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Listenwise Advocate Sebastian Byers teaches middle and high school students in the Union County Public School district in Monroe, North Carolina. He teaches in a blended online program called Union County Virtual, where he is the program’s Science Teacher in Residence. We sat down with Sebastian to learn about his approach to teaching science in an online program. Listen to the audio clips below to hear about Sebastian’s approach in his own words.

Currently, Sebastian is teaching AP Environmental Science to high school students and Earth & Environment, which can be taken in any grade from 8th grade to senior year. The blended classroom model means Sebastian spends each day visiting his students in various schools across Union County. But because Sebastian does not see each student every day, it’s important that his online curriculum is engaging and relevant to a range of students.

“That’s one of the limitations of an online course–it’s the same, all the time, if you let it be.” For this reason Sebastian says he started incorporating Listenwise podcasts into his classes. “I wanted to change modalities on them.”


How Sebastian Teaches with Listenwise

Sebastian adds Listenwise lessons into a module on Canvas (an online Learning Management System), where students log in and work through the lessons, quizzes, and discussion questions at their own pace. Students can listen to the audio stories as many times as needed and read along in the interactive transcript. In addition to the quizzes and discussion questions that accompany the Listenwise stories, he also likes to ask students to generate questions for themselves as they are listening. He will ask students “What questions weren’t there?” or “What questions would you like to ask?” or “What are two burning questions you might have?” to help students engage more deeply with the story.

As he started to use Listenwise lessons, he found that his students really enjoyed listening to the audio stories.


The Listenwise platform includes supportive tools that students can use as needed, such as interactive transcripts, listening organizers, and TextHelp toolbar, which can help students delve deeper into the story and build their comprehension skills. These tools are especially useful for English Learners who may be challenged by the language in the story.


Sebastian also mentioned PBS LearningMedia as another resource that has helped him engage some of his reluctant students. For example, he’s found that the lesson Newton’s Triple Play has been popular with his students. The lesson uses baseball examples to teach Newton’s three laws of motion. He says, “I had a young man who was just not feeling the science class, he just wasn’t feeling it and he didn’t like how much work Mr. Byers was making him do. This lesson he absolutely liked. This is the lesson that, when it kicked on, I had a science student.”

High interest Listenwise science stories such as Earth’s Greatest Threats, Gravity and the Curveball, and Rising Oceans Put Island Nations in Peril can help teachers get all of their students interested in science by connecting what they are learning to the world beyond the classroom. Check out our science lessons and current events for more ideas.


Using Listenwise to Personalize Learning

This touches on one advantage of online learning–it can help to level the playing field and personalize learning. “For a student who might be gifted, or a student who might be struggling, the fact that they can control their own pace is the fantastic thing about being able to learn online,” Sebastian says.

Sebastian adds that online learning can allow students with differing social-emotional needs the space they need to learn.


Sebastian believes that a space for individual work is something all students need in the classroom. “Students in my opinion need that private space to think, to process information, and I think Listenwise allows them to be in that moment with themselves.”

Many thanks to Sebastian for talking with us about how he uses Listenwise, and for being a valued member of our Listenwise Advocate Program. You can learn more and apply to be an advocate here.




First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day serves as an annual reminder to appreciate and protect our planet and all that it provides for us. Earth Day (April 22) offers a good opportunity to dedicate classroom time to some of the critical issues facing the planet. Students can develop informed views on the issues through multimedia resource sets, much like popular text sets, including other media besides print. This blog post features sample podcast sets addressing various aspects of climate change, which can be used in tandem with print and video resources on similar topics.  


Teaching About Climate Change

One of the most discussed issues on planet Earth right now, climate change is a big deal. Listenwise stories on the topic can fuel student discussions about this pressing contemporary issue. The podcasts highlighted below can be used in a variety of ways. One approach is to use one specific story to drive class discussion. For example, students might listen to “Urgent Climate Change Warning,” answer the listening comprehension questions online or in small groups, and then discuss the question, “What can you do to slow down the negative effects of climate change?” They might then pursue research on policies and practices that can help reduce the negative effects of climate change through additional stories. Alternatively, they might outline the different positions that people/companies/governments take on a particular policy related to climate change.

