This is not going to be a post teaching you how to conduct a unit on podcasting.
(If that’s what you’re looking for, maybe someday. But also Stefanie has written a brilliant series on this starting here.)
Rather, this is a post where I will muse on what teaching podcasting has revealed about the process of teaching writing and what I might need to re-think in the future.
Because I often need a partner to nudge me to do something truly scary, I partnered with my social studies counterpart in a seventh-grade World War II unit that culminated in a series of podcasts. In history, students studied the war. In English, we read Night and/or Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl in literature circles, with all students studying excerpts of both during Notebook Time. We visited the Virginia Holocaust Museum and hit the jackpot when a connection helped us secure a guest speaker to discuss her experiences during Japanese internment.
After all this study, we put students in groups and asked them to do some synthesis of all they had seen and learned. Each group chose a question culled from The New York Times‘ Student Opinion Questions (which are great for just about anything!) Here is our curated list of Podcast Guiding Questions. They used what they knew about history, about primary-source literature of World War II, and from their lives and the world around them to answer the question.
You can listen to our first season of our podcast, The Harkness, and see how they turned out! (Sam and I also recorded two episodes especially for teachers discussing our process, rationale, outcomes, and what we would change next time.)
But I told you I’m not writing a post about how to run a podcast unit! What awed me as we moved throughout the process is that podcasting forced students to confront and linger in parts of the writing process they most-often avoid. So, what does podcasting teach students about writing? And how might we alter our writing processes after this experience?