Resources and Suggestions for Creating Radio Plays

Published March 5, 2011 by karlao

I recently trialled a new unit of work with my Year 9 Drama class. I wanted to share with you the basic unit structure that I followed and some of the resources from the Internet that I used and that you also might find useful.

Aim: To learn about the elements of a radio play and utilise them to create an original radio play and podcast.

Equipment: Audacity or other sound editing software, examples of radio plays, examples of scripts, sound effects CDs or websites.

1. What is a Radio Drama?

Start with a simple brainstorm that gets student’s thinking about radio drama. Have some springboard questions like:

  • Who listens to the radio?
  • What stations do you listen to?
  • What type of station is it? Talkback, music?
  • What audience is your station aimed at? How can you tell?
  • What do you think people did before i-pods, computers, movies and television for entertainment?
  • What conventions or techniques do you think radio plays had to have in order to be succesful?

At the conclusion of the brainstorm read some information about the history of radio plays. This page from Wikipedia is useful. In addition, ensure student’s understand the techniques and conventions used. These should include:

  • Narrative Structure
  • Vocal Delivery
  • Use of Sound Effects and Music

To add a practical element, break student’s into groups and ask them to create a 1 minute summary performance of the history of a radio drama.

2. Listen and Read Examples

Find examples of radio plays and their scripts  to listen to in class. I chose science fiction and horror style plays because they can use a great range of sound effects and student’s create unusual voices for a variety of characters such as monsters, aliens, detectives etc. The play need only be short. No longer than 5-7 minutes. A great example to focus on is War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells.

Whilst listening, have student’s jot down (perhaps have a handout here in table format) the following:

  • What is the plot?
  • Who are the main characters?
  • What are the characters like? How can I tell?
  • What effect does the sound effects have? Do they help or hinder the story?

Ideally these questions are driven to get student’s to think about the techniques and conventions mentioned above.

It might also be an idea to link in the elements of drama and have student’s use the appropriate terminology. Even adding a final question such as, “Which elements of drama have been used?” and “How have they been used?” would be great.

3. Vocal Workshop

Student’s then participate in a vocal workshop looking at things such as:

  • Breathing and Controlling the Breath.
  • Warming Up the Voice and Face.
  • Intonation, Annunciation, Phrasing and Volume.
  • Accents.
  • Voice Care.

These links might also help:

4. Brainstorming Ideas

Have student’s form groups and give them some questions to springboard the flow of ideas. These could include:

  • Time/Place: Where and when will your radio play be set?
  • Role/Character: Who are your main characters? Who is the narrator? Describe their qualities? What kind of voice will they have?
  • Situation/Dramatic Tension/Conflict: What is going to be the main problem for these characters in the time and place that you have set your play?
  • How will it be resolved?

To add a practical element to this aspect of the process, get student’s up and improvising in groups the ideas that they have. Get them to present them to the class and get them, the audience to provide feedback. This could be done several times as ideas develop and change.

Bubbl.us might be a good online tool to use here.

5. Look at Examples of Written Radio Play Scripts

Here are some examples of the layout of scripts. Read them, act them out, focusing in particular on vocal delivery as opposed to movement. Have the audience close their eyes rather than watch and provide feedback to performers on what they understood about their character just from listening to their voice.

These links may help:

6. Audacity

Model and scaffold mini recording activities (advertisements, promos, a teaser for their play) so student’s get the hang of using Audacity. They can create test reels. You could ask them to submit these for marking alongside their radio play.

7. Writing and Recording

Student’s prepare a script, rehearse it and record it ensuring they have included all the techniques and conventions of a radio drama.

These links will help with writing:

8. Convert to a Podcast

Create a Podcast channel on i-Tunes for your student’s radio plays, promote them on your school website, Facebook page or Twitter account. Have each student create an avatar for their radio play and a small blurb to entice readers to download their play.

This link from Livebinders may help.

9. Compile the Logbook and Write a Reflection

Ensure all worksheets and group rehearsals are reflected on in the logbook and submit it for marking. It should demonstrate process and include written entries on what problems the group had and how they were solved, various drafts of the script, draft avatars and blurbs, reflection on audience feedback given during improvised performance and a review of their own personal performance, their group and other groups.

Here are some other resources I found useful:

Other examples of lesson plans:

Image Credit: Radio Daze / Ian Hayhurst / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 

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4 comments on “Resources and Suggestions for Creating Radio Plays

  • Thanks for your work in radio drama. My husband and I worked for years with teachers and students and have developed several scripts for the classroom complete with background sound effects. Just thought I would let you know of our work in hopes that some of your teachers might find it useful.
    http://www.ravenradiotheater.com

    Radio Dramas in the Classroom
    http://www.ravenradiotheater.com
    The Raven Radio Theater offers radio drama scripts complete with casting directions, detailed instructions for finding and/or making the necessary mechanical sound effects, a full set of sound effects cue cards with music and background sounds customized for each play. Most of the Raven Radio Theater plays can be performed by twenty to thirty-five students as readers theater, readers theater with sound effects, school assemblies or recorded. Downloadable scripts now available.

  • Hi, I am a lone drama teacher in a department of ONE! I teach radio drama to my year 6s as this is their first year in drama. I teach them two units of work: mime/pantomime to explore creative potential of body, and radio drama to explore creative potential of voice (body and voice being the actor’s main tools). I have a number of assessment tasks that they seem to enjoy: creating a radio commercial, a radio interview with a celebrity, and a radio horror play. However, I struggle with finding some fun warm-up games for them to do that are related to the skills needed to create radio drama. Can you help me out please?
    Also, this is my subject blog: http://aiadrama.blogspot.com.au
    I would appreciate any resources you direct my way :)

    Cheers!

    • I will have a look for a few more warm-up games but essentially you want to focus on vocal development. Accents are fun but you might also like to look at Augusto Boal’s Arsenal of the Theatre of the Oppressed from Games for Actor’s and Non-Actor’s. I’ll suss things out from my networks and I’ll put a post together.

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