If you follow my blog, then you know this is a subject I speak about quite frequently. Why? First and foremost, teaching with radio theater is a marvelous teaching tool! When you really like something do you tell a lot of people? So let’s talk about the top reasons teachers succeed when teaching with radio theater!
My Journey with Radio Theater
I taught a pre-elective drama class to 500 sixth graders for thirteen years. Ending the six weeks with a performance was a challenge for me. I’m a creative being and just can’t do the same thing over and over (as my good friend, a Home Economics teacher, could making cookies and sewing pillow cases ad inifinitum). Yikes! Consequently, after about a year I ran dry on ideas of short class plays. To solve the problem, I began adapting multicultural folk tales into short class plays. You can read about it here. The Reasons Teaching Multiculturalism in the Classroom is Vitally Important
Although this was a terrific answer to my problem and the students were happy, it wasn’t working enough for me. I remembered that I once participated in a radio theater performance. I loved the format! When the performance ended, I realized it would be a terrific unit to create for my class. Yet, I had questions. Could radio theater work in my classroom as well? Would the students enjoy it? Could I locate radio theater scripts for this purpose? Plato said, “Necessity of the mother of invention.” He was spot on, huh?
Desperate to find scripts, I scoured the internet (which was brand new at the time BTW) and ran on to the Museum or Radio and Television website. They offered family workshops producing a radio play. Excitedly, I wrote them begging for guidance about my teaching plan and they were very generous sending me six radio theater scripts. I’ll never be able to repay them for helping me to start my program.
The first time I directed a radio theater play, I noticed the students were immediately engaged! Even the reluctant students or those with severe learning challenges who were accompanied by an aid. Everyone talked about them. Even their core teachers mentioned the students shared with them their excitement and anticipation of their public performance.
Had I run on to something which could make all of us happy?
After several years of using those scripts and adapting other short stories I found, I took a chance and wrote my own. That’s when Bow Wow Blues was born. Check it out here: Bow Wow Blues Play Script and Unit
In 2017, at the encouragement of a good friend, I uploaded my script Bow Wow Blues in my TPT store. I guess teachers and students really like it– I’m flattered. To date I’ve sold over 500 copies. If you’d like to learn more about Bow Wow Blues, go to: Bow Wow Blues Script and Radio Theater Unit
Utilizing Radio Theater in the Classroom
Having ate, slept and breathed radio theater for over thirty years, it is very easy for me to defend its use in the classroom.
- It’s creative–Talk about using your imagination! I’m a stickler for using live sound effects. It’s not enough to honk a bicycle horn. Sometimes the sounds are difficult to duplicate. That is where the creativity comes in. Supporting creativity and problem solving is a natural part of radio theater. Ever heard of “complicating the sound?”
- It’s a perfect example of differentiated instruction–Because a teacher gives students choices as to where they’d like to serve in the cast or sound effects team, it gives them an opportunity to learn at the pace in which they are comfortable.
- Listening skills are strengthened–Everyone’s listening becomes more attuned to one another, plus listening for one’s cues and creating sound effects teaches students to focus their attention.
- Speaking skills are polished–There is nothing worse than a “mush mouth” actor. Radio theater reinforces one’s enunciation, rate of delivery, and diction which all come in to play when a student reads aloud. A teacher can strengthen students’ intonation, vocal flexibility and breath support.
- Reading skills are cultivated–Because a teacher spends many days rehearsing a radio theater script, and a reader reads something repeatedly, they can’t help but become a better reader!
- Language skills are honed–students become better communicators as they work together giving suggestions for the sound effects, discussing the play with their classmates as well as acting their role
- Interpersonal Skills are buffed up. Verbal and nonverbal communication, the ability to handle conflict, teamwork, empathy, listening, and a positive attitude. Being flexible and positive, able to listen, and communicating well are important criteria for success at work.
7. Cooperative and collaborative learning are such a necessary part of this experience–This is a perfect example of working together to learn something. Everyone must put aside their differences and work together toward the performance.
8. Additionally, radio theater is adaptable. Many of the radio theater play scripts I taught with are from previous eras–what a super way for students to learn about the past? A history teacher could use a radio play in their classroom. I know that several Language Arts teachers have used several of my plays, in particular The Monkey’s Paw and The Frozen Pirate. If you’d like more examples of a historical script go to: Creative Dramatics Lesson Plans: Nine Reasons to Teach Radio Theater
9. Learn marketable skills–Being proficient in speaking through a microphone and familiar with running sound equipment has valuable skill that makes them employable in the outside world. Ever wondered about sound design? Check out this post: There’s a Place for Everyone in Theater
10. Lastly, it’s just plain fun and engaging! I like to teach students in a manner which they don’t even know they are learning. I strive to make each lesson so enjoyable that students remember the experience and keep coming back for more!
These students performed radio theater during the Covid quarantine! Many teachers found radio theater to be a life saver during the quarantine.
What’s holding you back?
Fear does crazy things to our psyche, yes? Sometimes we are anxious and we don’t even know what about!
If you are like me, you like to be well informed on something you teach. That’s understandable. If you’ve never even seen a radio play performed let alone a radio script, you will need to trust me on this. Do you trust me?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I need to be a teacher?
- Is there a rationale in place before I teach radio theater?
- Do I need to know what to say when I begin each lesson?
- Do I present the information in a particular order?
- Should I require the students to take notes as I teach them?
- Would trivia about particular radio shows or famous movie stars who got their start on RT pique my students’ curiosity and urge them to dig deeper in their study?
- Should my students make a sound effect and be required to share it with the class?
- What about a cooperative learning assignment? Would that be helpful? Could they create a commercial for radio?
- Would a group of theater games and exercises be helpful in teaching the concepts of radio theater?
- Should I collect several audio clips of actual radio shows of which the students can listen and learn?
- Should I include enrichment in the unit, such as history about a famous radio show broadcast like War of the Worlds?
- Do I need to find a floor plan that shows me how to set up the stage or in my classroom for a performance?
- What sound effects should I collect to use? Do I need to purchase any or would some everyday objects suffice to create the sounds?
The answer to these questions is resounding YES.
Save Yourself Time and Work
Would it be nice not to have to spend countless hours creating this unit? What if instead of spending your free time and weekends researching, collecting materials and organizing your lessons you could purchase a veteran theater teacher’s unit and to learn about it as you taught it to your students?
You’ve heard me say this before, but I’ll say it again–Remember, I’ve been you. I know the struggles and challenges, the sleepless nights, the knot in your stomach on Sunday night, the students who need a little extra “somethin’ somethin'” to tease their interests and your worry to address their need for novelty in your lessons.
Proof That Radio Theater Works
Recently a theater teacher and I were chatting on Instagram about her use of radio theater in her classroom. You can read it here: Struggling with Your Students Engagement?