Today’s blog highlights educator Julie Waugh, a Listenwise advocate and 8th grade social studies, English, and ELD teacher at Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy in Denver Public Schools, CO. Relationship building is key to Julie’s success with her English learners.  Her school is currently fully remote. She exited 67% of her students from EL status last year, with the primary difference being that she implemented Listenwise in her teaching. 

In her current teaching environment, Julie teaches remotely in a 90-minute block using both synchronous and asynchronous teaching time.

Synchronous Learning Instruction

The first 45 minutes of the block are synchronous, where Julie sets up her listening lessons with her class so she can scaffold and explain concepts to her students up front. One recent podcast they listened to together was Julia Alvarez and Haiti (see example below in video). 

Julie starts her listening lesson by teaching background information, describing any vocabulary words that might be challenging, explaining important context for the story, and setting the stage for purposeful listening. As a class, they read the questions that they will have to answer after listening in order to trigger their brains to recognize key pieces of the audio story as they listen. 

Julie and her class listen to the audio story together as a shared experience, and then students listen again independently before they answer the listening comprehension questions on their own. Julie likes being able to stop the audio and clarify vocabulary or concepts or answer questions during the first listen and finds a lot of value in the shared experience of listening together, as students help each other build understanding. When stories are especially relevant to students’ experience, they may bring personal background knowledge to the conversation, which helps to engage them in the learning experience.  

Asynchronous Learning Instruction

The second 45 minutes of class is set up as asynchronous learning time, and Julie gives her students freedom to explore the lesson materials on their own. Julie stays available on the Zoom call, offering the option to connect if students have questions and inviting students to re-join the video chat and find support if needed. In these 45 minutes, students have agency in their learning, as they listen to the story again at their own pace, answer the assigned questions, explore additional related materials, dig into vocabulary, and delve deeper into the content. She finds that when students’ interest drives their exploration, they find themselves reading and learning more without realizing it. 

Listen to Julie explain her instructional approach in this brief video testimonial: 

You can watch her full 30 minute “Teacher Talk” with our CEO, Monica Brady-Myerov on our Youtube channel.

Explore other ideas for teaching ELs purposeful listening in another blog post written by Robbi Holdreith, a middle school ELL teacher and coordinator at Sojourner Truth Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota.