Common Sense Review
Updated February 2015


Bring real-world stories from public radio into the classroom
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Common Sense Rating 4
  • Current events page
  • Lesson plans include NPR story to listen to with questions and themes
  • Lesson plans integrate with NPR website
  • A plethora of lesson plans
Vast range of solid current event info and historical stories from public radio let students make genuine connections.
Audio-focused site could use a few more videos and images to entice kids used to snazzier visual content.
Bottom Line
A fantastic resource that brings both historical and current event public radio stories into the classroom.
Stephanie Trautman
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

Students will enjoy the clean look of the site and the activities and connections they can make to other subjects they may study. Stories are concise but packed with relevant, entertaining information that will keep kids interested.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

Kids learn through connecting stories to the real world. With teacher guidance and assignments, students delve into essential questions and activities that help them gain deeper understanding beyond the story's plot.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

There are currently ELL supports available for some stories, but not all; the developer indicates that this feature will be more broadly applied to the site in the future. The Socrative connection is solid, helping reinforce ideas.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

Teachers will be able to search through comprehensive lessons and look at their essential questions and objectives. From there, each lesson contains class activities including a listening guide, discussion guide, vocabulary, and video analysis, as well as individual writing and extension pieces. Links to the public radio stories include transcripts, too. Teachers can check their students’ listening skills by assigning short-answer or multiple-choice Socrative assessments written for specific public radio stories, and the site also connects to StudySync. Great options for the technologically connected classroom! All lessons connect to Common Core standards, which are outlined for each specific lesson. Using the teacher dashboard, educators can see lessons and recent current events, and can assign lessons to their students for individual work, group work, or take-home activities.

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What's It Like?

Listenwise is a website filled with public radio stories covering current and historical events. If you’re looking for ways to bring history to students, these stories provide interesting narrative and great music to keep kids engaged. At its core, the site offers language arts, history, and science lessons with great supports for further learning. The range of topics on offer is extensive, including diverse topics like nuclear power in India, GMO foods, and truth in nonfiction.

Teachers can use the site's search features to find suitable assignments for their students. The Premium subscription offers more extensive features for assigning stories to students, but the free version gives teachers lesson plans, activities, and tips for aligning stories to the Common Core State Standards. Some standouts include essential questions and objectives for each lesson, video analysis, and extension activities.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Kids will be intrigued by these audio stories, particularly the eyewitness accounts of current events and historical stories. This tool hits the spot for kids used to using digital tools to boost experiential learning; the stories are powerful and engaging, and it's easy to navigate the site. Students take an active role in learning about new topics, but for optimal use, the stories should be listened to, and activities should be added along with them. It might also help to supplement the lesson with photos and videos, especially for kids who struggle with listening skills.

The site offers Common Core alignments, but its ultimate aim is to be used as a supplemental tool, not for primary instruction. The stories can be used to build understanding or scaffold lessons within a unit, or can be assigned for individual learning or research. Many stories have ELL supports, and students can choose to listen to any story at an original or slower pace.

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See how teachers are using Listenwise

Lesson Plans