Listen to this…

When Norman Ollestad was 11 years old, he was the sole survivor of a Cessna airplane crash in the mountains north of Los Angeles. Last week, one of my freshmen finished Ollestad’s memoir, Crazy for the Storm, and was so enthusiastic during our SSR book talk that I felt compelled to research Ollestad and find out more about the 1979 crash that killed his father, his father’s girlfriend, and the airplane’s pilot.

I haven’t read Ollestad’s book (a New York Times bestseller, by the way), but I was sucked in by a podcast interview he gave back in 2014. If you’re looking for a high-interest activity, you might want to have your kids go here and have a listen.

A word of warning:
The language of the podcast is clean, but Ollestad does use the word “screwed” once. As the plane is about to crash, he says, “When I saw the tree…I knew we were screwed. I mean, I knew we were going to crash into the trees.” The description of the crash site is not overly gruesome and the podcast is appropriate for advanced middle school and high school students.

The book, my freshman reports, does have some f-bombs and awkward sexual stuff, so keep that in mind. Still, a glowing review came from a kid who doesn’t like reading all that much, and I was happy to see his enthusiasm.

You could listen to the Unfictional podcast as a class or have kids plug in their devices to listen individually. Then, discuss the program or use the materials I built to add more structure and rigor to the lesson. These print-and-teach worksheets also include sub plan instructions, in case you need someone else to run the show.

Teach on, everyone!

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Suzanne M. Sosa
Suzanne M. Sosa
6 years ago

Hi Laura Quick question For SSR- wasn’t it only fiction for SSR?

Suzanne Sosa

Laura Randazzo
6 years ago

Hi Suzanne,
Yes, usually it is, but I do allow non-fiction texts that use a narrative treatment. Kids just need to get those books approved by me ahead of time. Books like Crazy for the Storm, Unbroken, The Glass Castle, etc., always get approved. 🙂

Jessica Sherman
Jessica Sherman
6 years ago

Hi Laura,
I was wondering if you have ever had the entire class listen at once instead of on their individual devices. Would you just pause at certain points to let them answer questions?

Also, how do you find all these great podcasts? The school where I teach is pretty conservative, and I’m trying to find materials with no swearing at all. To let you know where I’m coming from, I wanted to play the one from Hasan Minhaj because I love it so much, but I was told anything I played couldn’t have even the bleeped swearing in it.

Thanks for all your great work. You have no idea how much I appreciate it!

Laura Randazzo
6 years ago

Great questions, Jessica! About half the time, I have kids listen at their own pace in our computer lab; the other half of the time, the lab is booked so I use these in my classroom. Unfortunately, our wifi is super-slow and not everyone’s phone works in our hallway, so whenever I use this my classroom I give kids the option of plugging into their own phones to listen or listening via the speakers on my classroom computer. About 2/3 of the class will choose to just sit back and listen to my speakers, so I follow along and pause the program at appropriate times to give everyone the time needed to jot down answers. Then, there will be a quiet 10 minutes or so as students answer the “after listening” questions and then we all come back together for the full-class discussion to wrap things up.

As for a consistent source of high-quality, high-interest, teen-appropriate, clean material that’s about a half-hour long? Well, let me know when you find one. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been listening to a podcast to use in class only to have an f-bomb toward the end mess it all up for me. I tilt toward the conservative side, too, so I feel your pain. No secret to finding good programs, I’m afraid. I just listen to a b-u-n-c-h. If you find one that you think would work for this Listen & Learn series, definitely send me the link! I’m always on the prowl for The Good Stuff. Thanks! 🙂

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