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Education Trends, Teaching Tips & Tricks, Podcast Articles, Sponsors & Supporters   |   Mar 21, 2021

How to use podcasts in the classroom as a tool for equity and differentiation (with Listenwise)

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

How to use podcasts in the classroom as a tool for equity and differentiation (with Listenwise)

By Angela Watson

Audio is a powerful tool for equity and differentiation, because most kids have a much higher listening comprehension level than reading comprehension.

You can bring authentic stories and primary sources to your students via audio, helping to build empathy and personalize information that might be difficult to connect with through just words on a page.

Not only are podcasts a great way to build students’ content-area knowledge, but audio instruction also helps strengthen their listening comprehension skills.

If you love podcasts yourself and are curious about how to use them more with students, you’ll find some great practical strategies and tools here in this interview I did with Monica Brady-Myerov.

Monica shares examples of how teachers are incorporating podcasts into their instruction. She also explains the features of Listenwise which make it faster and easier for teachers to find high-quality audio content to use with students. There’s a free version of Listenwise available, and you can sign up for a free 30 day trial of the premium version here.

“Better listeners are better learners,” says my guest Monica Brady-Myerov. She’s the Founder and CEO of Listenwise, an award-winning listening skills platform and the sponsor for this episode.  Monica is also the author of a new book for K-12 teachers called Listen Wise: Teach Students to be Better Listeners (available in April 2021 through Jossey-Bass.) Before starting Listenwise, Monica was award-winning public radio reporter for nearly 25 years, covering news in Kenya, Brazil, Washington DC and Boston for NPR and other audio news outlets.

Monica explains that some of the brain research that tells us how we process audio information and the benefits of it. By the end of the conversation, my mind was racing with possibilities and ideas of how the things Monica taught me could be used with students … and I hope you’ll feel the same!

Check out the highlights below, or scroll down for the full transcript.

Recap and Big Ideas

  • The benefits of using audio/podcasts with students:
    Listening comprehension and reading comprehension are correlated so listening to podcasts as a classroom activity can be a more engaging strategy in helping boost a student’s reading skills. Moreover, podcasts can also help English language learners learn authentically-spoken English and academic language.
  • Audio content as a tool for equity and differentiated instruction:
    Because listening is an essential part of learning a new language, podcasts with interactive transcripts, or read-along transcripts, can support students that are struggling to read or learn English.
  • Using audio to build empathy via authentic stories and primary sources:
    The human voice is so powerful and to hear it is completely different from reading something, so it evokes empathy more strongly. Like discussed in episode 218, empathy allows students to examine the credibility of a news source, as well as their own. Podcasts based on non-fiction, factual reports from credible news sources can also help build students’ critical thinking skills.
  • How real teachers are incorporating audio into instruction:
    One ELA teacher uses Listenwise’s ELA collection to make book assignments more engaging — listening to the interviews with authors can help students relate better with the content of the book they are reading. Meanwhile, another educator, an ELL teacher, uses Listenwise’s Weird News, which is essentially a 30-second podcast, and finds it useful for language learners who are building their vocabulary.
  • How listening expands creativity and creates “movies in our minds”:
    A mind that wanders while listening to a podcast is not necessarily a bad thing. This simply means that your thoughts are flowing with what you’re listening to. Moreover, listening to a story is akin to having a real full-body experience. As you listen, the mind creates a “movie” drawing on your background knowledge so it creates its own but similar version of the story and that’s very powerful for engagement and comprehension.
  • Getting students away from screens and moving while listening to audio:
    Listening to podcasts can be a great way to get kids away from screens and actually start moving. Pre-COVID, kids could walk together in pairs while listening. In an online classroom setting, the class can listen together as a whole then students can go in pairs into a breakout room to discuss.
  • How to reduce prep time when preparing to use audio content with students:
    Listenwise’s podcasts for the classroom comes with quizzes and question guides to keep preparation time to a minimum. Moreover, each audio content comes with a Lexile audio measure so teachers can immediately gauge if a particular podcast is right for the reading levels of the students in her class.

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The benefits of using audio/podcasts with students

ANGELA: This is going to be a great conversation because I don’t think you have to sell anyone who’s listening to this on the value of podcasts. We are already a huge fan of the medium, but I think a lot of listeners have never used podcasts with their students or else they’ve only tried it out once or twice because the preparation can be really time-consuming if you don’t have access to good resources.

