Podcasting in the Classroom

It Started with a Little Boredom and A lot of Inspiration.

You know how you sometimes get in a rut as a classroom teacher? It's the fourth, fifth, sixth.....time I'm teaching this unit. It could really us a breath of fresh air! Granted I was always changing, modifying, updating my lessons, but you know what I mean. Each year in my 4th grade classroom, we would follow the Iditarod dog sled race that takes place each year in March in Alaska. We would study the history of the event, research the dogs and mushers and what it takes to compete in an event like this. This was a cross-curricular unit, hitting on standards for almost all my subject areas. With all the talk of dogs, adventure and competition, It typically was a very popular unit in my classroom. Yet, I was in need of some fresh inspiration.

I had recently started listening to Podcasts. I loved this form of media, because it allowed me to multi-task on a whole new level. I could run and listen, ride in my car and listen, clean the house, etc. That same year, our district had brought in an Apple Professional Learning Specialist to run a session on recording in GarageBand. As part of the workshop, we did a very simple podcast project. This started the wheels of inspiration inside my brain. I thought, "Could my 4th graders do this? Could I incorporate this into my Iditarod unit? What would it take to actually publish the podcast on Apple Podcasts?" I had more questions than answers, but I knew that this was something I was willing to take on. It could be a huge flop, but I it also could be a pretty awesome experience for my students.

Enter I-Kid-A-Pod

You know that phrase-building the airplane while you're flying it? Yep, that's pretty much how my first year of podcasting went with my students. Quite literally I was one step ahead of my students as we were figuring this out together. With that said, here is a little how I introduced my students to podcasting and eventually had them producing an episode a day and publishing it on Apple Podcasts. It is important to note that we are 1:1 iPad district for grades K-12.

Step 1: What are Podcasts? (1 month prior to starting the Iditarod unit) We started by learning more about the history of podcasts and subscribing to a few kid-friendly favorites. We learned how to ensure that our settings of Podcasts were set correctly so we didn't have 1,000 episodes downloading and filling up all of the space on our iPads. We also explored how they could download specific episodes so that they could listen on the go. I then told them to just spend some time listening to podcasts. Their goal was to listen to at least two episodes from at least three different podcasts. I also asked them think about what all podcasts have in common while they were listening.

Step 2: The Podcast Framework: Now that my students had some familiarity with podcasting, we talked about the similarities: they are focused on a topic/theme, music is consistent with each episode, often have special music for special features, hosts talk casually, usually only 1-2 hosts, can contain advertisements/sponsors, logo, etc.

Step 3: Getting to Know GarageBand: We started by having an in-depth conversation about the music within a podcast: Intro, Segment Change, and Outro (Bumpers). We talked about how the music/instruments tended to match the theme of the podcast. From there, we started by just playing in GarageBand. We did a scavenger hunt for instruments/loops that conveyed a particular feeling/mood: excitement, reminiscent, mystery, etc. We then introduced a bumper contest for our podcast. Everyone had to enter and create a 5-10 recording in GarageBand.

Step 4: Plan your Podcast: The Iditarod race typically lasts between 9-14 days. We wanted to spend some time giving our audience some important information before the start of the race, so we wanted to start recording one week prior to the race. We would publish an episode a day for approximately 21 days. I divided my class into 5 teams. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc. The day their group was responsible for publishing their episode. Since all podcasts follow a similar format, we had a graphic organizer (see attached numbers doc) to help organize our information.

