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J e n n i f e r M a c D o n a l d


A Series of Lesson Plans for Making

Radio and Podcasts in the EFL

Version 1 - September 2010

About this book
Radio and podcasts have the potential to be a powerful tool for
the learning of foreign languages. This is a preliminary version
of an e-book on making radio and podcasts in the English as a
Second/Foreign language classroom. While this version con-
tains a series of lessons and worksheets designed to help stu-
dents learn more about writing, creating and recording pod-
casts, future versions will also contain more technical explana-
tions, further activities, and more graphically pleasing work-
sheets. Stay tuned!

Jennifer MacDonald
Table of contents

From radio to podcasting......................................................4

2.Lesson Plans..........................................................................5

About These Lessons...........................................................5

The Use of Authentic Audio in these Lessons.......................5

Intro to Radio........................................................................7

News Writing Lesson #1.......................................................9

News Writing Lesson #2.....................................................12

Intro to Audacity .................................................................14

Student Worksheets ...........................................................16

New Lesson #2 - Student's sheet.......................................16

1. Introduction

From radio to podcasting

Radio broadcasts have long been a rich source of authentic

listening materials in ELT. The ubiquity of radio, its broad
and varied subject matter, its range of registers, dialects
and audio-only orientation have lent themselves to its
popularity. Furthermore, as authentic material, it provides
three potential levels of learning: language, culture and
practical application. Since the development of the
Internet, radio has been easier to access, via the web, be it
through streaming online audio, or downloadable podcasts
in mp3 format. Digital technologies have facilitated not
only the access to diverse radio programming, but also
their recording, editing and retransmission in class. With
podcasting, radio's potential in the classroom doubles -
from radio as authentic listening materials, to the
possibility for students to make and distribute radio
themselves. Creating podcasts in class provides students
with a sense of audience, improving the focus of their
output, and increasing motivation. The use of technology
in the creation of podcasts is also a way to engage with
"digital natives"; that is, students who have grown up with
digital technologies and are "fluent", first generation users.
In this set of materials, radio is maximized. It is not only
the vehicle for listening materials, nor simply a vehicle for
students to create and share content, but, in the study of
traditional radio genres, register and language, it is the
content of the course itself.
2. Lesson Plans

About These Lessons

The following lessons are meant to provide a jumping-off point

for teachers looking to start making podcasts in the EFL
classroom. These four lessons provide an introduction to radio,
sound editing and news in what's meant to be a communicative,
cognitively challenging, dynamic, and creative way. They are
quite flexible, so that they can be adapted for use in a vairtye of
contexts: with youth or adults, small groups or larger groups,
lower or higher levels. This is a very preliminary version of the
materials, and so you are asked to please excuse any typos and
formatting errors that may have slipped in.

The Use of Authentic Audio in these Lessons

When I originally created and tested these lessons, they were

accompanied by authentic audio samples from radio broadcasts
and podcasts from around the English-speaking world. Copy-
right prevents me from including those audio tracks with this e-
book. Below I've provided a list of links to sites online where
authentic, high-quality, professionally-made radio programming
can be downloaded for use in class. This also allows you to
tailor the material used in class to your students' geographical
location, level, and interests.

For lower level learners:

Voice of America Special English Podcasts

These podcasts are in a simplified English delivered at a slower
speed, and include transcripts.
P O D C A S T I N G & E F L


CBC Learning English

This page also includes newscasts and transcripts delivered with
learners in mind.

BBC Words in the News

Short news reports accompanied by a transcript with definitions
of difficult vocabulary.

For high level learners:

Public Radio International


BBC Podcasts

CBC Podcasts

ABC Podcasts

Voice of Russia
New out of Russia, in English

Radio Sweden
News out of Sweden, in English

...many countries operate an English-language radio service that

broadcasts over the web.
P O D C A S T I N G & E F L

Intro to Radio

Objective: To introduce the concept of radio. To show radio's local

and international use and potential. To get students thinking about the
possibilities of the genre of radio, sounds, and their own ideas for con-
tent. To introduce relevant vocabulary.

1) Do a show of hands as to who in the class listens to radio. Discuss

what stations are listened to: where, when.

Do a similar show of hands about podcasts. Go over what a podcast

is, and the differences between a podcast and a radio show.

2) Make a wordmap on the board with radio/podcasts at the centre,

eliciting related vocabulary.

3) Explain to the class that most radio programming falls into the fol-
lowing categories. Go over what these categories mean and entail.
Ask students if they can think of any programming, be it local or in-
ternational, that doesn't fall into these categories.

News, Information or Documentary
Drama or Fiction

4) Tell students they will now listen to a variety of radio programs and
podcasts from around the world. They should listen and match what
they hear with the category of content.