So can you tell us what’s the value of podcasts in the classroom? What are some of the benefits of using them and other audio content with students?

MONICA: There are so many benefits. The bottom line is that they can help with students’ learning overall, but it starts really with reading and the connection between listening comprehension and reading comprehension. There are many studies that show they are correlated so that a student’s listening comprehension far outpaces their reading comprehension until at least the eighth grade.

So there is so much opportunity in the lower grades to help students learn to become more proficient readers, improve their comprehension, hear words spoken, look at the vocabulary and meaning and spelling of words if you’re reading and listening at the same time. So for the earlier grades, and really all through K-12, because as we know so many students struggle with reading well beyond fourth grade and well beyond the eighth grade as the scores show.

Adding listening to your curriculum is something you should be thinking about doing in K-12, to be honest. As I said, it’s going to help with reading and reading comprehension. It’s going to help with engagement because as your listeners know, podcasts can be really engaging.

So getting a story about a piece of content that you’ve got to teach on let’s say, World War I; It’s kind of dry, so how do you introduce it? How do you engage them? Well, Listenwise has a collection of stories that are chosen for the classroom. They’re all three to five minutes in length and they are the ones selected to be the most engaging on the topic.

If you’re trying to start a unit on World War I, it’d be really cool to start with a podcast that takes a modern-day visit to the street corner in Sarajevo where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot and the start of World War I happened. That’s what audio can do.

There are other things, too, with your special populations, which we’ll talk about in a little bit. But I just think overall, the benefits of using audio, there’s so many. I know we have some time today to talk about all of them, but I’m really excited about the connection between listening and reading, engaging in content, and also for English language learners and how it can be key to helping language learners learn authentically-spoken English and academic language.

Audio can be a tool for equity and differentiated instruction

Yeah, let’s definitely do a deeper dive into that. I’m curious how this can benefit neurodivergent students, ELLs, and other students who may benefit from more differentiated instruction. What kinds of things have teachers done to differentiate using audio content and podcasts?

Well, the way I look at it, Angela, is that listening is an equalizer and that’s what we all want for our students, to have an equal education. When we’re all listening to the same thing, we’re all getting that equal opportunity to get the meaning of the content, the language, the spelling, everything that comes with that.

When you’re thinking about students who need extra support, what Listenwise does is provide that scaffolding so that everyone can hear the same story. For those students who need extra support because they’re struggling readers or they’re English language learners, you can add things such as the interactive transcripts. So this transcript goes along — it’s like a real-along transcript for the audio and each word lights up in blue as you hear it authentically spoken. That’s an amazing support for our struggling readers and English learners. In addition, you can slow down the audio by 20% and the transcript stays synchronized with the audio.

Those are just a couple of supports that really help you meet the needs of all students. What’s neat about the Listenwise platform is that when you make an assignment for your individual students and you’re making this differentiation, it goes directly to the student, not other students know who’s getting what kinds of support. But what everybody knows is they’re all hearing the same audio.

So unlike in text differentiation — when the words are actually changing and you’re changing the sentence structure, you’re changing the vocabulary — in the Listenwise platform, when you’re adding these scaffolds, you’re not changing that core piece of audio. You’re providing the right supports for the students so that they can access it.

For English learners, what’s amazing is that, obviously, you can’t learn to speak another language without listening. It’s the first thing you do when you’re learning a new language. To be able to hear words authentically spoken, to see how they’re spelled, to hear people of different accents and locations speaking these words has been so important for our English language learners, especially in remote learning, because we know many of our ELLs are hearing less English during remote and hybrid learning. So giving them an opportunity to really just listen to a real world, public radio or podcast story is important.

I should say that, too, because all of our collection is authentic. These aren’t stories created for the classroom. These are podcasts created for you and I, either maybe you’ve heard the story on NPR, or you listened to the podcast with your kids at home. These are stories that we do at curation of them so that you can easily find them on our website. We select the stories that are related to the curriculum you’re teaching, the standards you’re covering and then we add all this differentiation and supports so that you can easily assign it online and use it with the class.

Use audio to build empathy via authentic stories and primary sources

That’s one of the things that I’ve really liked a lot about Listenwise is that as you’re saying these are authentic stories, a lot of them you’re bringing in the primary sources so students can hear the actual audio of different things that have happened. That is so powerful when we think about helping kids develop critical thinking skills and understanding current events.

