GUIDE – Listening to Radio Essays About Personal Experience


  • Listen to “This I Believe” radio essays
  • Listen to StoryCorps radio interviews
  • Start using exploring personal experiences
  • Share your responses to TIB and StoryCorps samples


Radio essays and interviews are meant to be listened to while you’re doing something else, like driving, cleaning house, walking, and so on. They’re not meant to be listened to while you stare at the computer screen, any more than you’d stare at your mp3 player while listening to music.

So I strongly encourage you to play the selections you choose for today while you’re doing something else. If you’re not able to download the selection as an mp3 so you can put it on your phone or mp3 player, you can at least play them on your computer while you’re doing something else that doesn’t involve reading or other kinds of focus that would distract you from listening to the essay or interview. (For example, now might be a good time to clean your room 🙂 How often are you able to combine chores with HW?!)



“This I Believe” is an “independent, not-for-profit organization that engages youth and adults from all walks of life in writing, sharing, and discussing brief essays about the core values that guide their daily lives” (“About“). The organization has gathered thousands of these brief essays, but most are available in writing only. Some of the best among them have been turned into audio essays and aired on National Public Radio or local public radio stations.

Before you listen to sample essays, take a look at the This I Believe Essay-Writing Guidelines to get a feel for what to expect. As you’ll see, these essays tend to be quite short.

If you decide to use the “TIB” approach for your audio project, you’ll follow the same basic guidelines as well as what you learn from the relevant sections of this booklet: “This I Believe” College Curriculum (PDF). You might want to skim the booklet now, but plan to return to the relevant sections later if you choose the TIB approach.


Listen to at least THREE audio essays from the Featured Essays archive (on any topic). Be sure to follow the “next” link at the bottom of each page to browse additional pages in the archive. In fact, you might jump ahead to page 8 or 12 or 20 or something like that, so that everyone doesn’t comment only on the essays on the first page.

When I searched for stories about gender and/or sexual orientation., all I found were written essays without an accompanying audio version. But to become familiar with what “TIB” audio essays are all about, you don’t necessarily need to listen to ones about our course topic. You may listen to essays on any topic, but as you do so, imagine how you might use this approach to discuss something you believe about gender and/or sexual orientation.

When you find one you want to listen to, click the “play” button and then close your eyes, so you can listen closely. Use earphones if you have some available.



StoryCorps is an “independent nonprofit whose mission is to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives” (“About Us“). StoryCorps travels around the country with a pro quality sound recording studio and records interviews with volunteers, and the best among these are featured on National Public Radio. But they also accept interviews conducted by “do it yourselfers.”

If you find that this approach appeals to you more than the TIB approach, skim through these resources (and plan to return to them later for a closer look):


Listen to at least THREE audio interviews from the StoryCorps web site. Here it’s much easier to find interviews about G&S topics, although most of what I’ve found is about LGBT issues rather than gender norms more broadly.

By using an advanced search technique on Google, I was able to find quite a few StoryCorps interviews with people who discuss their sexual orientation (LG or B) or their gender identity (T), and I’ve listed those on this post on the main Gendersex site, in case you want to give those a try. But I’m hoping some of you will use other approaches to finding interviews, so that everyone doesn’t comment on the same ones.

One way is to browse the StoryCorps Listen archives by topic. Most of the LGBT interviews I found were categorized under Identity, but I suspect others will show up under topics like Romance, Struggle, Friendship, and so on. Another way is to follow the link at the bottom of the Unheard Voices Curriculum page, which takes you an archive of stories about sexual orientation or race.

You’re also welcome to do your own advanced Google search by putting these terms into the Google search box (with your own keyword): keyword That will limit Google’s search results on your keyword to only those pages on the specified site (so it’s a useful search strategy to know for other purposes as well).


For your audio essay, you will use one of the approaches above (solo script or interview questions) to explore how your personal experiences have shaped your beliefs about gender and sexual orientation. The idea is to come up with a few specific examples to illustrate what you learned and how you learned it, whether those examples are from your childhood or more recently.

You may already have a few ideas, but I’d like for everyone to try some of the brainstorming strategies on the handouts below as a way of “digging deeper” into your memories and experiences. I originally made the handouts for an online class a few years ago, so some of the instructions aren’t relevant to you now, but you should find the actual brainstorming activities helpful.

Keep your brainstorming notes in your own private journal (on paper or on your computer), and plan to return to it whenever new memories or ideas spring to mind. I won’t ask you to post the brainstorming notes themselves, but I will ask you to share a few of the “promising topics” that came out of the activities.


(1) Create a new post on the class blog and give it a reader-friendly subject line.

(2) Assign it to this category: Exploring Audio Messages

(3) In the body, answer the questions below and then submit your post:

This I Believe Essays

  • Which essays did you listen to, and what did you enjoy most about them? As you give the title of each essay, make it a hyperlink to the page where we can find the essay ourselves, in case your description entices others to check it out.
  • What did you find most interesting about the concept of a “This I Believe” audio essay? What was it like to listen to an essay, as opposed to reading one? What aspects of the writer’s voice delivery added more “meaning” to the essay than the writer could’ve conveyed only through words on the page?

StoryCorps Interviews

  • Which interviews did you listen to, and what did you enjoy most about them? Make each interview title into a hyperlink to the page where we can find the interview.
  • What did you find most interesting about the concept of “oral storytelling,” in the form of friends and family members doing informal interviews about personal topics? Could you tell that the interview you listened to was significantly condensed from a much longer version?

Topic Ideas from Personal Experience

  • After you used the brainstorming activities referenced above to “dig around” in your memories and experiences, what did you come up with as possible examples you might tell us about in your short “audio experiment” project?
  • Which approach to “writing for the ear” are you thinking of taking yourself: preparing your own script (for a TIB-type essay) -or- preparing your own interview questions and responses (for a StoryCorps-type interview)? (For the interview approach, you’ll need a classmate from either class to serve as your interviewer)