Using the Serial Podcast in Class
Students can relate to the characters, it’s a true story, the content is riveting, each episode ends with a cliffhanger, and my students love to play detective. That is why I continue to use "serial" in my classroom.
Is the Serial podcast old news? It’s not in the classroom!
I am obsessed with the Serial podcast! Well, I’m only obsessed with the first season, which I have listened to 8 times now. Not because it’s that good (it is), but because soon after I heard it for the first time, I began listening to it with my advisory group.
The premise of Serial season 1, is that a teenage girl, Hae Min Lee, from Maryland, was murdered in the ’90s. Her ex-boyfriend, Adnan, was convicted of the crime on one individual’s testimony. Adnan has been in jail ever since with no actual physical evidence to prove him guilty. He interviews for this podcast from prison.
Why I Teach "Serial" to my High School Students:
1. Relevant to Students:
My students live parallel lives to the kids in this podcast. They can relate to the characters, the setting, and the general circumstances. All of my students have a friend just like Jay, one of the important characters, or have parents that are overbearing like Adnan’s. They have all had to defend themselves when accused of something, whether they did it or not. I experienced that often as a teenager. We all know the feeling. These connections make the listening experience meaningful for students. Serial season 1 is now several years old. It’s certainly old news. Yet it still works. It is still relevant to my students, therefore, they are intrinsically motivated to learn.
2. Students Gain Skills and Knowledge:
"Serial" is also an awesome way to build listening skills, critical thinking skills, organizational skills, note-taking techniques, and more, without the students even realizing they are building those competencies. My students develop theories that could only be conjured up by the mind of a teenager.
3. Builds Classroom Community:
I like to incorporate the Serial podcast in my advisory specifically because it bonds my students. They develop a deeper connection by understanding something that others may not get, like a secret language. They talk about the characters outside of class, they have constructive debates on who they think committed the crime and why. I’ve had students go above and beyond by investigating people or events online and enthusiastically bragging about their discoveries in class the next day.
4. Student-Directed Learning (and low prep):
The beauty of using this podcast in your class is that it teaches itself, especially if you allow the experience to be student-directed. Each class is going to be different. Different groups of students have varying reactions, roles in the group discussions, theories about this or that. Every listen is a completely new experience because the student dynamic changes group to group. The students drive the experience. What I’ve observed is that student-led ventures result in the most powerful learning experiences. Have students develop PBL projects along the way, lead class-discussion, and activities.
For those reading this that aren’t educators, listen to it anyway! If you’re a parent, try listening to the podcast together with your teenager. It will give you something to talk about! If you are a student yourself, ask a teacher if they would consider playing it in class. If those efforts are unsuccessful, try to take a break from the “rigors” of your everyday school life and listen on your own time. The perfect opportunity is only days away! Taking any road trips this winter break? Pop in those headphones and have a listen. Happy listening!
If you're interested in adding project-based learning to the mix, check out "Project-Based Learning: Podcasts" from Experiential Learning Depot on TpT, a teacher-guided project with a lot of student choice. You could also use the "Project-Based Learning Toolkit" that has all the templates you would need for %100 student-directed PBL experience.
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P.S. Season 3 was released a few months ago. Has anyone listened? Any insight? Let us know!
10 Free Gifts to Give your Students
10 Free Gifts to Give Your Students This Holiday Season
Children of the 21st century need so much more from educators than content delivery. We as teachers (and parents) grew up in an entirely different world than our students. Information is available to them anytime, anywhere. Memorizing facts, we know, isn't relevant to this generation, it won't be relevant to the next generation, nor the one after that.
What students need now are the "free gifts" on the list above, among other things. There are many more student-needs than what I listed on my gorgeous graphic up top, I just couldn't fit anymore on the page!
Educators are (or should be) well aware of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Basic needs must first be met for learners to reach a level of "self-actualization." Many children do not even have consistent access to their most basic needs: food, water, warmth and rest. School may be the only place they get those things. Safety, friendship and the tools to build a healthy self-concept are additional student needs. Most children struggle with these ideas, especially tweens and teens. They need us to help them navigate through this unique time in history.
What we can give our students this holiday season is support, kindness and love. We can listen when they need us to listen. We can provide our students with learning opportunities that help them develop the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century. We can offer experiences that foster the discovery of skills, talents, interests and desires.
I left my job a year ago to stay home with my own children, and since then have done some serious reflecting on my career. The last few years at my job I felt bogged down by constant student behavior issues, the pressure of adhering to standards, truancy, and my own stuff going on at home. I lost patience with my students and lost-sight of their most inherent needs.
We all know teachers don't teach for the money! We teach because we love our students. You are likely already giving your students most, if not all, of the gifts on the list. If you're not, it's okay! Give yourself a break. We as teachers are up against a lot. But try to do some serious, honest self-reflection this winter break. Make changes in your classroom if you need to. Create the conditions they need to thrive. Assign projects that promote student voice and choice. Provide a plethora of input to aid students in discovering their interests and talents. Focus on your students, who they are as individuals, and what they really need from you.
Check out some of Experiential Learning Depot's projects that might be just what your classroom needs. They are all student-centered, so provide that choice, voice, autonomy and hands-on experience mentioned on the list.
Activities for Building a Strong Advisory Community
Project-Based Learning Tool Kit
Community Action Projects
Follow Experiential Learning Depot on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook for more on experiential education, and check out my TpT store for experiential learning resources.
To provide innovative educational resources for educators, parents, and students, that go beyond lecture and worksheets.
Sara Segar, experiential life-science educator and advisor, curriculum writer, and mother of two.