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:
- 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
- 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?