The Radio Project
(From Mr. Harper’s Public Speaking and Reading Thingee)
Common Core Standards:
W.6.3. W.7.3. W.8.3. W.9-10.3. W.11-12.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.
Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.
Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, and description, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.
Use a variety of transition words, phrases, and clauses to convey sequence and signal shifts from one time frame or setting to another.
Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to convey experiences and events.
Provide a conclusion that follows from the narrated experiences or events.
SL.6.5. SL.7.5. SL 8.5. SL 9-10.5 SL 11-12.5. Include multimedia components (e.g., graphics, images, music, sound) and visual displays in presentations to clarify information.
SL.6.6. SL.7.6. SL 8.6. SL 9-10.6 SL 11-12.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
You could run a fine speech course and pass this project by in lieu of our other public speaking projects, but I heartily recommend attempting it if you’re a language arts teacher. Its emphasis on creative writing and attention to details (your students’ ability to follow complex directions) can be very valuable for work on future papers and projects that require the students to think a process through and visualize it from beginning to end. As a public speaking project its most important role is to train students to be more cognizant of their voice, to use it more effectively and to learn the value of organization, practice and preparation. It won’t train them in the four essentials of eye contact, facial expression, pace / pause and vocal variety, but it’s a wonderful, safe introduction to public reading and speaking. If you sense your students are shy (read as “terrified” or “uninspired”) about presentation work, this will be the project to coax them into taking a chance.
I also like it because it blends creativity and organization together into one package and that’s a goal for many of our projects that have their basis in imagination and conceptual thinking. I’ve witnessed a number of units over the years that were impressive when it came to the inspiration of imagination, but they fell apart when it came to structure and direction. The majority of students simply didn’t have enough experience to practically deliver on their creativity. They could formulate ideas, but they couldn’t expand upon the chosen concept. They weren’t mature enough or focused enough to apply envisioning skills that could have taken a good student idea and turn it into an excellent one. I think this failure of units to live up to potential often occurs because we make the mistake of giving students too much freedom and not enough direction. I am forever frustrated by experts who design educational approaches that are great in theory (or would work well if the project were completed by adults instead of teenagers), but their approach is based on unrealistic expectations and not the actual impulses and behaviors of the students we teach.
I think that we as teachers need to recognize that teenagers have limitations in their development, and while we should offer students the chance to stretch their abilities and be creative, it should still be done within a practical structure that we supply. Otherwise, there is a tendency to give kids units that are too vague in nature and description and then we wonder why their final products are so mediocre. Middle school students have extremely vivid imaginations, but they have to be reigned in and their inventiveness harnessed with pragmatics. Time and maturity will allow students to channel their creativity as they develop, but in the meantime we have to treat their abilities with candid expectations. That approach is what I believe this unit will give you.
As to the unit itself, in a nutshell, it’s all about turning your students into radio newscasters with specific objectives as to content and time. It can be done alone or with a partner, and while it will be heard, it will never be witnessed by the rest of the students within the room. It will teach them about vocal control, long range planning, focus and follow through. Mostly, it’s about the marriage between imagination and attention to detail.