A No-Prep Lesson For Teaching Imagined Life Podcast

Teaching podcasts is a fantastic way to engage your secondary students, and teaching Imagined Life is a great place to start if you’re new to using podcasts in your classroom. Plus there are tons of benefits of teaching podcasts. Podcasts help students develop active listening skills, deepen students’ understanding of literary concepts, and even help students develop better reading comprehension. 

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The research coming out about the benefits of teaching podcasts is hard to deny, but it can be tricky to find the right podcast for the secondary classroom and to determine exactly how to teach podcasts in a way that allows for deep learning to happen. 

If you’ve ever wanted to try podcasts in your classroom, but didn’t quite know where to start, this lesson is the perfect entry point. 

Using the podcast Imagined Life by Wondery is a fantastic starting point if you’ve never tried podcasts in your classroom. Even if you have taught podcasts, this one is still worth doing! It fits nicely into any point in the school year. You can teach it as a stand alone lesson or you can do an entire unit based around it. 

Here’s the step-by-step lesson for teaching an episode of Imagined Life

Before doing the lesson, decide how you’ll have students listen.

Before listening, decide if you’ll listen to the podcast as an entire class or if you’ll allow students to listen on individual devices. There are pros to either method. If students listen individually, they can go back and re-listen if they zone out accidentally. 

However, when you listen as a full class it can feel more like a shared experience, and you know that you’ll all finish at the same time. If it’s your first time ever doing a podcast in class, it can be a good idea to listen as a group together on one audio player. 

Display the podcast transcript.

Recent research has shown that when students read the transcript while listening their comprehension increases dramatically, so it can be a good strategy to display the transcript on your board where students can see it and scroll through it during the episode. 

Most podcasts have the transcript available on the website, but for Imagined Life, you do have to request a copy of the transcript. It’s not difficult to do; they have a super simple form you can fill out here: Wondery Transcript Request. 

Pull out quote that says that teaching podcasts like Imagined Life can build reading and listening skills.

Printing out out a podcast transcript can be costly, and usually students are more likely to read it if it’s displayed on the board. 

Introduce the concept of Imagined Life.

Tell your students that this podcast is about a famous person–someone they know or at least someone with whom they are familiar. But here’s the thing–the podcast doesn’t tell you who that person is until the very end. 

While you listen, you’ll notice little clues placed here and there along the way, so you might be able to guess who the person is. Try to pay attention to details like setting (time and place), the obstacles this person has faced, and anything else that might lead you to figuring out who the person is. 

Give students a handout for listening to Imagined Life.

This handout should not be loaded with questions. It’s a place where they can write down clues that they notice as they listen, and a place to put guesses of who the person is. 

Give them space on the handout to color or doodle since they will be sitting and listening. Keep reading to get our free listening guide for this activity.  

Picture of a handout for Imagined Life podcasts where students write elements of characterization.

Give one stretch break at the halfway point.

Imagined Life episodes are typically 38-45 minutes, which can be a long stretch to sit, so you may want to give students a stretch break. You may want to encourage them not to share guesses about who the subject of the story is, but sometimes sharing guesses at the halfway point can be fun too. 

Wrap up with a full-class discussion.

Most likely students will have a lot to say after listening to the episode about when or if they were able to guess the subject. In addition to discussing their experience with the podcast, you can also discuss a few other meaningful questions.

Ask students which clues helped them the most and different guesses they had along the way.

Then ask students why this person’s story is valuable to hear? 

Is there anything they can learn or take away from how this person interacted with the obstacles they faced? Most episodes of Imagined Life detail a person’s ability to face some truly difficult challenges, so they can be amazing for encouraging a growth mindset. 

You can also discuss literary devices that they noticed in the episode such as foreshadowing, suspense, internal or external conflict, and more. 

There are tons of ways you can connect these episodes with other work you’ve done in your classroom. You can connect themes of overcoming struggle, taking risks, making difficult decisions, loyalty, prejudice, and much more depending on which episodes you decide to listen to with your students.

Takeaways For Teaching Imagined Life

Teaching podcasts is a great way to help your students develop active listening skills and engage with a nontraditional text. 

The Imagined Life podcast allows students to predict and guess for the entire episode which keeps them engaged while seeing how literary devices can work in a different type of text. 

If you want to try this exact lesson in your classroom, grab our free resources below. If you’d like to give the whole unit a try, become a member of the English Teacher Vault and get a no prep, two-week unit that your students will love! 

Your Free Resources For Teaching Imagined Life

Clues and Guesses Handout (PDF)

     Click here for google slides version.

Clues and Guesses Lesson Plan (PDF)

     Click here for google slides version.

Our entire Imagined Life unit includes the following:

Day 1: Clues and Guesses (free download)

Day 2: Characterization (members access only)

Day 3: Purpose, Audience, Style, and Tone (members access only)

Day 4: Say Something Discussion (members access only)

Day 5: Creative Nonfiction (members access only)

Day 6: Researching Day (members access only)

Day 7: Narrative Hooks (members access only)

Day 8: Turning Quotes Into Stories (members access only)

Day 9: Writing Conferences Day (members access only)

Day 10: Peer Editing Day (members access only)

Day 11: Presentation Day: Students share their Imagined Life episodes with each other!


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