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Why Bring 'This I Believe' Essays and Podcasts into Your English Classroom?

Why Bring ‘This I Believe’ Essays and Podcasts Into Your English Classroom?

What are your core beliefs? More importantly, what are the core beliefs of your English students? How do you know? Do you like listening to quality radio essays to improve listening skills and critical thinking skills? Are you looking for a friendly way to gently nudge your EFL students into reflecting on their experiences and expressing their ideas?

If so, you might want to consider adding This I Believe radio essays to your curriculum. This I Believe, originally a radio program hosted by legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow in the 1950s, has been resurrected by National Public Radio as a weekly feature.
While the 1950s version sought out short personal essays by leading intellectuals, artists, and prominent personalities, the 21st century version is far more democratic. Anybody can submit an essay – and thousands and thousands of individuals around the world – have.

English teachers and global travelers might appreciate the sample podcast This I Believe: Inviting the World to Dinner by travel writer and Parisian resident Jim Haynes. Students might also appreciate the open spirit and generosity, but if not, they can choose from over 200 other radio essays. In short, The This I Believe website includes a tremendous amount of free resources for teachers and students. Teachers can sign up for the free mailing list and download an exceptional discussion guide. Amazon also sells several collections of This I Believe essays from both the modern version (with audio) and the original collections from over 50 years ago.

Why don’t you try it in your English class? Here is a simple reproducible homework worksheet that allows English students to find, summarize, and share their own favorite podcasts. I usually have students “introduce” their choice in both small groups and before the entire class. After students have listened to several “this I believe” radio essays, they feel more comfortable writing their essay and presenting it before the class for a final project.

So far, my intermediate and advanced students have both enjoyed the assignment and produced original, reflective work. The flexible format also means that English teachers can modify it to meet student or course requirements. Writing instructors can ask for essays; speech instructors can require a speech. Yet students get an often rare chance to hear intelligent voices reveal their personal philosophies in an engaging manner. Further, our students get to speak their minds and share their insights in our strange, wonderful language. I believe that makes a compelling English class too!

As Mr. Murrow would say, “good night and good luck.”

This I Believe Homework Worksheet

Links: This I Believe

Please select one radio segment, based on a personal essay, and read by writers. Find a story that resonates with you. Listen carefully. Take notes. Fill out the worksheet below. You will be asked to share your selection with classmates in both a small group and the entire class.

This I Believe Title:

Who is the author?

What’s the main idea?

Why did you choose this podcast?

Did you hear any new words or phrases?

Who do you imagine is the audience for this podcast? Why?

What is your reaction? Why?


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Comment by Megan Palevich on January 30, 2010 at 9:46am
I'm currently doing this with my 8th graders and writing about the experience on my blog: This is an amazing project that I've wanted to do for awhile...I can't wait to see the end results!


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