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Listen and Learn with Listenwise

by Miguel Guhlin

As a longtime audiobook listener, I am thrilled to share a new resource for K-12 learners. Like many of you, I’m an avid Audible audiobook listener and reader. Do you know of one challenging aspect of bringing audio content to children? As librarians and teachers, we can’t record our own using copyrighted materials.


Existing audio is often adult-oriented and children’s book titles are unavailable. Solutions like Storynory get around that. In this blog entry, I’m delighted to share a new source of non-fiction, lesson-friendly audio content. What’s the new source, you may ask? Listenwise.

What Is Listenwise?

Listenwise is a web-based resource for three to six minute podcast lessons from non-fiction storytellers that include listening comprehension quizzes for your classroom. Once you join, you can get into their library of non-fiction podcasts which are organized in various ways. In the Teacher Dashboard, you can search the content. Current events are featured, including COVID-19 news and feature stories.

If you have students who have the ability to listen to National Public Radio (NPR) and process it, then they will be fine. Much of the free content available via Listenwise is about as understandable as NPR broadcasts. There’s a reason for that which we’ll explore in a bit.


Their searchable database offers access to news stories and more. For example, consider the results for a search on “diversity:”

Black Representation in Literature:

For Black History Month, a major bookseller placed “Diverse Editions” on its shelves. These were classic books by white authors featuring black faces on the covers.

The bookstore says it hoped the covers would help to engage new audiences in classics. Classics included The Wizard of Oz, Frankenstein, and Romeo and Juliet.

This action sparked outrage among many. They said that the bookseller is cashing in on Black History Month. Of course, cashing in without honoring black authors.

Listen to a writer explain why this is “literary blackface.” And then find out what bookstores can do to support diversity. (Adapted for clarity).

Wow, wouldn’t “literary blackface” be a great lead-in to a problem-based learning lesson or a powerful way to support a 5E lesson’s “Engage” aspect?

Here’s another example focused on esports:


As you can see, the interface is simple and you can slow the audio playback down. Sharing this audio to Google Classroom is easy, as you can see from the share window below:


You can also share a link with others since the content is available via the web. Not all content is available for free.


How Much Does It Cost?

Listenwise Premium makes age-appropriate, non-fiction podcasts in several subjects available. You can listen to ELA, social studies, and science podcasts at a cost. When you first sign up as a teacher, you get a thirty-day free trial of Listenwise Premium which gives you access to a full podcast library and interactive transcripts. You also get listening comprehension quizzes and more. How much more? You get access to upcoming (as of this blog entry) Lexile audio measures for content.

The Lexile Audio Measure provides a score of the audio passage complexity. It enables teachers to match appropriate audio to their listeners. Lexile measures rely on twelve key variables which include grammar, vocabulary, speech rate and tempo, and word clarity. These are all part of the Lexile audio measure. (Adapted for clarity)

Once you are in, you can listen to amazing content. Listenwise pays attention to research.


Valuing research insights, Listenwise includes its own collection of research. You will find research, white papers, and case studies on listening in the classroom. For example, consider these quick summations:

  • Listening comprehension is a fundamental building block to reading comprehension development. Now there is new research evidence concerning a growing number of children who fail to develop adequate reading comprehension skills primarily due to poor listening comprehension.
  • Ever notice that good stories get better student engagement? This research highlights the power of a meaningful story to specifically impact listening behavior.
  • Why would we want to do this and how does listening affect learning? Our white paper highlights some of the key research in this area as we consider the value of listening skills for our children.
  • Many English learners are not acquiring the level of academic language needed for college and career readiness. Are we underestimating the impact that ongoing work with oral academic language can have?

Visit their research page to learn more.

Other Features

Listenwise makes it easy to find content, premium or not. You can search using the sidebar, shown below:


You can also use a topic (e.g. immigration, animals, cells) or subject search:


Did I mention the very best feature? Much of the content featured is FREE. Check it out!

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