Who was the real inspiration for Count Dracula? What happened during the famous mutiny on the Bounty? Few things fascinate like a great story. Not only can it hook students, but a story also provides a solid framework for building understanding of other material. All you have to do is push play — the storytelling is already done thanks to Stuff You Missed in History Class, a podcast series from How Stuff Works.
Over the last few years the series has built a vast library of irresistible tales. Each one is 10-20 minutes long and presented as a conversation between two hosts. They usually begin by discussing common misconceptions resulting from media portrayals, then go on to tell the story, taking care to separate fact from fiction. With so many historical anecdotes available, it’s worth checking the archive for a podcast related to what you’re currently teaching. They’re displayed on one long webpage, so use your browser’s search tool (Ctrl-F) to find text on the page that’s relevant to what you’re looking for.
If you play a podcast in class, I’d recommend supplementing it with a few pictures to help students visualize the story. Since the podcasts are free to download in MP3 format, another option is having students listen on their computers, music players, or phones. Listening and writing comments makes a great alternative to reading for homework.