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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.
Class discussion can be a great way to engage students with each other and with course materials. Using podcasts as the basis for a discussion in your composition course can also serve as a nice change from talking about the usual essays, stories, or instructional content. This blog post outlines some discussion ideas for using podcasts in two ways—talking about podcasts and talking about the content of podcasts.
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 more!) 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 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 Talk about Podcasts as a Medium
Pre-Class Work: Assign two Grammar Girl podcasts of varying lengths for your students to listen to before your next class. Suggest they make notes about the podcasts like they would for other readings or content assigned in class.
For a longer podcast, you might assign “The Proto-Indo-European Language” (15:45) or “Bare Infinitivals” (15:12) or “Affect versus Effect” (09:15) and for a shorter podcast you might assign “Hyphens in Ages” (02:28) or “Pronoun Order” (02:55) or “Momentarily or In a Moment?” (01:43).
Tip: If you’re using Achieve, see “Add Grammar Girl and shared English content to your course” and “Create an Assessment” for help with making Grammar Girl podcasts available to students.
Discussion: In class, assign your students to small groups of 3-4 students, either in person or virtually. Ask them to discuss the following points:
- How do we, as a group, define “podcast”? How do podcasts differ from lectures, videos, or audiobooks? How are they similar?
- What are examples of podcasts we have listened to?
- How are the two Grammar Girl podcasts we listened to similar? Different?
- What is the structure of each of the podcasts we listened to? Is there an introduction, middle, and/or conclusion?
- What are the other defining elements of these podcasts?
- How did the content inform the length of each podcast?
- Did either podcast feel too long or too short? If too long, what information could have been removed? If too short, what could have been added?
- What questions do I still have after listening to this podcast, either about the content or about how it was created?
Reflection: After discussing in their groups, ask each student to write a summary of the group’s thoughts. Come back to discuss the questions, and each group’s answers, as a class.
Tip: If you are using an Achieve English course, consider creating a custom Writing Assignment that students can use to submit their reflections. Refer to the article “Guide to Writing assignments for instructors” for help with Writing Assignments.
Using Grammar Girl Podcasts to Generate Discussion around a Topic
Pre-Class Work: Assign two Grammar Girl podcasts on a topic (or similar topics) you want your students to work with. As they listen, ask students to record the following for each podcast:
- 1 thing they learned
- 1 question they still have
- 1 personal connection (to an experience, piece of writing, class, etc.)
Tip: If you’re using Achieve, consider assigning podcasts from the folder of suggested Grammar Girl podcasts in your course; please see “Using Suggested Grammar Girl Podcasts in Achieve for English Products” for more information. Or, you can assign podcasts from the categories that these podcasts are organized into, like “Academic Reading, Writing, and Speaking,” “Adjectives and Adverbs,” or “Word Usage.” See “Add Grammar Girl and shared English content to your course” for help with assigning podcasts other than those in the suggested podcasts folder.
Discussion: In class, assign your students to small groups of 3-4 students. Ask them to discuss the following points:
- Summarize the topic(s) covered in the podcast.
- What were the differences between how the podcasts addressed the topic(s)?
- The lessons learned from each podcast. Were any of our takeaways the same? Similar?
- The questions we still have. How might we find the answers to these questions?
Presentation: Students should then take their findings and create a short 3-4 minute presentation based on their discussions. The presentation should include a summary, their takeaways, and any remaining questions. Encourage students to use visuals (images, graphs) as well as text, and cite their sources (the podcasts, the image creators, etc.). Each group can then present to their classmates, or the presentations can be shared online.
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 some of the blog posts, and six of them include downloadable PDFs!).
Have you used 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 how you are using podcasts this semester—or in past semesters!
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