If the level of the group is lower, create and hand out a Student sheet.
This sheet would give the names of programs the students are about to
hear, and students simply have to match the sample heard to the pro-
gram name. Before listening, give students time to try to guess what
category of programming each show is, taking clues from the title.

If your group is at a higher level, simple write the categories on the

board and students can categorize without any clues.
P O D C A S T I N G & E F L

These samples can optionally be complemented with local samples or

samples you deem relevant to your context.

5) Listen at least twice: In the first listen students should be focusing

on categorizing what they hear into the categories laid out earlier. On
a second listen, students can listen for details of content. Correction
of the worksheet can include a short focus on the purpose of the pro-
gramming. Elicit from the students why they think listeners of each of
the sampled programs would tune in.

6) Following corrections, discussion as a group or in small groups

could ensue on a variety of topics: how radio is used in different
places, elocution techniques, use of music, the importance of radio to
local/ethnic minority communities, implications of podcasting for the
radio industry, etc.

7) Pair work or small group work. Put students into small groups and
have them compare and contrast different types of media. For ex-
ample: compare the pros and cons of radio/podcasts vs. CD's or
radio/podcasts versus television. Groups then present their lists to the

8) Homework: Student are to make a list of all the radio stations in

their area, including type of programming and frequency. They are
then to brainstorm what's missing: what type of programming they
would like to hear on their own airwaves? If I were to make a show,
what would it be about? Ideas can be presented to and discussed with
the class. This activity can form the basis of later production of radio
P O D C A S T I N G & E F L

News Writing Lesson #1

Objectives: To introduce content and structure of radio news bullet-


This lesson is broken down into two lessons: the first focusing on the
content and structure of radio news bulletins, the second on the style
of radio news writing.

Lesson 1: Content and Structure: Introducing the 5W's and the Inver-
ted Pyramid

1) Tell students they are going to hear a radio segment and they must
listen and say what type of content it is. Elicit program types covered
in the "Intro to Radio" lesson.

[news or information, documentary, music, commercial, drama]

2) Choose and play a relevant new bulletin for the class.

3) Elicit content type. Though informative radio content can take

many shapes and forms, the focus of this lesson is on news bulletins:
short, information-packed segments usually delivered several at a time
in hourly newscasts.
Depending on the level of the group, details mentioned in the report
could be elicited too.

4) Tell the class they're going to be learning about radio news bullet-
ins. In small groups, have students discuss the following questions.
What is the purpose of newscasts? To clearly communicate informa-
tion that can affect people's lives.
What kind of information do we consider news? Politics, disasters,
sports, entertainment, developments in science, technology and health,
business, phenomena that can effect the lives of many people. Recent
Who decides what is news?
Is news different in different places?
P O D C A S T I N G & E F L

Is the style of newscasts different in different countries? Between TV,

radio and print?

Have groups report their findings to the class. Go over related vocab-
ulary: story, announcement, event, announcer, presenter, breaking
news, etc.

5) Pass out Student's Sheet. Go over the 5 W's (who, what, when,
where, why), what they are, giving examples if needed, stressing that
the 5W's of any story must be mentioned in the first two sentences of
the news bulletin.

6) Listen to another new bulletin, students listening for the 5W's in

each one. Allow students to listen as many times as needed. Relevant
vocab can be previewed before each listening.

7) Mention that a news bulletin can include more information than just
the 5W's. There are always more details and information related to
the event that people may be interested in. Though this is important, it
comes after the 5W's in the news bulletin.

If relevant, you can introduce the term "Inverted Pyramid". This

refers to the structure of a new bulletin wherein the most important in-
formation is presented first, followed by information of lesser and
lesser importance. This is a structure used in newswriting for radio,
TV, print, as well as much writing for the web.

9) Explain to student they are going to hear another new bulletin, this
one longer. Ask them to take notes on the 5w's and then what further
information they hear.

10) Elicit further information.

Draw students' attention to the fact that the extra information included
in news bulletins often involves comments from people involved in or
affected by the news being reported. This first-hand information con-
veys the piece of news more directly and credibly, and brings the
listener into the story.
P O D C A S T I N G & E F L

These comments can either be direct, where we actually hear the

voices of the people involved in the news story, or indirect, where the
announced used phrases like "According to____, ______says that,
Bystanders expressed anger that______. " etc.

11) Ask students to listen a second time, for whether the comments are
direct, indirect, or both.

11) Scripts of the news bulletins can be distributed for further analys-
is, vocabulary study, pronunciation practice, a final listen, etc.

