Friday, July 15, 2016

Audiobooks 2.0

I've done a previous post about using audiobooks in the classroom. You can check out that past post {here}. However, today, I wanted to do a little blogging about a specific type of audiobook - Playaways. Playaways are a player and audiobook in one! These are a fantastic alternative to iPods or CD listening stations in a classroom. 

What is a Playaway? Like an iPod or MP3 player, Playaways have an audio input jack so that you can connect a set of ear buds or a headphone splitter if multiple students want to listen at a time. Playaways can also be connected to external speakers or laptop with the appropriate cable. However, unlike an MP3 Player these mini-players are super easy to use, require no passwords, durable and run on a single AAA battery. Plus, there is no way for students to delete or rearrange content! #Foolproof

What are the benefits to using audiobooks? I use audiobooks in a number of different ways in my classroom. I personally, love audiobooks in the car or at home when I'm having trouble focusing. I also find that listening to certain audiobooks really helps me get "lost" in the story. Audiobooks, therefore, are always a valid choice in my classroom.

Students may choose to listen to audiobooks during independent reading time as long as they are following along with the text. They may also buddy listen to audiobooks during this time using my Belkin headphone splitter. Once again, I only require that they are reading the text as well so that they can pay attention to authors' craft and vocabulary. It also helps some students stay focused who may not be natural auditory learners.

I also use audiobooks in small reading groups. Often my ESL students or striving readers will choose the same books for our class book clubs. These students often read with me a few days a week for help with fluency and comprehension, however, on my conferring days, they may choose take a Playaway to listen to the audiobook since we will not be reading together. I find that this helps many emerging readers with comprehension skills as well as fluency related skills.

I also allow Playways to be checked out of my classroom library just like "regular" books. Students may take them home for nightly reading. These are a great way for students "on the go" to get in edge reading as they drive to football practice or a swim meet. I find that this is a great way to get many non-readers or students that claim that they are "too busy" into reading. They are also great for students that may not have parents at home who can always read and check-in with them. I feel it's important for students to know that audiobooks are a valid form of reading and therefore count towards reading minutes and the 40 Book Challenge in my classroom.

Lastly, Playaways or any audiobook is a great way for students to preview books. Students that have trouble shopping for books, often find it easier to listen to a few chapters of a book. I've found that this also gives me more time to confer with other students after providing this strategy for students that struggle with choosing books. I help them find 2-3 audiobooks and send them back to listen to the first few chapters. The Playaways keeps those readers take ownership and begin to problem solve. Some students find that they wish to continue to listen to the audiobook while others then pick up the text with the Playaway.

So where can you buy or find Playaways? There are a few different ways to get Playaways in the hands of your students. However, I've found the prices to be of a significant range. So, here's a quick glance at a few Playaway options for several books you may want to include in middle grade library.


  • Reached by Ally Condie ($12.99)
  • Love that Dog & Goosebumps ($8.99)
  • Large lots of Playaways from ($12.22 - $24.99)
  • Some books as low as $2 when sold in bulk
  • Selection can change daily
  • Some are auction items only
  • Make sure you factor in shipping costs



  • Wonder by RJ Palacio ($64.99)
  • Booked by Kwame Alexander ($54.99)
  • Love that Dog by Sharon Creech ($39.99)
  • Large selection
  • Prices range from $39.99 - $74.99
  • Option to buy audio & text
  • Most expensive option

The verdict? I've been working hard this summer to build my own Playaway collection. Previously, I used the public library for audiobooks. I would check out 2-5 books at a time and make them available to my students. I've personally found eBay to be my best option. I bough several bulk collections of 12 books for $20-$26 dollars. I have yet to purchase any books on the Playaway website. I will continue to check out used library sales, eBay & my local library. Donors choose or requesting Playaways in your school library could be additional options.

Happy listening! 


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