I just had a fantastic meeting with two of our wonderful grade 5 teachers, Sandra and Diane, to brainstorm ways to naturally embed 21st century literacy skills into our (Lucy Caulkins) Readers’ Workshop (RW) units of study for next school year (Reading is a school focus for next year). The grade 5 team is looking for easy ways to promote student discussion about reading strategies and to deepen their conversations about the content they are learning while they’re reading.

Here’s what we came up with (and I would love to hear feedback):

The grade 5 students will create a Students Teaching Students podcast focused on helping other students learn and use quality strategies for reading. This is an educational podcast teaching other students how to become good readers using RW strategies that they learn over the course of the year.

This strand will continue throughout the whole school year with different sections of grade 5 (we have 7 grade 5 classes) leading different units of RW. All podcasts can be uploaded onto a common 5th grade reading-focused blog and added to iTunes for parents and other teachers to subscribe. The podcasts can also be shared with the 4th and 3rd grades so we have a built-in authentic audience (and we help vertical articulation too!). The project will be started with our first RW unit and continue throughout the year.

To allow for new teachers (we will have 4 new grade 5 teachers next year) to get comfortable with the process, we can differentiate: some classes can start with just listening to the podcasts, then when ready, students come in as “guest stars/speakers” on the “show,” eventually we can have many facilitators from all classes.

The project can be broken into 3 stages:

Stage 1: Focus on strategies.

Students Teaching Students podcast begins with 1 or 2 of our grade 5 classes to develop strong student facilitators and provide a model for good student-produced podcasts at ISB. The first stage is to focus on what strategies they are learning in RW and teach other students how the strategies help them become good readers. This can be a regular, short, podcast focusing on the critical aspects of RW they learn each week – the podcast station can be set up as a “center” in the classroom.

Stage 2: Focus on the content being learned in RW.

Have “guest stars/speakers” from other classrooms on the “show” to talk about the content they are reading and how they use different strategies to learn through reading. Student facilitators from the first two participating classes will lead these discussions on a weekly basis.

For this to work well, we will need to develop common prompts, thinking strategies and questions so that students will have a “handbook” for excellent podcasts. Eventually this could be entirely managed by students.

Stage 3: Focus on building excitement about reading.

Add book talks, book reviews, etc, using these same tools (or perhaps VoiceThread and other tools) to deepen learning about content, to make connections to other student readers, and to share more about what we’re reading. Start regularly connecting with students in other schools around the world to discuss and improve reading skills and strategies.

What do you think? How can we make this idea even better? Has this already been done (which would give me a great model to start from)? All feedback appreciated!

23 thoughts on “Students Teaching Students

  1. Having a look at this in my morning tweets (4 hrs behind bkk). I like this as a good example of ways that teachers and students can apply multiliteracies skills to enhance traditional forms of literacies one is likely to encounter in a syllabus. I’ll use it in my upcoming Multiliteracies course which I teach each Sept online, pile of latest links at http://del.icio.us/vancestevens/pp107tesol if you’re interested.

  2. Students teaching students or peer to peer mentoring is always a powerful learning outcome. Students speak the language that fellow peers speak. Podcasting is also a great tool so combining the two will lead to great resources and outcomes. Keep us posted on your (or the students’) progress

  3. Dear Kim,

    You project looks fantastic. What would really add to the motivational aspect of the podcast is having like international partners. Have you considered finding readers around the globe that could be interacting with your podcasters, asking questions in the comment area of the project blog? I think students would be thrilled. Even parents! Can you imagine connecting those kids to parents in different ways? Asking for their parents’ reading tips, books of the month. It would be a great way to connect school-home-world.
    I work in an EFL setting and a wonderful reading project developed by a friend of mine with her students was this one here, the production of a mixbook.
    The Phantom of the Opera Mixbook. Students read the book, summarized the story, drew and produced the book.

    My humble contribution to a wonderful project. Keep us posted!

  4. Anyone know how similar the Lucy Calkins readers’ workshop is to the Comprehension Toolkit by Stephanie Harvey? Our school is using the latter and if they are close, I think I could interest my teachers in using these podcasts with their classes.

