Friday, March 11, 2016

Podcasts Pairings for the Secondary ELA Classroom: Podcasts to use in English Class

Podcasting is the fastest growing form of media which means that using podcasts in the classroom is growing more important as well. Even though I'm an avid podcast fan, I can tell you that zero percent of my students had ever listened to a podcast before we did our Serial unit in my English IV class. This is a shame because did you know that a podcast listener is more likely to hold a bachelor’s or graduate degree and makes around 10,000 more per year than the average American salary? If you are in the camp that believes that listening to audiobooks is “actual” reading, then you are probably also a believer that listening to podcasts is reading too! 

You know that thrill you get when you introduce a student to a new book that they love? Well, having the opportunity to introduce students to a completely new form of media that they LOVE and can listen to for FREE intensifies that feeling ten-fold. So many of my students have searched out other podcasts on their own after finishing Serial. I truly believe that listening is a form of reading, so for this English teacher, that is a huge win. 

Podcast Pairings for the Secondary ELA Classroom: 

1. This American LifeIf you listen to this podcast regularly, then you will find a plethora of pairing ideas. To get your creativity flowing, here are a few pairings I have flagged while listening. 

The Southern Gotic short story, "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner is a creepy story that will shock students. Act I of "Grand Gesture" is an equally shocking story about the same topic--except with a real-life example. This episode tells a story about a man who is so in love with a woman that he keeps her preserved body in his house and treats her as his wife. As I have explicitly pointed out in the image above, you will most likely need to cut out part of this episode at your discretion because there are 3 mentions of sex in this episode. The value of the pairing is so good that I think it's worth the extra effort!  For a super easy way to cut this episode, I recommend using the YouTube version of this episode and cut it with EdPuzzle. All you have to do is put the link to the video in and use their simple cutting tools. The story starts around minute 14 and ends around 32:40. You will need to cut parts at approximately minutes 27, 27:38-27.52, and at 31:46. EdPuzzle also allows you to add in questions at certain parts if you wish to do so! It's a great tool that will work for any podcast that has a downloadable file or any podcast that is uploaded to YouTube. 

The second podcast pairing from This American Life is a full episode about a reporter Jack Hitt who followed a group of inmates at a high-security prison who--with the help of an incredible teacher-- put on a production of the last act of Hamlet. This episode will bring about some really interesting perspectives on interpreting Hamlet from so many different walks of life. It also provides a nice review of the characters and new points-of-view on so many different issues. While this episode doesn't have a warning like the one above, I will say that sex and homosexuality is briefly mentioned around 22:38 and there's a part around 25:50 that's such a poignant point, but you may choose to edit out the graphic description. As always, preview podcasts just as you would a movie! 

I'm sure I will be adding a lot more pairings from This American Life because they produce such fantastic content, so be sure to save this post and check back in from time to time! 

2. Criminal: When middle school teachers find out that I use Serial in class (see below), I immediately get asked for podcast suggestions that are similar and appropriate for a younger audience. Criminal is it. Unlike Serial's series format, each episode of Criminal is one full story. Some aren't appropriate, but a lot are! Here are some suggestions to start with: 

*Try pairing Poe with "Bump in the Night." A few of Poe's stories would work and also his poem "The Raven." This episode has haunted me from the first time I listened to it. It's not scary in a gruesome way, but it's horrifyingly creepy. I won't give anything away, but just like Poe, this episode is full of suspense, psychological fear, and paranoia. If your students are as taken with this story as I was, you might suggest the follow up here: Unexpected Guests  (shudder). 

*Consider pairing Criminal's "Secrets and Seances" with Miller's The Crucible. It covers an interesting case from 1940 in which a famous medium was convicted under a 200-year-old “Witchcraft Act.” P.S. If you own my Crucible Unit, this would be an amazing text set for the "You Witch!" informational text I wrote. 

*For a wonderful pairing of murder mysteries such as Sherlock Homles, Agatha Christie, or Edgar Allan Poe, try  "The Gate Keeper" which addresses the dilemma of reading murder mysteries for entertainment. It is also full of expert narrative writing advice! 

*Other ways to use the podcast Criminal in your ELA classroom is to pair certain episodes with argumentative writing. The episodes I suggest for this are: "The Manual" which sets forth a gripping story about how far freedom of speech should go and  "Tiger" which tells a story about a man who tries to convince law enforcement that he's not a criminal for keeping a 550-pound tiger at his truck stop. 

Before I move on to other podcast pairing suggestions, I'm going throw in some standards and activities that can up the educational value of using podcasts in the classroom. 

Since surveys show that most people multitask while listening to podcasts, I found that my students naturally want to be doing something while listening as well. That’s why I designed these adult “coloring” pages. This keeps listeners focused and also provides a way of showing their understanding and diving deeper into evaluating the podcast format. 

I designed these podcast doodle notes to cover a range of standards such as: Plot structure (can work with literary nonfiction as well), analyzing and evaluating the effectiveness of the structure an author uses in his or her exposition or argument, determining an author's point-of-view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, evaluating persuasiveness or beauty of the text, visualizing practice, recognizing author's craft, and comparing two or more forms of media with a common theme. 

You can find these Podcast Doodle Notes here: Podcast Doodle Notes. 


Now, onward to more podcast pairings so that you will have ideas on how to use the notes! 

