Language Matters: Podcasting a Powerful Storytelling Tool for Students

Anne O'Reilly Connerty

Anne O'Reilly Connerty

Throughout the unit called "Language Matters" 8th grade students explored various uses of words, how they are used positively and negatively, for the sharing of ideas, for inspiring action and for sharing beliefs. They noted these ideas in both fiction and nonfiction.

In this unit they explored how Napoleon in George Orwell’s Animal Farm manipulated language to keep the animals believing in him as a leader.  They also investigated Martin Luther King Jr’s ideas on freedom and equality for all humans,  and even analyzed Pink’s acceptance speech of the “Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award” at the 2017 Video Music Awards. In this speech, Pink shares the story of her young daughter telling her “I’m the ugliest girl I know...I look like a boy with long hair.”  Pink then continues to share her belief about self empowerment and how being “our true selves” is vital. As the unit progresses the students consider what they value, what they stand for, what they believe in.  They are then tasked to create their own podcast to share those ideas.

Link to download "10 Things to Look For In an Inspirational Classroom"

Part of the process of the podcast is immersing themselves in podcasts from the NPR site, This I Believe. While immersing themselves in these they create a plan for themselves based upon their analysis of successful podcasts they’ve heard. With this, they consider their word choice closely and carefully.

Here, revision isn’t only on paper with this work, but it’s also on their recordings where they think closely about the words they choose, how they sound, the pauses they take, and anything else they notice while crafting their own podcast. If a visitor were to arrive on a recording, revision, or editing day they would be more likely to see students with earphones looking at their phones or computers rather than writing comments in their notebooks. They might at first appear to be disengaged, but are actually in deep focus.

(To listen to more 8th grade student podcasts, visit our SoundCloud page here.)

For many of the students it’s a new medium with which to work and it’s an eye opening activity for them. Podcasts are a different way for them to share their belief systems and the work leading up to it genuinely makes them consider what they stand for. The topics are not always heavy or intense, but can also include lighter topics like laughter and its importance in our survival, curiosity, or the joys of being an introvert. Eighth grade is a vital time for students to investigate in this point in their life what they value, and to share this information via their own words. And with that, the sound of their young voices is a powerful treat for all who listen.


Anne O'Reilly Connerty

Anne O'Reilly Connerty

Anne's main interest and goal in her role as a teacher is figuring out how students learn, and works to meet them at that point; she is constantly strategizing how to ensure that her students "get it." She is an avid reader and loves that her job revolves around words, written and spoken. When she's not at Whitby she can be found outside anywhere with family, friends and her energetic black dog.