Boost Literacy Learning with Podcasts Kids Love

By Kathleen Palmieri

Have you listened to any good podcasts lately? Podcasts have gained popularity with all ages and offer endless topics, genres, and subject areas. Students in the intermediate grades (4-6) have eagerly embraced the podcast as a way to engage in a good story.

Much like tuning in to radio programs of the 1930s-40s, students listen intently as their imagination hooks them into a story – in the classroom as well as at home.

Podcasts offer a great way to enhance language arts. Similar to the benefits of the class read-aloud and independent reading, podcasts can be incorporated as a way to increase students’ understanding of a story.

Listening comprehension is important to a student’s overall understanding. As students listen to a story, they visualize characters and settings, many times making those important “text to self” connections.

Listening helps students to authentically make inferences and predictions from hearing the dialogue between characters and podcast presenters.

As a reader, a student may demonstrate the ability to decode words, but some may not understand what they’ve read or make connections to help create pathways to comprehension. Incorporating podcasts into the classroom helps to enhance comprehension skills.

The two websites I go to for podcasts are Gen-Z Media and Kids Listen offers podcasts broken into age groups.

How podcasts work in class

I offer my class a few podcast titles and a brief description of the stories. This is similar to how I share books for independent reading. Then students vote to choose what the class will listen to as a whole group. The other podcast choices that prove popular I link in our Google Classroom for students to listen to during independent time.

I invite students to use their notebooks to create “sketchnotes” as they listen. Sketchnotes offer a way for students to draw what they are thinking or write down thoughts and ideas. Most of my students doodle away as they listen, and their pictures offer an incredible glimpse into their comprehension. (See “Why Kids Should Draw More” at Edutopia.)

Another option that works well to demonstrate comprehension is having students create a “One Pager.” This is an idea that has grown in popularity in many classrooms. A One Pager is exactly what it sounds like – students combine writing and drawing (dual coding) to share their thoughts on a single page. Many examples can be found on Instagram and Pinterest.

Student One pagers from my classroom

Stories in podcast format

There are hundreds of free podcasts available to bring into your classroom. Here are some podcast-based stories that my fifth graders are currently engaged with:

Whole class:

Six Minutes – (Gen-Z Media) “Eleven-year old Holiday is pulled from the icy waters of Alaska with no memory of who she is or where she came from. Are her mom and dad really who they say they are? When she begins to develop incredible abilities, she’ll soon discover she is not alone in the world.” Here is a link to a snippet.

Podcast choice links in our Google Classroom:

The Mayan Crystal – (Gen-Z Media) “In the spirit of Mayan folklore, an 11-year-old Belizean girl accidentally invokes an evil spirit that threatens to consume the rainforest. She goes on a thrilling journey to save her home and her people.”

Becoming Mother Nature – (Gen-Z Media) “Can a 12-year old balance the entire world’s ecosystem while just trying to fit in at her new school? Only Mother Nature knows.”

Other podcasts to check out include:

The Big Fib – Great way to discuss “Fake News.”

Young Ben Franklin – As a boy Ben Franklin had an adventurous spirit!

Brains On! Science podcast for kids – Listeners’ questions answered.

Why teach with podcasts?

The benefits of making podcasts a part of your ELA program include:

  • Listening comprehension helps build students’ understanding of a story.
  • Student engagement is high and leads to authentic learning.
  • Many podcasts are free and accessible.
  • Students use Sketchnotes and One Pagers to demonstrate takeaways and understanding.
  • Language learners have another learning resource

I highly recommend bringing podcasts into your classroom!


► from Ditch That Textbook: Sketch Noting in the Classroom: 12 ways to get started

Basic One-Pager Template

Kathleen Palmieri is a National Board Certified Teacher and a NBCT Professional Learning facilitator. She is a fifth grade educator in upstate New York who reviews regularly for MiddleWeb. With a passion for literacy and learning in the classroom, she participates in various writing workshops, curriculum writing endeavors, and math presentations.

As a lifelong learner, Kathie is an avid reader and researcher of educational practices and techniques. Collaborating with colleagues and globally on Twitter @Kathie042500 and expanding her education adventures at are ongoing practices.


MiddleWeb is all about the middle grades, with great 4-8 resources, book reviews, and guest posts by educators who support the success of young adolescents. And be sure to subscribe to MiddleWeb SmartBrief for the latest middle grades news & commentary from around the USA.

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