Teachers around the country are challenged by the growing number of English language learners in their classrooms. The EL population is the fastest growing population of public school students in the U.S. according to the National Education Association. However only 2.5% of teachers who teach these English learners have a degree in ESL or bilingual education. It is a huge challenge for teachers to engage students in learning content while also teaching them English skills. Listenwise has developed a unique way to engage long-term ELs with listening. In a white paper entitled “Is Listening a Missing Link to Academic Language in Today’s Secondary School?” we explore the research that shows how listening to authentic academic language can help.

Acquiring Academic Vocabulary

One of the challenges of teaching EL students is addressing their range of language levels. Since students can listen 2-3 grade levels above what they can read, listening is a great solution. With audio stories, the entire class can listen to the same story and then have discussions about the content and concepts. Texts with complex vocabulary that may have been out of reach for some students can be accessible and understandable by using audio. These audio stories are perfect to expand academic vocabulary for English learners.

Using the rich content of public radio exposes students to grade-level, discipline-specific content while stretching their receptive abilities and improving their language acquisition. These public radio stories from across the country are ways to make content relevant. Students can hear current and engaging stories on a range of topics exposing them to academic language that is authentic and natural.

Listenwise’s EL Supports

For students who need extra help with the concepts and vocabulary, supports are provided. For English learners, features such as slower audio speed, a transcript that is interactive and progresses in sync with the audio, language objectives, and tiered vocabulary support them in their understanding of the language as they are learning content. Assignments can also be differentiated to target the specific needs of each student.

English Learner Workshop at WBUR

Over the summer, teachers of English learners and district leaders came together at WBUR, Boston’s public radio station, to attend a workshop on how using public radio can help improve instruction for English Learners.

“These lessons are already made accessible for EL students. We are stretched for time. We need things to grab and go!”

– a teacher at the WBUR workshop

Students, especially English Learners, like to hear stories that connect to their lives and culture, and Listenwise provides engaging content in a variety of accents and dialects from many countries. One story that educators listened to during this workshop featured Spanish speakers.

“My students love to hear their own language in school materials. They like to tell me, ‘You don’t understand this, but I get it.’ ”

– a teacher at the WBUR workshop

At the end of the workshop, educators toured the WBUR station led by Listenwise founder Monica Brady-Myerov, a former WBUR reporter. They saw where some of these public radio stories are researched, produced and aired. They also got to see the people behind the voices, including Tom Ashbrook, host of On Point.


If you are interested in attending the next WBUR workshop contact us at adam@listenwise.com.