One way to take advantage of the diversity of stories in the Listenwise collection is to use a group of podcasts that will help students understand the complexity of climate change. For example, small groups of students might choose a particular result of climate change, such as extreme weather or endangered wildlife, listen to relevant stories answer associated questions, and then research the topic further.

There are many different ways teachers might group Listenwise stories into podcast sets, potentially complementing them with other resources. Check out the sample podcast sets below for some great stories about climate change.


Catching Snowflakes for Science

Personal Experiences with Climate Change


Stories like these convey personal experiences of the effects of climate change on individuals. They can help students understand the impact of a global issue on a small scale. Students doing research projects can use anecdotes from these stories to bolster their theses with supporting details drawn from people’s lived experiences of climate change.


Changing Ecosystem Threatens Florida’s Manatees

The Effects of Climate Change on Flora and Fauna


These audio stories offer accounts of the effects of climate change on the animals and plants in various ecosystems. They illustrate how climate change forces the natural world to adapt, for better or for worse. In addition to providing materials for class lessons, these stories can help students choose a focus for independent research. For example, after listening to the story Changing Ecosystem Threatens Florida’s Manatees, students might look up the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge in Florida to find more information about manatees and their habitat.


Debate: Which is More Important – Development or Preventing Pollution?

Climate Change and Policy


Another facet of climate change is public/corporate policy and governmental systems that influence its impact. Students can use the stories listed above to learn about some of the policy issues that climate change has spawned. Stories like these can provide students with an overview of a variety of policy issues and potentially guide additional inquiry.


Climate change is an issue that students will continue to encounter in their academic lives and their everyday experiences. The Listenwise collection includes the stories mentioned above and many others on the topic. Using Listenwise podcast sets can help to engage students with digital resources while increasing their knowledge about climate change and its impact on the earth and those who inhabit it.

Check out our 2017 Earth Day and our 2016 Earth Day blog posts for more stories for one of the greenest holidays of the year.

Did you know that twenty-two states now assess listening on their annual English Language Arts assessment? Notably, in Indiana, listening skills are now being tested on ILEARN, and this spring, listening is being tested as part of the English I and II assessments in Missouri. In Texas, the English Learner assessment, the TELPAS, is now bringing their listening component online, which changes the listening experience for students.

California tests listening comprehension on the CAASPP and the ELPAC, and many schools we are working with are seeing that listening is a skill that still needs a heavy instructional focus in the classroom. Just 43% of 8th and 11th graders met listening standards last year across California.

The shift we are seeing toward teaching and assessing listening makes sense because it is in line with the research on listening and learning – better listeners are better learners.

Listening skills are increasingly important to being successful in college and careers. A 2017 survey of 1,000 employers indicated that listening is the 2nd highest skill employers want from new hires. All of this means more schools and districts are looking for tools to support development of their students’ listening comprehension skills. Listenwise can help to increase performance on your state listening assessments. Read how educators use Listenwise to engage their students in building listening comprehension skills…


“Listenwise has been an invaluable tool to prepare students for Listening and Speaking testing. In addition, expanding students’ knowledge of current events in such an interactive way has created both anticipation and motivation in the classroom; my students can’t wait for a Listenwise lesson.”

-High School ELA and ESL teacher in California

“I love using Listenwise. I think it’s really valuable. Our kids never get to practice for the listening section of the CAASPP and I think this helps it so much.” 

-Middle School ELA and Social Studies teacher in California

“I would like for everyone in our department to have access to Listenwise. I believe it is a great way to support learning across the content areas as well as provide good practice in the listening and speaking strand of our state’s learning standards. I am impressed with the higher level questions offered in some of the quizzes as well as the organizers and options for students at different levels.”

-Middle School ELA teacher in Missouri

“Listenwise has become an integral part of my curriculum. Not only does it prepare students for the listening portions of the end-of-year standardized test, but it engages students to create real learning.”

-Middle School ELA teacher in California

“As a regular podcast listener, Listenwise does what my mind and my time cannot: curating educational and interesting segments from excellent radio programs. For ELA , Listenwise is the ideal support program for teaching the Speaking & Listening Standards here in New Jersey. While Speaking is often completed, Listening is trickier, and Listenwise — and I’m not exaggerating this — is absolutely perfect for aiding students in developing their ability to distill information from another’s voice.”