Absolutely. It’s something I value highly because as a reporter for 20 years, I just love telling stories and hearing someone’s voice helps to build connections with them. There are studies that show that listening builds empathy, too. You’re hearing another human, you’re connecting with them and that’s a very powerful thing you want to build in your classroom. Then using these authentic stories builds an understanding of world events. So all the stories on Listenwise are non-fiction, factual reports from credible news sources. So kids are hearing about the world firsthand from those involved.

As I said, we curate for them, so we’re always looking for great stories about teens, how teens are affected, things that they’ll also feel more of a connection with to build their interest. As you note, podcasts can really help build your critical thinking skills because you’ll be listening to reports about events, either historic or scientific discovery, the latest rocks from Mars, or the history of impeachment, let’s say, because that’s been in the news.

Being able to critically think about these stories is something that Listenwise sets up really well because after the class listens to the three to five minute story, we provide a list of listening discussion questions and listening comprehension questions, and we build them on Bloom’s Taxonomy so we can help students really touch all the important points of learning from just detailed recall to inferencing and being able to critically think about what they’ve just heard in the reports.

Another way we do that that I think is really fun, and one of the most popular features, is on Fridays, we have a debate story. So every day, we have current events on the platform that we’re adding new every single school day. On Fridays, we focus on a story that allows for a good conversation or mostly we promote conversational debate after listening to one of these stories. That’s a great way to hone your students’ critical thinking skills.

I love what you said about how this builds empathy and it makes a bigger connection to the text. I hadn’t really thought about that, but that’s one of the things I really love about podcasts is I feel like it just makes things so much more personal than just reading words on the page and how powerful that must be for students, especially students who struggle to read to be able to access that level of connection.

That’s a word that particularly spoke to me, given all of the challenges that we’re going through right now and how disconnected and lonely and isolated so many of our students are feeling just due to the pandemic. What a powerful way to connect them with humans in the curriculum, rather than just reading the words on a page.

Absolutely. The human voice is so powerful and to hear it is completely different than reading it. Even though there are other audio sources like the audio books or other tools that have audio of the print, it’s different, right?

It’s different when somebody is reading a text that was written for reading or is a computer voice, for sure, reading from the page to say, “Oh, well you have audio in this program because you can click this button and a computer will read it to you.” It’s completely different than what we bring to the table, which is that authenticity, that connection.

Being able to hear somebody in a story with the emotion of their voice and the way they say it and the pace at which they say it is so much more engaging and brings that human connection. So we think that that’s really powerful and especially at a time when kids are feeling so disconnected.

How teachers are incorporating audio into instruction

Can you tell us about some examples about how teachers have used Listenwise podcasts with their students, or Listenwise audio? I’m wanting to hear more about what this actually looks like in practice, so how and when are kids learning with podcasts? How much time does it take and so on?

Yeah, absolutely. I’ll give you two examples. One, from general education classroom and one from a teacher focused on helping English learners. So let’s say you’re a seventh-grade teacher teaching ELA and you’re about to assign the book, The Giver. You’re thinking, “Well, 70% of our content needs to be non-fiction. This is a fiction. How can I bring in some nonfiction?”

Then you see on Listenwise, you search The Giver and you find, “Wow, we’ve got a really cool interview with Lois Lowry. So that would be a great way to start off this unit to help my students understand why she wrote The Giver and what she hoped to accomplish with it and some of the interesting thoughts that went into it before you even start to read it.”

So you might assign that as a homework assignment online entirely to listen to the four-minute story and answer the listening discussion questions online before coming into class and getting ready to discuss what you learned about the author and then maybe even have some thinking about what that means you think The Giver will be about. What will the book be like? What are you thinking what the book might be about?

It’s really wonderful to hear it too and it gets kids excited about it, right? We have a lot of books in our ELA collection and a lot of authors talking about their motivation for writing and you don’t hear that that often, right?

Often you just get assigned the book, “Read the book. We’re going to talk about the book.” Then the kids are thinking, “The book doesn’t relate to my life. Why does this matter?” But in reality, you hear Lois Lowry talk about her father having dementia and you realize, “Whoa. This came from her real experiences. Maybe those students have some experiences that are similar to that with their grandparents.” So that’s one example of a gen-ed classroom. Now for English learners, one of our teachers out in Tahoe Truckee, California, told me just a great story of a scaffolded retell she does.

