Student Podcasts take Literary Thoughts to Audio

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Universe as Text is broadcasting live to you from… summer! I hope all you teachers out there are taking the time to do the important regenerative work of doing non-school things for the most part. I don’t know about you, but it’s almost the end of July and I think I just now started to feel relaxed. And since I’m finally feeling relaxed, I thought it would be a good time to share a fun podcast project that I did with my students for the first time last year.

I’ve been intrigued by the idea of doing a podcast with my students for a while. This is not a new thing–in fact, my friend Mr. B. did a guest post a few years back talking about his version of a podcast project! But it seems like podcasts are getting bigger and bigger these days, that the habit of listening to podcasts is now completely mainstream. So when my colleague Mrs. G. did a technology inservice on using SoundTrap to create student podcasts, I felt it was time for me to get on this train before it leaves without me. What resulted was a fantastic final project for my AP Literature students that helped them learn some digital skills, but also discern what they had to say about the power of literature.

I will start out by telling you that I let my students know up-front that this project was probably going to have some snags, since it was my first time working with the digital tools and overall concept. I think that’s a really important message to share with students: “This may not go perfectly, but we’re going to try it! Failing and learning are interrelated! Even if your attempt is kind of bad, I won’t penalize you for taking your time to figure things out!” Frankly, I just wanted to see what would happen. And what did happen was really cool.

At the bottom of the post, I’ll share my assignment sheet/rubric, along with the example podcast that I made (with my very good sport of a husband), and a student example of the final product. Please send me any questions you have about specifics. Beyond that, let me just share my major takeaways in bulleted list form.

MAIN TAKEAWAYS FROM THE PODCAST PROJECT

*Podcasts are fun to make and fun to grade.

*The skill of verbally articulating one’s insights is so valuable. Recording audio is a wonderful way for students to practice that skill (with unlimited re-do opportunities) without social pressure.

*SoundTrap is very easy to use with a little bit of fiddling. It’s similar to Garage Band, so if students have that tech literacy, they can build on it, but even if they don’t, they can figure it out with some experimentation time (and so can you)! Video tutorials also help.

*Listening to to podcast examples along with the students was also very helpful. I chose literary-oriented ones like Hey, YA! and Literary Disco. But make sure you preview the whole podcast of your choice before sharing with students; sometimes non-school appropriate words or concepts can crop up in an episode. Just like video content, it takes time to search, preview, and select the examples. Plan accordingly.

*I encouraged students to take doodle notes/sketch notes as we listened. Otherwise it’s awkward to sit and listen passively to something for 10-15 minutes. It also helped give them something to reference when we discussed the anatomy of the episodes and things we might apply in our own work.

*The biggest mistake I made this first year: not requiring students to do a FULL LISTEN of what they think is their finished file for submission. When we listened to the files on presentation day, several groups had big editing errors in their shows that they didn’t realize had happened at some point during their collaborative editing or exporting process. Leave an extra day between deadline and presenting day for this reason, so there’s time to fix the “oh no” moment that will probably inevitably happen to most groups. That’s just the reality of technology!

*You will be absolutely delighted at how funny and smart your students are. This platform gives every voice a chance to be heard, because it’s engineered that way. I will absolutely be doing this project again!

ASSIGNMENT AND EXAMPLES

*Assignment sheet and rubric–please feel free to use/modify!

*My example–A podcast on our love of science fiction, made together with my husband, the fantastic and handsome Scott Casey.

*Student example--A podcast on relationships in literature, made with big thanks to the PageHuggers group of 2019. 🙂

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