-High School ELA teacher in California

“We have found Listenwise to be an excellent tool to prepare EL students for the Listening section of the English Language Proficiency Assessment of California (ELPAC). The test requires students to listen to long passages only once and then recall information. Listenwise gives teachers the opportunity to have students practice in a group setting and individually at home. Additionally, at the high school level, students do not take the CAASPP in 9th or 10th grade, so using Listenwise at those grade levels gives students a chance to continue to interact with and attempt materials and questions similar to the test, so that they do not lose the prerequisite skill sets they need when they take the test again as juniors. Active listening is an incredibly important life skill, and Listenwise lets students practice in a way that is engaging and fun.”

-High School Teacher Specialist in California

“Listenwise allows for my ELD students to learn to listen to recordings that align with the theme we are focused on during the quarter. It reinforces content and pushes them to make connections, all while practicing listening and thus preparing for the ELPAC.”

-Middle/High School ESL and Reading instructor in California

“I use it 2-3 times each week to help build my English learners’ listening comprehension. It’s nice that the transcript is available. I use the Current Events most of all. I have seen the students’ listening on their TELPAS jump up significantly, which helped my principal approve my request to continue with our subscription. I love Listenwise and my students do, too.”

-Middle School ESL and Career & Tech instructor in Texas



It’s conference season! Late February and March 2019 have been as busy as last year (see our blog recap last year.) Here’s what we did and learned in the last month…



In late February Monica attended the California Association of Teachers of English (CATE) conference. This year it was held in San Francisco, CA with the theme “Voices of Literacy in Pursuit of Human Rights.” It was exciting to meet so many devoted Listenwise teachers at our booth. One group of teachers from Iron Horse Middle School even told her they all left their substitute teachers with Listenwise lessons to use in class that day. What a great application for pre-made quizzes or differentiated assignments!

If you missed Monica’s presentation or are interested, check out the slides on “Reimagining Literacy with World Class Podcasts: Why and How.” In her presentation she played a clip from one of our ELA teachers. Listen to Carolyn Brown share how she uses audio stories to address a wide variety of learning goals.



To kick off our March conference month, Adam and Chelsea went to the Computer Using Educators (CUE) conference in Palm Springs, CA. This year’s theme was “Positive Effect of Education Technology on Student Achievement” and we exhibited and presented “Teach Your Students to Listen Critically.

It was great to run into lots of customers and free teacher users, including our friends in Santa Maria Bonita, Bonita USD, LAUSD, and San Marcos.

We were fortunate to be able to visit Tara Baldwin’s class at James Workman Middle School in PSUSD. She integrated Listenwise into her instruction to address all modalities of literacy: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. She also incorporated thinking maps into the lesson, which are great tools for synthesis and analysis of written and oral texts. In her station rotation model, she implemented StudySync, MY! Access, Flocabulary, and Rezzly. It was also great to connect with California partners at KQED and Facing History and Ourselves LA.

We also got to spend time with teacher advocates Benton Lewis and Scott Petri. It was great to hear feedback about their classroom use of Listenwise and share some time away from work, just hanging out! We have heard the need for adding younger audio content and are thinking about how we can do that! Find pictures from CUE on our Facebook page.



Our Listenwise Advocate, middle school social studies teacher Andrew Garnett Cook, was at California Council for Social Studies (CCSS) Conference exhibiting and presenting on “Engaging Students as Citizens of the World.”  The focus of the presentation was using current events as a way to help foster an awareness of our global connection among students.  Scott Petri, another Listenwise teacher advocate presented on “50 Minute Inquiry,” and you can find his slides here.



Finally, we exhibited and presented at the (California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE) conference in Long Beach, CA. The topic of our presentation was “SEL for EL Students Through Listening.

We also were able to connect with customers and free teacher users. We loved geeking out over our favorite Listenwise stories (e.g., Whale Saves Woman from Shark) and hearing feedback on how students are engaged by Listenwise. One teacher does a silent journal activity with Listenwise to incorporate listening and writing skills together, which we thought was a great idea. We heard your feedback about adding quizzes to current events. (Stay tuned for an announcement about that soon!)

It was great to meet our partners from Birmingham Community Charter School, Sanger, Santa Maria Bonita, Bonita USD, LAUSD, San Marcos and so many more!

