My Top 3 Podcast Picks (and why you need them in the classroom)

May 19, 2016

“I was listening to this podcast…”- is how a lot of my stories start ūüôā ¬†Depending on who you are, your eyes either glazed over and you reached for a drink, or you leaned into your chosen device and can’t WAIT to find out more! ¬†I’m hoping you are the latter!

Why should you use podcasts in your classroom? ¬†I have given this a lot of thought, and the answer I came up with was different than what I expected. ¬†Podcasts teach empathy and perspective. ¬† They make the listener think about the world in a new way and have them turning the topic in their head for weeks, or years, to come. ¬†It is now our responsibility to teach empathy to our children as our devices slowly but surely replace human interaction. ¬†One simple way to do that is to show them the world through someone else’s eyes.

If you aren’t sure what podcasts are, they are simply radio shows or other audio productions that you can download to your phone for FREE and listen to them whenever you want- while you are driving, walking the dog, etc. ¬†You can find a podcast on just about any topic- from comedy to science to nutrition. ¬†Apple devices have a dedicated app called “Podcasts” (not just a fancy name), and for my Android, I like BeyondPod.

I subscribe to a bunch, but there are a few that I have found particularly useful and inspiring in the classroom.  Here they are:

Did you know that a pile of ancient garbage in Egypt has the power to update the Bible? Who pointed at a roadside forest and changed zoos as we know them? ¬†What is the real price of “priceless”?

RadioLab combines amazing storytelling with mind blowing audio effects to bring you a wide range of scientific ideas and perspectives that you will be throwing into your dinner time conversations for weeks to come!

To give you a feeling as to how much I am in love with Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, I have paid actual money to see the podcast recorded live…twice. ¬†Aaaanndd most of the time it’s just what you would expect (two guys and a microphone). MOST shows are fine for little ears (although, if my kids are any indication, the little ears would prefer music). ¬†They will give a little warning if the topics aren’t suitable.

Past episodes are free and you are likely to find something relevant to most science or social studies topics.  I chose this one because I have played RadioLab  for my students and they have been able to link the information to writing samples or standardized tests.  It really stuck with them.

My top 3 RadioLab episodes:



Detective Stories (The one about the Egyptian Garbage)


This podcast is hosted by professors from the University of Virginia.  What I love about this podcast is that they will take a topic such as childhood, Abraham Lincoln or our beliefs about disease, and look at them from the perspectives of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

This podcast is fine for little ears and is great to accompany a biography research project or a social studies content unit. ¬†I recently listened to an episode about the history of standardized testing. ¬†It will make you want to SCREAM!!! ¬†The military abandoned the SAT as a measurement because the designer said it wasn’t a valid test. ¬†Just one of the many fun facts you will come away with!

My Top 3 Backstory episodes

Pass/Fail:  A History of American Testing

Young Americans:  A History of Childhood

Did Abraham Lincoln Have a Beard?

This American Life

Perhaps the gold standard and the reason why podcasts are so big right now. ¬†While it isn’t an undiscovered gem, you need to start listening to it if you haven’t already. ¬†It is poignant and relevant and storytelling at its finest from those who have been there.

If you are in education, they have a number of shows that focus on current issues facing education.  What does the income gap and school disparity really mean?  What does it look like?  But, most importantly, what does it feel like?  If you teach older students, these episodes can serve as a springboard for some excellent discussions.

There are so many favorites here! ¬†It’s hard to narrow it down.

The Problem We All Live With РThis is a two part series about the state of American education.

Three Miles Р How different can two schools be that are only three miles apart?

Lights, Camera, Christmas!Р While this one is holiday themed, I originally heard it 4 years ago, and it STILL ends up in conversations!

Products Inspired by Podcasts

Life Cycle of a Butterfly FREEBIE
Life Cycle of a Butterfly FREEBIE
Biography Research Project
Animal Research Project
Thinkin' About Lincoln FREEBIE
Thinkin’ About Lincoln FREEBIE
creative thinking square cover
Christmas Creative Thinking
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