Teaching Episode 3 of Serial (Season 2)

A couple of my classes are already through Episode 5 and are looking forward to Thursday’s new episode, but most of my classes are still on Episode 3, working on their second exercise of their formal writing. I don’t have anything shockingly new to report, but I do have a few quick observations and reiterations.

1. The students really like the projected transcripts, and so do I. We sit in a semi-darkened room and read the story together on the big screen while we listen to the podcast. It’s so good for their reading comprehension, and it’s really helping them focus on their listening skills. But I think they like literally “being on the same page” as their friends, and sharing a story communally. I have never asked them to read the transcripts, and not all of them do — but a surprising majority of them voluntarily read and get mad at me if I forget to scroll down.

2. As before, I love how accessible the podcast is. If a student goes on vacation or “home hospital,” it’s so easy to email them a copy of the exercises and let them keep up on their own.

3. With her “Zoom” structure of telling the story with a widening viewpoint, the kids have a chance to consider themes at different levels — a hallmark of literature. I do miss the characters of Season 1, and trying to figure out who’s lying and when and why, but ultimately this season feels much wider and deeper, and I think it’s going to prove to be more profound.

For this particular episode, we’re working on turning our notes into an essay, and then making our essays “half as long” (in the spirit of A River Runs Through It), and then half as long again, to intensify our writing. Once we have our intense summaries, we compare them to Koenig’s more expansive writing and consider “art as an inspiration for empathy” — it’s making for some great classroom discussions.

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