Learners begin to understand the key features of performing on the radio and to experience the roles of researcher, technician, actor, writer, producer, director and manager. Depending on which aspects you want the students to concentrate on, this unit usually requires three to five lessons in order to do it justice. By the end of this unit, learners will have a tangible product of their learning that they can show to others.
Give learners the opportunity to listen to a professionally produced radio drama, we used The Archers http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qpgr/episodes/player because not only is it unlikely to include any controversial material but all episodes contain a generous use of sound effects (SFX) which is a key feature of this unit.
At this point, you will need to decide if you want learners to a) write their own radio play b) use a script provided by you or c) amend or adapt an existing radio script or a text from a book e.g. a chapter from a novel. Whatever you decide, it’s a good idea to provide a working example of the genre for them to see the standard format and how dialogue, SFX, stage direction etc. should be presented.
Organise learners into groups, it’s usually easier to allot roles (see overview for list of roles). If learners want to experience different roles the exercise can be repeated with individuals exchanging roles.
When they have their script they will need a list of SFX that they require. This may contain such things as ‘birdsong’, ‘jangling keys’, and ‘someone making a cup of tea’. They then need to decide if each one is best sourced from the Internet or produced themselves in a ‘studio’ setting. For those produced in the studio, they can use any audio recording software to create a bank of SFX that they require, we like www.audacity.com as it’s very easy to use. Some are best sourced online e.g. ‘birdsong’ would be difficult to capture in most locations without interference. For effects that are hard to source we use www.make4fun.com/ which you will need to download but it is free and you don’t need to register. Learners only need to search key words on the homepage e.g. ‘birds’ and then select and download the desired clip.
When they have their bank of SFX clips they are ready to rehearse their radio play. If they are in small groups, it’s fine for older learners to perform multiple roles e.g. to act and be SFX manager. In larger groups, younger learners can concentrate on performing one role well. When they are ready and they’ve mastered their roles and responsibilities, ask learners to make a first recording. Again, Audacity or similar is fine for this, but you’ll need two computers running recording software – one to record the performance and one to play the SFX. The SFX that learners have earmarked as ‘studio produced’ can either be pre-recorded or performed live by a member of the group – this is a lot of fun! Ideally, each actor, SFX manager and the live SFX producer will need a microphone, but there’s no reason why they cannot all huddle around one. The quality may not be as good but the overall result is largely the same.
When they have finished, ask them to listen to their recording and to assess their ‘performance. Producers and directors will need to make general notes for improvement for each group member. When they have shared their self/peer assessments ask them to make a final recording. Their final recording can be uploaded to the school website as a podcast and given to learners to upload onto their social media pages.
Time needed 3-4 hours.
- Internet access.
- PCs x2 minimum.
- 1 microphone minimum.
- Props for studio produced SFX (learners love sourcing these themselves).
- Radio play scripts.
Hints and tips
- If learners are using pre-existing play scripts (i.e. scripts written by others) they may not be allowed to publish their work in the public domain as it will be under copyright protection. This includes adaptations of texts.
- www.make4fun.com does have a tab ‘erotic clips’ but at the time of writing there were no clips available under this tab. Prior to teaching this unit, check out the website yourself and decide if you are happy to use it.
- Ensure you have parental permission to publish the work of learners that may be recognisable on the recording i.e. those acting.
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