StoryCorps houses audio interviews on various themes (Family, Identity, Friendship, September 11, and Work, among others) that are terrific for listening practice and theme-based content. The interviews are rich for the content that they provide on topics, and they provide a wonderful opportunity for listening to two people speaking openly in a natural setting (real-life listening). Teachers could use just one interview on a specific topic, or listen to a series of them on a specific theme-based topic. StoryCorps audio interviews would be a great computer lab activity with a “Listening Guide” (listening for a purpose). The interviews can be listened to directly online (on the website) or they can be downloaded, so students could potentially listen to them outside of class or computer lab. There are transcripts for interviews available. Transcripts could be used to work on vocabulary and grammar. In addition to the “live” interviews, there are also numerous animated shorts that provide insight into real stories in a more narrative form. The latest animated short is called “Traffic Stop” about a young black man who was badly beaten after being pulled over by police in Denver, Colorado.
The new StoryCorps application allows students to use an application to record their own interview and post it to the StoryCorps site. There are plenty of resources about planning for an interview available, and the length of the interview can be as short as five minutes, or as long as an hour. There are lots of possibilities for project-based learning using both the website and the application (on a mobile device).
Finally, there are three books published with StoryCorps interviews. One of the books could be used as a text (with highly functioning readers) using the theme of personal narrative.
It would be struggle for any low-level ESOL student to engage with the site, but I think high beginners and low intermediates could use it with some strong support from the teacher. It would require a lot of pre-listening activities about the two people in the interview and the topic they are discussing. It would be most ideal for strong intermediate students and above.
I love the idea of storytelling and StoryCorps does this so well. Their guiding mission statement is that “Listening is an act of love” and I think this idea resonates with students. All the stories come from real people (people like them), and students relate to the realness.