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Interaction, oral language, speaking practice, cooperative learning, discussion groups–there are many ways to have students practice speaking and listening using academic language.

Practice is necessary for students to develop into people who can articulate their thoughts and communicate effectively. And for English learners, speaking practice is critical. Research shows that oral proficiency won’t increase without opportunities to speak and practice using academic language. So, we need a balance between student and teacher talk. In a class of 30 students in a traditional classroom, even if each one is called on, how much language do students produce?

As teachers, we can plan times and activities where students engage in conversations and listen to each other, so they can build their language around academic experiences.

There are many ways to incorporate speaking practice into instruction. The first step is planning for purposeful talk and providing many opportunities for interaction.


NOTE: It may be helpful to give the prompts or questions (What is the most important..? What are the reasons…? What are the pros and cons of…?) before you start the activity, so students have a chance to reflect and prepare what they will say before practicing their language skills. This is especially helpful for your quiet students and for English learners.


3, 2, 1

After listening to an audio story, students think about 3 things they learned, 2 questions they have, and 1 thing they enjoyed about the story, and then share with another student.


Musical Share

This activity provides language practice and the opportunity to share ideas with multiple classmates. Provide a prompt or question and give students time to write their response. Then play music as students walk around. Stop the music and have students find a partner near them to share their response. Then, continue the music and repeat the activity until students have sufficient practice with multiple classmates. This can also be done with tables placed around the room. When the music stops, students sit at the table closest to them and discuss with the other classmates at the same table.


Parallel Line Share

Similar to the musical share, this is a more structured way to pair students for conversation. Students form two lines facing each other. Students can discuss their response with the classmate in front of them, then when the time is up, one line moves to the right and pairs with a new classmate. The person on the end walks up to the beginning of the line.


Hear, Think, Wonder

This is a way to have students process the information they heard in the audio story. They can write their responses to these questions and then share with a partner.

  • What did you hear?
  • What did you think about that?
  • What does it make you wonder?


Opinions and Evidence

This can help students think deeply about the content and use language to explain their position. After listening to a story, ask a central question and offer two possible answers. Students choose one answer–the one they think best answers the question, and then they discuss their opinion with a small group. As a class, students can defend their opinions, citing evidence from the story or their background knowledge. Encourage them to listen to everyone carefully and allow students to change their opinion.


News Station Reader’s Theater

Increase students’ fluency by using the transcript and having students take the roles of the speakers in the audio story. They can practice their roles, listen multiple times to the audio story, and then perform the story for the class.


Create a Commercial

Students, in groups, write a 30-second commercial about the audio story, summarizing its main idea and what they liked about it, to encourage others to listen to the story. Then groups present the commercials to the class.



This is a great way to maximize discussion time for middle and high school students. After listening to an audio story, give students time to think independently, then discuss their ideas with a partner and then share with the class. You can have them react to the story in general, or pose a question or idea for them to think about.


Other Resources-

Cult of Pedagogy: The Big List of Class Discussion Strategies

Teaching Tolerance: Community Inquiry

Colorin Colorado:


At Listenwise we are focused on bringing high-quality audio to students and supporting teachers with lessons, but there are also plenty of great high-quality podcasts for teachers!

No time to attend conferences? No funding to get great PD? Need inspiration and new ideas for this school year? Podcasts are a great way to get some PD time in, especially ones made for rockstars like you by other rockstar teachers. Here are some we recommend listening to:


Tim and Scott Bedley – The Bedley Bros Podcast

With over 45 years of experience in the classroom and 4+ years podcasting, Brothers Tim Bedley and Scott Bedley host an educational talk show @BedleyBros focused on best practices in the classroom, with innovative leaders in education.

Don’t miss their back-to-school episodes, or their interview with our CEO and Founder, Monica Brady-Myerov on September 23, 2017.


Jennifer Gonzalez – The Cult of Pedagogy Podcast

Jennifer Gonzalez @cultofpedagogy has seven years of experience as a middle school language arts teacher.  She created The Cult of Pedagogy site as a vibrant, encouraging, stimulating community of teachers, supporting each other toward excellence. Cult of Pedagogy is run by a team of educators committed to making you more awesome in the classroom and has a wealth of resources in blog posts and podcasts.

Don’t miss her podcast episode with our CEO and Founder, Monica Brady-Myerov on May 15, 2016.


Vicki Davis –  10-Minute Teacher Podcast

Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher is a full-time classroom teacher in Camilla, Georgia. She is an edtech blogger/influencer, author, and podcaster and she hosts and self-produces the 10-Minute Teacher show at her site Cool Cat Teacher. Vicki also hosted Every Classroom Matters for three years with BAM Radio.