It is always a pleasure to see teachers in person and learn about how they use Listenwise! We are energized and committed to support our multilingual students! Find more pictures on our Facebook page.


Stay tuned for more in-depth stories that we can share about how teachers use Listenwise in different ways in the classroom! Also, please feel free to share cool links and resources in comments from great PD, webinars, or conferences you have attended recently!


Anyone who has spent extended time with children is aware that kids love to argue. It is part of their developmental DNA – a necessary skill set for membership in a family, a community, or any social group. As they grow, however, the demands associated with both constructing and deconstructing arguments increase. Students need guidance in making effective arguments backed by solid reasoning and evidence, and teachers have an important role to play in supporting that development. Composing compelling arguments is essential to success in higher education, the world of work, and other aspects of everyday life. Students also need instruction in analyzing the arguments of others so they can distinguish between those that make logical sense and those that are flawed in order to inform countless important decisions in their lives.

Teaching written argument is a key focus of the Common Core State Standards at all levels. The very first anchor standard for writing states that college and career ready students need to be able to, “Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.” Listenwise debate stories offer discussion and analysis of a variety of interesting contemporary issues that are well suited for practicing written argument. For example, stories about affirmative action, violent video games, and e-cigarettes present multiple perspectives on issues that are being debated in the public sphere. This blog post about debates provides some starter ideas for activities that engage students in discussing weekly debate stories.

Below are some suggestions for activities to support students in making arguments in writing informed by Listenwise debate stories.


Gathering information about a topic is an important step in making a cogent argument, and Listenwise stories provide reliable information about all kinds of issues that are currently being debated in the world beyond the classroom. Invite students to listen to a Listenwise debate story and ask them to take notes as they listen in a t-chart. At the top of the t-chart, they can write the question that frames the debate and label the two columns Pro and Con. As they listen, students can list reasons supporting each position mentioned in the story. For example, you might ask them to note reasons for and against cloning monkeys as they listen to the story. You might ask them to listen again, this time noting evidence to support each reason. You can also print out the transcript for students after they have listened to the story and ask them to choose a position (pro or con), then highlight supporting reasons and underline evidence.

You may want to assign all of your students the same story first, so they can practice identifying positions, reasons, and supporting evidence. After they have had some practice and additional instruction, you might invite them to choose any debate story that interests them and follow the same process. You may also want to ask them to do additional research to augment the information provided in the audio story. Many debate stories pose a question that begs further investigation, such as whether pluralism is still an American ideal or whether birth order matters.


Once they have gathered information, pair students and ask them to take opposing sides on a particular argument. After they have listened to the same story, ask them to write down their positions and read them to each other. Then they can take turns arguing their positions, trying to persuade each other by citing reasons and evidence from the story. They might argue, for instance, about whether asking Alexa for homework help is beneficial or harmful to students, or whether wearing a hat can signify intolerance. Then they can switch partners and argue the opposite position. They can then make notes about what they learned from their oral debates that they can use in their written arguments.

Online discussions are an excellent forum for helping students articulate and strengthen their arguments. In addition to providing a space for groups of students to engage with each other around a given issue, discussion forums offer the benefit of leaving a textual record that students can build upon in writing an essay. Ask each student to choose a Listenwise debate story of interest and complete a graphic organizer stating their position on the topic, their reasons, and evidence to support each reason. Then, ask them to state their positions in an online discussion forum post. Next, ask students to reply to each other’s posts with (a) clarifying questions, (b) additional support, or (c) counterarguments. Students can reply to each other as many times as needed to solidify their arguments.


Once students have organized their arguments and tested them with others, they should have ample material to write an essay making an argument for a specific claim. It can be helpful to ask students to post their drafts to a blog, allowing others to add comments, responding in ways that help to strengthen their arguments, such as asking clarifying questions, offering additional support, or making counterarguments. For example, if a student argues in her blog post that technology helps students improve their writing skills, she might strengthen her final essay by responding to a counterargument posed by a peer in a comment, as well as by adding evidence noted by another classmate.

You may want to use multiple debate stories on the same topic, such as genetic engineering. Students could write an essay, for example, taking a position on whether or not genetic engineering is a good idea, drawing from stories on various uses of new techniques.

