Making and broadcasting a radio show can help students who aren’t confident with literacy to explore their creativity. Caroline Twigge explains.
We started the Chepping View primary school ‘radio show’ podcast at the beginning of September 2008. We had no idea if we could even do it! Nobody imagined that within a year we would have gained national recognition – winning the Arqiva commercial radio award Most outstanding schools’ radio station 2009.
We approached John Hampden grammar school, a local technology college, to ask for volunteer students to help the children with researching, recording and editing. This project enhanced the existing school links and was beneficial for pupils from both schools.
“You’re actually doing it [writing] for real” (Ahmynah)
Scriptwriting was an opportunity for the children to explore ‘real life literacy’. In the first year, the children sent emails, wrote letters to school staff, wrote jingles, wrote to members of the wider community, wrote scripts, designed posters and carried out surveys. The children see podcasting as a ‘fun lesson’ – they don’t realise the many skills they’re learning.
How did we begin?
Four children (two boys and two girls) from each KS2 year group were chosen who were creative and able - but who were frustrated by writing. These sixteen children were our ‘podcasters’.
During our first year, we had weekly hour-long sessions together outside class. The podcasters worked in groups and decided what they would like to write and research – my only guidance was to avoid duplication between the groups (particularly as all children love writing and researching jokes!) Some children chose who they wanted to work with, and some groups were chosen by the teacher to ensure mixed-ages. Each group was then supported by a volunteer student from John Hampden School. His role was to facilitate, not to direct - the podcasts were written for the children, by the children. It was fascinating to watch children of different ages sharing the same goal.
How do we make our podcasts?
Technology, time and space were the biggest problems in our extremely busy primary school. We had to fight to timetable our small ICT suite for our podcasting session. It was extremely useful to have the computers so the children could research content and send emails.
Our equipment? School computers, some very lightweight microphones and Audacity software (which is free to download – we put it on every school computer.)
We managed to produce a podcast - but it wasn’t perfect.
The children wanted new equipment. The microphones buzzed and the children’s voices were squeaky. Luckily, someone donated a better microphone. To this day, we still use a laptop, a microphone and free software – you don’t need a lot of kit.
It quickly became clear that a noisy classroom with sixteen excited children was not the best place to record! Fortunately, the children were so enthusiastic they were willing to give up playtimes and lunchtimes to record in a quiet classroom. They gradually got quicker at recording – they began to act as professionals, turning up to their recording sessions well rehearsed.
We thought it would be difficult to turn our recordings into a podcast - but Audacity converts recordings into MP3 easily. The podcast can then be embedded on the school website simply and was instantly versatile. We also used our virtual learning environment ‘Choodle’ as a host.
After about six weeks, our slightly ropey podcast was ready! Some of the children involved in the project listened to the first episode more than thirty times in a week!
How did we develop the radio show throughout the year?
We evaluated our first cast as a group, and made improvements from there. The children came up with ideas like school news, interviews with staff, jokes and reports on school trips. They asked Chris Powling, a children’s author who was visiting the school, and the head teacher, for interviews. The children who interviewed the head enjoyed the privilege of sitting in his office. When I asked the group what their favourite part of podcasting was this year, I was greeted with a chorus of: “The Chris Powling interview!”
What are our hopes for 2009/10?
The children are still keen to get interviews, and have mailshot many people - including Terry Wogan! When I asked them why they like interviews, they said: “Famous people bring in listeners”. I asked them how they would make sure they bagged an interview. They said “Choose nice famous people” and “Persuade them”.
Following our award, the children believe that anything is possible and they show grim determination. I am highly impressed with what they have done and what they can still achieve. The children know that a reply from Steven Gerrard or Hannah Montana is unlikely. But they are still willing to write a letter and have a go!
I hope the children will keep up their enthusiasm and will involve the wider school community in the project. The larger the audience, the more important the writing is.
I asked the children: What advice would you give to a primary school that wants to set up a radio show?
Ihsun: Do it because it’s fun!
Matthew: The fear of talking into a microphone and talking on the internet and hearing yourself on the computer isn’t that bad and the microphone isn’t that scary.
Leah: I think it’s really good because this is a one-off opportunity
I asked the children if they’d like to offer help to another school. Their responses were “Yes”, “Double yes” and “Triple yes!”
I asked: Can you give one sentence to sum up the whole first year of our radio show?
Seraj: Fantastic because you might talk to an author.
Hashim: Really good because when you do the podcast you can hear it on the computer and your parents can hear what you do.
Ahmynah: Brilliant because you can interview your teachers.
Leah: I think it’s really fun because you get to be famous. I told one of my friends that isn’t at the school, who lives in London, and she listened to it on our website and now
I’m famous in London!
Vinayak: I think it’s good to be involved with this podcasting thing because we get to do really fun stuff like recording, writing scripts and editing.
Ummarah: I think it’s really good because you actually get to do it and then people can listen to it all over the world
Seran: I think it’s really good because you can write something, record it then put it on the website and then loads of other people can listen to it.
Caroline Twigge is a class teacher at Chepping View primary school.
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