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I have become obsessed with “This American Life,” Ira Glass‘ weekly audio foray on Public Radio International into the stories of quirky, colorful characters that make our country what it is.

Each themed episode, introduced by Glass, is broken into chapters that illustrate the main issue–from “Kid Politics,” featuring a visit to the Ronald Reagan Library where children re-enact the Granada invasion, to “Last Man Standing,” and its arc on Duke Fightmaster‘s futile and bank-breaking dream: to replace Conan O’Brien, each story uses amusing, heartbreaking, inspirational, unbelievable and sometimes even horrifying anecdotes to answer a question or illustrate a point.

I’ve taken to listening, well, pretty much everywhere. It makes time evaporate while at the gym or walking to class. It also makes me look insane, when w story makes me laugh out loud, or begin to cry.

But the stories are only part of what makes “This American Life” so compelling to 1.8 million listeners and 700,000. Its appeal lies equally in how the stories are told, through gifted storytelling techniques that include narration and interviewing, quotes and queries.

Each quarter I work to make my students into more than reporters: I want them to be interviewers. I want them to get the answers they need in quality facts and crafted anecdotes, and to ask the right questions in the right way to to  allow individuality to come through. And every quarter I make sure they are introduced to Ira Glass (sadly too few know of him before our class helps them make acquaintance).

To tell a good story is a talent. To entice and guide others to tell their stories in a way that makes others sit up, take notice and talk about it–that is a gift.

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