Email Jennifer Czerkies: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Purpose: To challenge students to present their understanding of a selected story in a new way, by using their listening and speaking skills to create a radio drama.
Research Question: How can technology help students display their understanding of essential story telling, plot and character development by reimagining a published short story?
The Project: I have been working to perfect my short story unit for Advanced Freshman for years. It started as just a typical literature basis unit, consisting of reading stories and answering three-tiered questions. When Travis Opperman shared his radio play curriculum with me, I embraced it. It took the short story unit to a new level, a technological one, that not only displayed the students’ true understanding of a story’s plot, character development and purpose, it allowed them to have fun with it as well. The main challenge was technology.
The first step in the project is for groups of students to familiarize themselves with a story, and then adapt it into a script with roles and sound effects, to properly tell in story in a recorded format. Next was the actual recording. This is where technology actually came to play. We use Garage Band to record their voices and sound effects. This requires enough microphones and working laptops for each group, not to mention recording spaces. The innovation grant couldn’t help me with all the issues, but it did add to the resources with new the equipment.
In applying for the grant, I was most interested in USB Microphones. In my theory, the microphones would allow for better recordings, making the story telling easier. In a last minute decision, I added a request for 5th generation iPod Nanos. This, in my imaginings, would allow students to record their parts if they ran out of time. They could check them out as needed, take them home, record their parts, upload the file and edit as needed. The students had a different idea. They did check them out, and even brought them home at times, but they used them to collect sound effects. To record sound effects with the microphones was cumbersome, but the hand held Nano make it easy and portable. During production, you could find students in the hallway capturing footsteps or in the bathroom recoding water dripping.
Common Core State Standards: CCR Anchor Standards – Speaking and Listening
The Goals and the reality:
Comprehension and Collaboration
1. Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
- This can be seen in their group work. Just the collaboration of deciding which group member should have which role was an exercise in persuasion and required a clear expression of ideas. In order to complete a comprehensive product, students had to make concessions and make good decisions on the characters and plot changes, their voices and their sound effects. I feel this goal was the focus of the project. It became less about learning and understanding the short story, and more about how to work as a group to convey their understanding.
2. Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
- This was inherent in the project because of the technological addition. Students had to integrate their own adaptation of the work and their understanding of the software program Garage band. This required technical know-how and quite a bit of patience, both with the program and with their group members.
Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas
4. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
- This was their ultimate goal. They had to create a radio play that, first and foremost, their audience could follow. This was the most challenging as some students were too focused on the comedic aspect, and lost sight of the goal. Some were successful in this, some not so much.
6. Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
This standard is directly in line with the students’ decisions for how to convey this information. They needed to decide what characters should sound like. For example, if a character was a police office, they should have a certain diction and a commanding voice, and if the character was an elderly woman, that should also be shown through sound.
Student Evaluations were varied. Following are some of the responses given when asked what parts they like or disliked, and what they learned most from the project.
“I liked that we could figure out who fits the parts best.” ~ Levi
“It was cool, but it would be cooler if we could write our own plays. But I guess that would be harder too.” ~ Jackie
“The group you pick has a lot to do with it.” ~ Ben
“If I could tell the next group something it would be to finish recording early. Editing can take a lot of time.” ~ Garrett
“I learned that teamwork plays a key role in it.” ~ Tori
“You really can’t procrastinate. We had a hard time starting and then ran out of time at the end.” Tyelor.
Inefficiency of the microphones
- I was so excited about having these new microphones, but they ended up being more of a problem. There were connection issues, where they driver tried to make them the speaker as well and the microphone. That took a few days to figure out. Also, they were almost too sensitive. The microphones would pick up turning pages of the script and even sounds from the next room.
The main problem had more to do with Garage Band and the computers. The computers were all borrowed from the district and were in different conditions. One even has a burn hole from an accident with the candle. One computer did have a working speaker at all, and others were set to erase everything upon shutting down. We also had issues with groups sharing computers and the limited amount of time. There were some instances of accidental erasing and some juggling when two groups needed the same computer.
- This was a pleasant surprise. They ended up being the most versatile of all the technology. Students could check them out, as needed, to record whatever they needed to record. When I first asked for them, I thought they would just be used to capture a few sound effects. If turned out they captured much more that that. They ended up being used more than anticipated.
This project presents many challenges, but even in all the frustration, when I asked the students if I should nix the unit, I was met with a resounding NO. So, now I need to figure out how to make it better. And with all the talk of iPads, I would like to do some research to see how the Garage Band application works. If I could make the project more portable, and have a device for each group to use, without the need to share, I think it could be much improved.