3. Rick Steves: This guy has my heart. His podcasts are fantastic for integrating ELA, geography, foreign language, and history standards. The uses for this podcast in the classroom are endless, but I will list some ideas as examples. For most of his podcasts, I only use a small section that pertains to what I'm teaching. These episodes are normally an hour long, but the small sections are usually 10 to 15 minutes which makes them perfect for classroom use. 

Comparison-making -His program 426 American Lighthouse; Skyfaring;Travel Tales; The Longbow has a beautiful description of traveling by plane. It makes a wonderful comparison piece for any traveling description text (think seafaring -Old Man and the Sea, Moby Dick, Early Explorer Primary Document Journals). 

Holiday-related informational "text" - Rick has lovely episodes devoted to almost every American holiday where he explores how other cultures celebrate in different parts of the world. For example, his program 427 More European Holiday Traditions, has guest speakers from Europen describing how they celebrate Christmas. 

Author studies and settings- Steves has a number of episodes devoted to celebrated authors or novel settings. I use his program 392 Ireland's W.B. Yeats; Scotland's Robert Burns; Agatha Christie's England to teach Yeats' poetry. There's really nothing like hearing a native Irishman recite Yeats--it's mesmerizing. Download this lesson here: W.B. Yeats in Ireland 

4. Ask Me Another by NPR: My husband really enjoys this one. It's full of brain teasers that are excellent for Friday funday, time fillers, or inspiration for making up your own vocabulary riddles. If you are teaching Shakespeare, here is a fun one: Sir Patrick Stewart: Brush Up Your Shakespeare  (minutes 21-27) that uses a former member of the Shakespeare Company to recite pop songs. This episode would go along perfectly with the song lyric Shakespeare idea I have linked in this post: Fun Ways to use Music in the English Classroom 

5. Lore: I've only recently gotten into this, but I can tell that it's very promising for ELA pairings! The concept is researched myths or folklore that is told in an interesting way. If you look at each description, you should gain some pairing ideas! For example, episode 74 reads, "The sky is a source of life for everything on this planet...We don’t look up too often these days, but that hasn’t changed our dependence on it. But occasionally, the sky can be a source of something else... History, it seems, paints a very frightening picture of the world above us." Though I haven't listened to this episode yet, I think it could make a great pairing for a number of poems. 

I also got some Lore suggestion pairings from English teachers on my Instagram account

Wordsandpages1003 says, "Paired a Lore episode with my end of Crucible unit and wrote a comparative essay—it was “Familiar” and follows up with " Lore has so many different episodes that can work with a ton of different books—and now there are Amazon Prime exclusive episodes that were turned into 45 minute visual podcasts! Another possible pairing with Crucible could be “Black Stockings”!

I will be sure to add more Lore suggestions to this post as I listen! Lots of ELA teachers recommend this one! 

6. Invisibilia: Invisibilia is Latin for "the invisible things." This podcast explores the invisible forces that shape human behavior — things beliefs and emotions-- in a word: characterization. This is another podcast that I have only just started, but one glace at the description of each episode, and I can already find lots of ELA pairings. 
For example: 
*The Callout + The Crucible 
"When someone in your community transgresses, do you banish them? Purge them in an attempt to make the community safer for everyone?" (this one has a warning with it, so it's one that probably needs cut) 

*Future Self + The Great Gatsby 
"We all have a future self, a version of us that is better, more successful. It can inspire us to achieve our dreams, or mock us for everything we have failed to become." 

*Our Computers, Ourselves + Ray Bradbury 
"Are computers changing human character? Is our closeness with computers changing us as a species? Alix and Lulu look at the ways technology affects us." 

6. Serial Season 1: In college, my absolute favorite class was Literary Nonfiction. We read things like In Cold Blood and Devil in the White City, and I fell in love with the genre. When I found Serial last year, I knew that it would be in my top 5 list. It's so well done, and it works well in upper grades because: 1. It's free 2. It's relevant (deals with high school-aged subjects) 3. It's rich in teachable content. I actually use this unit as a stand-alone text, but I have heard teachers report pairing it with In Cold Blood. Because of the similar reporter relationships, I think this would make a powerful combination. One thing that really surprised me while teaching for the first time was that my students CHOSE to read the transcripts while listening to it. Studies have shown that reading comprehension greatly increases when students both read and listen simultaneously, so I was thrilled when the majority of my students would open their Classroom OneNote to the transcript each time we listened in class (it would be very hard to print this many copies for each episode. If you don't use OneNote, you can email them the transcripts or put them in Google Classroom). 

As we read and listened, we hit a ton of standards. We had four Socratic Seminars where students had to use evidence to prove their insights, we close read and compared 3 writing styles (fiction, nonfiction, and literary nonfiction), we found examples of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos, we wrote speeches to work on argumentative skills and so much more. Here is a fun yet poignant activity we did that involved studying photography by Trent Bell where inmates write letters to their younger selves. I had my students write from Adnan's point-of-view. Even if they think he is innocent, most agreed that he has many regrets. Here is an example of how they turned out: 

I can tell you that I had students excel that this unit in a way that they would have never excelled during a traditional classical-fiction unit. Though this podcast has some mature language and topics, I feel that analytical and interest value outweigh the risks of pushback. Some students just need something real and raw to make a connection with their lives, and this production will do just that. 

Update: While I haven't listened to these, I've heard that this teacher has cut the language out for class. 
If you want to see more activities for Serial, you can check out my unit plan here: Serial Season 1 Activities 

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