Don’t miss her Every Classroom Matters podcast episode with our CEO and Founder, Monica Brady-Myerov on podcasting in the classroom.


Ryan O’Donnell and Brian Briggs  –  Check This Out Podcast
Brian @bribriggs is a Director of Innovation & Technology in California. Ryan @creativeedtech is a Tech TOSA in California and a former high school social studies teacher. Ryan and Brian have great discussions on all things technology and edtech on their podcast “Check this Out”. Check out their recent episode!



Angela Watson – Truth for Teachers Podcast

With 11 years of classroom experience and 7 years experience as an instructional coach, Angela continues to create resources that make teaching more effective, efficient, and enjoyable. Her podcast, Truth for Teachers is on her Cornerstone for Teachers site and is consistently ranked in the top ten K-12 podcasts on iTunes. We were excited to collaborate with her last year!



Chris Nesi – The House of #Edtech

The House of #EdTech podcast explores how technology is changing the way teachers teach and the impact that technology is having in education. Host Chris Nesi discusses how technology is changing our classrooms and schools and shares stories from teachers and school leaders.

Listenwise stories are engaging for students and adults, so why not try using Listenwise to engage your students’ parents and families? Listenwise Premium is accessible at home and can be used on any device connected to the Internet.

Here are 5 ways to promote listening outside of the classroom– by engaging families at home!

  1. Assign a Story. Assign students a story to listen to as a “Dinner Table Discussion.” Students listen to the story with a parent or adult at home and then discuss the issues using one or two listening comprehension questions that were assigned. They could take notes on the discussion and be ready to share the experience in class the next day.
  2. Students Choose a Story. Students choose a story to listen to with their families. They can create their own questions to use during family discussions and then share what sparked their curiosity and interest in the specific story that they chose.
  3. Parents and Students Choose a Story. Students and parents can listen to a story together and discuss one thing they learned, one thing they had a question about and one thing that surprised them about the story. If they choose a Friday Current Event Debate, they can listen to the story, state their argument and provide evidence to support their thinking.
  4. Record a Response. After listening together, families can audio record their responses, reactions, comments, and questions about the story. Students can share their families’ recordings in class. (Easy tip: Record a “voice memo” with a smartphone)
  5. Parents take a Quiz. After students complete a quiz, have them listen to the story again at home with a parent or sibling. Students can read the questions to their parent or sibling and then let them know how many they got correct. In class, students can discuss the answers or listen again.

Try out some of these activities to include parents in their child’s learning. Parents and adults can help improve a child’s critical and analytical thinking skills, debate skills, and help them connect to events happening in the world. This can provide a way for families to learn more about each other’s opinions and interests and provide a new avenue to connect and listen to each other. You may want to have parents start with a few of these stories.

NOTE: We’ve also created a sample email you can send to your students’ parents or adults at home about listening together with Listenwise.

Keep the conversations going!

The Listenwise Team


Listening Comprehension Data from 2 Schools Using Listenwise

We get asked all the time, “Have you seen that practicing listening with students improves test scores?” The short answer is yes and we have some evidence from the data generated by our Listenwise Quiz to prove it.

We know from cognitive research that increased listening practice will result in improved comprehension (Horowitz 2012). While this seems intuitive, we have been searching for deeper insight on how practice impacts performance on our listening comprehension assessments. We know that students in Clovis, CA who used Listenwise improved their listening scores on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) by 12% from 2016 to 2017, and 6th grade students in Paicoma, CA who used Listenwise in 2017 performed 14% higher on the listening component of the CAASPP than 7th and 8th grade students who did not use Listenwise.

Over several months this past spring, we partnered with teachers across the country to understand the impact of using Listenwise in classrooms and collected data using Listenwise quizzes. Our study included 10 middle and high school classes with a range of 10-31 students per class. Each class took between 4-8 quizzes over the course of 4-12 weeks. Out of the 10 classes included in the data analysis, 6 showed an increase in listening comprehension scores over time after using Listenwise. Each quiz has five questions, and these classes averaged a gain of an additional correct answer, or about 20%, by the end of the study.

Below are regression analyses from two classes of 31 students who took 8 quizzes within a 2 month time frame. Each demonstrated improvement over the course of the study.  Let’s look at the results:

Students in this class took 8 quizzes over the course of one month. While individual student scores fluctuated, overall the class showed an upward trend and their listening comprehension improved by 20 percentage points over the course of the study.  On early quizzes, on average the class scored below three points, while by the final quizzes the average score was just above three points. With each additional quiz the class average increased.

