Standard Lesson

Audio Listening Practices: Exploring Personal Experiences with Audio Texts

9 - 12
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Six 50-minute sessions
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For many of us, when we think of listening to audio, we think of radio or CDs. As technology evolves, more and more often audio has moved online, taking advantage of streaming media and podcasting. This lesson plan asks students to keep a daily diary that records how and when they listening to radio, music (e.g., songs on MP3 players, podcasting), and other streaming media or archived broadcasts. Students then analyze the details and compare their results to published reports on American radio listeners. They conclude by reflecting on their findings and writing a final statement on their audio literacy practices and interests. In addition to asking students to become more aware of their own audio literacy, the lesson gives teachers the opportunity to see students' audio literacy at work.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

In "Teaching Media-Savvy Students about the Popular Media," Kevin Maness explains that "When media education is not based on students' prior experience, it often deteriorates into 'teaching' students media literacy skills that they already possess or into futile attempts to impose new, 'good' media habits on students who have no interest in relinquishing their old, 'bad' habits. Understanding students' media literacy is the important and often-overlooked first step in making them more media literate" (46). Before analyzing any genre, in particular those that rely on nontext media, teachers must work to discover the literacy skills that students bring to the class while simultaneously asking students to interrogate and extend the skills that they possess. This process gives teachers the techniques for "listening to students to determine their prior understanding and their needs for further understanding" (48).

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

Radios, CD players, and other audio players




  • Schedule the first session of this lesson plan so that students have a week to record their diaries before you move to Session Two. This week of research time will allow them to compile the data that they will analyze in the later sessions. Either continue with another unit in the intervening week, or see the suggestions below to choose texts that will connect to students’ audio research project.
  • If possible, arrange to play a radio broadcast at the beginning of the first session. If live radio is not an option, an archived broadcast would also be appropriate. You might play radio broadcasts, as desired, throughout the class sessions.
  • This lesson uses Arbitron radio ratings as part of the readings. You might look also at tracking and statistical information on podcast and music download sites; however, the radio ratings provide the best footprint for student comparisons. Additionally, they can lead to great conversations about how digital audio options change radio listening trends.
  • Review the Arbitron reports that are available. You can choose any of the free reports that meet the needs and interests of your students. This lesson focuses on the How Kids and Tweens Use and Respond to Radio report, which focuses on slightly younger students, but does include some data on listening practices of children up to age 18 years. Students will likely remember their own listening practices from their elementary and middle school days. Some will have younger siblings or other family members whose experiences they can think of as they review the Arbitron report.
  • For additional essays and materials on sound broadcasts prior to teaching this lesson, visit Adventures in Cybersound, which explores audio broadcasts on the Internet.
  • Make copies or overhead transparencies of the Listening Survey, Listening Diary, Example Listening Diary, Research Implications of My Diary, Listening Findings Peer Review Form, and Listening Findings Rubric.
  • Test the ReadWriteThink Notetaker on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tool.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • record details on their daily experiences with audio texts.
  • identify key findings in their listening experiences.
  • compare their listening practices to those of other Americans.
  • draw conclusions about their audio literacy skills.

Session One

  1. If possible, open this lesson by playing a radio in the classroom as students enter. Choose a popular, mainstream station that will appeal to a number of students in the class.
  2. With the radio playing, pass out copies of the Listening Survey.
  3. After students have had time to respond to the survey, ask them to share their thoughts, as a whole class or in small groups.
  4. Encourage students to find patterns in their comments. The following questions can begin discussion:
    • What similarities do see in when you listen to radio, CDs, and/or MP3s?
    • How many different kinds of audio does the class listen to?
    • Do class members listen primarily to music? What else do they listen to?
  5. Collect the completed Listening Surveys. Explain that you'll return them to students later in the unit to compare to their other findings.
  6. Pass out the Listening Diary. Explain that students will keep a diary of their listening for a week to become aware of their listening practices and how they compare to those of others.
  7. Discuss how to complete the diary, using the Sample Listening Diary or filling in a blank form for your own radio listening.
  8. Answer any questions that students have about the activity. Begin the recording activity, by filling out the diary for the radio program listened to at the beginning of the class session.

