Have you been curious which podcasts would be good for the high school English classroom? Or even how to use podcasts in the English classrooms. You have come to the right place! Today I will be sharing 5 podcasts (and specific episodes) that I have loved using with my high schoolers. In all honesty I could recommend more than 5, but these are the absolute TOP of my list and ones that my students have enjoyed.
PRO TIP: Before listening to any podcast in class, I highly recommend having a hand-brain connection piece. I like to make active listening sheets which work as CLOZE notes they fill in while reading. However, you could also do things like Sketchnotes or mindmaps. Adding in this active part is what will help your students retain even more of what they are hearing and limit the “zoning out” we all dread in our classrooms!
Myths and Legends Podcast
I can’t begin to tell you how much I love the Myths and Legends Podcast! As a World Literature teacher I find it absolutely essential and fun. With hundreds of episodes to chose from, the applications are massive. I have largely used this podcast for King Arthur legends, Beowulf, Norse Mythology, and fun origin stories like the original Nutcracker story. Here are a few select episodes I high recommend:
The host breaks up the entire epic of Beowulf into 3 episodes. He also brings his dry humor and occasional modern day connections/summaries with it as well. It took some time, but I made some listening sheets for when students were taking in the audio. But, I also wanted to incorporate some of the original text with it for my students to get a multi-modal approach to the story.
The host uses the Seamus Heaney version which is what I decided to pull from as well. As I listen to the podcast again, I would note some areas that would benefit from them actually reading the text and would take excerpts from the text and insert it into the listening sheets.
Using this approach made covering this epic hero approachable, fun, and timely. Between the podcast episodes, the texts, and comparing with the movie, I was able to complete this study in about 7-8 class periods. Which is perfect timing during my entire unit of mythical heroes.
Ep. 67B: Gawain and the Green Knight
The host of Myths and Legends Podcast does it again with another epic tale! He takes the courageous story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and gives a wonderfully detailed summary of the story in one episode. Again, I made a listening sheet for while students listen to the episode.
The twist here is that the host begins the episode as Gawain begins his journey. I still wanted my students to appreciate the beginning of the story when the Green Knight and Sir Gawain are introduced. So, in addition to the listening sheets, I took some time to write an adapted version of the beginning of the story. It uses a little more of the language used today but not so much that it’s completely modernized.
Students get to do a close reading and annotation of the opening scene of the story and then switch over to the listening sheets for the podcast. In total, it takes about 3 days to cover one of my favorite Arthurian tales!
In this episode the host gives you the most bang for your Norse Mythology buck! In this episode he shares three stories of Loki, the infamous trickster from Norse mythology. What is extra special about the last myth though is that it is also what triggers Ragnarok. So, if you have any Marvel fans in your classroom this one will surely be a big hit as they get to compare with the Marvel version!
You know how all of our favorite Disney movies are based off some much darker fairytales? Well, the same is pretty true for The Nutcracker. Yes, the ballet/music/movies we all love had some… interesting… aspects in the original tale that were changed over the years.
With this podcast episode, students will learn how the Nutcracker became a Nutcracker as well as the backstory of the Mouse King. An interesting fun fact from this also is the age of Clara when she goes to the Nutcracker’s world and agrees to marry him!
Want some extra fun? Pair it with scenes from ballet performances or the Disney movie that came out a couple of years ago and discuss how it compares with the original!
On Purpose with Jay Shetty
This podcast is wealth of goodness for EVERYONE! I listen regularly for my own mental and emotional health and share with teachers all the time. But there is one episode in particular that I love sharing with students as well- The 4 Seasons of Life.
In this episode Jay takes you through the different phases of emotional being we experience and how be support ourselves in each of these “seasons”. To guide my students through this episode, I again made listening sheets and break this up into a 5-day warmup activity.
This episode takes the listener into deeply reflective practices and encourages them to stop with an
activity for each season.
Day 1) Opening and the season of summer
Day 2) The season of Fall
Day 3) The season of Winter
Day 4) Season of Spring and closing thoughts
Day 5) Reflection of the seasons as a whole and determining which season they are in at this time.
To make the absolute most out of this, I highly recommend trying it out yourself first! The activities he invites you today are incredible and will teach you so much.
Unobscured- Season 1
Season 1 takes listeners on an intimate tour the dark and misunderstood events of witch trials that took place in the colonial village of Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. Episode 1 introduces the area and the strange sickness that has fallen upon some of the girls in Salem in 1692.
Episode 2 summary from the creator:
Even though Salem had been without an official charter from England for almost a decade, there was no question that witchcraft was still a crime. The only question left was how to handle them, and the answer would involve pitting a group of outsiders against a few powerful insiders.
This season is extremely helpful to pair with The Crucible! Students learn a lot of the history of the historical rent as well as the real people depicted in the play. By giving this context before studying the play, my students felt they better understood the general premise of the plot and were able to then focus in on the characters and their motives.
The Solve podcast is an interactive podcast that puts the listener into the role of detective in a murder mystery. These crimes are based off of real life stories. With this tool, you can take your student’s inference and evidence gathering skills to a whole new level! There are always 4 main suspects and you go through the clues each one gives to determine who the true murderer is.
A word of caution with this podcast series. Many of the episodes have strong language that are not always appropriate for the classroom. I have found two episodes that are perfect to use in your classroom and will not get anyone in any troubleI have found two episodes that are perfect to use in your classroom!
Season 1 Ep. 6- Old Hollywood Hotel
The morning after she arrived in Los Angeles, famous influencer, Eloise Pham, was found floating in the pool of the historic Old Hollywood Hotel. Now it’s up to you to interrogate her family, friends and fans to figure out who would extinguish this rising star.
High school senior, Hazel Blackwell, was applying to her dream college when she uncovered an underground ring of admissions fraud. Who found out about Hazel’s intentions to tell, and killed her before she could blow the whistle?
This series is always a big win with my students. In fact, the first time I incorporated it, I actually had to speed up my lesson plans because so many students were listening ahead outside of class. You can see the series homepage as well as listen to all the episodes here .
Limetown is a fantastic mystery/suspense podcast that takes you back to the glory days of radio shows. On their website they introduce it by saying the following, “Ten years ago, over three hundred men, women and children disappeared from a small town in Tennessee, never to be heard from again. American Public Radio reporter Lia Haddock asks the question once more, “What happened to the people of Limetown?”
When I cover Limetown, we look at how suspense is built (hint hint- RL 5 for all of you still working under Common Core standards). So, if you need a way to tie it into the standards, this is a fantastic rationale. This series has all the great stuff of cliffhangers, flashbacks, new questions coming to the surface each episode, sound effects to add to the drama, and much more.
If you are ready to dive into Limetown in your own classroom and need the aid of listening sheets while students listen, check out this link. If you are looking for a slightly larger unit in which students explore mystery and suspense as well as several engaging writing prompts, check out this link.
What about you?
What podcasts do you love to use in your classroom? I am always on the lookout for some new favorites, so be sure to drop some in the comments. Or connect with me on IG and let chat on all kinds of classroom goodness!
Would you like 3 more podcasts that another ELA teacher recommends? Check out this blog post from A Better Way to Teach!