Podcasting to enhance expressive language

We are all now aware of the powerful potential of the podcast to share a message to a huge audience across the internet. Schools are increasingly using this medium to promote what they do and share their experiences. Allowing children to share their own work lets parents and other family members hear progress being made.

One area in particular in which we have used podcasting, is in the development of speech and language skills. Many children with autism have difficulties with expressive language and by using podcasts you have the potential to identify and target difficulties in this particular area. Three years ago we as a school wanted to focus more on the development of expressive language with our pupils so we decided to create a school radio station called Speak FM. All pupils within the school have 4 Individual Education Plan (IEP) targets that are worked on each term. 1 of these targets has a speech and language focus which we decided to incorporate into the Speak FM project. The aim was to work on these targets with the children whilst producing a podcast that focussed on a particular book that each class was following at the time.

hillingdon-podcast

After introductory training for teachers on podcasting, each class in the school was tasked with creating a podcast by the end of term. During the training, we focussed on the use of Garageband and iTalk Recorder to show how easy it was to create a podcast. The school had been using Audacity as a means to record children in the past as it was installed on the school system, while other podcasting apps available include Podbean, Voice Thread, Mobile Podcaster and iPadio. The use of mobile devices to now do this was agreed as a more attractive and engaging option, especially for more collaborative work. Many good questions were raised during the course of the session such as: ‘how could our non-verbal children access these activities?’ This question, among others of a similar nature, led to a brainstorming of potential solutions including the teacher becoming the lead presenter, asking questions which could be answered by the child using their particular form of gestural communication. Although their answer would not necessarily be heard on the podcast, their preferred medium of communication would be used and reiterated by the teacher and they therefore would still be a part of the process.

With my own class, I introduced podcasts that were related to their own particular interests. At the time, these were based around Pokemon, Lego and various video games. These days, many of our pupils listen to various podcasts about Minecraft. We then established our E-safety rules for creating a podcast, these included; not using your real name, not giving out personal information and using appropriate language throughout.

I then let the children explore Garageband on the iPad, using the stingers and various jingles available which really engaged the children. During the following literacy lessons, I got the children to work together to prepare for the podcast – the book we were following at the time was The Butterfly Lion by Michael Morpurgo.

The children in a group of 5 created a script in which to follow. They were keen to make a great show and worked really well to do so throughout. One child took the lead in asking the questions whilst the others took turns in answering. The children recorded the first practice podcast and we listened back to it once they had finished. Before listening back, I asked the children to listen for parts in where they could improve. During the first recording there was lots of ‘dead air’ and the children quickly recognised that this could be improved. This was a good point to show them how to edit away the dead air and they quickly picked up on how to do this. Some of the children wanted to re-record their answers and in these moments I reminded them of their IEP targets.

The following day I asked the group to listen again to their podcast to identify how it could be improved further, they all agreed that they should completely re-record the podcast as they felt it could be a lot better. They quickly were able to edit any mistakes made without my help and finished up by adding different stingers and jingles.  Their first podcast only lasted 3 minutes but the children were really proud of the work they had done and couldn’t wait to get home and show their parents on the school website.

Have a listen by clicking the following link:

https://soundcloud.com/ben-webster-12/central-class-the-butterfly

Other podcasting ideas:

  • School news- really good for showing parents what is happening at the school.
  • Children’s work- Children love sharing activities they have done at school.
  • School trip- We styled this as an outside broadcast when we went to the British Museum.
  • Interviews- with members of staff, other children, members of the community and other visitors to the school. On one occasion a pupil interviewed his great-grandmother who was an evacuee during WW2.
  • Create a podcast on e-safety

The possibilities are endless for ways in which podcasts can be used. Let your children listen to other podcasts before they start. This is a great way of finding out what they are all about and discovering what it is possible to do. For children who do not have internet access, download some child-friendly podcasts onto a CD so they can listen at home.

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