by Nancy Foote, Middle School Science teacher from Queen Creek, Arizona

I’ve always been a huge fan of NPR (National Public Radio).  Each time I listened, I heard something new, interesting and informative.  I shared what I learned with my students and family.  The fit of NPR and my physics classroom was generally not a comfortable fit.  All that changed when I went to Boston for the NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) conference. I learned about Listen Edition.  Immediately I was hooked.

For most of my career I have read aloud to my students.  I’ve taught grades 4 – 14, and read to them all.  Jim Trelease (author of The Read Aloud Handbook, and listening guru) has inspired me to do so.  Listen Edition had some of the same benefits of reading a book aloud like increasing vocabulary.

Listen Edition is easy to use with my students.  They offer robust lesson plans, Common Core aligned.  Student background is provided, quizzes on (a site I am not very familiar with) and homework assignments.  You can search by subject, grade level, look for current events and more.


How It Worked for Me

The first time I used Listen Edition with my 8th grade science students, I told my students to listen and take notes on those things they thought were important. Since I haven’t taken the time to figure out Socratic ( I put the quiz questions on Edmodo ( They didn’t do very well on the quiz.  I took a few minutes to debrief with the kids and realized my instructions were vague.

Next time I talked about listening skills and how they are different when you are having a face-to-face conservation, an on-line or texting conversation or when you are listening for information or entertainment.  We talked about living in a noisy world and finding some quiet each day.  They actually came up with that, which was a very good point.  They generated a list of actions they could take to be better listeners in each scenario.

I knew that if I gave them the questions before the listening they would be more focused and they were.  I put the questions on my interactive white board for them to see while they were listening.   But since in life we aren’t usually given the questions in advance I didn’t want the students to rely on seeing the questions.

After a couple of days I gave them all of the questions before listening, but only for a few minutes.  Once we began listening I gave them some questions so that they could see those while they were listening.  My goal is to not have questions available either as a preview or concurrently with the listening.  But, truth be told, they (we) tend to be lousy listeners. It’s a skill that needs to be taught and practiced.

We also had discussion about why it’s OK to not get 100% on the post-listening quizzes. What’s truly interesting to me is that once they finish the quiz, they now tell me things like, “that question was asking about trivia.”  All year long I try to teach them how to weed out the trivia and focus on the important stuff when it comes to reading the text or other articles.  It was gratifying to see them transfer that concept to the listening quizzes.  The students also tell me what they thought was important and why.  This week I am going to ask them to generate their own questions about the listening, in addition to answering mine.

I thought this was going to be an interesting warm up, something to keep the kids busy while I did attendance and other teach stuff.  Instead it has turned into a life skill building activity. As I told the kids, people love it when they are actively listened to.  I told them to try it with their parents and with other people who aren’t in my class.  They’ve already gotten a great response.

Thanks for Listen Edition.  I never considered doing listening training for my students, but now I see how important it is.  I’ve noticed that I repeat directions less (thank goodness) and that they seem to be getting more information from my videos (I have a flipped classroom).  I’m eager to see if this is reflected in test scores.

In the fall, Listen Edition will be used in my class on the first day of school.

This blog was contributed by Rockstar science teacher Nancy Foote (check out her teacher Twitter, too!) at Sossman Middle School in Queen Creek, AZ.  Be sure to drop by her blogs: Science You Can Sink Your Teeth Into for inexpensive and quick science labs, The Unintentional Geek for technology, and Mrs. Foote’s Math & Science—Gifted, Middle School and whatever!! for gifted and talented resources.