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Using Podcasts as an Instructional Tool

by Dr. Bruce Ellis
Image of laptop with eyeglasses and earbuds lying on keyboard

Regardless of what you teach, podcasts offer a variety of valid and engaging content for you to use alongside other, more traditional supports in your classroom. There are many reasons to consider using podcasts as an instructional tool. Let’s look at five reasons for you to consider, and then I’ll share a variety of podcasts for you to explore. If you want more ideas and suggestions on podcasts that might be a perfect fit for your particular content or grade level, I encourage you to join one of the many groups in the TCEA Community and ask for advice and suggestions from other like-minded educators.

Engage Diverse Learners 

Not all students learn the same way. Some students benefit from visuals and others may prefer audio-based instruction. While podcasts don’t provide visual stimulus and support, they do offer the ability for students to listen to portions of the podcast again and adjust the speed at which they listen. For some students, this can be a game-changer. It also may be easier for you to find podcasts on a particular topic by people who represent your students better than a textbook or chapter book would.

Tip: Look for podcasts that use storytelling techniques. They can captivate students and make learning more memorable.

Tip from text about students sharing podcasts.

Foster Critical Thinking

One of the benefits of students accessing podcasts is that it provides them with content that can be useful in classroom discussions, debates, and investigations. Students can explore new ideas and fresh perspectives, deepening their understanding of your content and finding more relevance to their personal lives. Critical thinking improves with practice. Learning to think critically and discussing content with peers can help them take more ownership of the knowledge, increasing the likelihood of retention. Allowing students to discuss what they listen to helps them better understand their peers and articulate their thoughts. By giving students the opportunity to discuss what they’ve listened to, they can develop this skill, which will benefit them in other areas of study.

Tip: After listening, host a class discussion or debate on the podcast’s main themes.

Tip from text.

Expand Beyond Textbooks

You may not have a choice in textbooks for your content, and your library might be limited in terms of resources that support the skills and concepts you’re teaching. This is where podcasts can shine. They are easily accessible and cover a wide range of topics, making it easy for you to find relevant information that complements your textbook. Podcasts often offer a different style of engagement than textbooks. They bring in real-world experts and firsthand accounts, providing students with diverse perspectives that textbooks might not capture.

Tip: Use platforms like Apple Podcasts or Spotify to explore categories like “Education” or “Science” for the latest educational content.

Tip from text.

Enhance Classroom Flexibility

Whether you have a traditional schedule, block schedule, or are looking to flip your classroom, podcasts are a highly flexible instructional tool. Making podcasts available allows students to listen at times when they might not be able to access or read traditional materials. They allow for on-the-go learning, enabling students to absorb information while also involved in other activities activities. Whether on the bus, in the car, or at home, students can easily access podcasts to keep up with class expectations. This is also beneficial for students who are absent or on field trips, as they can still access the content even if they aren’t physically present in the classroom.

Tip: Recommend students use headphones during independent listening sessions to minimize distractions.

Tip from text.

Cultivate Lifelong Learning

Podcasts offer immense variety, which can increase student interest in your content and promote lifelong learning. Anytime we can help students develop a passion for what we teach, it’s a win. Since podcasts usually feature real-world examples, experts, or first-hand accounts, having students hear how a person uses the content or how it has benefited them fosters more interest in the subject. Students might also discover that the enrichment of using podcasts is a strategy they can apply in other classrooms, even if those teachers aren’t aware of the value of podcasts.

Tip: Encourage students to share their favorite educational podcasts with the class, fostering a community of curious learners.

Tip from text.

Finding Great Podcasts

Here’s a variety of podcasts for you to explore. This list just scratches the surface in terms of the number of valuable podcasts available for teachers. As with any instructional tool, ensure you review them before sharing it with students to confirm its relevance and appropriateness.

  • Brains On!: This one is from PBS Kids. It’s all about the brain. It is hosted by a different kid each episode, and it is full of fun facts and interesting stories about how our brains work.
  • But Why?: Here’s on that answers kids’ questions about the world around them. The host, Guy Raz, is funny and engaging, and he makes learning fun.
  • Circle Round: This podcast tells classic folk tales from around the world. The stories are read aloud by actors, and they are accompanied by original music.
  • Story Pirates: This one is a collection of original stories written by kids. The stories are read aloud by actors, and they are sure to spark the imagination.
  • The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian: This podcast is a serialized audio drama about a young boy who travels to a magical world. It is full of action, adventure, and humor.
  • The Bedtime History Podcast : This podcast tells stories about real historical events. The stories are short and engaging, and they are perfect for a bedtime listen.
  • The History Chicks: Discover the stories of amazing women from history. The hosts are funny and informative, and they make history come alive.
  • Who, When, Wow!: A history podcast for kids that tells the stories of trailblazers and momentous events in history.
  • Wow in the World: This podcast from NPR explores the science behind the world around us. It is hosted by Guy Raz and Mindy Thomas, and it is perfect for kids who are curious about how things work.

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