Using Grammar Girl Podcasts to Practice Summarizing

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This blog series is written by Julia Domenicucci, an editor at Macmillan Learning, in conjunction with Mignon Fogarty, better known as Grammar Girl.



Summarizing is integral to writing when using other sources. Students are probably most familiar with summarizing text sources--let’s use podcasts to practice the skill of summarizing other mediums!

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."

If you are using Achieve, you can find information on assigning Grammar Girl in Achieve on the support page “Add Grammar Girl and shared English content to your course.” If your English Achieve product is copyright year 2021 or later, you are able to use a folder of suggested Grammar Girl podcasts in your course; please see “Using Suggested Grammar Girl Podcasts in Achieve for English Products” for more information.


Using Grammar Girl Podcasts to Practice Summarizing

Pre-Class Work for Assignment: Assign podcasts for your students to listen to. You can assign one podcast to the entire class, assign a few for students to choose from, or assign students to specific podcasts. While any podcast will work for this assignment, you might consider one or more of the following options, which discuss topics of some debate:

  • Should Writers Keep a Journal?
  • Can You Start a Sentence with "Which"?
  • Can You Say "These Ones"?
  • "Irregardless" versus "Regardless"
  • The Emphatic "This"

Introduce or recap the concepts of summarizing for your students, such as:

  • Identifying the thesis or main idea
  • Recounting the main points without including every detail
  • Using your own words
  • Using objective language
  • Surrounding any language from the source in quotation marks

Remind students about the transcripts available for the podcasts.

Tip: In an Achieve English course, you can assign instructional content about summarizing. Look or search for Reading content about summaries or summarizing. Refer to the help documentation about adding Resources if you need help adding the content to your course.

Assignment: Ask students to listen to the assigned podcast and write a summary of the podcast. Pair students up or place students in small groups. Ask each student to comment on where their peers’ summaries succeed and where they might need more improvement.

Tip: If you are using an Achieve English course, consider creating a custom Writing Assignment that students can use to submit their summaries and conduct peer review. Refer to the article “Guide to Writing assignments for instructors” for help with Writing Assignments.

Reflection for Assignment: Ask each student to review their peers’ feedback and write a paragraph or two about the feedback they received. Then, hold a class discussion about summaries.

  • Were there any aspects of summarizing some or many students struggled with?
  • What was the easiest part of summarizing?
  • What sort of language is objective? What language might be analytical or a personal response?
  • Did any students accidentally plagiarize, and, if yes, how can that be corrected? 

Follow-Up Assignment: Each student revises their summary based on the feedback they received and the class discussion, and then submit it for a grade. 


Credit: "Belief System alternate: Sound waves" by Chuckumentary is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0