So in Listenwise, in our Current Events, we have something called Weird News and these have become the most popular segments. They’re only 30 seconds. They’re always about something strange like an alligator ended up in somebody’s pool in Florida or a local coyote was stealing shoes. It’s kind of the stories I sort of think of them as social media stories. But what’s great about them on our platform is that they are filled with really high-level academic vocabulary, but they’re highly engaging so that you can hear a story about a panda escaped and hear the word culprit, which is a very high-level word, but you’ll be able to teach it in context.

So what this EL teacher does is play the story once just for the gist and has students to say, “Did you understand what that story was about? Tell me the main points of the story.” Then they listen again and this time, they’re taking detailed notes because the third time, they are going to retell the story and it’s such a great way to do it. I think she gives them another option to just listen again, third time on their own.

The story’s only 30 seconds. It’s fun. It’s interesting. They don’t mind listening three times and then the students get to actually speak and in their own words, tell what happened in the story. So that’s a really great focused language approach to using Listenwise to not only hone your listening skills, but to work on your conversation and speaking skills.

That’s a really great tie-in, and I love the idea of a 30-second podcast, talk about bite-size, perfect for a short child attention span.

Creating “movies in our minds” and expanding creativity with audio

I know that Listenwise is designed to have that transcript where each word lights up as it’s being read and students can follow along and that can help keep them focused when they’re listening to audio. But I actually want to talk a little bit about the way that our brains process audio and how that’s different from the way that we process written text because one thing that I hear a lot from teachers is they’re like, “I like to listen to audiobooks,” or, “I like to listen to podcasts,” or, “I have courses that have an audio component to it.”

Teachers are like, “I like it, but I find that my mind wanders and I feel like I’m missing things.” For me, I feel like when my mind wanders, when I listen to audio, I feel like that’s a feature and not a bug. I feel like audio opens my brain up to think about things in new ways. So I’ll often be listening and I’ll realize that my mind is drifting and I’ll just pause and finish out that whole line of creative thought, wherever it was that my brain went, maybe rewind a little bit, go back.

I love to listen to podcasts when I’m walking or moving. I feel like I process the information so much better. Have you noticed any of that in your work with students in audio content?

Absolutely. You’ve hit on some really great points. First is, what’s going on in your brain when you’re listening? I’ve recently done a new review of all the research because I wrote a book called Listen Wise: Teach Students to be Better Listeners. It’s being published in April by Wiley and there’s a whole chapter on the neuroscience of listening. I just love it. There are so many ways to dive deep into listening and the book is meant for K-12 teachers to really help you teach your students to be better listeners.

In this chapter on the neuroscience of it, it goes into the fact that your brain is creating a movie in your mind as you listen. If you are hearing a story about a chef cooking up a delicious meal and they chop the garlic and they throw it in the hot oil and it’s popping and sizzling, your olfactory parts of your brain are turning on. They want to taste it. FMRI imaging shows that. Also, if you’re hearing a story about somebody throwing a ball, like a pitcher is throwing a ball to the batter and you’re the catcher and you’re being put in those shoes, you are also sending signals to your hands to catch the ball. You are having a real full-body experience.

So listening is akin, in some way, to actually being in the scene. I think that’s why you say, “Oh, my mind is wandering,” because you’re in the scene. You’re wandering with it. You’re being a part of it. That is so powerful when it comes to teaching and learning because there’s nothing we want more than to have your students feel a part of what they’re learning draw on their own background knowledge to understand it and that helps with comprehension and retention.

Because if I tell you, “Oh, a researcher went into the forest and it was green and dark and thick and hot and this,” and I’m reading that, it’s different than if you hear it and you’re hearing the crunch of the underbrush and the buzz of the mosquitoes. Then I’m making a picture in my mind of the forest and you’re making a picture in your mind, drawing on your background knowledge and we’ve created our own different, but similar, movies with the same sound and that’s very powerful for engagement and comprehension.

So I think that that’s something that a lot of teachers might overlook in terms of how audio and especially highly-produced, good, quality audio, like on Listenwise, can help engage their students into a scene.

The other thing I’ll say is, I have many favorite stories on Listenwise, but one of them is about what it’s like to be a refugee. The reporter takes you through a simulation of a refugee having to leave home quickly and grab five items and then they’re told, “Put back two,” and the people in the story are experiencing it, which means we’re experiencing it. Kids who listen to that just come away feeling very uncomfortable and they’re feeling the same emotions as the people in the story because of this whole neuroscience that goes on when you’re listening.