These three debate stories focus on different applications of gene editing:

There are many ways to use Listenwise stories to help channel students’ inclination to argue into the productive academic work of developing effective written arguments about important issues. Whether as an exercise to build skills in stating and supporting a position on an arguable topic or as a starting point for essay writing involving additional research, these activities can be integrated into the writing curriculum at any level.



In the third segment of our webinar series with Facing History and Ourselves, we further explore ways in which educators can pair high-quality teaching resources from both organizations, this time through the lens of teaching the Holocaust. While there are many topics for which Facing History and Listenwise resources pair well, this one serves as an especially illustrative example.

If you want to see our previous webinar recordings and access related resources, you can find them here:

Here is the webinar recording with links below for the resources mentioned within it:


Facing History and Ourselves offers many great resources to guide students through a study of the Holocaust with attention to the emotional journey it entails. You can find their blog recap here and links for resources they mentioned during the webinar below:


In the webinar, we share Listenwise audio stories that complement these Facing History resources, particularly their Holocaust and Human Behavior program as well as their guide for Teaching Night.

Here are some stories we mention during the webinar:


In addition to the topic of the Holocaust discussed in the webinar, there are many other topics for which Listenwise and Facing History resources pair well. Here are a few other sample pairings:



To Kill a Mockingbird


As you think about other topics you teach related to history, literature, and current events, particularly involving issues of ethics and human behavior, remember to check out Facing History and Ourselves and search Listenwise to find high-quality audio stories and related instructional resources to support your teaching.


We know a lot about storytelling. And we like helping others tell their stories. That’s why EdSurge asked Listenwise to be part of a special Hour of Story project during their Fall Fusion conference. The result is a moving new 4-part podcast series called Teachable Moments. Check it out here.


These teacher stories are inspiring and motivating. I was surprised by how quickly the storytellers became emotional when talking about a particular student, even if the events they described happened more than a decade ago. These powerful emotions don’t fade.


The stories were all collected at the 2-day Fusion conference in San Francisco California. EdSurge CEO Betsy Cochran lead a session before the whole conference called the Hour of Story. She handed out an Hour of Story Interview Questions and Notes worksheet and she modeled how to talk to an educator about an experience they learned from. The 4 central questions were:

  • Tell us about a specific time when you experienced great joy or overcame a struggle in your work.
  • What surprised you about that experience?
  • What would be one word that sums up what you experienced?
  • What did you learn or take away from this experience?


After asking these questions to a teacher called up to the main stage, she asked everyone in attendance to pair up at the table with another person and tell a story. The worksheet had additional prompts and a place for notes. I spoke with Rudy Ezcuy, a former middle school teacher who started an edtech company called Teach ‘N Kids Learn. He told me how he had a passion to make a difference. And he reflected on how as a trained engineer and then teacher he moved from a traditional job to re-engineering education as he called it with a company that focuses on professional development.


After listening to his story for 3 minutes, I had to turn around and retell his story back to him using my notes on the worksheet. It was an amazing exercise. I learned that with a few guiding prompts anyone can tell a great story.


As part of our participation in the workshop, Listenwise helped record these stories. I asked teachers at Fusion to come to the EdSurge Podcast Studio and retell their stories. The result is the 4-part series we launch with this tomorrow called Teachable Moments. I co-host the podcast with Sydney Johnson an assistant editor at EdSurge.


In the podcast you’ll hear directly from educators who share important and sometimes challenging moments in their careers, and ultimately, what brings them joy in teaching.


The first episode is called “Seeing Students Differently” because in each case teachers were surprised by an unexpected result.


I hope you’ll be surprised and inspired by the power of these teacher stories.

In 2016, George J. Ryan Middle School in Queens, New York joined the Listenwise community. We recently highlighted a snippet of our conversation with the George J. Ryan Middle School assistant principal in our Educator Experience Spotlight. Check that out here.

We would like to expand on the George J. Ryan Middle School story by highlighting some more of the great things we heard when we talked to assistant principal Ajith Satya. Listen to what he says about the value of Listenwise and other quality curriculum materials.


