5 Winning Reasons to Start Teaching With Podcasts

Using podcasts in the classroom

If you’re like me, and you’re tired of repeating yourself 2,124 times a day, try teaching with podcasts! They’re a new and engaging way to teach active listening skills, as well as evidence-based writing and creative writing. In this blog post, we’ll give you some tips on how and why to teach using podcasts in the classroom.

Podcasts are a great way to engage students of all ages. And best of all, there are so many different types of podcasts out there that there’s sure to be one (or more!) that will fit your lesson plans.

Here are 5 benefits of using podcasts in the classroom:

1. Practice active listening skills

Did you know that the average person hears 20-30,000 words a day? It’s probably even more for kids listening in school all day!

Picture 7th grader Robbie, sitting in his last class after a long day. The teacher has announced a test for Friday. Words about Friday’s test make a robust start at Robbie’s ear and valiantly attempt to travel to his brain…

Boom! The connection gets blocked by a random question swirling around Robbie’s brain: Where did Captain America grow up…

Robbie then shifts his focus and attempts to re-engage in the classroom. He turns a blank, zombie stare toward his teacher, raises his zombie hand, and asks a Zombie Robbie question: When is the test?

Like most of our students, Robbie needs some practice focusing and listening. Podcasts can help. Especially podcasts that include activities to help train that connection by requiring active listening, rather than passive hearing and daydreaming.

The easiest way to help kids acquire that skill is to have them listen to an interesting podcast and then answer questions about it. They key is to keep it interesting, and I have some ideas to help.

You can start by giving kids quick questions to answer while they’re listening to the podcast, and then give them longer short response questions to answer at the end.

use hidden pictures with podcasts

I like to start with Google Sheets multiple-choice questions that reveal hidden pictures, like the one above. The hidden picture allows kids to self-check their work because the image won’t display unless they have the correct answer. The quick win of being able to see the mystery picture also presents another level of interest.

2. Answer evidence-based writing prompts

Have students listen to a podcast and then write a response to it. Prompts can be about the content of the podcast, the emotions it elicited, the structure, sensory details, or anything else that you want students to focus on.

This is a great way to get students to think critically about what they’ve heard. And they can “rewind” to find information, just like going back to a written text to locate evidence.

I love to do an urban legends unit. We start by listening to a podcast about the origin and appeal of an urban legend creature called Sirenhead. Have you heard of him? I hadn’t but my students sure know him! Apparently, he’s huge and skeletal and has two sirens instead of a head. Sounds like a lovely guy. lol

The interesting thing about Sirenhead is that he was clearly created by an illustrator who only wrote a single paragraph about him. It’s the fans who took over and created the mythology behind the fictional character, spreading the stories on social media! Cool, right?

Students can write using evidence from the podcast

3. Jumpstart creative writing

Use a podcast as a jumping-off point for creative writing. Have students listen to a podcast and then write a story based on the content of the podcast. This is a great way to get students thinking creatively!

As a creative writing task for our urban legends podcast, I give students the option of creating an original urban legend origin story or another story about Sirenhead. Kids love creative writing so much, and they aren’t given many opportunities to do it, so this is a great complement to our urban legend activities.

4. Harness kids’ natural curiosity

Podcasts are also just a fun and engaging way for students to learn. You can use them as an introduction or conclusion to a specific unit of study.

For example, this year I’m using a fascinating podcast about Mary Shelley to introduce our science fiction unit. I’m hoping that the story of how Shelley created Frankenstein will generate interest and enthusiasm for the rest of the unit.

If you choose an informative podcast, you can have students write down questions that they still have about the topic so that you can discuss those as a class. Or the kids can even research the answers themselves!

5. Quick assignments in a pinch

The last reason you should be teaching with podcasts is that it provides a benefit for you! Podcast lessons are perfect to use when you need a quick assignment for any reason.

They’re awesome assignments to leave with a substitute. All the sub has to do is monitor the class while they work independently.

Or maybe you’ll choose to assign a podcast lesson on a day when a stack of essays is staring you in the face, taunting you.

Here’s a hard truth that we all have to learn. It’s perfectly acceptable to give kids something to do that does NOT require your attention. You CAN grade papers while your students are busy doing something worthwhile.

This is not to be confused with the dreaded “busy work.” Busy work is when kids are doing something mindless and uninspiring. We can’t call an assignment mindless when students are legit honing their active listening and writing skills.

The fact that you get to get some work done is an added bonus!

Additional times to try teaching with podcasts:

  • The day before a break when kids are… squirrely
  • When a reward is in order
  • In place of a classroom party
  • Fun Fridays
  • To introduce or end a unit
  • When you are between units
  • On half days of school
  • At the end of the year
  • When Halloween or Valentine’s Day fall on a school day
  • When you’ve lost your voice! (Is that something that just happens to me?)

Podcasts are a great tool for educators who are looking for new and engaging ways to teach active listening skills, evidence-based writing, and even creative writing!

So try making use of podcasts in the classroom! You’ll find them easy to use and your students will love them!

BTW, it’s Brooklyn, Robbie. Captain America is from Brooklyn.

I learned that from this podcast: All Day with Ellie.😉

CLICK HERE to check out some ready-to-go podcast lessons!