Lesson 3: Choosing a Topic

Overview: Students will pick both the format of their podcast as well as a local non-profit (or individual civic leader) to feature within their episode.

Students will be able to:

  • Engage in collaborative group problem-solving
  • Learn about community-serving individuals and organizations
  • Give and receive feedback from peers

Targeted PTD Behaviors:

  • Content Creation
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Communication


  • Formats Refresher (10 minutes)
  • Group Brainstorming (20 minutes)
  • Sharing Ideas for Feedback (30 minutes)

What you need:

  • Pre-determined, randomized student groups (3-5 students per group, depending on class size)
    • NOTE: Utilizing randomized groups of students is recommended intentionally, as this forces students to collaborate with peers who they typically would not choose to work with over an extended period of time. Best practices in social-emotional learning integration frameworks suggest that the process of problem-solving and critically thinking with other individuals leads to greater empathy, enhanced perspective-taking abilities, and an overall higher quality of student output (Transforming Education, 2019).
  • Whiteboard, chalkboard, or large post-its

What students need:

  • A pencil and paper

Part 1: Formats Refresher

Using the definitions from Lesson 1, briefly review the main types of podcasts (e.g., Q&A, host-on-mic, narrative) with your students to ensure that they understand the key differences and features.


Part 2: Group Brainstorming

Divide students into their small, randomized groups. Explain that they are about to embark on a project in which each group has a goal of producing one episode of a podcast, with the subject matter of each episode focusing on people or groups that are working to improve their community.

Distribute copies of the following prompts to students as they work in their small groups:

Pick one of the following broad topics, keeping in mind that your episode should be focused on a leader in the community:

  • Tell a story about an individual and their path
  • Tell a story about an organization that is improving your community
  • Tell a story about a problem that needs to be solved in your community


After picking this overarching topic, brainstorm:

  • A wishlist of who you would want to interview
  • What story you would want to tell about that individual or organization
  • What format you want to tell that story in (e.g., Q&A interview, narrative)


Part 3: Sharing Ideas for Feedback

Bring all students back together to share their ideas and solitic both questions as well as feedback.

One by one, have each group narrate their ideas to the class while you write them on the whiteboard/chalkboard/large post-it. Then, facilitate questions from other students in the classroom as well as suggestions and other ideas.

By the end of the hour, students should have narrowed down the ideas written on the board to one. Use these questions to help. Students should be thinking about specific tasks — interviews, sound recording, or editing — that each podcast idea could involve:

  1. What obstacles might come up as you create this podcast?
    • If this podcast idea involves traveling somewhere far away or interviewing someone with a busy schedule, it might be difficult.
  2. Does the timeline work?
    • Can students complete their interviews or record other sounds well before the podcasts are due so that they have time to edit the audio?
  3. Is the scope of the project too ambitious?
    • It takes professional podcast producers 2+ hours to finalize a 45-minute episode. Keeping that in mind, help students ensure that they are simplifying their projects appropriately.



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