Imagined Life: A Feel-Good Podcast about Failure

Life is hard.
Plans fall apart.
People disappoint you.
And yet…

My latest obsession – Wondery’s Imagined Life podcast – details the struggles people faced before they became famous and it always leaves me hopeful. Part biography/part mystery, the program is a fun distraction with a guessing game quality. It’s also a helluva great example of second-person narrative storytelling.

Do yourself a favor. Find a tedious task that’ll take 40 minutes or so to complete (I’m lookin’ at you, weed-filled sideyard), pop in some earbuds, and hit “play.”

Not sure where to start? “The Outsider” will grab students’ attention:

“The Underdog” surprised me:

“The Phoenix” made me cry:

When facing a long commute or stack of dirty dishes, Imagined Life’s the juice to keep us sane. If you’re thinking some of these might also work for the classroom, I’m right there with you. 

Click here for my worksheet designed to work with any of the episodes (includes printable PDF and Google Drive versions):

There are five seasons of episodes and I’ve listened to only about a dozen, but I’d use any of these with juniors and seniors. (Teaching A Raisin in the Sun? This one’s a nice supplement:

If you teach younger teens or need more conventional curriculum, stick with the “Imagined Life Family” selections. They’re shorter (about 30 minutes instead of the usual 40+ minutes) and appropriate for all ages. If, though, you’re comfortable discussing real-life struggles such as eating disorders, substance abuse, physical/sexual abuse, or suicidal thoughts, then any of the episodes will work for your classes. Let me know which ones are your favorites.

Thanks to the 2ndaryELA Facebook Group for bringing this gem to my attention! Teach on, everyone.

2 thoughts on “Imagined Life: A Feel-Good Podcast about Failure

  1. Laura,
    Thank you so much for tuning me into Imagined Life. What a fascinating podcast! I purchased your resource and it’s awesome. For my first try in the classroom, I’ll be using the Imagined Life Family “The Adventurer” episode with 6th grade middle schoolers. After the students listen to this episode, I will pair it with an article about that person to give them more background information (I say person because I don’t want to spoil the answer here) for a deeper level of understanding.
    I will focus on the inference standard for the podcast portion of this activity, so I plan on inserting some stopping points for them to tell me the clues we are hearing that lead us to guess the famous person’s identity.

    Thank you for always providing excellent ideas. We need those gems right now more than ever!

  2. So glad this is going to be a good match for your classroom, Chris! This sounds like a great plan and those “Family” episodes are perfect for 6th graders. Check back in and let me know how it goes. 🙂

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