Podcast Assignment (Part 1 of ?)

As I mentioned here recently, my composition students will be preparing two rounds of podcasts this semester. They are recording their first podcasts tomorrow, and – based on some of the ideas they were bouncing around in class yesterday – I’m looking forward to the results. Several colleagues expressed interest in the assignment, so I thought I’d quickly create a repository for the methods/materials I’m using. Fair warning: this is all still very much in development.

The first podcast assignment can be made collaboratively or as a solo recording, and I set the minimum time limit as 3 minutes for a solo piece, 6+ minutes for the collaborative podcast. The idea is that I am introducing students to the tools/format of this media, and allowing them to talk through texts and forge connections with class materials. I have urged them to see this as an informal – but recorded – chat. The second podcast will include voices from outside the class, so students will use interviews to create a more argument-driven piece.

Our focus this semester is on race, ethnicity, structures of power, ideology, and exclusion in the US. I gave them several suggestions for possible formats/topics based on our class materials, such as (and this is taken directly from our class site):

  • read a short passage of a text out loud, and then “unpack” it through analysis, challenge the author, or draw connections
  • grapple with a topic or theme that you are still trying to get a handle on
  • reflect on your process of knowledge acquisition or reading materials this semester
  • “perform” your Michelle Alexander dialogues, and then reflect on that exercise
  • respond to HANDS UP! Six Playwrights, Six Testaments
  • Super-rock-star option: riff (and do a little further research) on a tangential topic that has intrigued you, like black lynched bodies as souvenirs (see Harvey Young’s article here), or later iterations/use of the song Strange Fruit, music/songs that have been linked to racial/ethnic/political movements, etc.

Using guiding questions from Compose, Design, Advocate (which we are reading excerpts of), I created the Slideshare (just below) to help them craft a statement of purpose and several other components of a design plan. 1 The prompts ask them to think about their audience and what they hope to convey in their podcast, along with establishing talking points to better prepare them.

The rubric for the first podcast and design plan is available via this Dropbox link. 2 I also created a model design plan for students by walking through these prompts as well, which you can access here (again, via Dropbox). We’ll discuss how to use Audacity for editing their recordings. Most of them will rely on their smartphones (which have decent voice recording options for our purposes), though I am bringing in a digital audio recorder that some of them can use too.

Finally, I enlisted my friend and colleague extraordinaire Naomi Stubbs, Assistant Professor of English, to create a podcast with me – which  you can listen to here via this Dropbox link. We used a short excerpt from Andrea Smith’s essay “Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy” (an essay my students also read and responded to earlier in the term) to riff on Native American removal and generally nerd out over 19th century performance history.

I hope to hear from others who use podcasts in their own classrooms – and I plan on updating/adapting materials in future posts based on my own experiences and any feedback I get from others.


  1. Anne Francis Wysocki & Dennis A. Lynch. Compose, Design, Advocate. 2nd ed. Boston: Pearson, 2013.
  2. The rubric was derived from design plan guidelines set up in Compose, Design, Advocate, and was structured using examples of Task-Specific rubrics in John Bean’s Engaging Ideas.

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