  5. Hi!

    I really like the idea…having an “authentic” audience in the younger grades should be a huge motivator for students. One thing I was wondering about was making this a more open communication. What if students listening have a question they would like to ask the podcaster? It could be done on a blog, of course, but I really like the idea of doing a Voicethread for this because then students could comment back and forth and add their own ideas to the strategy being presented.


  6. Dear Kim,
    The idea of students teaching students via podcast is so motivating! Students love to record their voices and listen back to them and peer to peer teaching is very effective. The idea of having a “show” makes them the experts and encourages them to take ownership of the tool or strategy that they are teaching.
    I like the idea Adam had about having the podcast be more interactive. I am unsure of what a Voice thread is but if it allows students to have a conversation or ask a question about the topic being discussed I think it would be of value to explore and implement.
    With the pressures of high stakes testing in reading becoming more and more prevalent, teachers like you who make the learning process enjoyable and meaningful as well as being in-tune with the technology students use outside of the classroom is very wise. In doing this, you will be able to tap into intelligences you otherwise may not have uncovered.

  7. @Vance

    Thanks! So glad this is helpful – and thanks so much for the resources!


    I agree that the students will find it the experience of teaching so motivating and engaging. I’m really excited to see how things turn out! We have to wait until at least August/September, though because we’re just about ready to head off on our summer holidays.


    Thanks! I’m lucky to work with such enthusiastic teachers, aren’t I?


    I definitely want to keep the project open to international collaboration. For now, though, we are staying focused on starting simple, achievable and student led. I’m always conscious of ensuring that these projects are manageable for the teacher and that they don’t overtake the focus of the learning, which is reading strategies and content.

    Over time, as they become more proficient at what they do, I hope to get a few other international partner classes involved. Of course, right from the beginning our podcasts will be shared via the reading-focused blog, which will allow for some basic interaction if there’s interest.


    Hmmm… I actually have no idea – but it would be fabulous if they were similar! Would be great to partner again after we get the ball rolling here!


    I love the idea of using VoiceThread, and have thought about that as a stage three extension idea. I really want to make sure that we start small and simple to enable students and teachers to self-manage. I definitely agree that interaction is key and if we’re successful with the first part, will definitely build up to a more interactive tool. Of course, students can always post questions and comments on the reading blog that will be open to international audience. You also made me think about including “show notes” blog post for each show to give a forum for discussion too.


    It’s amazing how much impact just hearing your own voice can have! We’ve really been seeing that with our grade 5 ESL students. I totally agree about tapping into different intelligences too – I love how technology can really level the playing field and bring out the diversity in the classroom. Thanks so much for your positive feedback.

  8. Hi Kim slightly off subject, but just wanted to say thanks for the entries on voicethread. I like the way that your students had obviously listened to the comments when thinking about their own. Really fruitful experience for the children to know that there are others all round the world that have the same experiences.

  9. Hi Kim, we are also using reader’s Workshop, the Lucy Caulkins way next year at the American International School of Mozambique and making reading our focus for curriculum work. It would be great to connect our two schools, in this international arena! I will keep my eyes on your blog for how it goes for you in August. Have a great summer break.

  10. @mrkp

    We had such a great time with those VTs on Friday! What a meaningful opportunity for our ESL students. I need to blog about that too! I’m curious – did you get my e-mail from last week? I can’t figure out why your e-mails don’t seem to get through to me…


    Excellent! Would love to collaborate with you next year! What grade levels do you work with?

  11. Hiya Kim,

    A couple things that crossed my mine. Forgive me for being more on the technical side of things, but it sounds like you have the educational side covered.

    First, the blog. Not sure if learnblogs.org has podpress installed or any podcasting type plugins so thinking about where you are going to “host” this whether on another server or one at school is something to consider. Also you might want to try and think about where this could go if it takes off within the elementary school. The last thing you want to do is try and manage 3 different podcast sites for 3 different grade levels. Maybe it’s time the team sits down and thinks of starting a podcast site for the elementary school. That way as other podcast projects come and go throughout the years the “system” is set up (For a bad example: pudong.saspodcast.org). Also by thinking ahead a little bit you can have just one iTunes account for the elementary rather than say 3 or 4 for different projects. Allowing parents, teachers and students the world over to find it easily within iTunes or on the site itself. I’m just putting this out their of something to think about.

