Have you tried teaching podcasting in your classroom as a means of authentic assessment? Or maybe you’ve wanted to try it and are not sure where to start? If I had to guess, you probably have lots of questions swirling around in your head. (This was me, circa 2018.)
- What do you do to teach podcasting skills in the classroom?
- Which podcasting platforms are the most user-friendly for students?
- Do I just have students sit and listen to podcasts together in the classroom?
- How can I provide a structure for student podcasters?
- Will the end product be time-consuming to grade?
Benefits of Classroom Podcasting
Despite these questions, I pushed forward because I knew it could be cool and rewarding for students. Plus, podcasting was versatile enough to be used not only as an ending assessment but also as an ongoing platform for inquiry in the classroom.
In addition, I found that podcasting represented the perfect storm of skills for project-based learning. If we’re talking CCSS, students demonstrated ALL of the skill groups during the course of the project, from speaking and listening, to writing and reading, to use of language and grammar. And research, yes, that can make its way into classroom podcasting, as well.
How to Teach Podcasting in the Classroom
Thinking of what kind of podcast you want students to create is your first step. There are a lot of different options for creating a podcast, and you don’t want to “teacher-ize” it too much. Raise your hand if you’ve ever “killed” a project by trying to make it do too many things at one time, making it confusing for students. I know that I have.
Three of my favorite ideas for teaching podcasting in the classroom are unpacked below. These categories help me to have a clear overall purpose for podcasting and can be broken down into more specific prompts as needed.
- Social Criticism
- Students form an inquiry question and create a podcast to investigate and send a message about a specific aspect of modern society. These types of podcasts may involve interviews but are primarily solocasts designed to guide the audience toward a final answer to the inquiry question.
- Examples: Are we all really just Minions? How are hipsters, coffee, and the internet culture connected?
- Models: This is Your Brain on Cheesesteak, Ways Technology is Making Us Anxious, Science Vs
- Students explore and come to a final definition of an abstract idea, role, or object through a hybrid mix of storytelling, interviewing, and informational speaking. The goal of this type of podcast is to get the audience to see the abstract idea, role, or object in a new way.
- Examples: Mom 2.0, What is a hoodie?
- Models: Loops, A Little Happier…
- This type of student podcast explores a theme through storytelling. Segments are comprised of thoughtfully-sequenced descriptions and plot details that, together, help the audience to think about a theme.
- Examples: Students may choose to focus on a specific emotion, a specific holiday, or on individual identity.
- Models: Storycorps, The Moth
Podcasting Activities for Students
I often hear teachers asking about the best way to use podcasts in the classroom. Aside from having students create their own podcasts, there are other ways to use podcasts to make learning fun and engaging for students (while building important listening, writing, and reading skills).
Engaged Learning…Podcast Style
- Find a thematic connection, a podcast that connects to the text you’re reading in class or the time period being studied. There are a ton of podcasts out there, and there is guaranteed to be a podcast (or even one podcast episode) that works as a paired text.
- Flip the classroom by having students listen to the podcast on their own and come to class ready to complete an activity based on their learning.
- Listen together in class
- Have students create sketch notes as they listen
- Have students listen for specific information and fill in a graphic organizer
- Use a podcast to stage a debate. Pose an open-ended question and have students take notes as they listen. (I usually assign sides, but you can also have students find evidence for multiple perspectives.) Then, after listening, have students use evidence from the podcast to fuel quality classroom conversation.
- Use the QFT model, with the podcast as the Q-Focus. Students will listen and write down as many questions as possible that are prompted by the podcast content, format, etc.
- Use podcasts for rhetorical analysis. Try these free rhetorical analysis graphic organizers!
- Have students listen to a podcast episode together, then extend their learning by conducting research and creating an infographic.
- Have students listen for important words and create a “found” poem using these words. The poem should represent the podcast’s theme or message.
I think that it’s important to note that if you choose to have students listen to the podcast episode in class, you must provide them with a purpose for listening and a way for them to demonstrate their listening. Even if you’ve chosen the most engaging podcast on the planet, it’s important for students to know the why behind the activity. Clarity helps to produce engagement, success, and learning!
16 Podcasts for High School Students
It can be time-consuming to search for podcasts that will engage secondary students, so I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorites to get you started. Now you’re set to begin teaching podcasting to your students!
- Lore – The tagline of this podcast is “sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction.” This series was made into an Amazon series for watching.
- This American Life – Each week, different stories are put together to explore a theme.
- Bear Brook – This podcast offers a student-approved alternative to Serial.
- Cabinet of Curiosities – In each episode there are two unusual, amazing, bizarre stories from the past.
- Criminal – A true-crime podcast with great sound and scripting.
- More Perfect – Go behind the scenes into the world of the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Limetown – What happened to the people of Limetown? This podcast explores the mystery.
- Radiolab – This podcast takes an inquiry stance by exploring the answers to questions involving science and the world around us.
- Freakonomics – A spinoff of the best-selling book Freakonomics, this podcast explores the hidden side to “everything.”
- This Podcast Will Kill You – You’ll want to listen over and over to this podcast. The hosts explore epidemics and weird medical mysteries.
- Why I Write – Published writers like Laurie Halse Anderson discuss their writing process
- Lexicon Valley – This podcast explores the intricacies of language, the way we speak, read, and write.
- Code Switch – Explores race and identity.
- The Slowdown – This podcast calls itself a “literary, once-a-day vitamin” and it is just that with each episode running around five minutes and featuring the reading of a poem.
- Invisibilia – Narrative storytelling + science
- School of Greatness – Uplifting interview-based podcast talks to “world-class game-changers.”
- The Memory Palace – Short tales that celebrate humans and history.
- Revisionist History – Reinterprets events, people, ideas that are overlooked and misunderstood. With Malcolm Gladwell as a host, this one’s always thought-provoking!
- Imagined Life – This podcast immerses you in the life of someone famous…before they were famous, giving you a taste of the challenges and surprises that came along the way.
- Getting Curious – This podcast explores a range of topics and is sure to have an episode that is of interest.
Recording a Podcast
For podcast recording, I suggest using Anchor.fm. Students can use the app on their phone or record within the website, and the interface is drag-and-drop. This is the platform that I’ve had the fewest headaches with, though I’ve tried Soundtrap as well and would recommend the platform for students who are ready for more advanced editing options, including changing the pitch and sound of one’s voice, creating loops, creating original tracks and music, and trimming/editing everything on a more professional level.
Here’s a brief tutorial I’ve created to walk you through publication via Anchor.fm. You can even have students create a professional podcast cover using Canva!
Teaching Podcast Recording Tips
I’m a fan of letting students experiment and learn through doing, so I have them create Anchor.fm accounts as soon as the first week of our podcast unit. Aside from just hitting record, here are a few tried and true tips for student podcasters.
- Use a microphone. A solid entry-level microphone I’d recommend is the Samsung Q2U as it can plug into any USB.
- Record in a small space (no echoes) and away from people.
- Don’t wait until the last minute. Make sure you take the time to test everything to ensure the proper working order and vocal quality.
- Have a script so that you’ll sound more professional. Even if you ad-lib during the recording, it’s helpful to have a plan and think through what you want to say.
- Record in small segments, and then splice the segments together.
- Keep a bit of distance between your mouth and the microphone so that the mic won’t pick up the sound of your breathing.
- Speak confidently, not too loud or too soft.
- Hit the pause button if you need to stop recording, take a breather, etc. This is better than “dead air” time.
Podcasting Teaching Materials
I’m looking forward to beginning another round of student podcasting projects soon with my standard-level sophomores.
Click here to grab the podcasting resources I use in my classroom to help students succeed.