“Write something that gives teachers ideas, something that inspires them,” my editor said.
That’ll be easy, I thought.
Then, who knows how, that Courtney Love quote came back to me.
“I can turn on the radio right now and be inspired.”
And I thought of all the times I have dreamed of making my students discover the magic of the radio, its enormous power to give weight to words.
We tried this in the classroom a few weeks ago with Clubhouse, and the kids were thrilled, they couldn’t wait to take part, and they didn’t seem to be afraid of doing it in a language that’s not their own.
So… why not try to set up a real radio programme?
Of course, the work here is much more complex, not something that can be done in a few minutes, and setting up a real school radio station requires the strong backing of the headmaster, as well as a budget to finance the equipment.
But to start studying the project, and considering that all students are now equipped with a microphone and a recording application… well… starting with the technical tests of broadcasting won’t be difficult at all.
ACTIVITY – Discuss as a group what to call your class radio station, looking for a name that represents the spirit of being together and summarises the messages you want to convey.
There is room for everyone’s ideas, and for the different talents of all boys and girls, in the schedule of a class radio station. Those who love music will be able to listen to the songs of the moment and read the lyrics while explaining the grammar rules and slang expressions they contain. Sports fans are free to create their own little commentary column on football or basketball matches. And, of course, there will also be a newsroom to put together the most noteworthy news, perhaps mixing major world events with updates on what’s going on in the school.
Everyone will be able to create their own style, their own tone of voice, choose light-hearted or serious language to give authority to what they report.
Building a small class radio and then, who knows, maybe starting a larger project involving the whole school, can help children develop all the skills they will need to get in tune with the world that will welcome them:
– Building their self-confidence and self-esteem;
– Improving their speaking and listening skills:
– Learning to write creatively and communicatively;
– Doing research on a variety of topics;
– Working in groups;
– Understanding the value of communication.
The web offers many possibilities and many tools, free or paid, for editing and streaming recordings or live broadcasts. Compared to the days of FM radio, creating your own station is extremely easy and inexpensive.
The suggestion that Courtney Love and I would like to give you is to start simulating a Class Radio Station together with your students, starting with a technical rehearsal of broadcasting, just like all the great world radio stations have done and like millions of kids and adults all over the world do today.
ACTIVITY – Now that your radio station has a name, everyone tell the others what topics they would like to cover and build a possible schedule. How long will each broadcast last? How often will it be broadcast? How many voices will be featured in each programme?
Then of course… if you wanted, you could go even further and do what Orson Welles did in 1938, while still in his early twenties: he turned the United States upside down by broadcasting a programme that would not only forever mark the history of radio, but also begin his career as a film director.
He adapted H.G. Wells’ 1897 novel ‘The War of the Worlds’ and recorded a series of speeches which, by continuously interrupting the music programmes, announced the invasion of earth by aliens intent on conquering the planet.
Legend has it that thousands of Americans listening to the show panicked, believing the news of the invasion to be true, and obviously that’s not the effect I suggest you try to achieve in creating a mini-series for your class radio station. But of course a bit of creativity let loose will do your kids a lot of good, and also boost their language skills.
TO GO FURTHER
Starting from the schedule you have created for your radio station, divide into groups, each of which will dedicate itself to one of the programmes.
For each group, choose how many and which voices will be on air, and who will be in charge of editing. The roles can be divided, or everyone can do each role, and then the programme will be divided into different parts, with each sub-group taking responsibility for each part.
Record each of the parts of the broadcast with your computer or phone and then edit them together into one audio file, or listen to them all in a row.
Discuss the result with the other members of your group.
Once each group has finished recording their programme, you can listen to all the broadcasts one after the other, so your schedule is ready to be aired.