Ajith talks about how Listenwise was implemented at his school, and he makes the point that the teachers at George J. Ryan Middle School try to hit  “all the different modalities in a lesson.” Listenwise stories have helped teachers at his school address the listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills they want to develop in their students.

Next, we hear Ajith talking about a feature that we hear educators mention all the time. In the Listenwise platform, teachers and students are able to listen to the audio with interactive transcripts, making it even easier to follow along with the story. He mentions how this is especially helpful for English language learners.


Students who have trouble following an audio story or who want to cite a quote can look at the interactive transcript and know exactly what was said. The transcript also has a few special features that provide students with additional support. For example, they can look up words that they don’t know using the TextHelp Toolbar or click on a word in the transcript to take them directly to that spot in the audio. Teachers can also choose to disable the transcript if they prefer to have students practice listening without the additional support.

Next Ajith mentions curriculum mapping, which is one of the additional services that Listenwise provides for customers. With information about the topics and texts taught in specific classes,  we can map Listenwise content to the curriculum to help teachers find stories that align with what they are teaching. If you want more information about these implementation support services, please email sales@listenwise, and our team will be able to help you.


Ajith mentions that the other thing students love about the Listenwise Current Events is that they are relevant, which helps students make connections between their lives and what is happening in the world beyond the classroom.

Ajith also talks about how George J. Ryan Middle School is committed to integrating a variety of technologies in their school and how Listenwise fits into that plan. He returns again to this idea of using Listenwise to engage students in practicing a variety of skills in new and interesting ways.


As Ajith explains, there is value in integrating different technologies into the classroom and school. Providing students with different ways of engaging with their studies and building their skills is really important. Listenwise provides opportunities to teach listening, and other literacy skills, in new and engaging ways.

We would like to thank Ajith and George J. Ryan Middle School for talking to us about how they use Listenwise and for being valued customers. We would also like to say thank you to all the educators doing the important work of helping students learn.  

Guest post by Listenwise Advocate Laura Krenicki, a 6th grade world cultures/geography teacher at William J. Johnston Middle School in Colchester, CT

Part I of our series on App Smashing with Listenwise.


Last year, Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water was the Global Read Aloud middle grades book selection. We had used this book in the past, but we were thrilled to read the book with global partners using Flipgrid, a video discussion app, to share our thinking. Early in the school year, we introduced the Question Formulation Technique with students so they could develop their own questions as we read the book. Themes began to emerge from their inquiry – leadership, family/relationships, war/refugees, and, of course, water.


This year, we used the same format and invited global partners, but we added resources from Listenwise to help students gain more insight into some of the themes. For example, while students were considering parts of the book on Flipgrid with global partners, we listened to the Listenwise story “What is it like to be a refugee?” which discussed a traveling exhibit by Doctors Without Borders where visitors could simulate the experience of being a refugee.


In the audio story, a visitor to the exhibit felt that the experience was “too real.” We asked students, “What can you infer from this quote? ‘It feels too real now. I don’t want to – I don’t know. Part of me doesn’t even want to sit in here ’cause it’s too real. Like, I don’t want to go. I want to go home, not here, you know.’” Students needed some practice in speaking/listening skills, including making inferences, and the Listenwise story allowed them to listen for tone and intent.  They then recorded their thinking on Flipgrid, stating which five things they would take with them if they suddenly had to flee their homes. Students from around the world had access to this Flipgrid topic (and the Listenwise story), so they could share their thinking, too.


Since the book is about the Sudanese Civil War and the plight of the “Lost Boys” of southern Sudan, students also listened to the audio story “Lost Boys of Sudan.” They watched a documentary, God Grew Tired of Us, which followed some of the “Lost Boys” as they made new lives for themselves in the USA. They also viewed related videos, including  a Ted Talk by Salva Dut, the main character in A Long Walk to Water, and interviews with Linda Sue Park, the author. The Listenwise story moved the narrative even further – to a more current time-frame – so students could see how events continue to evolve in Sub-Saharan Africa. Again, they were asked “What can you infer from Daniel [interviewed in the Listenwise story] about the future of South Sudan?”


We took students to the local Holocaust Museum to learn more about how genocide can force people to become refugees. There, they met with survivors or family members who described how life can change quickly when a group is targeted. Real-life examples helped students to recognize that refugees face challenges not only in faraway places – some may be our neighbors. Students wanted to know how they could help make life in a new place for refugees more welcoming and accepting. The Listenwise story about Helping Refugees Adapt to U.S. Culture was another relevant resource to support student inquiry.