12) Optional activity for more advanced groups. Have students com-
pare a "real" newscast, such as that used for activity 2, to the "easy
English" newscasts used in activity 6. Ask them to listen for differ-
ences in content, style and delivery.
P O D C A S T I N G & E F L

News Writing Lesson #2

Objective: To draw attention to the language, style and register of new

bulletins. To practice researching, writing, proofreading and reading
news bulletins.

1) Review the basic concepts from News Lesson #1 - news bulletin,

presenter/announcer, 5w's, inverted pyramid, quotes, etc.

2) Ask the class how they think announcers reading news bulletins re-
member everything they have to say?
Explain that some radio programs are scripted, and others are impro-
vised. There is lots of variation, both in style and content.

3) Hand out News Lesson #2 - Student's sheet. Explain that today stu-
dents are going to learn how to write a radio script.

Go over the rules for radio news script writing, giving examples.

Rules can be adjusted to students' level. For example, one rule not in-
cluded is that radio scripts should generally be written in the active
voice. Subordinate clauses should be avoided. A discussion on re-
gister, formal vs. informal language could also be relevant.

4) Have students read the scripts on the worksheet. Then, working in

pairs, identify examples where the scriptwriter broke the rules men-
tioned above. (Examples adapted from ww.about.com/broadcastnews-

Have pairs report their findings to the whole class. Go over how these
mistakes could be repaired.

5) Go over the steps involved in writing a script for a news bulletin as

laid out on the handout. The full process can be modelled with a dif-
ferent article if needed. Once students begin working, circulate help-
ing students with translations, vocab, and correcting grammar once
students arrive to the end of step 2 and have a finished, written script.
Step 3 can be done in pairs.
P O D C A S T I N G & E F L

The source article for this activity is yours to decide. Something ori-
ginally written for print and from the students' L1 is ideal, especially
in an EFL environment. This way students have to think about both
content and style. If the article is in English and written for print and
is quite simple to begin with, students could easily fall into copying
the article without putting much though into it.

HOMEWORK or optional project: Have the students write a 30

second news bulletin on a piece of news from their own town or
P O D C A S T I N G & E F L

Intro to Audacity

Objective: To introduce students to what sound editing is. To familiar-

ize students with the capabilities of the Audacity sound editing pro-
gram and its interface. To introduce vocabulary related to sound edit-
ing. To prepare students in an offline environment for future use of
Audacity in the computer lab.
***This lesson is ideally delivered in a classroom with a Smartboard.

1) Play students some examples of edited sound files (radio ads, ed-
ited sentences, sped up voices, voices with effects). Begin a general
discussion on how these files were made, the process of recording,
editing and mixing. Ask if anyone has used sound editing software
before. Explain that we're going to be using a free, open-source sound
editor called Audacity.

2) Hand out student sheet #1 (Intro to Audacity). This contains pro-

motional material for the program adapted off their website.

Go over with the group the meanings of the main headings: Record-
ing, Editing, Effects, Import and Export.

Working in pairs, students read the handout, and using dictionaries

and context and cognates, try to fill in the vocabulary list. Encourage
students to use the vocabulary strategy that best works for them, or to
apply whatever vocabulary strategies they are most familiar with.

Then, using their own words, make a summary of what kinds of things
Audacity can do to sound.

For example: With Audacity I can record my voice with a micro-

phone. I can remove words. I can combine sentences together. I can
add music to my voice. I can change the pitch of my voice, etc.

3) Get students to share their paragraphs with the class or other


4) Talk about waveforms. Put the Waveform slide on the Smartboard.

Play an example to show how the cursor moves with the sound.

5) Handout Waveform worksheet students can work in partners to fill-

in the sheet. It can be finished for homework.
P O D C A S T I N G & E F L

Student Worksheets

New Lesson #2 - Student's sheet

Writing a script

Most radio news programs are scripted. The announcers don't have to
memorize all the information they read, they work from a script. This
is a text they read on the air. A script is different than a novel or book.
It is made to be read out loud.

Unlike writing for a magazine or a newspaper, when you write for

radio it must be easy to understand. Listeners only get one chance to
understand your message - they can't go back and read it again like in
a magazine. Also, when people listen to the radio, there are often
many distractions. Your message must be very clear.

Now, look at the rules for writing a script for radio:

1) Write like you speak.

XXXX - Pope Benedict XVI joined U.S. President Barack Obama and
Queen Elizabeth II on Friday by launching his own YouTube channel,
the latest Vatican effort to reach out to the digital generation.

!!!! - President Obama has a Youtube channel. So does Queen

Elizabeth. Now Pope Benedict has one too. The pope wants to use the
new channel to reach out to young people.

2) Use short, simple sentences.

XXXX- President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats

sought to ease Republican complaints about a massive economic plan
Friday, meeting with GOP leaders in the White House and promising
to consider some of their recommendations.

