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Persuasion Through Podcasts

Podcasts have emerged as an invaluable educational resource, particularly when it comes to teaching argumentation. They provide a dynamic platform for exploring complex topics and hearing diverse perspectives.


I enjoy using podcasts to mix up the routine a bit. Some of my favorite podcasts for the classroom include:


One podcast that excels in this regard is Freakonomics, hosted by Stephen Dubner. Rather than promoting a single viewpoint, Freakonomics encourages critical thinking by delving into a wide array of subjects. This approach makes it a powerful tool for teaching argumentation, especially when coupled with scaffolded notes, as it accommodates auditory learners and facilitates note-taking.




In episode 454 of Freakonomics, titled "Should Traffic Lights Be Abolished?", students are introduced to a seemingly mundane yet surprisingly contentious topic: roundabouts versus traffic lights. The journey begins with a simple prompt: traffic lights or roundabouts? Students jot down their initial preferences, and what follows is often a delightful revelation. This seemingly innocuous subject quickly stirs passionate opinions, proving that even the most unexpected topics can spark controversy and engagement.


As the podcast unfolds, I prefer a structured approach, pausing at strategic moments to explore key concepts and activities. Students embark on a learning journey that encompasses essential terms and critical thinking skills:

  1. Hyperlinks: Understanding how hyperlinks can aid in evaluating information.

  2. Ethos: Recognizing the credibility of different sources and speakers.

  3. Counterargument: Appreciating the value of opposing viewpoints.

  4. Evidence: Identifying and evaluating the evidence presented in the podcast.

  5. Expert Opinions: Assessing the authority of experts in the field.

  6. Audience Appeal: Analyzing strategies used to persuade different audiences.

  7. Concession: Recognizing when and how to concede a point in an argument.

  8. Building Credibility: Learning how to establish credibility as a speaker.

...and so much more.


For example, we pause at each expert opinion to examine credibility. Each name in the transcript is hyperlinked, which makes for easy investigation. We then evaluate the speaker's credibility, and we discuss how each different "expert" adds a layer of "truth" to the subject matter. We also click on the hyperlinks to practice active readership. We further explore the study or data that is referenced, and we discuss the benefit of primary resources over secondary. In this episode, the kids particularly love clicking on the references to different roundabouts where they are able to visually make meaning.



Throughout the podcast, students maintain a running log of evidence for both sides of the roundabouts vs. traffic lights debate. This hands-on approach allows them to weigh the pros and cons objectively, promoting a deeper understanding of the subject matter. By the episode's conclusion, students are equipped with the information and critical thinking skills needed to form their own informed opinions.

This lesson is a versatile tool that can be integrated into the curriculum at any point in the academic year. It can be adapted for whole-class instruction, small-group activities, or even individual learning assignments. The self-guided nature of the directions empowers students to complete the podcast at their own pace, fostering autonomy and self-directed learning.


In a world where information is abundant and perspectives are diverse, teaching argumentation skills is more crucial than ever. Podcasts provides a captivating and unconventional entry point into this essential skill, helping students develop the ability to engage in thoughtful, evidence-based debates on a wide range of topics. So, whether you're a teacher seeking a novel way to teach argumentation or simply in need of a change up in the routine, podcasts are an excellent way to engage students and teach them at the same time!

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Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I am a passionate high school English and Digital Media teacher whose lifelong purpose is to ignite creativity and critical thought in young minds. With an unwavering commitment to nurturing imagination and fostering intellectual curiosity, I thrive on embracing each student's unique voice and I hope to inspire other teachers with my own journey.

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