These resources informed the students’ inquiry and helped them determine their positions on the question: “Is A Long Walk to Water a book about water?” They expressed their positions through videos, using Adobe Spark Video, Google Slides (with Screencastify), iMovie, or whiteboard animations to post on Flipgrid. The project also set the stage for further exploration of the international Sustainable Development Goals, on which we base the rest of the school year’s curriculum projects.


We have found Listenwise stories to be excellent introductions to units and topics for inquiry. For example, when preparing for the New Zealand Read Aloud (#NZReadAloud) book, An Unexpected Hero by L. P. Hansen, students learned about a conscientious objector, Muhammad Ali. Again, we used Flipgrid as a vehicle for global collaboration and discussion, and the story prepared students to reflect on why someone they knew might be considered a conscientious objector. In addition, some students will be reading Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan, which addresses the issue of child marriage in India. One student noted, “I liked the story about child brides because I am the same age as the girls in the story and I can’t imagine being married at this age.”


Connecting Listenwise stories to themes of novels or to the Sustainable Development Goals helps students tackle difficult subjects by introducing them through engaging, relevant, accessible stories. For example, a student was researching the SDG #14, Life Below Water, and listened to Ocean Plastic Cleanup Hits a Snag which was based on a student’s efforts to clean up the trash patch in the Pacific Ocean.  This story connects to Ocean Warming is Forcing Coral Reefs to Adapt, which is another aspect of the Global Goal. Listenwise has been a helpful resource for supporting students’ inquiries and connecting them with the world outside the classroom.


NPR Student Podcast Challenge  – Deadline March 15th

NPR is running a student podcast contest, and the March 15th deadline is coming up. If you are interested in getting in on the student podcasting fun, then fear not – you still have time to get involved. Check out our previous blog post with more details on the contest and find helpful podcasting resources. Keep reading for some ideas for creating  your own podcasting projects in the classroom.



Use The Power of the Brainstorm

One way to help students quickly focus in on topics for their own podcasts is to invite the class (or smaller groups) to brainstorm topics about which they already have background knowledge. You could focus the brainstorm on topics they have been learning about in class, or or you could invite them to consider podcasting about their interests outside of school. You might suggest that they  explore classroom resources for ideas, including the full collection of Listenwise stories.




Use the Interview Technique

Once your students have chosen their topics, the next challenge may be encouraging them to feel comfortable on the recording device that they are using. It is likely that your students will have varied levels of comfort with recording their own voices. One way to help them face this challenge is to get them talking to each other. Some of the most popular podcasts in the world are conversations, and there is a reason for this.  Conversational podcasts often sound the most natural and authentic. Inviting your students to interview each other or interviewing them yourself gives them an opportunity to become more comfortable recording their own voices. Ask them to prepare a set of questions to guide the conversation and encourage them to probe responses for elaboration (e.g., Can you tell me more about that?)


Listen to Models of Good Youth Reporting

As discussed in our first blog post about this contest, there are many good podcast stories by students to use as models. Apart from the fact that they offer examples of engaging, relevant topics, these stories also provide great examples of  youth reporter voices. Listening to these podcasts as a class or in small groups and then talking about what made the commentaries work can help students notice good journalistic storytelling practices. After listening to and discussing these stories, you can send your students off to record their full projects if you feel that they are ready. If you feel that they need more practice, you might use one of the stories as a model. Ask students to record short 1-2 minute commentaries similar to the stories that they liked, using the same techniques they noticed in the youth reporter stories.


Create a Practice Project

Practicing by recording a lower-stakes audio project can help to make your students more comfortable and confident in recording their own voices. For example, the Promposals story is a great youth commentary on prom proposals at the reporter’s school. Natalie Bettendorf, the youth reporter, breaks down the prom proposal craze and how the proposals become more and more ridiculous using real world examples. Those examples help deliver her point in an interesting and engaging way. Ask students to look for qualities like this that they can incorporate into their own projects. Click the images below to check out some quality examples of youth reporting.











In case you missed it, you can find out first blog post with contest details and additional youth stories here.