Between Sessions

  1. Over the course of the next week, students will be keeping diary entries.
  2. Continue with whatever curriculum you have planned. The following activities provide options that can be connected to the audio project students are completing:
    • If texts that include radio in a significant way are part of your readings, they would make excellent study for the intervening week. The following texts include radio in some way:
      • Seek by Paul Fleishmann
      • The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest Gaines
      • The Voice on the Radio by Caroline B. Cooney
      • “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates
      • “Why I Live at the P.O.” by Eudora Welty
      • “The Enormous Radio” by John Cheever
      • “The Nun, the Gambler and the Radio,” by Ernest Hemingway
      • “Meridian” and Ancestors by Kamau Brathwaite
      • “Who Goes There” by John Campbell
      • Radio” by Laurel Blossom
    • Alternatively, you can consider texts that explore other recorded music and musicians, such as the following:
      • Pepperland by Mark Delaney
      • Heavy Metal And You by Chris Krovatin
      • Pop Princess by Rachel Cohn
      • Rock Star Superstar by Blake Nelson
      • Guitar Girl by Sarra Manning
      • She's Got the Beat by Nancy Krulik
    • You can also spend a day or more exploring references to radio in lyrics. An easy place to begin is “Video Killed the Radio Star” from The Age of Plastic by The Buggles. Once the topic is introduced, invite students to share other examples of lyrics that refer specifically to radio, and ask them to discuss how and why radio is mentioned in the song.
    • Another option is to talk about the parallels between passages in Feed by M. T. Anderson and popular radio. Candlewick Press provides a reader’s guide for the novel as well as the online essay, “Feed for Thought: M. T. Anderson’s Smart Savage Satire Takes on Consumerism.”
    • Woody Allen’s film Radio Days would also provide an interesting text for students to consider during the intervening week. Set in the 1940s, the movie weaves the episodes together with radio broadcasts of songs and focuses specific vignettes on radio itself. The significance of radio in the movie can be compared to the ways that radio influences students today.
    • For an Internet study of early radio broadcasting, try the Radio Days: A WebQuest and the American Memory Project's Recorded Sound Section—Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division.
  3. If desired, for homework over the course of the week, you can assign the following prompts for journals, or assign prompts that fit more closely to the texts that you have chosen.
    • What is your favorite radio program or digital playlist? What do you like best about it?
    • What do you hear between the songs or shows? What is the purpose of the information do you hear between features on a station or podcast that you listen to?
    • How has what you hear on the radio, CD, MP3, or podcasts influenced you?
    • What memories do certain stations, DJs, playlists, and/or programs bring back?
    • If you could choose the best setting and situation to listen to your favorite program, CD, playlist, or MP3, what that setting and situation be?

Session Two

  1. Once students have recorded at least a week’s audio listening, ask them to read through their diaries, noting anything that stands out to them. They might mark programs they particularly enjoyed (or disliked) or patterns they notice in their listening.
  2. After students have had time to review their diaries, ask them to share their thoughts, as a whole class or in small groups.
  3. Ask whether anyone in the class is familiar with Arbitron ratings. If so, allow students to share what they know, making notes on the board or on chart paper.
  4. For a basic description of the company and its work, you can share the Wikipedia description. Alternatively, you can gather information from About Arbitron page on the Arbitron site and share it with the class.
  5. Arrange students in small groups.
  6. Point students to the online copy of the How Kids and Tweens Use and Respond to Radio or pass out printed copies of the report. Alternatively, you can choose another of the many free reports from the Arbitron site, which includes Hispanic Radio Today 2008 Edition, Black Radio Today 2008, and Public Radio Today 2009. If desired, you can give each group a different report to explore.
  7. Focus students’ exploration on the specific findings and information from individual surveys. Skip past the more complex methodology pages, unless students are particularly interested. For the How Kids and Tweens Use and Respond to Radio report, scroll forward to the “Topline Findings,” which begin on page 6.
  8. In their groups, ask students to explore the report and find five facts from the report to share with the whole class. Encourage students to look for observations that surprise them or for details that seem to fit their local radio stations.
  9. Once students have had time to read and gather details from the report, gather the class as a whole group again.
  10. Ask each group to give some general details on what their report covered and to share the specific details that they discovered. Additionally, have each group explain why they chose the specific details that they did.
  11. Once all the groups have had the chance to share, pass out copies of the Research Implications of My Diary and the Listening Findings Rubric. Explain the assignment.
  12. Answer any questions that students have about the activity.
  13. Return students’ completed Listening Surveys, and ask students to compare their survey answers to the details in their surveys to begin their analysis process. Explain that, along with the examples from the Arbitron reports, the questions on the survey can help guide some of the observations that they look for in their own entries.
  14. For homework, ask students to begin compiling findings from the information in their diary entries.

