Three of our wonderful grade 5 classrooms (Chrissy, Robin and Ali) have been collaborating all year on a Reader’s and Writer’s workshop project with 4 other schools around the world.

We initially made the connection because we were looking for a meaningful, year-long, collaboration based on our curricular focus for the year (Reader’s Workshop). Luckily, we were able to find four schools using the same curriculum structure to teach reading and writing.

We started the year (and the project) by sharing student writing and reading and commenting on each other’s blog posts. However, one of our major goals for the project was to develop a weekly, entirely student-produced, podcast focused on reading strategies called Students Teaching Students.

Considering none of us here at ISB have ever done a regular podcast with students, we knew it might take a while to get it off the ground, but we wanted to make sure it was meaningful, appropriate, and authentic use of the technology to enhance our curricular goals.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve finally gotten the podcasting part of the project off the ground. It was surprisingly easy!

Here’s what we did to get started:

Chrissy, Robin, Ali and I spent some time brainstorming the steps that students would need to go through to produce a thoughtful podcast on a weekly basis – and how to make it practical within our laptop cart teaching environment.

We decided that we would use our student book club groups for the current Historical Fiction unit as the podcasting groups. Each week one group would produce a podcast during Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop time. To help ensure they are able to produce their podcast independently, we provided a checklist of steps.

Once we had the process organized, we introduced the idea to the students over two lessons.

During the first lesson we listened to a sample podcast (I chose a language-learning podcast so that students would be able to focus on the introduction and the features of the podcast instead of the content).

As we listened, students were asked to think about the different features of the podcast. They then brainstormed in teams what makes a good podcast. We came up with this list:

  • Exciting, catchy, but short, musical introduction.
  • Music is quiet while speaking.
  • Clear introduction of each speaker, all guests, the “big idea” of the podcast, this episode number & title, and the topic of this episode.
  • The speaker uses enthusiasm and excitement in their loud, clear voice.
  • Use first names only.
  • The show should sound like a conversation between podcasters.
  • Keep it interesting for the listener.
  • Stay focused (when writing your script & when recording).
  • Everyone in the group needs to have a speaking part in the script.

Once we had an idea of what a good podcast sounds like, we talked about the quality of the intro and outro music. Students were given the challenge of creating their own intro and outro music for the entire class’ podcast based on the criteria we brainstormed:

  • catchy
  • calm – not distracting
  • not too loud
  • fades out at the end
  • fast-ish to get listeners excited
  • include a catch phrase (optional)
  • relate to our topic – gives a feeling for our topic
  • less than 30 seconds (including any catch phrases)

They spent about 30 minutes using Garage Band (which they had previously learned about in music class thanks to another fantastic teacher, Vince) creating either an intro or an outro (in small teams or individually). At the end of the lesson, we voted on which songs would be used for the entire class.

Once we had our music for our class podcast, we were ready to practice creating a podcast to learn how the different tools work and to go through the process of brainstorming an idea, writing a script, producing a podcast, and exporting the file into proper format.

We spent an entire language arts block (1.5 hours) going through the process, following the checklist. Here’s how we broke it down:

15 minutes to brainstorm an idea for the podcast. All groups had to create a podcast for students learning how to be a better reader using the different Reader’s Workshop Strategies they had learned that week. Once they chose a strategy, they had to be able to explain it and share how it helped them read their current book.

45 minutes to write a script following this basic outline which we brainstormed and agreed upon at the beginning of the lesson:

  • Welcome to Room 229’s Historical Fiction Podcast Series
  • Episode Title: This is Episode 1
  • This episode is brought to you by:
  • Introduction of podcast (what is this podcast about for first time listeners)
  • Introduction of cast (speakers)
  • Introduce the book (or series of books) you’re reading
  • Introduce the Reader’s Strategy that you’re going to be talking about
  • Describe the strategy
  • Explain how you used the strategy to help you read this book
  • Share examples
  • Closing
  • Looking forward to learning with you next week

20 minutes to record their podcast (no editing due to time constraints).

At the end of the lesson, we listened to all the trial podcasts to share constructive feedback for each group.

I was very impressed with the quality of podcasts that the students were able to produce in such a short time frame, especially for their very first experience!

Since this trial run, student podcasts have been produced in small groups, one group per week, during the Reader’s Workshop time. We even decided to create our own channel on iTunes to share our podcasts with our global partners (and anyone else who’s interested in Reader’s Workshop strategies)!