In terms of keeping on track, as you say, your mind can wander. I know kids, the students, their minds wander. That’s okay. Listenwise has a solution for that too. We do have graphic organizers where you can track the phrases as you hear them. We have t-charts you can print out or do online. There are a lot of metacognitive strategies that can be employed to keep students focused as they’re listening. So it’s okay to have that movie going in your mind and to wander a little bit, but it’s also good to have these structured graphic organizers to make sure you’re brought back and on task.

Getting students away from screens and moving while listening to audio

That makes total sense. I can see for some assignments, students need to be sitting and focused and the graphic organizer would be helpful. Then other times, it would be really useful, like the refugee example you gave, to really just get lost in that experience for a few minutes.

What would you say about the movement piece? Do you feel like a lot of people like to walk or move when they’re listening to audio content?

Well, I know as adults we do and what’s cool about audio is that you can be doing something else. How many other things can you be doing while doing something else? So audio is very freeing in that way, unlike any other medium, so that’s an important part of it. Actually, I do know there are some gym teachers who were using us and some teachers who, they don’t let their students move around, but they turn off the lights and they say, “Close your eyes. Just listen. Explore in your mind.”

The movement piece is something, I think, that’s important in terms of allowing kids to get away from their computers, especially right now, to think that listening is something that you don’t have to do while looking at the screen, that you could put on your earbuds and go home with because we can be accessed on any cell phone, any laptop.

So I do know teachers assign it as homework and some kids are listening to it on the way home from school or they’re doing something else while they’re listening. That’s great — it’s really less stressful on your eyes and your typing and your computer time to be able to listen to something.

Yes. I really like that idea, too, of turning off the lights in the classroom when you’re doing face-to-face instruction and letting kids just feel an experience and immerse themselves in it. That’s such a nice break from, as you were saying, staring at screens, looking at a piece of paper. It’s taxing to be constantly tracking the speaker and staying focused and making eye contact, so I’ve really liked that.

I’ve also heard of some teachers who, if they have enough devices for this, for students to listen to audio, to go for walks, to do laps around the outside of the school or the track or the playground or something while they’re listening to some audio content and then discussing it with a partner.

So you’re walking side-by-side with a partner. This is, obviously, a pre-COVID example. You’d have to think about how to make that work now and keep it safe for kids. But I love the idea of the kids pairing up, listening to the same audio, as you said. That’s the great thing here is that regardless of kids reading ability levels, they can access the same story, walk around, get that movement, get that fresh air, let the mind breathe a little bit, have that space, and then you spend the second half of that walk, or the second lap around, discussing it with your partner. I thought that was so cool. I would have loved that as a student.

Oh, I would have too. That would be awesome. I have heard of teachers even in online learning now doing similar — listening together online and then pairing off in a break room to discuss what they just heard. That isn’t moving around as much and I get what you mean.

I love the fact that audio is the only thing you can do while doing something else and we listen more than we do anything. We listen more than we read. We listen more than we write, but I think people just take it for granted that, “Well, of course. We’re listening. We don’t need to focus on our listening skills or we don’t need to listen for a purpose.”

Certainly, in K-12 classrooms, it’s a really under-taught skill. I think teachers assume that a student comes to class and they know how to listen, but they need to learn how to do math and read and yet, and then the skill of listening, which can be taught and can be improved and to great outcome because better listeners are better learners, better listeners are better readers. They’re missing a big opportunity with their students to engage them in using this overlooked skill.

How to reduce prep time when preparing to use audio content with students

Yes. So I am so excited right now about using audio content with students and I have a feeling everybody listening to this is really excited too.

So I want to circle back to something that I brought up at the beginning that I feel like is a big barrier and that is all of the prep work for teachers that goes into. First of all, you need to pre- listen to the podcast; you need to, depending on the source, maybe you don’t, if you trust the source, but you probably need to vet it for appropriateness and that sort of thing; you need to develop a lesson plan; you’ve got to figure out how are you going to assess students’ learning, all that kind of stuff.

That’s really time-consuming, especially if it’s not something that a lot of your colleagues are doing, you don’t have a lot of resources and support for it. So can you tell us about some of the features that Listenwise has that saves teachers time and helps create this more meaningful experience that you’ve been talking about when kids are listening to audio content?

