Using Podcasts for Kids in the Classroom
Podcasts can do much more than liven up your morning commute. There are more than three quarters of a million active podcasts in the country right now, and many of them are educational podcasts for kids. No matter what subject or grade level you teach, there’s probably a podcast you can use as an introduction to a new unit or as a springboard for an exciting lesson plan. Here are a few of our favorite podcasts for kids that you can use in your classroom.
Science Podcasts for Kids
Tree frogs, owls, bears, bats, and various horned creatures—the Earth Rangers podcast wows kids with lessons that help them understand the natural world. Each episode focuses on a different animal or group of animals in digestible 15- to 20-minute segments.
- Listen to an episode and have students write a short story about what it would be like to have the featured animal as a pet, using facts from the podcast as part of their story.
- Play a game in which students listen to several episodes and then are assigned to “act out” an animal’s characteristics while their classmates guess which animal they are.
The science of feelings, the science of dogs, the science of telling lies—these psychological and neurological podcast lessons help students understand human behavior. These 30-minute episodes are narrated in part by kids and encourage students to ask probing questions about topics that interest them.
- Have students listen to an episode or two, and then, like the kid cohosts, generate a list of questions they would ask about whatever topic you’re currently studying. Bonus points if you can find an expert on the subject to invite to your class and answer the questions!
- If resources allow, bring some of the podcast’s topics into your classroom. For example, there are episodes about wool, popcorn, trees, soil, maps, and many other objects or concepts that you could have hands-on experiences with in the classroom.
Tumble: A Science Podcast for Kids
Combining storytelling with scientific facts, this podcast makes big, hairy topics more digestible for kids. Each episode is about 15 minutes long and features expert scientists who answer questions such as “How can koalas eat food that’s toxic to other animals?” and “What would happen if there was no moon?”
- Have students brainstorm questions they would want to ask on the podcast and then swap their questions for other students to research and answer.
- Challenge students to use narrative techniques to answer a scientific question.
History Podcasts for Kids
Stuff You Missed in History Class
Some languages don’t have a word for the color blue. Did the White Sox once lose the world series on purpose? This podcast explores these fun topics and more. Episodes range from 30 to 45 minutes and cover a wide range of topics and eras in history. Note: This podcast is best for high school students.
- Allow students to pick a topic that interests them; they can then write about the topic itself or use it as a springboard to research the greater historical context surrounding it.
- Have students listen to a few episodes for inspiration and then record their own podcast about a topic you’re currently discussing in class. This article from TeachHub offers several free resources for recording your own podcast.
Young Ben Franklin
We all know about Benjamin Franklin’s inventions and his role as one of our founding fathers. But what was he like when he was 13 years old? These 15- to 20-minute episodes follow young Ben’s adventures in Colonial Boston and his run-ins with the cruel British governor of Massachusetts.
- Exercise your students’ social–emotional learning by discussing how young Ben’s experiences might have impacted the man he later became.
- Have students listen for clues about what life was like in Colonial America and use these details as a launching point to research historical topics that interest them.
Language Arts Podcasts for Kids
These storytellers create imaginative landscapes and creatures that are sure to spark young students’ creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. Many of these 15- to 20-minute stories are adaptations of classic fables, and some are original creations.
- Listen to an episode as an introduction to a unit on fables, or as inspiration for students before they start writing their own stories.
- Have a classroom discussion identifying the theme or moral message of each story.
The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel
This podcast for middle-grade kids, performed by middle-grade kids, is a serial mystery adventure following a group of eleven-year-olds trying to find their missing friends. Episodes are 15 to 25 minutes, and the series has proven so popular that the creators are developing a three-book series and TV show based on it.
- Create a novel study based on the podcast to help students explore character development, plot, conflict, mood, point of view, and theme.
- Use these podcast response brochures from Teach Create Motivate to help students practice their reflective thinking.
In exciting six-minute episodes, this podcast follows the unfolding mysteries surrounding 11-year-old Holiday, who wakes up one day in the icy waters of Alaska not knowing who she is or where she’s from. Kids will love seeing Holiday discover the secrets of her past—all the while developing mysterious powers no one can explain.
- Set up a learning station where students can listen to podcast episodes and work through discussion questions independently or as a group.
- Have students practice their listening and note-taking skills by having them take notes on an episode and then share to make sure they hit on the most important points and used an appropriate organization system.
This podcast follows the adventures of a plucky young reporter who uses her journalistic prowess to stop dastardly villains. These 10- to 15-minute episodes show Eleanor researching and reporting her stories—and getting caught up in them herself.
- Eleanor’s adventures can sometimes involve a lot of characters and plot details. Have your students practice their listening skills and then ask some formative questions to see if they were able to follow this audio adventure.
- Discuss the connections between fiction and real life as Eleanor grapples with real-world issues in a fictional setting.
- For older students, you could use episodes as a jumping-off point to discuss journalistic ethics and how we do (or don’t) see them in current news stories.
Welcome to Night Vale
This bimonthly serial podcast focuses on eerie, atmospheric storytelling. In a series of 20-minute episodes, the narrator Cecil tells stories about a town in the Southwest where “all conspiracy theories are real.” Note: This podcast is best for high school students.
- Instead of reading a book, students could listen to a season or two of the show and write about its themes, character arcs, and other literary devices.
- Introduce the idea of authorial intent by listening to this NPR interview with the creators:
Who says grammar has to be boring? In these charming 10- to 30-minute episodes, the Grammar Girl helps students (and their teachers) remember the difference between “affect” and “effect,” find out how idioms became idioms, and discover the origins of words you never thought you’d care about (“gerrymandering,” anyone?).
- Listen to episodes as a class to introduce grammar topics.
- Recommend students listen to certain episodes as feedback when they make consistent errors in their writing.
More Ideas for Bringing Fun to Your Class
Podcasts for kids are a great way to increase students’ engagement and foster their listening skills. When students are excited about what they’re learning about (and how they’re learning it), your job becomes more fun too!
That’s why Advancement Courses has created several courses to help you make your classroom and lessons more fun and engaging for students. We offer K–12 educators more than 240 online, self-paced professional development courses covering both foundational topics and emerging trends. Here are a few that will help you bring technology and entertainment into your class:
- Social Media Tools for Teaching and Learning: Embrace the chaos of social media by using it as a teaching tool. In this course, you’ll explore how to integrate social media applications into core curriculum, prepare students to participate safely, and teach the collaboration, communication, and critical-thinking skills students need for success in this technological age.
- Teaching Science to Elementary Students: Conquer Next Generation Science Standards with these exciting resources and techniques for teaching science to elementary students. You’ll create high-quality, engaging, and challenging science lessons that will stick with students well after they leave your classroom.
- Game-Based Strategies for Language Instruction: Gamify your language classroom! In this course, you’ll learn about the theories behind gamification and create games that will teach your students crucial language skills—and have fun doing it.