Overall, this was a surprisingly easy project to put into place. I’m always a little intimidated and nervous when I try something new, but this ended up being even easier than I expected. Garage Band is so easy to use, the students were so excited to share their learning, the book groups were such a natural fit for creating podcasts, and uploading the files to a podcasting host (G-cast) and then creating the iTunes channel were a breeze!

Although we’ve only really just gotten started, I can already see how powerful this process will be for our students. Since I’m a newbie at podcasting, what else should we be doing?

22 thoughts on “Podcasting Power

  1. We have just uploaded our first group podcast to Gcast! This was such a blast for the students to write the script, record and edit and convert to mp3. As a teacher, listening to student conversations about what reading strategy to discuss, how the script should sound, to listening to groups collaborating, gave me valuable insight into my students and their understandings of what we are covering in Reader’s Workshop and how they are working with one another. The checklist is such an effective tool for organisation. From a technology point of view, our own collaborative planning and conversations made this an easy session to do with students as part of Reading. The first group completed the whole project in less than an hour and a half, converting their project to mp3 the following day. Amazing!

  2. It all sounds pretty good to me. The only other thing I would suggest is to listen to the podcasts and give the students time to reflect on the quality and suggest feed forward/improvements for next time.

    If possible I give the students who recorded the published podcast an iPod to take home for the night so they can share it with their family without the hindrance of a lack of internet connection or access.

  3. Thank you for this blog post. As a technology integrator at my school, I will be sharing this with my staff. The detailed description of how to implement podcasts in a classroom will set their minds at ease and show them how simple it truly is to use podcasts with students.

  4. We’re in the midst of completing our second round of podcasts in Science as we speak. You’re checklist is thorough and guiding – both important to students when they are beginning this type of journey.

    I’ll look forward to sharing your podcasts with my 8th graders. Thanks.

  5. Awesome Kim! What a great project, thank you for breaking it down into steps for us. I have wanted to do a podcast project like this with my students but only have 35min with them. I think I can follow your checklist and split it into smaller days. Thanks!

  6. @teachingsagittarian,

    I’m so glad the podcast is truly demonstrating their understanding and giving their teachers an insight into their learning and collaborative abilities.

    I love using checklists with students! There are usually so many steps to any project that utilizes technology (even if they’re quick, short steps) that it really helps to have them all listed out. Maybe we could have the students evaluate the checklist after they’ve all been through the process and offer suggestions for improvement?

    @Allanahk,

    Great suggestion about listening for improvement. I definitely think we need to make sure we add that piece. Would you recommend the whole class listening to all of the podcasts, or just the groups listening to their own?

    Lucky for our students, we have iPods for checkout in the Learning Hub :)

    @Terry,

    So glad it was helpful! I was even surprised at how easy it was!

    @Lisette,

    I’m definitely going to let our students know that 8th graders are listening! They will be so excited!

    @Kelly,

    Excellent! So glad it’s helpful! I think this would be super easy to split into shorter blocks and more steps. Good luck!

  7. I’m glad to see this post. I’m considering podcasts as one way for my students to present their book reviews but I’ve never done it before. I’ll definitely be borrowing ideas from here. Not much point in re-inventing the wheel.

    Also I was sooooooo glad to see I’m not the only one who gets nervous before a new project.

  8. @ghostlibrarian,

    Please, feel free to borrow anything that will work for you! I really was surprised just how easy it was once we got everything going. I think we all get nervous when trying something new :)

  9. This is a great project and excellent execution. Thank you for putting step by step how you formulated this idea and then saw this project through to the end. The podcasts are amazing! I plan on using your checklist and this blog as inspiration that creating podcasts in the elementary classroom can be accomplished and in an effective manner! Thank you for sharing.
    Erica Schlamp´s last blog post ..Read-Write Web

  10. Thanks for this post Kim! I too use the Lucy Calkin’s approach to teaching reading, and I am always keen to hear about others who use the same approach and the different things they do with it. I am really interested in listening to the podcasts as I think my students might be able to learn from them and also might like to create their own. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to play the podcasts. I can find them in iTunes, but they will not play. Can you offer any help here? Also, I noticed that this post is from 2009. Have the teachers decided to continue with the podcasting or was this a project that was just done during one school year? I love to hear your thoughts.
    Mary Fish´s last blog post ..Putting Learning into Practice – Looking Ahead to the Final Project

  11. Kim, this project is incredible! You have inspired me to pursue this with my middle school students. I am impressed with your detailed directions and organized format. Your students know you mean “business” and that they have control over their learning! They also have the ability to impact others with their knowledge and skills’ which I find most impressive! Fabulous idea for using resources to change the life and learning of children as well as engage in global awareness and encourage the community of learners. Amazing work!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge