Last week, I shared why student podcasting is a great idea. Podcasting is a powerful way for students to share their voice with the world. Along the way, they learn to communicate, engage in critical thinking, and go through the design process as they ultimately publish their work to an authentic audience.
I believe podcasting can work in any subject area. So, this week, I want to explore what that looks like.
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Twenty Podcasting Ideas to Try with Your Students
The following are ideas for podcasts you can do with your students. Some of these are podcasts my students created and others are ideas I have yet to test out.
Description: Students begin by asking a key question they are curious about. They can then do research and come back and compare their answers in a discussion-oriented podcast. For a more advanced version, they can interview an expert using YouTube On Air, download the video, and strip the audio using a program like iMovie.
#2: Book Review
Description: Students can write out a script for an engaging book review and then read it into their smartphone. They can review the plot, setting, conflict, theme, pacing, etc. Then, they can give it a rating and discuss what type of reader they would recommend it for. It’s simple but highly engaging. Another variation is to do an ongoing literature circle podcast, where they run it like an audio book club (which would work well at the secondary level).
You can also take a more creative approach and have students do creative prompts connected to the book. Students might interview a character. Here, one student takes on the role of the interviewer and the other student takes the role of a character in the story in a Q&A style podcast. They can then swap roles and ask questions to another character. Students can produce their own news stories based on the novel that they have read. They can include descriptions and interviews with multiple characters. It works best if they can find sound effects as well. This option takes more time but allows students to be fully immersed in the world of their novels.
If you want a creative twist, you could use a prompt like this:
Or they might do a TEDx-style talk where they pretend to be a character and they share what they have learned through the story. In other words, you might have Molly Weasley talk about death and knitting or Katniss could share what she knows about bowhunting and art.
#3: Learning Journeys
Description: The teacher creates a set of reflective questions for students to use as they document their learning in an audio diary. They simply press record and share their thoughts in a stream of consciousness style. This works well in tandem with something like a design thinking project. I love this quote from Austin Kleon:
Here, students document what project they are working on and tell the story in the format of a narrative and reflection.
Description: Students can engage in narrative-based podcasts by interviewing people and narrating the interview in a podcast style similar to something like This American Life. This one requires additional time and resources for editing. You’ll need to provide tutorials and perhaps even direct instruction to walk students through the process. However, it can be a great way to make current events relevant and help students make sense out of informational texts.
#5: Historical Fiction
Descriptions: Students can take on the role of people in another time period and create their own audio diaries, news stories, or question-and-answer shows. This can be simple and barely edited or it can be complex and highly edited.
#6: Random History Podcasts
Description: We did this as a one-week unit in a way that was similar to the 50 items that shaped the modern economy. Here, students had to find random objects and tell the history of that particular object. It was fascinating! We tied this to the standards on historical methods and research processes.
#7: Genius Hour Podcasts
Description: Genius Hour (or 20% Time) projects begin with a simple idea: give students a dedicated period of time to pursue their passions, interests, and questions in a creative way.
Genius Hour podcasts allow students to share what they are learning in the form of an interest-driven podcast.
Description: The teacher begins by assigning students a specific debate topic. Then, students have to do research to find facts that back up their key points. The first two students take opposing views while the third student researches key facts to build background knowledge and to create the questions for moderating the debate. Finally, all three students record their podcast. This is a great chance to help students learn argumentation and see things from multiple perspectives.
#9: News Show
Description: I’ve written before that I think journalism is one of the most important subjects for the future. Here, students learn how to think critically about information by learning how to compose their own news. It’s a chance to learn critical research skills, media literacy, and digital citizenship, all while hitting the standards.
It’s a chance to walk through the 5 C’s of Critical research:
#10: Expert Interviews
Description: Students find guests that they want to interview and then do in-depth interviews. They might be interviewing an author, an engineer, or a scientist. The interviews can be a YouTube On Air interview that they then download and strip the audio on a program like iMovie. This option often requires extra planning and teacher support.
#11: Philosophy Chats
Description: Students sit in small groups of 3-4 and engage in a Socratic Seminar discussion of some philosophical area connected to the subject. The following questions are examples of driving questions: What makes us different than computers? Will we ever become cyborgs? What is more important: freedom or safety? What is the point of school? What are the limits of science?
#12: Math in Real Life
Description: Students are challenged to find real-life applications for the math they are using. They can then describe their findings in a small group podcast. As an extension, students might interview people who actually use math in their professions. This can work well with statistics and research, if you’re teaching a more advanced math class.
#13: Test It
Description: Students begin with a myth or urban legend. They describe what it is and what they plan to test scientifically. They then work through the scientific method, documenting each part in their podcast and describing what is occurring. Finally, they end with their conclusion and discuss potential applications of their conclusions. It’s a bit like a scaled-down version of MythBusters.
#14: Community Interviews
Description: Students create community Needs Assessment questions and then do interviews asking questions about issues in their neighborhood. They compile these interviews into a news-style story where they get a pulse on what’s going on in their community.
#15: This is the Future
Description: Students begin by asking questions about what the future will be like. These might be things like, “Will we have flying cars?” or “What will the environment be like?” or “Will robots replace all of our jobs?” or “How will cities change with self-driving cars?” They then engage in in-depth research about everything from social trends to politics to globalization to technology. In the end, they engage in a discussion where they tackle different key questions as a group.
#16: Rate It!
Description: Students are placed in small groups where they have to create their own top ten lists. They then go from ten and count down, each time advocating for why they rated something at each spot. It could be something like, “top ten inventions of the 19th Century” or “top presidents” in history. It might be something like “top five ways to colonize space” in science.
#17: Guess What I Found?
Description: One of my favorite podcasts is 99% Invisible, which is a highly produced narrative-style podcast. However, once a year, they do a segment where they talk about random stories they discovered. This could work well when studying science phenomenon, physical fitness in PE, or music history. It pretty much fits into any subject.
#18: Trivia Show
Description: One of my favorite radio shows is Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. This podcast is a variation on this option. Here, one group of students creates a set of trivia questions and the second group consists of a panel that must answer the questions. It can get suspenseful and intense or it can be light and humorous. In a music class, you might have students do a quiz show to see if they can identify a chord progression or set of instruments given a song clip.
#19: Career Exploration
Description: Students in this option can do research about careers that they would want to do. They might interview an expert in the field or even do a short job shadowing. But the idea is that they are sharing critical details about that particular career. This can work well in a health class, where students might explore potential careers and engage in goal-setting.
Description: Poetry was meant to be read aloud and this is a chance for students to read their poetry in a way that is a little less nerve-wracking than reading it to an entire group. Students can add intro music or get into the idea of slam poetry. It’s a chance to edit, revise, and re-record.
Take the Leap
The bottom line is this: figure out what works for you and what fits best with your subject. Focus on making it relevant and empathizing with the audience. The more it feels like a real podcast, the more likely students will be to work hard and put in the creative energy to make it awesome. When that happens, they will retain more information and learn at a deeper level.