Back to School Grant: Curtis Thomas, Sequiota Elementary


Getting students interested in literacy is a hard challenge in the 21st century. However, Curtis Thomas, a librarian at Sequiota Elementary, found a new and creative way to get students excited about reading. “Podcasting with a Purpose: Digital Literacy through Audio Production” incorporated reading and podcasting to provide students a unique opportunity to engage in digital literacy in a relevant way.

Mr. Thomas asked for $710 to purchase audio recording equipment for the library including an audio mixer, microphones, an audio recorder, and other equipment. The equipment was used to create high quality audio recordings for various projects. One of theses projects included the StoryCorps Great Thanksgiving Listen. This project entailed students interviewing an elder within the family, often a grandparent, and the student interviewed them about their life. This community-centered project encouraged speaking and listening skills, taught students how to ask effective questions, including follow-up questions, and encouraged students to be socially-minded by allowing them to have in-depth conversations with loved ones. To listen to some of these recordings, click here!

This project also allowed other teachers within the building to craft project-based learning experiences that featured podcasting as a product that demonstrates learning. In order to do so, groups of up to four students were able to plan, record, and edit an audio podcast over any number of topics, from a book they read in class to a science or social studies topic. Teachers could also have their students produce readers’ theater productions, in which students act out a book by performing as the characters, radio plays, or any number of other audio projects.

Podcasting provided a great way to teach students digital literacy, speaking and listening skills, writing and more. “This support has allowed the students at Sequiota to participate in a number of projects this year, including our book talk podcast “Sequiota Reads.” This podcast gave students the chance to talk with me one-on-one or in pairs about a book they love, telling me why they love it and think other students should read it. The episodes were then shared with the rest of the school community through Canvas and the library website. Through this project, I was able to connect with students, get them excited about reading, and provided a platform that valued their voices. Students were also able to participate in our “Great Thanksgiving Listen,” a project inspired by StoryCorps’ annual event. Students had the opportunity to invite an elder to school–a grandparent, parent, relative, or someone else important to them–and ask them questions about their life and experiences. We then shared these conversations with our school community through the library’s website. This project encouraged students to engage in face-to-face conversations and to be curious about and value the experiences of their loved ones.”

Mr. Thomas said this project would not have been possible without the support of the Foundation for SPS and their donors. “It is so important for our community to support the Foundation for SPS because they work to provide students across our district with unique experiences and valuable resources, to provide teachers tools and professional development that help them grow as educators, and so much more. With the foundation’s support, SPS educators can turn their “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” ideas into realities for their students.”