Confession: My alliterative self wanted to add another “p” word to the title of this post but the only thing I could think of was pandemic. My plan for this blog PP (pre-pandemic) was to share some work around “rhetorical ladders”, but in our current very surreal new teaching paradigm I decided to share something simple and, a different “p” word, practical.
The International Literacy Association defines literacy as, “the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, compute, and communicate using visual, audible, and digital materials across disciplines and in any context”. (2017) The verbs, adjectives, and nouns in this definition push our traditional thinking about messages, texts, and even reading into a more global perception of literacy.
As language teachers, we cultivate our students’ skills to interpret and create messages. As thousands of us scramble to redesign how we deliver our instruction right now, the distance learning (e-learning, virtual learning, digital learning, at-home learning) that we are relying on due to the necessity of social distancing actually pushes us to tap into some different multi-modal messages. Critical listening is included in every strand of my state’s language arts standards, but it does not get the same focus as reading, writing, or even speaking in teachers’ lesson plans. Podcasts (easy to link in online plans and easy for students to access on cell phones) provide teachers with readily-accessible audio “texts” for students to critically listen and respond to during this time. Helping students think about critical listening as message-interpreting can be helped by using a simple checklist. Critical Listening Checklist.
And, if you are wanting to lay the foundation for more rhetoric work later, then this podcast listening guide (Podcast Listening Guide) adapted from a TED.com TEDTalk analysis handout can guide students to think of the speaker, audience, message, and context of the podcast. Previewing (pre-listening) to podcasts before offering them to students is advisable especially for the older grades where language and subject matter can vary greatly episode to episode even on podcasts labeled as “educational”.
Because student choice is even more important right now as our students grapple with the unprecedented restrictions in communities and homes, offering options for students to choose from for podcast listening is thankfully easy with the many great options available. A sampling is provided below:
Personal Note: Usually I struggle to stay under the recommended word count, but this is all that I have right now, friends. Stay well. Know that your time, love, energy, flexibility, and dedication to “crisis teaching” is appreciated by families and fellow educators.