Just about everyone has a podcast these days, including some talented creators who are designing content we can use in our classrooms with kids and teens. While podcasts are trendy, they also have lasting value. They can be used as a novel way to introduce or reinforce subject matter with our students. For those of us concerned about screen time, podcasts are an antidote, and they help sharpen listening skills, too. Podcasts are also practical and accessible as far as technology goes — they can be played on almost any digital device and just about all of them are free.
There are literally thousands of podcasts, with many made expressly for the youth market. We have some suggestions below, but when searching on your own, you should avoid anything that is overly commercial and look for podcasts that would easily integrate with your curriculum. Also be mindful of the appropriateness of the content; podcasts aren’t always clearly rated for age and offensive material.
But Why?: A Podcast for Curious Kids by Vermont Public Radio attempts to answer this eternal question common to all kids and tackles a wide range of subjects in the process. It accepts questions from kids at email@example.com — which would make a great class assignment. Check its website for learning guides for teachers complete with customized Google Slides, KWL charts and more. (Grades K–4)
Young Ben Franklin shares fictional stories about Benjamin Franklin growing up as a mischievous teen in colonial Boston and solving mysteries with his friends. See this podcast’s educator pages for a free sample of its podcast companion, which contains digital worksheets, Jamboard activities and Google Slides (the full version costs $15). (Grades 3–6)
Story Seeds has a unique and empowering premise: Kids suggest story ideas to famous authors, and then the two work together to craft an original story that you hear on the podcast. It’s a great peek behind the curtain of what makes a good story and the process of brainstorming and working together that goes into a creative project. (Grades 3–8)
The Past and the Curious features unusual stories and people from history backed by solid research, an original music score and an engaging and kid-friendly delivery. Throughout each episode, the host suggests other resources, defines vocabulary words or even gives a short quiz to test listening comprehension. (Grades 3–8)
Smash Boom Best is a debate podcast for kids. Two topics are chosen for a face-off, and two kids for each topic debate and defend their ideas. A student judge scores the arguments. This podcast is great for teaching students how to defend their opinions with facts or introducing the argumentative essay. (Grades 6–9)
Stuff You Should Know is so popular that fans refer to this podcast merely as SYSK. Its two hosts met while both were editors at howstuffworks.com, and following that premise, they explain a wide variety of topics both esoteric and matter of fact. With subject matter ranging from empathy to alligators to chaos theory to the Statue of Liberty, SYSK is both educational and entertaining. Some topics can be controversial, so choose episodes wisely before sharing with students. (Grades 7–12)
Sandy Scragg is an instructional technology specialist with more than 20 years of experience in New York City public schools.