This blog series is written by Julia Domenicucci, an editor at Macmillan Learning, in conjunction with Mignon Fogarty, better known as Grammar Girl.
Podcasts, like all forms of writing, are defined by specific elements and include a great variety of them. Use this assignment to explore the idea of what a podcast is with your students, and introduce the idea that all forms of writing have their own criteria.
Podcasts are well-established, but their popularity seems to increase every day—and for good reason! They are engaging and creative, and they cover every topic imaginable. They are also great for the classroom: you can use them to encourage student engagement and introduce multimodality.
LaunchPad and Achieve products include assignable, ad-free Grammar Girl podcasts, which you can use to support your lessons. You can assign one (or all!) of these suggested podcasts for students to listen to before class. Each podcast also comes with a complete transcript, which is perfect for students who aren’t audio learners or otherwise prefer to read the content. To learn more about digital products and purchasing options, please visit Macmillan's English catalog or speak with your sales representative.
If you are using LaunchPad, refer to the unit “Grammar Girl Podcasts” for instructions on assigning podcasts. You can also find the same information on the support page "Assign Grammar Girl Podcasts."
Using Grammar Girl Podcasts to Learn about Evaluation Criteria
Pre-Class Work: Ask students to look up the definition of “podcast” in at least two different dictionaries and record the definitions.
In addition, choose two episodes of different podcasts for students to listen to. One of the podcasts should be a Grammar Girl podcast; the other can be from any other podcast series (for example: The Daily from the New York Times or Consider This from NPR). Assign these for students to listen to before class, and ask students to take notes on notable elements of the podcasts.
Students might consider: How is the podcast titled? Does the podcast have an introduction and conclusion? What information is included in each podcast? Does the podcast episode have a theme or topics?
Assignment Part 1: In class, place students into groups and ask them to complete the following steps.
Compare the definitions they have written down. Together, they should compile all the definitions into one.
Compare their notes about the podcasts they listened to and make a list of all the elements they identified.
Then, they should make a list of criteria: What makes a podcast a podcast? This should be a combination of the definition and their own notes about the podcasts they have listened to.
Assignment Part 2: As a class, listen to one or more Grammar Girl podcasts that are different from the ones chosen for pre-class work. (You might consider choosing podcasts about a topic that will be discussed later in the semester, or topics that you feel your students may need a refresher on.)
Each group should then evaluate the podcast(s) based on their chosen criteria. Rank the podcast against each criteria using a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is “this podcast does not exhibit this criteria” and 5 is “this podcast completely exhibits this criteria.”
To wrap up, each group should present their list of criteria and outline how well the new podcasts fit their list. As a class, discuss the findings. Were there any criteria that all groups had? Were there any that only one group had? After listening to the new podcasts, what criteria would they add or how might they revise their list to better encompass the idea of a podcast?
Reflection: Ask each group to revise their list of podcast criteria based on the class discussion. Then, each student should write an individual reflection. If they’re stuck, they might consider one or more of the following questions:
What changes did we make based on the class discussion?
Were there any entirely new criteria that came out of the conversation?
Were there any criteria I thought would apply to all the podcasts but did not?
Are there any podcasts I listen to that do—or don’t—meet these criteria?
If I were to create a podcast, what criteria would I use?
Tip: If you are using an Achieve English course, consider creating a custom Writing Assignment that students can use to submit their lists and reflections. Refer to the article “Guide to Writing assignments for instructors” for help with Writing Assignments.
Advanced Assignment: Ask each student to research a form of writing they enjoy that usually has specific criteria. For example, they may often listen to a type of music, read a specific genre in fiction, or be taking classes in a discipline with particular expectations. After researching, students should write 2-3 paragraphs outlining the criteria for this particular type of writing. They can also include examples where those criteria are ignored, twisted, or changed.
As you begin to think about this semester, be sure to check out our other Grammar Girl assignment ideas. You can access previous posts from the Bedford Bits home page or by visiting “30+ Grammar Girl Assignments for Your Next Class” on the Quick and Dirty Tips website (these assignments are based on the blog posts, and six of them include downloadable PDFs!).
Did you plan to use Grammar Girl—or any other podcasts—in your classes? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear from you and learn about your plans for podcasts this semester—or in past semesters!