The SAT and PSAT Reading and Writing and Language subtests use passages from or related to history, literature, social science, and science. You are expected to (a) be able to read and (b) understand written language. Let’s break that down. Being able to read includes recognizing words on a page, knowing that the letters go together to make sounds, and then blending those sounds together into words. Understanding includes knowing the meaning of individual words, their relationship to other words in a sentence, and knowing how sentences fit together in a paragraph to communicate a message. Some kids have no issues with either skill. Other students have significant challenges. No matter the type of student, everyone benefits from understanding the topic before they read. We call this having background knowledge.
One way to build background knowledge about a particular subject is to do more reading. This is not an effective strategy if you don’t enjoy reading or have any sort of challenge with reading. The good news is that you don’t need to read more. Today, the internet offers so many options for information and one of the best resources that I’ve found is the podcast. If you are unfamiliar with them, podcasts are digital audio files that you can download to your computer, phone, or other mobile device. If you find a podcast you like, you can subscribe and new episodes are automatically downloaded. There are podcasts about any and all subjects! Some of my favorite podcasts come from the educational, motivational, and personal finance worlds. Like I mentioned earlier, the SAT and PSAT use passages from a few different subject areas. In future blog posts I will discuss podcasts from other areas, but today the focus is on history. Let’s talk about some of the best history podcasts.
The Revolutions podcast is a weekly show that takes a deep look at political revolutions. As you know, you may see some U.S. founding documents or related passages on the SAT and PSAT. So, you will need to have some background knowledge on this subject. Well, Mike Duncan, the host and producer of Revolutions, has 15 episodes dedicated to the American Revolution. He starts with a description of the 13 colonies and ends with the ratification of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Duncan describes historical events in an interesting and entertaining way. His descriptions are easy to understand and keep the listener engaged. You’ll feel like you’re listening to a story, and essentially, you are. It just happened a long time ago and it was real.
2. 15 Minute History
This podcast is produced by the University of Texas at Austin. 15 Minute History is an incredible resource “devoted to short, accessible discussions of important topics in World History and U.S. History.” This is meant to be a resource for students at teachers, but anyone with an interest in history is encouraged to listen. Also, if you want to learn more about a particular subject, 15 Minute History offers supplemental information. Along with topics like the Russian Revolution and World Religions, the podcast provides 7 episodes on the American Revolution. Do you have 15 minutes? Of course you do. Download, plug in, listen, and learn.
3. The History Chicks
It’s clear that the hosts are having fun making this show and their passion comes across in each episode. The hosts simply summarize their podcast by saying, “Beckett Graham and Susan Vollenweider: Two women. Half the population. Several thousand years of history. About an hour. Go.” The focus of this show is influential women in history and their stories. For example, Episode 4 was dedicated to Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams and mother to John Quincy Adams, both early U.S. presidents. Knowing about Abigail Adams may be helpful in understanding the role of women during the American Revolution. Each episode starts with a 30 second summary of what’s to come. Then, Graham and Vollenweider tell you about other events in history that happened around the same time to help you get a sense of what was going on in the world that may have influenced these particular women. The podcast is witty and entertaining — providing an alternative point of view in a storytelling sort-of-way.
So, what’s the take-away? Reading isn’t the only way to learn. You can download a podcast on just about any subject and listen anytime, anywhere. Oh, did I mention they are free? They are. So, don’t let words on a page stop you from finding the information you need to know and deserve to know. Download a podcast and start learning now.