I love the unpredictability of a class discussion. However, I don’t love the varying degrees of participation. I have tried every gimmick in the book to ensure equal participation. Yet, it never fails: some students blend into the background and fail to make a comment in class because they are shy or are unable to overpower the more dominant voices in the discussion. Having your students create and record their own podcast is a great way to solve all of these problems.
Today I’m going to post on how to go about implementing a podcast project in your English classroom as a way to engage ALL students in the text and a critical discussion about the text with their peers.
I have found that it is imperative to have the students placed into groups. The makeup of the group is one of the most important elements to the project. The groups need a nice balance of the above mentioned individuals to ensure a variety of personalities and therefore more equal distribution. It is much harder for a dominant discussant to control a conversation if there are only 5 people total.
I would also advise assigning each group some sort of a thematic topic. As the students are reading the text, have them annotate it for anything relating to the theme. If studying Transcendentalism, I might assign topics to groups like: nature, society, the individual, or life. If reading a text like Romeo and Juliet, I might assign topics like: family, romantic love, role of friends, and the future. Leaving the topics broad allow students more leverage within their actual podcast. I stress that these are springboards and should be used to uncover a larger purpose or provide them a jumping off point for their discussion.
Lastly, asking students to come to the discussion prepared really provides them the analytical tools that some of the less frequent discussants need to feel more comfortable. However, the type of preparation varies by ability and grade level.
- Write 3-5 essential questions (an example of a question for Heart of Darkness might be: How do our surroundings transform our psyche?)
- Construct 3-5 conclusions about life, society, or human nature that the text supports (an example of a conclusion for Kite Runner might be: Our inability to confront fear distorts our understanding of truth).
- Provide a source that enhances knowledge about the topic or text. In the past students have used literary databases to find literary analysis, historical context, or authorial information that informed their understanding of the topic or text.
I often highlight that they might not directly state their questions or conclusions, but the goal is that going through the process has made them consciously analyze the text and topic, which makes them prepared.
I encourage the students to model the Slate Audio Book Club (profiled yesterday) because the participants analyze the book but in a less formal, more conversational manner. They should be posing questions and responding directly to their peers just like in the studied podcasts.
When they are ready, I take the groups into smaller rooms (or they could be spread out in a large space like a library) and ask them to record a 15-20 minute podcast. Tomorrow I will be posting on how to actually record and edit the podcasts, providing options for software and applications that might be helpful.