The Best Podcasts for Middle Schoolers

It is not uncommon to see Middle Schoolers with earbuds in their ears, but how many of them have been encouraged to explore the podcasting genre?

For the past few years, teachers Ceci Gomez-Galvez and Nathan Lill at Shekou International School in China, have implemented a podcast project with their Grade 8 students based on the popular NPR podcast series “This I Believe.

Students listen and respond to a range of “This I believe” examples – both from the original podcast and samples from previous students – and then undertake the process of creating their own.

Attending a workshop with the pair last year, I couldn’t help but feed off their passion and excitement for the project. Listening to some of the finished student samples gave me chills. What phenomenal work students produce when given a platform to (literally!) share their own voice with the world.

Ceci and Nathan have shared all of their resources (linked here with permission), so I encourage you to check out the vast array of material they have shared and get this project started in your school community.

In addition, why not incorporate podcasts into your regular literacy programme? Below are a few of my favourites, which I hope you will explore with your Middle Schoolers.

This I Believe

This I Believe engaged listeners in a discussion of the core beliefs that guide their daily lives. We heard from people of all walks of life — the very young and the very old, the famous and the previously unknown.” When you get a collection of stories about powerful beliefs from a diverse group of people, you can’t help but create amazing content.

Sample Episodes:
Saying Thanks to my Ghosts – Amy Tan
Life is Wonderfully Ridiculous – Claude Knobler

Youth Radio

Youth Radio is a commentary on present-day issues, presented by student journalists. What I like about this podcast is you get view points from students, for students. The content varies broadly. Student journalists are never going to shy away from controversial topics – it’s part of what makes it real to it its listeners. Generally, episodes are short and cover a range of perspectives. There is bound to be one about a topical issue you are exploring in class.

Sample episodes:
13 Reasons Why Not
Transgender Rights

The Allusionist

If language is your area of expertise, look no further than The Allusionist. Featuring language experts, listener questions and words of the day, this podcast by Helen Zaltzman is a deep dive into the wonders and mysteries of language. This podcast would certainly enhance lessons on grammar.

Sample Episodes:
How the Dickens Stole Christmas
Triumph/Trumpet/Top/Fart

99% Invisible

In its own words: “99% Invisible is about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world.” Fascinating stuff, huh? Digging around in the archives will be sure to uncover an episode or two to engage every learner.

Sample Episodes:
The Accidental Music of Imperfect Escalators
Last Straws: Inventing the Modern “Drinking Tube” and Flexible “Bendy Straw”

The Sporkful

Billing itself as a podcast for eaters, not foodies, The Sporkful is chocka-block with fascinating gastronomic content. As my son is essentially a stomach on legs, I figure this will be a great podcast for him to check out…

Sample Episodes:
To Eat Less Sugar, Bake a Cake, Says Yotam Ottolenghi
Katie’s Year in Recovery (from an eating disorder)

Reply All

The Guardian describes Reply All as, “A podcast about the internet’ that is actually an unfailingly original exploration of modern life and how to survive it.” The subject matter is near and dear to many teen hearts, and the quirky anecdotes about the vast reaches of the internet keep the audience wanting more.

Sample Episodes:
Is Facebook Spying on you?
The Cathedral

Welcome to Night Vale

Ok, this one is weird! Finally, a work of fiction for the teenage mind to uncover. Each episode of Welcome to Night Vale appears as a series of regular reports from a local community news broadcast. Sounds fairly benign, right? But there are some major clues that things are not exactly what you’d call “normal” in the town of Night Vale. Aliens, the attention given to  helicopter paint and a floating cat is only the beginning…

Sample episode:
Pilot – Episode 1


Cross-posted at Digital GEMS blog

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