Step 5: Get out of their way. Once we started publishing, our classroom turned into a mini news room. When they weren't researching, they were writing scripts, editing episodes or working down on the floor with me on specific reading skills during guided reading. They developed their own method for not duplicating stories, vocabulary (Mushing Lingo) or featured dogs and mushers.



side by side image of Homemade sound booth for students recording and students sitting in a circle learning GarageBand

Things to consider:

  • Get Creative: Yes, I still had to run those guided reading groups. My students didn't know how I formed my Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday....groups. I 100% based it on specific reading skills that we needed to be working on. So when they weren't working on their podcast, they were down on the floor finding the main idea and supporting details in a piece of non-fiction.
  • How do you actually publish a podcast on Apple Podcasts? You can use the Anchor app for free, however there is no control over the advertisements that may be included in your students episodes. The alternative is to use a service to host your RSS. I used PodBean, which I have been very happy with.
  • Make use of Community Resources: I invited a radio announcer and a reporter from our local paper to come in and talk to my students about researching stories, reporting and how to have good etiquette when speaking on the air.
  • Take the Time to Listen: After each episode was published, we took the time as a class to listen. We then talked about glows and grows and how we could make it even better. I truly believe this was a key component in my students' growth throughout this project.

Things I hadn't anticipated:

Enter the Paparazzi: I didn't expect our podcast to get any attention outside our immediate families. Wowza. With a PodBean subscription, you have access to your analytics. We quickly found out that we had listeners all around the globe. How did this happen? I really have no idea, except that I would tweet out each and every new episode. Our podcast also was noticed by Alaska Public Media who was also working on a podcast, Iditapod, and decided to interview my students and I on their podcast. Not only that, but some of the mushers caught wind of our podcast and reached out with appreciation! But for my students, none of that really mattered. All that mattered was the fact that their families were listening. Oh the importance of Real-World learning!

Remember How this All Started? Remember how I said that I was just kind of bored with my prior winter survival stories, and that is the reason why I started the podcast? Well, little did I know how much more value this experience would bring to my classroom. Here are just a few examples:

  • My students reading, researching, writing and summarizing skills significantly improved
  • Their confidence in speaking in front of their peers improved
  • Students that once never turned in an assignment, were now showing up early to class, wanting to get a start on their latest research or writing their piece for the podcast
  • Mini roles quickly developed within their teams. Passions for editing, writing, researching and speaking quickly emerged.
  • My students continued to listen to podcasts well after this unit. Frequently coming in to share something new they learned or a new podcast to subscribe to. And when they moved on to 5th grade, they continually asked their teacher if they could create a podcast! 

I'm proud to say, that even though I have now transitioned into a new role in my district, the I-Kid-A-Pod podcast continues. It has been picked up by a couple other teachers! Take a listen as they just wrapped up their 7th season!

Want to get started on something like this in your classroom? Check out my Numbers guide to help you take those first steps!


Tagged in: Apple Podcasts

All Replies

Posted on August 30, 2022

This is super useful and very timely for me. We have a few schools who are interested in creating podcasts for this community, so this has given me some great tips. Thank you!

Posted on August 30, 2022

Such a delightful story and a plus for classroom learning! Thanks for detailing your podcasting journey, so helpful for teachers getting started! Loved reading this!

Posted on December 15, 2022

Thanks for the story, thorough layout, and templates.

Posted on December 14, 2023

Wow, Felecity, the detail you have shared on how to get a podcast started is impressive. Thank you for creating the Numbers document as a step by step guide. I was just thinking about what Science podcasts are available for students, and you had a whole selection so thank you!

Huge effort and very helpful. Well done!

Posted on January 23, 2024

Great list of mentor podcasts and resource to help students think about the characteristics of a podcast. Students have everything in one spot to get up and running!

Posted on February 28, 2024

I loved your idea to use Numbers to create background knowledge, the technical components and the planning! Thanks for sharing.

Posted on March 02, 2024

Thank you so much for sharing this! I want you to know that you doing this a huge inspiration to me. My class follows the Iditarod every year as well and I'm always looking for ways to make an engaging unit even more engaging and this is it! I love how kids are unknowingly working on reading and writing skills, all while being actively engaged in a project that allows them to demonstrate their creativity. I can also relate to "still having to do the guided reading groups" lol, and this seems like just what I was looking for in regards to what my kids can be doing independently while I'm having groups. Again, thank you for being an inspiration to me!

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