I am a podcast superfan – this might not come as a huge surprise to you since I host my own podcast – but it’s true.
I love podcasts.
My love for podcasts started out when I discovered it as a professional development tool. I started by listening to podcasters in my industry (other educators, teachers, and edtech coaches).
More recently, my love for podcasts has extended beyond using it for PD.
I listen to podcasts as a news source.
I listen to podcasts from lifestyle bloggers and other millennial women and entrepreneurs.
I listen to podcasts for entertainment, too.
And of course, I might listen to a true crime podcast every now and then.
I know I’m not alone in this. We are currently experiencing a podcasting boom. Podcasts are everywhere! Have you started listening yet?
Benefits of Podcasts in the Classroom
As podcasts have become increasingly more popular throughout the years, there has also been a rise in the number of podcasts produced for kids.
No matter what grade level or subject you teach, you can use podcasts in your classroom. Some of the learning benefits of podcasts include:
- Building Listening Skills: This benefit might be the most obvious, but it’s critical. Students can build and develop their listening skills by listening to podcasts.
- Developing Agency: When listening to a podcast, students can develop agency. For example, a student might have the ability to choose an episode to listen to. Or, a student might pause the episode along the way to learn at their own pace. Agency is key, and sharing podcasts with students can help lead to the development of agency.
- Increasing Student Engagement: Many students are captivated by podcasts. Storytelling is powerful, and this medium really lends itself to high-quality storytelling. When listening to podcasts, many students are engaged. They’re interested. And they are eager to share their learning with others.
Strategies for Using Podcasts in the Classroom
Now that we’ve evaluated some of the benefits of using podcasts in the classroom, we can discuss strategies for actually implementing podcasts into your teaching and your classroom.
Whole Class Listening
I have found that many teachers (regardless of grade level) start off using podcasts in their classrooms by doing whole class listening. What this means is that the entire class listens to the same podcast together and at the same time.
Whole class listening encourages discussion. After listening to the episode, the entire class can engage in a discussion about the episode, facilitated by the teacher.
If you teach elementary-age students, I recommend starting off with whole class listening. In doing so, you, as the teacher, will be able to model what active listening looks like for your students. Think of whole class listening similar to an in-class read aloud.
If you teach older students, you might benefit from whole class listening if you are wanting to really facilitate the conversation. You might occasionally pause the episode to ask questions, clarify certain points, or even give students an opportunity to write down key facts.
Consider giving students a transcript of the episode (most podcasts share a transcript in the show notes) to increase accessibility.
While whole class listening can create an environment that is filled with rich and in-depth discussion, I am also partial to the independent listening model.
In the independent listening model, you can either (1) give students the same episode to listen to, or (2) give students choice around selecting a show/episode. Option 1 seems to work best with older students, whereas option 2 appeals to all age groups.
For Option 1 (giving students the same episode to listen to), you might be wondering: how is this any different from whole class listening?
With Option 1, I recommend trying out a flipped classroom model. In a flipped classroom model, teachers can assign the podcast episode for homework, and students can listen on their own time. Then, during class, students can engage in a discussion about the episode they listened to.
With Option 2, there is student choice involved (you all know I love student choice!). One strategy for incorporating choice is to give students 3-4 options to choose from.
For example, you might want students to learn about space and the solar system, so you might share three different episodes: one about the Mars rover, one about stars, and another about Saturn’s rings. Students can select the episode that sounds the most interesting to them.
You could also make independent listening even more open-ended by asking students to listen to any episode of a specific show.
The amount of choice you give students really depends on your class needs. You know your students best!
Finding and Sharing Podcasts with Students
Most people tend to listen to podcasts on a smartphone, in their cars, on a tablet, and even on a computer. If your students have access to a tablet or iPad, using a podcast app might be your best bet.
The most popular podcast apps and websites for adults are probably Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. As an iPhone user, I’m a big fan of Apple Podcasts, but if your students use Chromebooks, you might want to consider using Google Podcasts. It’s up to you!
You can share direct links to podcast episodes with students through your Learning Management System (LMS), Google Classroom, Seesaw, or pretty much any tool you use to distribute assignments. You can even create a QR code for each episode/show and print it out for students to scan!
To find podcasts, consider using a tool like Listenwise, or you can even use the search feature within the podcast apps and websites.
Recommended Podcasts for Kids
You can find and share podcasts using the strategies in the previous section. But if you’re looking for some recommendations, I have plenty!
- Tumble: “Tumble is a science podcast for kids, to be enjoyed by the entire family. We tell stories about science discoveries, with the help of scientists! Join Lindsay and Marshall as they ask questions, share mysteries, and share what science is all about” (Best for ages 6-12, but appropriate for all ages). Learn more here.
- Six Minutes: “Eleven-year-old Holiday is pulled from the icy waters of Alaska with no memory of who she is or where she came from. Are her mom and dad really who they say they are? And when she begins to develop incredible abilities, she’ll soon discover she’s not alone in the world” (Best for ages 9 and up). Learn more here.
- Book Club for Kids: “Book Club for Kids is a free, 20-minute podcast devoted to middle grade books and readers. Each show features a trio of students discussing a favorite book, an interview with the author, and a celebrity reading” (Best for ages 9-14, but appropriate for all ages). Learn more here.
- Shabam! Show: “Shabam! is a new type of science show that blends fictional stories with real science. If you love science but hate those awkward scientist interviews that involve graphs and confusing metaphors, you’re in luck” (Best for ages 8-18). Learn more here.
- But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids: “But Why is a show led by you, kids! You ask the questions and we find the answers. It’s a big interesting world out there.On But Why, we tackle topics large and small, about nature, words, even the end of the world” (Best for ages 5-10). Learn more here.
- Stuff You Should Know: “If you’ve ever wanted to know about champagne, satanism, the Stonewall Uprising, chaos theory, LSD, El Nino, true crime and Rosa Parks, then look no further. Josh and Chuck have you covered” (Best for ages 12+). Learn more here.
If you are looking for even more suggestions, I’ve also heard great things about: Short + Curly, The Show About Science, Brains On!, Classics for Kids, Ear Snacks, The Past and Curious, Story Time, Stories Podcast, and The Alien Adventures of Finn and Caspian. As always, do your research before playing any of these shows for your students!
Thank you for reading! Have you tried using podcasts in your classroom? If so, how did it go? I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me on Instagram @edtechclass.