U.S. One was even a college professor! The NPR reporter interviews the former head of the British Intelligence agency MI6, whose expertise and knowledge shine through to make this intriguing story especially engaging!



Young Adult Dystopia
Of all of the genres that students enjoy , one seems to have become overwhelmingly popular. Dystopian novels and short stories have become increasingly commonplace in the young adult sections of libraries and bookstores everywhere. This story delves into some of the novels that are captivating teens and also tries to get at why this kind of literature has become so popular. Listen to this story to hear teens talk about how they feel about this kind of literature and what they believe they gain from it.




Post Traumatic Growth
As hurricane season peaks, it’s worth noting that the most damaging effects of a natural disaster can come after the actual event. This story addresses the mental health wounds that natural forces like hurricanes and tsunamis can cause in those populations that experience the calamities. Listen to an interview with a researcher who studied the mental health effects and outcomes experienced by young women in New Orleans after the devastating Hurricane Katrina. She explains how a majority of subjects in this study actually gained strength through surviving the catastrophe. This post-traumatic-growth, as it’s called, is exciting for researchers and can offer survivors hope in the aftermath of disaster.

We are always looking for engaging stories like these, so if you have any suggestions, please feel free to send them to Support@Listenwise.com! You might just find your story suggestion on Listenwise. We welcome any feedback, and we look forward to hearing from you.

Here are a few more new Listenwise stories that your students will hopefully find enjoyable and educational. Watch out for more and more lessons that will be published this fall, as we are seriously committed to providing a diverse collection where there is something for everyone.

This blog post was updated from August 2017.

It’s back to school time and you’re probably as excited as we are to get started with the new year.  We’ve added 50+ new lessons this year and now have 250 quizzes with more on the way!

To help you get your classroom ready and plan for your students to use Listenwise, we’ve put together a checklist to make things easier!


First, you might be interested in signing up for one of our upcoming Fall webinars.


It’s time to prepare your Listenwise Premium account for a new batch of students. It’s easy to delete classes. Watch this video on how to delete your classes from last year.

Next, you can create new classes. We’ve taken our Listenwise– Google integration to the next level. Now you can import your classes into Listenwise from Google Classroom with a click of a button. It’s very easy – just choose the classes to import and we’ll automatically create them in Listenwise and import your student rosters.

  • Otherwise, if you don’t want to pull from Google Classroom, in the Classes tab, you will see the Add New Class button on the right. This will generate a new Class Code for you to share with your students. (Your students will use the code to sign up at www.listenwise.com/students.)
  • Download our Student Quick Guide PDF to help students sign up with new class codes. Or, if they want a video walk-through tour, send them here.


Think about your instructional goals for the year, and choose a few new ways to use Listenwise this year that align with your instruction goals. Check out some possibilities in this Listenwise Infographic: Ways to Use Listenwise!


Here is a preview of a few stories that might be especially engaging to your students. Get started planning learning activities to start the year off strong!

  • 13 Reasons Why Not –This story turns the title and plot of the popular Netflix show on its head and talks about a Detroit high school’s efforts to highlight the many reasons there are to live.
  • Legacy of LBJ and Civil Rights–A former president whose legacy is often marred by his role in the Vietnam War, Lyndon Baines Johnson also made important contributions to public policy . This story moves away from the Vietnam narrative and focuses more on the Civil Rights Act, a piece of legislation that changed the U.S. forever.
  • How an Entrepreneur Created the Big Box Store–This story tells the tale of how stores like Sam’s Club and Costco came to be. Check this one out with your students to see how these huge stores became the shopper favorites that they are.


Review our blogs about:


Still want some more support? Check out the new Teacher Resources section of our website!


As always, we love hearing from you, and want to set you up for success, so if you hear a story on NPR that you like and want to see on Listenwise for use in your classroom, please let us know by emailing us.

We hope this helps you get off to a great school year!