IDEA #3. Listen to an entire episode of This American Life on National Public Radio and then e-mail your thoughts on the experience to someone.

In an idea-driven society words are the coin of the realm. What the College Board used to refer to a “verbal aptitude” and what educator and originator of the Theory of Multiple Intelligences Howard Gardner calls “Linguistic Intelligence” is all about fluency with words, language, and the way these convey complex ideas.

It’s a given that truly great students are usually also great and voracious readers, kids who inhale words and the ideas that go with them. They also tend to be kids who can listen eagerly and carefully to complex conversations and presentations. Many are also fluid writers for who turning their own ideas into words, sentences, and stories is as much a part of life as breathing.

Most educators will tell you that the best preparation for almost anything in the academic sphere–and for life in the Information Age–is read, read, read!

To which we’d add: Listen, listen, listen! and Write, write, write! 

IDEA #3. Listen to an entire episode of This American Life on National Public Radio and then e-mail your thoughts on the experience to someone.

Listening well is not quite a lost art, but ever since the Golden Age of Radio was done in by the television, good radio documentaries have been hard to find—except on public radio. This American Life has been a fixture on National Public Radio’s weekend schedule for years, and each week the show features three or four longish—10–30 minute—segments and often a few shorter ones on a particular theme. The themes and the segments can be sad, provocative, poignant, nostalgic, annoying, and frequently very funny, and the writing is intelligent and witty.


Sometimes the theme will not hold much interest for younger listeners, and occasionally the content requires a certain maturity, but more often than not the show’s appeal (part of which is the low-key narrative by creator Ira Glass) is considerable to anyone willing to give an attentive listen.

Since imitation is the highest form of flattery, perhaps the young listener could even imagine and create his or her own segment of an imagined This American Life show. It is even possible to submit segments to the show; guidelines can be found on the show’s website, <>. All it takes is a voice recorder and a great story idea!

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