Session Three

  1. Invite students to share some of the findings that they have compiled for homework.
  2. If desired, students might first share their findings in small groups before choosing three or four findings in each group to share with the entire class.
  3. Using several of the findings that students or groups have shared with the class, demonstrate the ReadWriteThink Notetaker for the class. Be sure that you demonstrate how to complete each of the following tasks in the interactive:
    • Choose bullet format.
    • Create a main section and a subsection.
    • Indent and outdent sections.
    • Reorder information using the Up and Down arrows.
    • Use the Zoom buttons to navigate in the outline.
    • Save an HTML file from the Print window.
    • Print their finished work.
  4. Answer any questions that students have about the online tool and their assignment.
  5. Allow students the rest of the session to organize their findings, and create finished copies of their work using the ReadWriteThink Notetaker.
  6. Explain that students will complete peer review during the next session and will have time to revise before submitting their final version.
  7. Point to the Listening Findings Rubric and remind students of the criteria for the project.
  8. Ask students to come to the following session with the printout from the ReadWriteThink Notetaker and a draft of their final comments.

Session Four

  1. Allow students a few minutes at the beginning of the session to make any last minute changes to their drafts.
  2. Arrange students in pairs or groups for peer review.
  3. Go over the criteria for the activity, using the Listening Findings Rubric.
  4. Pass out copies of Listening Findings Peer Review Form.
  5. Go over the Peer Review Form and show the connection between the questions on the form and the criteria on the rubric.
  6. Allow the rest of the class session for students to exchange their work and complete the peer review.
  7. With two or three minutes remaining in the session, bring the class together as a group and explain that students should work on their revisions for homework.
  8. Students will have time during the next session to make final changes and complete proofreading.
  9. Explain that finished work—diary entries, survey, bulleted list of findings, and final comment—is due at the end of the next session.

Session Five

  1. Remind students of the criteria from the Listening Findings Rubric.
  2. Answer any questions that students have before releasing students to work on their final drafts.
  3. If students need a refresher, demonstrate the ReadWriteThink Notetaker as well as how students can open saved files from the previous session in a word processor or Web editor.
  4. Allow students the rest of the session to finish their projects. Encourage students to share their work and ask peers for help.
  5. Circulate through the class, providing feedback and assistance as appropriate.
  6. Ask students to submit all parts of the project—diary entries, survey, bulleted list of findings, and final comment—by the end of the session.


  • Rather than working individually, students can compile findings in small groups. This process will involve more research and exploration of the data to find the similarities and trends among the collected data of all group members. Groups might create working drafts of their findings using the ReadWriteThink Notetaker. Student groups could publish their final findings using a PowerPoint slide show, which is presented to the whole class.
  • Modify the activity for use with younger students by asking family members to complete a listening diary as well. Students can then compare their own listening to that of other family members instead of (or in addition to) the Arbitron reports. You might also have students complete one family diary that covers the hours before and after school.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Focus on observation and anecdotal note taking as students work on their projects to provide ongoing assessment of their progress. Observe students for their participation during the in-class sharing, writing, and peer review. Monitor students’ progress and process as they complete work on their findings and final comments.
  • Use the Listening Findings Rubric to assess all parts of the project—diary entries, survey, bulleted list of findings, and final comment.



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