iPod Listening Center

I feel like all of my best ideas lately are ‘stolen.’ Certainly all of my library centers are and that’s what is making me happy right now. I present my listening center journey….

I got the idea for iPod Shuffle Listening Centers on Pinterest:

I found the last link a few months ago, but finally got back to it about six weeks ago as the library center idea started to take hold. I was pushed into this idea for listening centers because I discovered that my audio selection for listening centers is not great. Our rack is stuffed full of bags, but until I got something out instead of putting something away I didn’t realize that most of the bags are not for teacher’s to use with listening centers. I approached another teacher and shared this idea of using ipods and the selection of cheap book/CD sets that you can get through Scholastic Book Clubs.

I decided to go for it. (As always….)

I ordered two used ipod shuffles from ebay, put out a plea to friends and family on facebook for old and forgotten shuffles, and wrote a Donors Choose grant for a set of four new shuffles. 

The ebay shuffles arrived and one relative turned over her ipod in a heartbeat. I took my collection of audio books and loaded them into itunes. Copyright is something I have thought about. I’m not circulating more than one copy of the material, doing this for profit, and I since I can’t find these stories in mp3 files online anywhere (itunes, Overdrive) I don’t think I’m impacting on profits. I would love another perspective if you think I have made a wrong turn.

I put the book, a set of headphones, and the shuffle into one of my wonderful totes, added a tag with the title of the book and how long it will take to read and whallah! 

Even better…

It was a hoot today to turn around and see one young lady rocking out to Pete the Cat. She was signing along just having a grand time. Love it!

Some logistics….

I made title cards for each of the books I have available so that I can keep track of them. In my library I want to keep the selection the same for a few weeks and then I’ll start to rotate one new title in a week.

I worry a bit about ‘the ipod got lost.’ I was trying to figure out how to tie it to the tote. Inspiration struck!

The shuffles have those clips on them that make securing it with a zip tie perfect! I can cut it loose if I need to or I can take the whole tote near the computer to get the ipod plugged in to update and charge. I’m very confident that they can’t walk off without a lot of work and just leave the totes out on a small table.

There’s more I’d love to say, but I could babble on forever! I’ll bring the topic up again in the future and update on my progress!


  1. Cool! Your iPod shuffle listening centers look awesome. I can see that your students are loving them, and I like the way you organized them (especially the security feature). Thanks for sharing your great library center!

  2. This is a really good idea! I love it! Where did you get the totes? So cute!

    • Elizabeth,

      The totes are from Michaels and I LOVE them!! They are wonderful and I use them regularly! However, in this case I think I want something that isn’t as flexible so I’m searching for another ‘perfect’ container.


  3. I recently was awarded a grant for iPod Shuffles in my grade level. I have been trying to figure out how to deal with Shuffles that grow legs. I don’t have the Shuffles yet, but I was thinking that you could zip-tie them to a ruler that isn’t being used. That would make it easy to find in a bin (I am going to use bins from Really Good Stuff) and hard to “misplace” in a book bag. How has your way worked so far??

    • I should definitely do a follow up post about this one. The ipods are great! Zip ties and totes work very well, but I love your ruler idea! That would make them bigger but you could stick them all in the same container together and not have them take up as much space.

  4. Hello
    I LOVE this idea! I am curious do you only put one story on the shuffle at a time or could you put multiple stories on one shuffle and have several books available in a tote??

    • Shannon, I do only put one story at a time on the iPod because it is impossible for students to get confused about which track to use. One book. One track! It works so well!

  5. Carolyn,

    I am so happy to have found your blog! I have already used so many of your ideas in my elementary library. I was just given some iPod shuffles from our Parent Teacher Association. I love the totes from Michaels but, you had mentioned in a previous post that you were thinking you wanted something that isn’t as flexible. I’m curious if you ever found another ‘perfect’ container.


    • Sorry I’m slow replying! I have not found a better container. I tried one with a shorter basket and a firmer handle, but it didn’t really work better for the books. I still keep my eye open for ideas, but right now the bubble totes from Michael’s are working well. It helps that they keep stocking them!

      • Thanks for getting back to me! I did end up purchasing the totes from Michael’s and so far they seem to be working well. I agree about the height. They work great for picture books. Plus they come in some great colors.

  6. I’m not super tech-savvy, so could you explain how you only put one book on each iPod? And how you erase the book and add a new one when you change out books? When I plug my own personal iPod in, it automatically syncs so that all of my tracks are on the iPod–so I’m just wondering how you prevent this and select one specific track to put on there. Thank you! Your iPod center looks great!

    • Carolyn says:

      There is a setting for your iPod (I think it’s under the Music tab) when it is connected to iTunes that indicates the iPod should be filled with music from your library. It can be unselected. I click and drag the track I want onto my iPod when I need it, and then delete it when I’m finished so that it’s only one song at a time.

    • Carolyn says:

      There is a setting for your iPod when you connect it to your library that indicates you want your iPod filled with random selections from your library. I believe it’s under the “Music” tab. If you uncheck the box then you can just choose the individual items you want on your iPod. I click and drag the track I want and then delete it when I’m finished with that book for the kids.

  7. A listening center is something I’ve struggled with all of my 18 years of teaching. I’ve tried so many ways to make it work. I think you might have solved my problem! My question is: From where do you download the stories?

    • Carolyn says:

      I buy the CDs paired with books from the Scholastic Book Club orders. In the primary grade orders there is usually one set each month of 4 books with 4 CDs for $20. It’s a great price for four stories! I then burn the CDs as an mp3 file in iTunes. I’m never sure about promoting this idea as I’m not positive what that copyright issue is. However, I have checked listings at Overdrive, iTunes, and Audible for the titles I have and they are not available as mp3 at all. I also make sure that I only have one story on one iPod at a time. I keep the files on my own iTunes account and have never distributed them.

  8. I have also purchased iPod’s and have burned the CD’s in an MP3 format in iTunes. I have also read and recorded some of my kiddos favorites on my iPhone and then transferred them to my iTunes account. From there I download them onto the iPod’s. The kids love them and it makes the listening center really manageable. Along with the book and iPod/headphones, I also include a story response sheet for them to complete after they listen to the story.

    I am still working on a better way to keep them from walking. Right now I have them in a plastic baggie with everything they need. I really like the idea of the colorful totes for storage and also the zip tie for security.

    • Carolyn says:


      The zipties are truly my favorite part! And the fact that they can’t delete the book. I would caution you about keeping your personal recordings for any length of time as this is a violation of fair use guidelines and copyright law. Check your collection to see if you can find audio recordings already done by the publisher. If not, then I think you have a better case for keeping your personal recordings. You can also email the publisher to ask permission–which is something that should be done with any recording you’re planning to use more than for an immediate lesson.


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