Angela, you touched on all the reasons why I started Listenwise because as I said, I used to be a public radio reporter. When my daughter was in third grade, she was a struggling reader. I was going into her classroom frequently to help figure out when she was getting assistance from a reading specialist.

I talked to her teacher, but the one thing I noticed was that everything she heard on NPR, she could understand at a very high level. Yet, I knew if I gave her the transcript, she wouldn’t be able to read it. So I went to her teacher and said, “Why aren’t you using public radio more in the classroom? These podcasts and stories are what you’re teaching. Can I bring a few in and see how your students respond to them?” But her answer to me was exactly what you just laid out.

It takes so long to find the right story. You have to screen it. Then you need to write all the questions around it. How are you going to assess whether the students understood it? There’s so much more that goes into just finding that right story and using it in the classroom.

I know thousands of teachers, and I’m sure many of you listening have heard that story on NPR and written it down and brought it into your classroom and you’ve done it. I want you to keep doing it. That’s fantastic, but the reality is it’s so time-consuming and the moment is fleeting when you hear that perfect story on your drive home from work to then getting it into your classroom. So Listenwise does all that work for you. So some of the features that save teachers time, in addition, just to the curation is that we create this bank of questions for listening comprehension and reading discussion questions based on Bloom’s.

We create a quiz, an online, multiple-choice, auto-scored quiz. This is our favorite feature, as you can imagine. It’s so easy with one click to assign the quiz and what that does is it assesses students on five key listening skills: Did they understand the main point? Can they get out a literal meaning? A detailed recall, inferencing, and a vocabulary word in context?

We do actually assess eight, but in most of our stories, we keep it focused on four or five key listening skills. They may sound familiar to you because it’s very similar to reading, but assessing your reading and assessing your listening are super different. What we’ve done is we started partnering with MetaMetrics, the makers of the Lexile Level, a couple of years ago to build the first attempt at really truly assessing listening.

Because honestly, I was surprised that there was no way to assess a person’s listening skills, nor was there a way to say, “This story is harder to listen to than that story,” right? Teachers were asking us that. They were like, “Well, we need lower level listening for our early elementary or for our English learners.” We would say, “Well, there’s not a measure for that.”

Well, we’re so thrilled that last year, we were the first to use the Lexile audio measure, which is MetaMetrics’ new measure of audio. So they’re applying a scientific measure to each audio story on our platform and it gives you a number. It says, “This story is this Lexile audio measure,” just as you would see a written text and could apply a Lexile text measure. So we’re finally getting more of the science that’s been missing into the listening so that we can understand what makes a story more difficult to listen to than another.

Not surprisingly, there are similar features to those in a print story. It’s grammar, it’s syntax, but it’s also the rate of speech, the amount of pausing, things like that. It’s really fascinating. So all of our audio, every single piece of audio, has a Lexile audio measure on it now. You can look at that and see in the grade range, what are the numbers that are good for your student’s grade range?

The next step in this process that we’re starting to gather data on and think deeply about is the student measure. So now where are my students on the scale? Lexile has put these audio measures on the same scale as the tech scale, so that when we do create this measure of a student’s listening abilities, we’ll be able to start comparing them to their reading abilities.

Then getting back to that research I shared at the beginning of our talk about how listening comprehension and reading comprehension are tied and tied together and that up until the eighth grade, listening outpaces reading, you’re going to be able to see with your students, if you’re using Listenwise and these Lexile measures where your students’ strengths lie and how you can help them improve reading, let’s say, by giving them this level of listening.

So that was a little divergent on all the features we have, but I just wanted to get into that because it’s so key to all the ways we make it easier, I guess, to have a teacher use Listenwise. They can go on, they can look at our chart and say, “Well, I’m teaching fourth graders and this is the Lexile level range. I’m going to put into our advanced search bar, the word ‘adaptation,’ because I need to teach this scientific concept, and I’m going to get a bank of stories ready to go.

In those stories, I’m able to assign a listening comprehension quiz, that’ll be automatically scored. I can make a written assignment that helps apply those listening comprehension questions online, and be sent back to me.

There are also graphic organizers and we also have a tab that gives very specific instructions about what a teacher should do before, during and after the listening. Then another thing we added was paired text, because listening and reading, they’re so tied and teachers kept saying, “Well, it’d be great if we also had a text to read about the same subject and then students can be asked to take information from both and synthesize it or compare viewpoints.” So we’ve added those as well.