    As for communication with listeners. http://www.snapvine.com is a cool way to add a widget to your podcast site that allows “callers” around the world to leave a message via a computer mic. Your fifth graders can even record a message that is played when people call in. Or if you go with a single WordPress install you can use a plugin that allows commenters to leave an audio or video comment rather then just text, again adding a little more interaction to the site for the 5th graders…..buy in on their part is so important to make this work.

    Lastly, not sure what the school has for a podcast set up, but getting some real audio equipment and making a small studio type setting really helps the students get excited about creating the podcast…they really get to feel like they are creating a show ($200 well spent!).

    I love the sound of the project and can see the students listening to sites like chinesepod.com or other language podcasts to get a feel for the type of cool stuff they could produce. What a fun project!

  12. @Jeff

    Fabulous ideas, of course! Can’t wait to start working with you f2f in August! We’ll be podcasting up a storm, I’m sure :)

  13. Hi Kim,
    The Comment Challenge is just over, so we must now try to put into practice what we have learned. That’s why I’m commenting tonight, and also to thank you for all the work you had along with the other organizers!
    I loved the podcast project and I will follow your posts on this subject. Perhaps even my Portuguese students could share something with yours… As for the third part of the project I remembered one activity that was successful in my school last year: we have adopt the “book crossing” strategy – as it’s explained at http://bookcrossing.com/ – and made up a book club called: “Books on the Wild”; during certain periods of the year we would be “loosing” books on purpose, all over the school. The kids had great fun and they read and shared their readings more than usual.
    This could also be done with students around the world; I myself have sent books – through friends that went on holidays – to Vietnam, for instance; so, I thought that perhaps we could sent some kid’s books to be lost in your school too.
    Ines Pinto

  14. @Ines

    Glad to see your continuing to comment :) I just loved the feeling of community that the Challenge created (eventually I’ll blog about that too).

    Once we get our podcasting project off the ground, I’m sure we’d love to have some of your Portuguese students collaborate with us as well!

  15. Kim,

    I also teach 5th grade, and I’m really excited to read of this new venture for you and your colleagues! We implement the Gretchen Courtney Reading Program, which focuses upon 6 reading strategies (Preview/Predict, Connect, Summarize, Infer, Question, Imaging) and I could really see this as a useful way to not only have your 5th graders reflect upon their own reading skills, but also have the younger grades learn more about the reading process. You are exposing the younger students to both new technology and further reading reflection at the same time, which I think are both vital in today’s classroom.

  16. Hi Kim,
    I teach at an elementary school in the US that is a National Model School for America’s Choice. We have been models for Readers’ Workshop, Writers’ Workshop and Math Workshop for nine years. Many of our teachers have attended the summer sessions with Lucy Calkins. You might be interested in joining our ning we set up this year. I have been videotaping model lessons in these areas to post there. http://settingthestandard.ning.com

    This is the first year we have had teachers blogging and using voicethread. One teacher recently taught her mini lesson with a voicethread so she could post the lesson on her blog to share with parents. In this area, we are just beginning…. We would love to network with your school and teachers. By the way, you can also find me on twitter: Holtsman :)

  17. Kim,

    This sounds like an excellent plan. I’d like to hear more about how you’re planning to assess student mastery of the strategies.

    In general, when you design technology-infused curriculum, how do you assess the impact that technology integration has on meeting those curriculum goals? I ask because I’m working with teachers next year to integrate technology into instruction, and I’m looking for ways to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of our work. I’d love your input on this.



  18. @Jenn,

    I love the idea of having older students teach their younger peers – they internalize so much more when they have the opportunity to teach. Plus, I love the idea of making connections within the school building – there are networks of support to be built right within our campus!


    Excellent! This is so perfect, I am going to share it with all of our teachers! We are new to Lucy Calkins and we have been talking about taping model lessons here to help build support structures – it will be great to have an experienced school as a resource! Maybe we can build a collaborative project with your school around Lucy? Interested?


    Ideally, what I would love to do (and it’s not always an option) is complete the same project without technology and see if understanding is deeper when technology is used to enhance and support the curriculum. Other than that, I usually do student surveys, add the technology that’s being assessed on the rubric and ensure that technology is not an add-on, but used explicitly to deepen student understanding.

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