5+ Nonfiction Podcasts for the Elementary Classroom

Over the past couple of years, podcasts have exploded. As an adult, I love podcasts! I love absorbing educational podcasts, comedy, crime, news, investigative journalism, interviews, and more.

There are many quality children’s podcasts out there, too, and more are being made. While many high school teachers have been using Serial and Moth and How I built this to entice students in the classroom the past couple of years, there are many that are appropriate for younger children.

Podcasts will be an ideal resource for teaching this year. Whether you’re teaching in person with distance and looking for varied independent work or online and have run out of audiobook links, podcasts could make for great independent learning.

I found that nonfiction podcasts were highly engaging for students, so those are my recommendations today. I also liked that I could pick and choose at random, or better yet, allow students to pick and choose. During each science unit this past year, I let students pick 1-2 podcasts to listen to. They then typed up in a google doc 3 things they learned, 2 questions they have, and 1 thing they’ll share with a friend or family member about the episode. These made fantastic sub plans, by the way.

Here’s a screenshot of the hyperdocs I’ve created for science independent study

I’ve posted two of these “podcast club” hyperdocs for free in my TpT store if you’d like to get started using one of those.

I can imagine doing this periodically as a “wonder day” project since many of the topics on these podcasts are varied and eccentric. At the beginning of a unit, this could spark curiosity. At the end of a unit, this would be a great way to connect to what you’ve learned together as a class.

Also, you could even do a “podcast club” instead of a book club where students select from a smaller list of choices then discuss what they chose with classmates either through Flipgrid (as my hyperdocs suggest) or in the classroom.

Here are my favorite podcasts that I’ve used with students and the descriptions they have posted on their websites.

  1. But Why?
  2. Smash Boom Best
    • Smash Boom Best is a debate show for kids and families from the makers of the award-winning podcast, Brains On! Every episode takes two cool things, smashes them together and lets you decide which is best. Cats versus Dogs. Pizza versus Tacos. Super Speed versus Super Strength. Who will be crowned the Smash Boom Best? Our debaters use facts and passion to make their case… teaching listeners how to defend their own opinions along the way.” from https://www.brainson.org/pages/smashboombest
    • Quick note that I think this is more geared towards primary aged children. My sixth graders liked this one least, but it’s quite silly and entertaining for littler kids.
  3. Tumble Science Podcast for Kids
    • “Tumble is a science podcast for kids, to be enjoyed by the entire family. We tell stories about science discoveries, with the help of scientists!  Join Lindsay and Marshall as they ask questions, share mysteries, and share what science is all about.” from https://www.sciencepodcastforkids.com/
  4. Brains On
    • Brains On! is an award-winning audio show for kids and families. Each week, a different kid co-host joins Molly Bloom to find answers to fascinating questions about the world.  Our mission is to encourage kids’ natural curiosity and wonder using science and history…but there’s no age limit on curiosity, and episodes of Brains On can be enjoyed by anyone.” from https://www.brainson.org/pages/about
  5. Wow in the World
    • “Hosts Mindy Thomas and Guy Raz guide curious kids and their grown-ups on a journey into the wonders of the world around them. We’ll go inside our brains, out into space and deep into the coolest new stories in science and technology.” from https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510321/wow-in-the-world

If you’re hoping for some popular fiction podcast for kids, here are a few other recommendations I have:

  1. Stories Podcast
    • “On the Stories Podcast, we perform a new story for your children every week. The stories range from retellings of fairy tales like Snow White to classic stories like Peter Rabbit and even completely original works. Everything is G rated and safe for all ages. The perfect kids podcast for imaginative families. Whether you’re driving with your children or just want to limit your kids’ screen time, Stories Podcast delivers entertainment that kids and parents alike will love.” – from Apple Podcasts description
  2. Julie’s Library
    • Join beloved icon Julie Andrews for story time! Julie and her daughter, children’s author and educator Emma Walton Hamilton, invite you into their library to read their favorite children’s books. Every story comes to life with sound, music and activities. Authors, kids and other special guests chime in, too! It’s a show that will inspire lively conversations and a lifelong love of reading. Produced by American Public Media.” from https://www.julieslibraryshow.org/about
  3. Good Nights Stories for Rebel Girls
    • “The Podcast is a fairy tale podcast about the extraordinary women who inspire us. The show is based on Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, the global best-selling book series inspiring millions of girls and women around the world to dream bigger, aim higher, and fight harder.” from https://www.rebelgirls.com/pages/podcast
  4. Story Pirates
    • “The Story Pirates believe that kids are creative geniuses. All of them. The Story Pirates are a nationally renowned group of top comedians, musicians, best-selling authors and incredible teachers with fifteen years of experience creating content that celebrates the imaginations of kids. Winner of the 2020 iHeartRadio award for Best Kids and Family Podcast, The Story Pirates Podcast is one of the top three kids and family podcasts in the world. Downloaded over 20 million times and featuring songs and sketches based on stories written by kids, their special guests include top talent like Billy Eichner, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Dax Shepard, Bowen Yang, Claire Danes, John Oliver, and Lake Bell. The Pirates have released three critically acclaimed middle-grade books with Penguin Random House and two award winning albums, all based on ideas from kids around the world. The Creator Club, their new subscription service, features activities, live streamed classes, a daily radio show, and videos to entertain and encourage creativity for kids at home.” from https://www.storypirates.com/about
    • This podcast is cool becuase it features kids’ voices and their stories. A fun project in class could be to submit a story to this podcast which you can do here.
  5. Six Minutes
    • This podcast is an ongoing story so the episodes build upon one another unlike the other podcasts I’ve listed.
    • “Eleven-year-old Holiday is pulled from the icy waters of Alaska with no memory of who she is or where she came from. Are her mom and dad really who they say they are? And when she begins to develop incredible abilities, she’ll soon discover she’s not alone in the world. From the award-winning creators of The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel and The Ghost of Jessica Majors, comes Six Minutes, a new mystery adventure for the whole family. Starting on March 1st, new six minute episodes, twice a week, all year long…and beyond. Produced by Gen-Z Media in partnership with PRX. For more great Gen-Z shows visit http://bestrobotever.com” from https://app.kidslisten.org/pod/Six-Minutes

I hope you’ll give podcasts a try with students. It could be a great resource for language arts (listening and oral communication skills), science (so many specific science podcasts!), or social studies (many curated current event options out there).

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