The following post was written by 2017 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow Jenny Bolch, a second-grade teacher at Mackintosh Academy in Boulder, Colorado, after her expedition to the Arctic. The Grosvenor Teacher Fellow Program is a professional development opportunity for pre-K–12 educators made possible by a partnership between Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic Education.
Student-created podcasts are a fun, creative way for students to learn and for teachers to assess content knowledge. In my experience, students have been completely engaged while they learned and reviewed information, practiced collaboration, conducted research, and presented their work to others. They learn concrete skills like research, framing an introductory and closing paragraph, sequencing, transition words, and how to be a good presenter. They can create podcasts alone or in groups.
Podcast projects are fabulous for older students, and you can absolutely do them with younger students as long as you provide enough scaffolding. By the end of the first podcast project I did with my second-graders, they were working completely independently.
Following my expedition to the Arctic as a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow, I was able to bring my experiences back to my classroom and share them with my students. They made podcasts about the Arctic tundra biome through a unit of study on biomes. Students divided into teams, and each chose a biome to study. Then, they created a podcast teaching others about their biome. I chose to post the podcasts on YouTube to share with students’ families.
Here is an example podcast made by my students, and here is one I made as an example for them.
Here’s how I’d suggest approaching a podcast project.
Have your students research and write down facts they know about a topic on index cards or sticky notes. One fact goes on each index card. This is a great time to discuss plagiarism and how to put research into your own words. I’ve found that for a podcast to be interesting, they will need to have at least 10 facts. (Skill: research)
Mark a new index card with green (to show that it’s the starting card) and have them write an introduction to their podcast. For kids who need a template, you can provide something like this: “Welcome to our podcast about _____! Today you will be learning about _____,_____, and_____. ” (Skill: introductory paragraph)
Mark another index card with red (ending card) and have students write down closing remarks for their podcast. Closing comments should include the big point(s) they were trying to make, why their topic matters, and a “thank you” to the audience. For kids who need a template, you can provide something like this: “We hope you learned a lot about _____ today! Here are some things you can do to help….”
Here is an example: “We hope you learned a lot about arctic tundras today and why it is so important to protect them. You can help prevent climate change by doing things like turning out the lights when you leave the room and riding your bike to school! Thanks for listening. We hope you enjoyed the show!” (Skill: closing paragraph)
Students lay their cards out and organize them in a way that makes sense and flows well. They should look for and eliminate repeats. The green card goes at the start, and the red card goes at the end. (Skill: sequencing)
Students add transition words or phrases at the beginning of at least half of their cards. (Skill: transition words)
Samples of transition words and phrases:
- Did you know….
- Wow! Here’s an amazing fact!
- You aren’t going to believe this, but…
- I heard recently that…
- Experts say…
- I read that…
- In fact…
- According to…
Students practice their podcast using very expressive and dramatic voices. Give examples of what it sounds like to read in a boring voice versus a dramatic one. (Skill: reading fluency and prosody)
Time to record! (Skill: presentation)
Students will record one card, hit pause, add a sound effect, and then record the next card. That way, each fact will have a sound effect associated with it. Students are free to record and re-record as much as they want to until it sounds great to them.
Option 1: I use GarageBand for recording. It comes free with every Apple computer (and here are some Windows alternatives). The iPad app is a completely different program: it’s much more difficult to figure out, and it doesn’t have sound effects! GarageBand on a computer comes full of great sound effects, which are the kids’ favorite part.
Option 2: Use a voice recording app like Voice Memos on an iPad/tablet or iPhone. Students can use sound effects from Zapsplat and add them by playing them on one device while recording them with Voice Memos on the other device. YouTube also has great free sound effects.
Determine options for publishing and sharing. Confirm with parents and your school administration how publicly you can share students’ work. Consider having students not use names at all or only use first names. Never use full student names.
Option 1: Email MP3 audio files of the podcasts to parents.
Option 2: Post the podcasts on your school or classroom website.
Option 3: Upload files to Youtube after combining them with an image by using a tool called Tovid.io.
There are a million projects you can do with podcasts once you teach students the basics. Some other applications for podcasts include:
- researching and learning about what you are studying in your classroom
- students researching a topic they are passionate about
- creating a documented interview of someone significant to your unit of study
- weekly classroom or school news broadcasts
- making book reviews
- telling stories
Here are some kid-friendly podcasts you can listen to for free online:
Podcasts can work for all ages of students, including early elementary students. They can teach a range of skills in a manner that is fun and engaging for children, which in turn makes it fun and easy for the teacher. As one of my students says every time she sees me getting GarageBand pulled up on the computers, “YES!! Are we doing podcasts today?! It’s gonna be the BEST DAY EVER!” (Every time.)
The Strategy Share series features innovative teaching ideas developed by Grosvenor Teacher Fellows following their field-based experiences on voyages with Lindblad Expeditions.