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A Sitdown With Shira Ackerman, Educator And Children's Media Expert, On Developing Curriculum For The Pinna Platform

Pinna is best known for its binge-worthy audio entertainment geared toward kids ages 3-12.

What you might not know is that they have a whole section on their website dedicated to classroom resources for teachers.

The Pinna platform is an up-and-comer in the edtech space for kids.

Taking a revolutionary approach and forgoing the potentially harmful effects of screens, they put the focus on creating engaging audio content that parents and teachers can incorporate into their day both at school and at home.

To extend the learning experience, Pinna works directly with educators to put together resources for the classroom that are aligned with national standards and adaptable for kids of varying ages and abilities.

Today, we’re going to talk with Shira Ackerman, a seasoned educator and curriculum developer, about the process that goes into creating teaching materials for the Pinna site.

Shira lends her expertise to creating educational content for Pinna after many years working in the children’s media space with popular brands you know and love — GoNoodle, Scholastic, and Nick Jr. to name a few.

Let’s hear what she has to say.

Pinna’s Teacher Resources — A Sneak Peek Into the Creative Process With Curriculum Developer, Shira Ackerman

1. Hi there! To start, why don't you tell us a bit about your professional background and how you came to work with Pinna?

I’ve worked in education and kids’ media for over twenty years. I have a master’s degree in Teaching and Curriculum and I was once a classroom teacher.

Since then, I’ve created educational and enriching kids’ content for a variety of companies and platforms. I love Pinna’s mission and its material, so I was super psyched to work with them after connecting with former colleagues who are currently on the Pinna team.

2. Please share what Pinna projects you’ve worked on so far. We’d love to hear!

I have worked on material related to Emma Made Lemonade, Time For Kids Explains, Tara Tremendous: The Egyptian Curse, The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel, and 5 for 5 Trivia.

And I’ve also written for the Pinna blog!

3. Inquiring minds want to know — where do you start when writing lesson plans for the Pinna website? What gets your creative juices flowing?

Great question! When I write lesson plans, I put my teacher hat on. I think about lessons I taught and activities that I would have wanted to do as a teacher and which I know my students would have loved.

Specifically, I think about how to make the curricular content relevant, hands-on, and rooted in real life skills and in kids’ passions and interests.

And of course, I make sure the lessons are clear and manageable for teachers. At the same time, I want them to engage and “stick” with students so they have a blast while learning and better retain the material and skills.

4. Speaking of where to start...we all know a yummy drink is a must-have for long work sessions at the computer. What’s your go-to beverage of choice?

Coffee, coffee, and more coffee!

(And some seltzer when I realize I need to be drinking something else!)

5. Now that you’ve got your laptop fired up and favorite mug in hand, what’s next? Can you share a little bit about the process you take when developing curricula for Pinna listeners?

I’m all about brainstorming, fleshing ideas out, reviewing, collaborating, revising and...repeat!

I generally start my writing process with a brainstorm and pushing myself to be as creative as possible. After that, I review my ideas and I choose the ones that are the most relevant, useful, and engaging.

Then comes some writing, after which I always step away. I return to my work either later or the next day to review it with fresh eyes and often with some new ideas. After some tweaks and revisions I await feedback from team members, which I always appreciate, as it inevitably makes my work better.

6. On the subject of curriculum development, Pinna lesson plans are aligned to CASEL and CORE standards. Can you elaborate a bit more on what that means and how those standards relate to audio content for kids?

Aligning Pinna lesson plans to these standards can help teachers in a variety of ways.

For teachers who need to align all of their lessons, we do the work for them! More importantly, the standards provide teachers with a framework and deeper understanding of the skills a lesson aims to teach.

By knowing this, teachers can use the lesson in conjunction with others and add or modify their lessons as fits their and their students’ needs.

Finally, aligning podcasts to these standards provides teachers with more freedom and creative learning tools that they can use to teach what they need to.

7. Pinna is an international podcast platform that caters to kids ages 3-12 with listeners in countries across the world. What steps do you take to make sure the lesson plans you write are adaptable for a wide range of ages and skill levels?

In addition to creating lessons for different grades and skill levels, I always make sure to include lessons and activities that teachers can easily modify and/or scaffold according to their students’ needs.

Some ways that I do this include providing: options and suggestions for modifications in teacher guides, open-ended questions and activities that enable students to work at the level that is appropriate for them, and opportunities for a variety of different answers and responses such as writing, drawing, and hands-on activities.

8. Do you have any furry (or scaly!) friends keeping you company while you work? If so, feel free to submit a picture to share with our readers!

My dog, Bruce Willis (yes you read that right!), loves to lie at my feet while I work. Here he is :)

9. Let’s have a little fun! You’ve been thrown into the imaginary world of the last podcast you listened to. Where are you and what’s happening!?

I would be very busy working at a start-up company that I listened to the founder talk about on How I Built That, but I can’t say much because I’ve got tons to do. Life at a start-up is super busy!

10. Wrapping up, is there anything we didn’t cover today that you’d like to share?

I love working for Pinna — the team is fantastic and the content is super fun and creative.

I am specifically thrilled to work on materials that teachers and students can use in schools because I believe podcasts are amazing learning (and teaching) tools!

The Wrap-Up

We’re so grateful to Shira for giving us a sneak peek behind the scenes of the curriculum development process for Pinna.

Pinna prides itself on not only having an incredible — always growing! — library of audio content for kids ages 3-12, but also providing parents and teachers with all the resources they need to extend the learning experience.

We’re all ears!

Have you checked out our educator resources yet? We’d love to hear from you! Find us on all our social platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest – or email us at contact@pinna.fm.

Amy Thetford

Amy Thetford

Amy is a freelance writer and homeschooling mom to her tribe of tiny humans. She's fueled by coffee and the desire to do ALL. THE. THINGS. She blogs about all things motherhood at realtalkwithamy.com