Oh, that’s cool. Well, every time you share a new feature, I’m like, “Oh, that’s cool. Oh, wait. No, that’s even better.” You have really thought of everything I hadn’t even thought about, essentially — Lexile levels for audio content and all the different factors that go into that. That is so interesting.

Yeah. We’re thrilled to have worked with MetaMetrics to put this together because since we started Listenwise, everyone says, “Well, how hard is the story? Is this hard to listen to or easy to listen to?”

How to get started with Listenwise resources

Talk to us about the difference between the free and the paid versions of Listenwise. I’m assuming that most teachers want to check this out before they try to get funding for it. So can you talk about what’s possible with the free version and then how do you recommend teachers get started with Listenwise?

So any teacher can sign up or any parent can sign up for free for Listenwise and you’ll always have a free account to Listenwise. That will give you access to all of our current events stories and we have more than a thousand current events and we’re adding them every single day.

So with those stories, you’ll also get the bank of listening comprehension questions and discussion questions. You’ll even get a link so you could easily share it with the classroom. So we really want to enable teachers who may not have the funding to buy the full platform, but they can still use audio. Because, for me, and for Listenwise, it’s a passion about audio and getting the students listening, improving their listening comprehension skills, and getting this great content in the classroom, so free can help you do a lot of that.

The premium version of Listenwise is a paid subscription for schools or districts and it allows for the whole platform that’s required to really, truly implement Listenwise in your classroom. You roster students in your class. You can create these differentiated assignments. You assign the listening comprehension quizzes. It also gives you a lot of the support features, the scaffolding features, such as the interactive transcript, the Lexile audio measures. These are all things that we’ve added that are a part of the premium subscription. So if you think about it, every single state, I must say, has its speaking and listening standards.

So I know every state has its standard about it and if you’re trying to meet the standards, you can do that using Listenwise premium. Then if you’re in one of the 22 states that tests listening, because 22 states have it as part of their high stakes ELA exam, there is a listening passage and there are questions on it.

The premium really helps your students prepare for that. It gives them the opportunity to see and practice this quizzing similar to what they’d see on the SBAC. So if you’re in a state that tests listening, you definitely want to look closely at premium and even just general practice though, you can still do a lot on free with all of the current events and exciting stories we’re adding every day.

Premium can be purchased for just one teacher or in one classroom, right?

Yes, you can as well. There’s an easy way to do that online.

Okay. Where should teachers go if they want to check this out and set up an account?

Go to Listenwise.com and you can sign up for free. In the process, it’ll ask if you’d like a 30-day trial. So we would love you to sign up for that and it opens the door for you to explore everything with your classes and get your students on it right away, and you could be assigning quizzes that afternoon.

We also have a brand new feature that allows you to invite other teachers in your school and then create a school trial. So by inviting a few other teachers, you can unlock a longer trial than the 30 days and you can get a cohort going so that several of you are trying it out. When you love it, you can all go to the principal and say, “Hey, we need to have this. We need to find a way to bring premium to our schools.” So yeah, it all starts at Listenwise.com .

I’m so impressed by how well you know teachers and schools and what’s needed because that makes total sense. It’s going to be so much more persuasive to go to an admin with a group of teachers and say, “Hey, we’ve been using this now. We’ve had this free trial that actually goes on for longer than 30 days because it’s a group of us who signed up for it together. We’ve been using it with our students. Here’s our students’ assessment scores. Here are the increases in their listening skills that we’ve noticed. Here’s the engagement we’ve noticed. We really, really would like to have funding for this.” I think that would be so powerful.

That’s what we hope. We want to enable teachers to make a good case for Listenwise. We think that after they’ve used Listenwise for 30 days or longer in a school trial, they’re convinced. They know the value of it. They can see with their students. We get great reactions from teachers about how much their students love it, how they look forward to it and talk about it and remember what they heard and they’re just so energized by it.

What is something that you wish every teacher understood about using podcasts and audio content with students?

For me, it comes down to better listeners are better learners. This is a skill every student can use for life and it’s in your power, as their teacher, to help them become better listeners.

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Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela created the first version of this site in 2003, when she was a classroom teacher herself. With 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela oversees and contributes regularly to...
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  1. Podcasts are playing a vital role in recent days they are very useful to students also teachers use them to explain main topics on their subjects.

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