Many educators who use Listenwise report that they love Weird News! These are less-than-30-second current event podcasts about unusual current events that are published every Sunday. They include academic vocabulary words featured in the stories, which are incorporated into the accompanying comprehension and discussion questions. Teachers can focus on one or more of these featured words as appropriate for their particular students. This approach can work especially well for elementary students and English learners.  

Abby Osborn, a K-4 English Language Development (ELD) teacher at Tahoe Lake Elementary in Tahoe City, CA, spoke with us during our Teacher Talks webinar series last fall about the innovative ways she uses Listenwise to support her students’ listening and speaking skills. She frequently applies researched ELD strategies when teaching with Listenwise. When she searches for Listenwise stories to use in her classroom, she filters for elementary stories with low Lexile audio levels. Weird News stories fit these specifications. 

Osborn says, 

“My kids love the Weird News… I love them because they are short and engaging. Especially when I only have a half an hour to meet with my students, it’s enough time for us to be able to listen to it multiple times and still get the content.”

Scaffolded Retelling Strategy With Weird News

Osborn explained that she uses Weird News to do a scaffolded retelling, a text reconstruction strategy she learned from Steven Weiss of Stanford’s Understanding language team. Osborn’s strategy is a great way for her students to practice for the retelling portion of the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California, for which students must retell a scientific text or a fictional story in their own words.

When Osborn’s students were preparing to create a short “how-to” video using Flipgrid, she shared with them biographies and stories that showed what other experts were doing. The Weird News story Young Skateboarder Shreds World Record about an 11-year-old expert skateboarder was perfect for her students. Osborn outlines her scaffolded retelling strategy as follows:

Step 1 

Initial Listen – The teacher plays the Weird News Story using the slowed audio setting and presents the transcript for students to listen and follow along. 

Step 2 

Clarifying Questions – Students ask the teacher clarifying questions about language that they don’t understand, like vocabulary words, idioms, or jokes. 

Step 3 

Second Listen – The teacher plays the story and presents the transcript again, so students can hear it with their new knowledge of vocabulary and language. 

Step 4 

Retelling – Students retell the story in their own words incorporating the important details and the style of delivery. Teachers can choose for students to retell the story individually or in pairs first, then individually. 

Check out Osborn’s full Teacher Talk webinar to learn more about how she uses Listenwise with English language learners.

One thought on “Use Weird News Podcasts to Support English Learners”

Comments are closed.