Students in this class completed 8 quizzes over the course of 2 months. While individual student scores fluctuated, overall the class showed a consistently positive trend. These students improved their listening comprehension by 20 percentage points over the course of this study, increasing the class average with each quiz that was taken.

While the data sets are not equal, both show positive growth trends. The results from these students show that listening can be improved with targeted instruction and practice. While further research is necessary to confirm growth at scale, initial data shows that Listenwise, when used as part of instruction, can significantly enhance students’ listening comprehension. This comes at an important time as listening skills are assessed in 15 states and are an anchor standard in the CCSS.

Please share your experiences using our quizzes with your students in comments. If you have a great story about how you teach/assess listening with your class, please share with us! We’d love to feature you on our blog!

We hope everyone had a great summer break, and are getting back into the swing of things now that it’s back-to-school time. We’ve enjoyed listening to a lot of podcasts this summer and wanted to share some of what we have been listening to.  Maybe you will find a new favorite podcast yourself to listen to on your work commute or weekends!

Is there a podcast that you love that we missed? We’d also like to feature podcasts you LOVE – record your voice on your phone or computer and email us at: chelsea@listenwise.com and you could be featured in our blog!

This summer we almost had a 1:1 ratio of interns to staff! This photo shows the largest “all staff” meeting we’ve ever had! Thanks to our four interns this summer, Randy, Maija, Laing and Doug, we were able to accomplish so much and be ready for back-to-school. We are sad to see them go, but know they are off to great things. Read a little bit about them below.


What is your name and background? 

Laing Wise: My name is Laing Wise, I am originally from Pittsburgh, PA, and I am currently a senior studying Political Science and French at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Randy Peralta: My name is Randy Peralta and I am a rising senior at Bates college in Lewiston, Maine. I am from New York City and I am a first generation Dominican-American.

Maija Johanne Jakobsen: My name is Maija and I just finished a Bachelor degree in Business Administration with a concentration in finance at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Doug Leon: My name is Doug Leon, I am a rising junior at Bates College from Watertown, MA.

What is the most interesting thing you have learned during this internship? 

Laing: Working with Listenwise has given me a much broader understanding of the myriad ways in which education can be better understood and improved. Throughout high school and college, I never thought to look critically at the ways in which I was being taught and what methods of learning worked best for me, but after working with Listenwise I’ve realized that technology has opened up new and revolutionary methods of teaching that are just waiting to be explored.

Randy: The most interesting that I have learned over the course of my internship is how educational listening content can be used to enrich yourself and others. Obviously, Listenwise is targeted towards students but throughout my internship I feel like I have learned so much from our content and also have really learned to appreciate how educational it can be to listen to someone. As an avid reader I often used to get impatient listening to audiobooks or podcasts but now I find myself listening to the same clips or podcasts many times because actually hearing every word has made me understand the content much more.

Maija: The fact that Educational Technology is such a big industry here in the States compared to Norway! I also realized that learning to really understand what you are listening to when you are young is so important for future learning as you get older. I hadn’t really thought about that before I started this internship!

Doug: The most interesting thing I have learned about in this internship is catering to the customer. To have a successful product we need to pry into the needs of a community, identify the struggles, and then provide a product that covers those needs effectively.  

If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

Laing: When I read the Harry Potter books as a kid, I was always jealous of Hermione’s timeturner.  I think I’d like to have the ability to stop and start time, mostly to take naps during class if I need to!

Randy: I think my superpower would be some kind of super vision that I could turn on and off. I wear glasses and have really horrid vision so I would love to be able to see really well and accurately.

Maija: I would love to be able to travel with teleportation!

Doug: If I could have a superpower it would probably be flying. I don’t like planes but I love going to new places, and flying would be a sweet way to travel and explore the world.

If you could travel somewhere tomorrow, where would you go and who would you go with?

Laing: If I could go anywhere and take anyone, I would probably go to Paris with my brother. We are both absolutely enamored by French culture & fashion, and hopefully my language skills would be enough to get us by.  We went once with my dad when I was 15 and my brother was 14, but we always talk about how fun it’d be to go back someday and have our own adventures.

Randy: I would go to Costa Rica or Guatemala with my family because we have never traveled anywhere before and I know that my family would really enjoy getting to see the beautiful ecosystems that both of those countries have in them. We would also be able to traverse the cities with some ease because we all speak Spanish fluently.

Maija: I would go back to camp on a totally secluded island in the Philippines called Palawan with my boyfriend.

Doug Leon: If I could go anywhere tomorrow, it might be New Zealand.  The scenery there seems incredible, and it seems very peaceful.  I would probably go with anyone from my home, as long as they shared my interest to explore!

What are you going to be when you grow up?

Laing: After I graduate from UW-Madison this fall I want to move to Providence to work on my good friend’s City Council campaign.  She’s extremely politically motivated and I really believe she can win!  After that, I’m hoping to move to DC and kick start my own wildly successful career in politics.

Randy: I am going to be a lawyer with an office in New York City who works with primarily at-risk communities and small businesses. I am very interested in protecting the “little guy” because I feel like I have been part of that group of people all my life and probably will continue to be for a while. If law school does not work I think I would like to work in the edtech world, helping to create and edit content that schools and students can use to ensure success for themselves!

Maija: I’m actually doing what entrepreneurs would call a “pivot”: Starting all over and going into psychology, so I guess you can call me in 6 years and ask me to do a psychoanalysis of you!

Doug: When I grow up I am going to be a professional basketball player, or a zookeeper. I try to keep my options open.

It’s back to school time and you’re probably as excited as we are to get started with the new year.

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


First, did you see our updated lesson pages?! We’ve updated our lesson pages in Premium so you can navigate and assign each lesson more easily! Make sure you know what’s all new – brush up by reading our blog announcement.


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.

  • You are now ready to create new classes. On the Classes page 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)

Use the Student Quick Start Guide to help students sign up with new class codes. (Download our PDF)


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


Review our blogs about:


Sign up for one of our fall webinars.


Still want some more support? Check out our 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 your classroom, please let us know by emailing us.

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

Just in time for back-to-school, we’ve launched a new Teacher Resources section of our website!

You can find our teacher resources through the “About” tab or at this URL: https://listenwise.com/teacher_resources

From the teacher resources page you can now access a webinar page where you can sign up for any of our upcoming webinars, register for a 30-minute premium product training if you like, or watch any of our recorded Spring webinars. Find awesome content here: https://support.listenwise.com/webinars/

The blog links to our blog pages, just like this one. The most popular blogs are listed in the Support Center under Classroom Instruction. Keep an eye for a new blog post every Sunday!

The Support Center is a compilation of helpful teacher resources. We’ve included resources for how to teach with Listenwise, tools to get started, video tutorials, and MORE! Click on the boxes or the easy-access links beneath each section to find helpful resources.

In “Getting Started” we’ve compiled quick start onboarding tools. You can easily access our teacher quick start guide and our student quick start guide online or download and print them out.


In the “Video Tutorials” section we have video tours of Listenwise Premium and many “how to” videos on how to navigate Listenwise Premium. These videos can help you enter a Premium code, add and delete classes and students, and more.


The “FAQ” section is updated with all of your important Listenwise questions, but if you have any further questions don’t hesitate to reach out to us here: listenwise.com/contact. We welcome any and all feedback!


And the “Classroom Instruction” section links you to our blog collections where we compile relevant lessons and current events for important topics, along with highlighted blogs and resources on how to use Listenwise to implement listening in your classroom.


Check out all the awesome new resources on our website, share with friends, and reach out if you have questions or new ideas to add! Happy Back-to-School!


This summer we’ve been busy launching some new and exciting updates to Listenwise Premium. Here are some notable new improvements! As always we love feedback, so feel free to comment or contact us online here.


Text Help Toolbar

We are excited to announce that a Text Help toolbar is now available to help students with comprehension of any written text—a story synopsis, teacher instructions, assignment questions, whatever they see!  Students simply highlight any text on the screen and press the play button to hear the words spoken aloud, or they can highlight words and easily access a Spanish translation, or English dictionary definition, or even a picture definition. This makes our website more accessible for students who are learning English, students who have reading difficulties, or students who need support in understanding the content on our website.

The toolbar is integrated in the student view on the bottom of each page of the Listenwise website that students see. It will automatically appear for current event assignments, listening links, and when students browse the library of content. Teachers choose whether to include it when creating a written lesson assignment or assigning a quiz. In a quiz, the toolbar is limited to text read aloud, because vocabulary lookup would create a problem with vocabulary quiz questions! Want to see what your students will see with the Text Help bar? Just preview your  assignment to see what students will see! You can also easily go back to previously created assignments and add in this option.


