Listening Center

I love literacy centers or the Daily 5 for students while I'm teaching guided reading.  One of my staple centers is a listening center.  It has evolved quite a bit over the years.

I started out with about 5 books and tapes that I got from Scholastic book orders.  I had one big tape player with multiple headphone jacks, so I had to hunt down a couple more copies of the books so an entire group of students could listen to one story all together.  I struggled with holding kids accountable and would have them fill out a response sheet, but they often didn't have time to finish before they had to move on to their next center.

I then moved to a new school and taught kindergarten - there was no way my 32 kindergarteners could handle a listening center at the beginning of the year.  I got a Donorschoose project for some Leap Pad interactive books and those were helpful for the next couple of years while my tapes collected dust.

I then moved back to first grade and wanted to bring out the tapes again.  There were some old walkmans in storage at my school that had been used for the Read Naturally program.  The great thing about walkmans is students can listen to the books individually, not with a partner.  They are more on task and can choose books that interest them.  The bad thing about walkmans is they eat up batteries.  I got a new Donorschoose project together for rechargeable batteries and I was set!

The walkmans and rechargeable batteries have been kickin' it for 4 years, now!  But the problem is, the walkmans are starting to break, the tapes are starting to wear out, and I'm starting to get annoyed that kids bring me their walkman everyday and say, "It doesn't work" and they only needed to turn around the tape!  So, I decided to bring my listening center to the 21st century with iPod nanos!

Messy listening center!
Enter Donorschoose, once again.  I have an old pink iPod nano, and two of my friends sent me their old nanos that they don't want.  That gives me 3 choices for kids.  My reading groups have 5 or 6 kids, so I wrote another Donorschoose project for 2 more nanos.  I figured that I might be able to find one more, or two kids can share with a headphone splitter.

Now, to get the books on tape to transfer to audio files for the computer.  I knew it could be done, but I wasn't sure how.  Google to the rescue!  I found that a free program for audio recording and editing, Audacity, could do it for me!  I only needed to buy one, cheap cord: a 3.5 mm stereo cable.

Audacity has a great help wiki (looks like wikipedia!) and the detailed instructions were so easy to follow.  You can find those here.

The plan is to upload 5 books on each iPod and change those out monthly.  Each iPod is a different color, so kids will know which one they have used.  If they get the pink one twice, they can just listen to another book, or *gasp* listen to a book again.  I even hope to start recording students reading some books and having those audio files available.  I can record them reading on my iPhone, or I have a mini microphone for my iPod touch.

And what to do with all those tapes??  Give them to the kids of course!  I'll keep the books, but let the kids take home a tape each.  Maybe they can even win a walkman!  I'm excited I won't have as much to physically store with this new system.

To kick off my new listening center, I decided to make my reading center cards available on Teachers Pay Teachers!  Click the photo below to go check them out!

Here are the cards in my chart.  The hanging sheet show what the centers are for each day of the week. My groups are just handwritten on strips of paper because I was in a hurry, but now that my new ink cartridge finally arrived in the mail. I can print out prettier ones (#islandproblems).

Do you use a listening center?  How do you display your center info for kids?

I'm linking up with Katie from Queen of the First Grade Jungle's Technology Tuesday!

Fern Smith's Thursday's Tech Tips for Teachers


  1. I would love more information on Donors Choose! I tried once a long time ago with no luck... any "keys" to getting projects sponsored?
    ideas by jivey

    P.S. I'm your newest follower! :)

    1. I LOVE Donorschoose! I have actually never had a parent donate to any of my projects. I link my account with facebook and have had numerous friends and families donate. I always make sure to take advantage of partner funding opportunities and keep my eyes peeled for Groupons or other coupon codes. I even donate to projects myself! :)
      I posted about it last year here, if you want to read more. Thanks for following me!

  2. Oh I love the idea of putting them on an iPod. I had never thought of that. I teach Grade 4 and use a stereo with a tape deck and headphones for my kids to listen. I find it funny that I have to teach them how to use it. They expect the story to start immediately when they push play and often report to me that it is broken.

    1. Haha, you feel my pain! You hand them an iPod and they know what to do immediately, but have no clue what to do with a tape player. Times have sure changed!

  3. I love donorschoose! I got 2 ipod touches this fall and a laptop!

    I have an old broken cd player/boom box for my listening center. I also use my ipods as a listening center. A few years ago my husband and I got nanos for christmas from his aunt. I thought about using them, but didn't because I didn't know how the kids would be able to select their book. I like the idea of having 5 books on each and trading them out each month!

    Thanks for the tip!

    The Frizz

    The Frizz in First Grade

    1. Wow, 2 touches and a laptop! I bet that was one spendy project! Congrats to getting it funded!

  4. Thank you for sharing such an awesome tip. I will be working this weekend to move cassettes to iTunes. I too have a listening center. I started this year with leap pads, but then the headphone jacks quit working. So, I moved to the students using the computers and with the talking library. Now my newest victim is the headphone jack on one of my iPods has quit working. Have you had any problems with that?
    Thanks again for the great tip!
    Think all night…..Teach all day

  5. I have two ipod nanos - 2nd generation. I am unfamiliar with how they work. I am hoping to use them as listening centers in my 2nd grade classroom. I am curious what directions or how you explained how to use them to your students. My husband and I have enough trouble with them. I feel like it's because we've never sat down and tried to figure them out.

    Thanks for you idea and help,