One thing that surprised me during last spring’s testing season was the heavy use of computer-voice instructions and listening passages on our state’s Common Core-style exam, the SBAC. I hadn’t really taught listening as a specific skill set, yet my students’ scores told me that they needed help there – badly.
To sharpen that skill set, I’ve been listening to a ton of podcasts, hoping to find high-interest, school-appropriate shows that’ll fit within one class period.
This American Life’s Serial Season 1 podcast, which covers the case of Hae Min Lee, a high school senior in Maryland who was murdered in 1999, has captivated many classrooms. Lee’s ex-boyfriend and classmate, Adnan Syed, was arrested and convicted of the murder and the Serial podcast raises many questions about the case. It’s great listening, for sure, but the amount of swearing in some of the episodes and the graphic content surrounding the crime made it unusable in my classroom. Way out of bounds. So I started listening to all types of programs, hoping to find something that would work for kids in my town.
Trouble is, few podcasts are built with a teen audience in mind. Most of the compelling programs (you know, the ones that don’t immediately cause students’ eyes to glaze over with boredom) quickly can become rather…um…adult in nature.
So when I found Criminal, I was delighted. Not every episode created by this professional production team is appropriate for our classrooms, but I’ve found three episodes that have been a great match.
I call these lessons “Listen & Learn” and they’ve become the perfect tool to use whenever I need a half-hour or so to catch my breath.
Listen & Learn #1: Tony, the Tiger
Students listen to a 19-minute podcast focused on the case of Tony, a tiger that serves as a roadside attraction at a truck stop in Louisiana. This podcast presents both sides of an argument and allows our students to draw their own conclusions.
Listen & Learn #2: Deep Dive in a Tar Pit
This time, kids listen to an 18-minute program focused on a police officer who volunteered to dive into the thick, toxic sludge of La Brea tar pits to recover evidence in a murder investigation. The reporter presents a modern case of bravery and allows students to clarify their views on the nature of heroism.
Listen & Learn #3: Money Tree
This one’s a 24-minute episode focused on the case of a young woman who learned at age 19 that someone had stolen her identity way back when she was 11 years old. Then, she went on a search to find the thief and eventually made a shocking discovery. In this case, students learn about identity theft and betrayal. They definitely had a lot to say about this one during our latest debrief.
Do you know of any other podcasts that produce teen-appropriate content? I’m always on the prowl for programs to bring to my kids, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been truckin’ through a great program only to have someone drop a curse word two-thirds of the way through an otherwise-awesome episode. Sigh…
Definitely send me a comment with link/s if you have a favorite podcast/nugget of audio gold. If it hits the mark (interesting to teens, not too long, clean, lots to chat about), I’ll do my best to turn it into a full lesson (Disclaimer: When time allows). In lieu of leads from my blog friends, I’ll just keep posting these occasionally as I find them.
Teach on, everyone!