New Look for Listenwise Premium Lessons

We’ve updated our lesson pages in Premium so you can navigate and assign each lesson more easily! There was so much great content but not everyone was finding it. The most notable changes are in the top right of the screen. All the assignment, quiz and favorite tools have moved there (no more toolbar) and you can also see the language challenge level, whether the lesson has additional scaffolding.

We also renamed a few things to make it clearer. For example, if you would like to share a story directly in your google classroom, click the button called “share audio.” This previously was a blue “listening link” button in the toolbar.  We’ve also applied these changes to Current Events where it made sense.

The second big difference is that we now have tabs to organize the different sections of the lesson under the audio player.

  • The Story tab is where you will find the interactive transcript.
  • The Assignment Resources tab has the information to create an assignment: comprehension questions, vocabulary, discussion questions, graphic organizers along with additional supporting materials to build background.
  • The Teacher’s Guide tab provides teaching suggestions and support to use this story with your students. There are curriculum connections, a detailed listening guide, and alignment to your state’s standards.
  • In the Scaffolding tab, there are activities specific for English learners and struggling readers for when you want to break down the “text” further and better prepare students for listening., Content includes a close listening guide, suggestions for building background, and tiered vocabulary. This is where you’ll find the Language Objectives and specific instruction and supports for meeting the language objective.
  • The Quiz tab has the questions and answers in the quiz, along with a preview of what students will see when they take the quiz.
  • The Class Activities tab provides a content lesson plan in more detail and examples of activities that can be used with the story in different student configurations such as whole group, small group, individual, 1:1, etc.

Tagging for Your Favorites and Assignments

Now we have made it easier for you to organize items in your favorites and your assignments, so you can find them more easily when you need them. When you favorite a lesson directly on the lesson or current event page you have the option of adding a tag immediately.

Or, in the assignments tab simply click the orange plus (+) button to add or create a tag on a favorite or assignment story. All of the tags you’ve already used will be listed on the right. Click a tag to see all the items with that tag. For example, you might find a couple great stories for when you discuss immigration later in the year. Simply add an Immigration tag to each of them to create a collection you can assign later. Or organize your assignments by semester or unit for easier reuse next year.

Here’s what your Favorites look like when organized with tags.

AND don’t forget about our listening quizzes released in January 2017!

Our listening quizzes are quick and easy to assign and provide you with great data about how well your students are listening. Use them frequently with students to practice their listening skills and get auto-scored performance data immediately by class and by student. Now that components of the Common Core SBAC test listening comprehension, your students may need more practice not just with listening, but with taking listening assessments.

Benton Lewis, 11th grade ELA teacher in Clovis, CA, has used Listenwise with his students and has seen his students’ listening scores rise by 12 percentage points from 2015 to 2016. Lewis states, “I think, just logically speaking, at least part of that is due to Listenwise.


Want more of a specialized walk through of our cool new additions to Listenwise Premium? Join one of our
30-minute Premium Product Training webinars in the upcoming month for a great overview or a refresher.


At the end of the past school year, we challenged Listenwise teachers to engage students in a classroom debate. The rules were simple: choose a debate story from Listenwise, have students listen to the story, pick a side and record the debate in action. We wanted to get students talking and having fun during the last weeks of school.

Thank you to everyone who participated! We had some great submissions, but one classroom’s debate was more spirited than the rest.


Congratulations to Mr. Bob Donahue’s 6th Grade class at St. Columbkille Partnership School in Brighton, MA!

The winning class debated whether social media affects behavior, and did a fabulous job working in teams and presenting their arguments. Watch their debate below:


Mr. Donahue told us that his students loved debating and using class time to be interactive: “The content got the kids thinking about their own lives and how they feel about the social media use. They took both sides and learned how to argue their perspective using facts and also listening to the other side. I was delighted at the result and so were the kids. I am grateful to Listenwise for their efforts to constantly strive to present important topics to learners.”

If Mr. Donahue’s class debate inspired you, try hosting a debate in your classroom this fall. We post a new debate story every Friday, so check out the latest Current Events, choose a story, and share your debate with us on Twitter @listenwiselearn!


“Listenwise has been an invaluable teaching tool for my middle school social studies students.  The topics are well researched, covering diverse subjects and the lessons are accessible for most learners.  The students loved doing the debate on Whether Social Media Affects Behavior.  The content got the kids thinking about their own lives and how they feel about the social media use.  They took both sides and learned how to argue their perspective using facts and also listening to the other side.  I was delighted at the result and so were the kids.  They loved using class time to be interactive and we had a celebration when we found they won the $50 Amazon gift card.  I am grateful to Listenwise for their efforts to constantly strive to present important topics to learners.” – Mr. Donahue