Part two of the original Writing in Stereo. Its purpose was to apply creative radio dramatics to all aspects of the teaching of high school English.
Each lesson included a lesson plan and notes. I’m sharing these with you here.
UNIT OBJECTIVE: (I) The student will write four original narratives and dramatize each for radio.
LESSON OBJECTIVE: (B) The student will demonstrate the correct use of dialogue techniques by adapting and recording a traditional fairy tale to radio drama.
MATERIALS REQUIRED: Paper and pencil, audio tape recorder/player, some recording space
INTRODUCTION: Today we're going to begin writing our first original radio plays. We'll start with something easy. You all remember your favorite fairy tales. We're going to bring them to life on the radio.
1. Brainstorm titles of fairy tales.
2. Divide students into collaborative pairs.
3. Allow the pairs to select or decide the fairy tale title they wish to dramatize.
4. Have them write a scene breakdown (OUTLINE) of the story they've chosen. Most of these will be no longer than five to eight parts. For example: Little Red Riding Hood breaks down to: 1) Her house, 2) The Forest and Meeting the Wolf, 3) Wolf to Grandma's House, 4) Red arrives to hairy reception, 5) Woodcutter to the rescue
5. After you've seen their outlines, let them begin the script. Pairs should invent well-planted dialogue for each of the scenes. A narrator should NOT be necessary.
6. When the script is completed, collaborative pairs are matched with other pairs to RECORD BOTH scripts.
EVALUATION FOCUS: As the four students record the two scripts, grade the pair authoring each script on the frequency of plants in the dialogue. A script riddled with a narrator's interjections should be rewritten. (The performance quality need not be a criterion for evaluation at this point.)
The focus here is planting. Students should become "radio drama literate," habitually planting unseen action throughout their work. Using the well-known fairy tale stories removes the onus of original plotting to keep the emphasis on writing technique.
Narration should not be necessary in these simple plays. The characters ought to be able to plant out everything happening, having happened, or about to happen.
Get the students to outline the story they've chosen. Once the scenes are broken down, they can attack the pieces one at a time. In a sophisticated production one might expect music bridges as transitions between scenes, but for this classroom exercise see what the kids can accomplish with plants alone.
Students will have problems. One frequent obstacle we've encountered is the solitary character. Planting requires dialogue revealing events as they happen. How can there be dialogue if the character has no one to talk to? Fortunately, Shakespeare's soliloquy strategy is an accepted convention of radio dramatics. Here's an example used frequently with this lesson:
GOLDILOCKS: Oh, darn! I sure wish I'd listened to my mother when she warned me not to wander off. Now I'm here in the middle of nowhere. Every tree looks the same. I'm lost! Wait a minute. What's this? It's a cottage. I'll just walk over here and ask for help. It's certainly a very pretty cottage. My, the door is very large. I'll knock. (SOUND of knocking) There. Surely someone will come to the door. No answer. Perhaps they didn't hear. I'll try again. Oh! The door is open. I'll take a look inside. My, what a huge kitchen!
That's how we get Goldilocks into the bears' cottage. Red Riding Hood's solitary woodcutter can be discovered the same way.
Doug Potter is a retired high school teacher. During his 30-year teaching career, he taught drama, English, writing, broadcast journalism and radio and video production. His proudest achievement is Pueblo Magnet High School's KWXL-LP, one of only two FCC-licensed low power FM radio stations in Tucson, Arizona.
Doug earned his bachelor's degree in radio/TV at Arizona State University and his masters in drama at the University of Arizona. He's been shooting and editing film and video since 1968. Drawing on years of research and teaching experience, Doug developed the Writing in Stereo program and the MicWriter (“mike writer”) broadcast news writing model for use in his radio broadcast journalism classes.