!!!! - President Barack Obama met with Republican leaders in

Congress today. The Republicans aren't happy with Obama's big
economic plan. Obama says he'll consider their ideas.
P O D C A S T I N G & E F L

3) Express one idea per sentence. Don't use commas.

XXXX - President Zapatero met with his government yesterday in

Madrid, after continuing pressure from the conservative Partido
Popular, headed by Rajoy, to present an organized plan of action,
most specifically concerned with the economic crisis.

!!!! - President Zapatero met with his government yesterday in

Madrid. Rajoy and his conservative Partido Popular have been
pressuring Zapatero to present an economic plan. Zapatero will
present a plan of action concerning the economic crisis.

4) Avoid difficult to pronounce words

XXXX - The authorities conducted an extensive investigation into the

horrific incident.

!!!! - The police investigated the horrible crime.

5) Introduce yourself and your radio station at the beginning and end.

This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS, a program in VOA Special English.

I'm Bob Doughty.
P O D C A S T I N G & E F L

Read this radio script. Does it follow the rules? Re-write this script.

Iñigo Diaz de Cerio, presented as a new Athletic Club Bilbao player,

who thanked Athletic Club for trusting him despite his absence from
the field in 2008-2009 as the Athletic Club Bilbao elaborated his
contract on Wednesday in the Athletic Club Bilbao offices in Ibaigane,
Bilbao.The former Real Sociedad striker signed a four-year deal and
will have a buyout clause in his contract of 50 million euro. The
player thanked Athletic Club for showing confidence in him after
having been sidelined for most of the 2008-9 season due to an injury.

Diaz de Cerio said in an interview that the Athletic Club is an

important club, the only one that has always remained in the Primera
league together with Barcelona and Real Madrid and he hoped to
improve as a player and to help the team get better. The Basque Club
did not have to pay Real Sociedad anything for the striker as his
contract reached its termination last year and the played was therefore
liberated from continuing with Real Sociedad. .


You're going to write a radio script for a 30 second radio story.

You're going to take a longer article originally written for newspaper,

and adapt it into a 30-second long news bulletin.

Step 1: Read the article. Take note of the 5Ws. Take note of extra
information and details you'd like to include in your bulletin. Take
note of any comments you would like to include.

Step 2: Once you've gathered your information, start writing your

script. Remember to keep in mind the rules above.

Step 3: It's important to read your script out loud for two reasons. The
first is to make sure your script is no longer than 30 seconds. The
second is to makes sure it is easily readable, and there are no difficult
to pronounce words. Read it to a classmate and make sure it is the
right length, easy to pronounce, and that your message is clear.
P O D C A S T I N G & E F L

Audacity Student Worksheet

Recording Vocabulary
1. Audacity can record live audio through a mi-
crophone, or import audios files such as MP3's record
from your computer or the Internet. recordings
1. Easy editing with Cut, Copy, Paste, and
Delete. Change the order of sounds.
2. Use unlimited Undo to go back any
number of steps. track

1. Use single-track recording to edit just single-track recording

one sound file at a time. multi-track recording
2. Edit and mix an unlimited number of cut
tracks with multi-track recording. Create copy
multi-track recordings, combining different paste
layers of voices and music.
3. Fade the volume up or down smoothly
with the Envelope tool.
4. Visualize your recording using wave-
forms for more accurate editing fade
Effects pitch
1. Adjust volumes with the amplify effect. echo
2. Change the pitch or the speed of voices.
3. Change the quality of voices with built-
in sound effects such as Echo, Reverb, Reverse
4. Remove static, or other annoying noises.
Import and Export
• Import sound files, edit them, and combine them with other
files or new recordings. Export your recordings in several
common file formats.
3. Import and export WAV and MP3 files.
P O D C A S T I N G & E F L

Now write a paragraph using your own words summarizing what

kinds of things you can do with Audacity.

For example: With Audacity I can record my voice with a microphone.

I can edit MP3s from my computer. I can....
P O D C A S T I N G & E F L

Waveform Worksheet
• A waveform is a visual representation of sound.
• Waveforms show us the volume of the sound.
• Waveforms show us the quality or type of sound.
• Waveforms show us the time and duration of sound.

Look at the Waveform on the following page and do the following:

How long is the sound file? Find the time indicator and circle it and
mark it with the work time.

At what time is the loudest sound? Circle it and mark it with the word

Circle a moment of silence in the sound file and mark it with the word

Circle the tool you would use to zoom in on a sound. Mark it with the
word zoom.

Circle the tool you would use to select a section of sound. Mark it
with the word select.

Circle the record, pause and play buttons. Mark them with their

Circle the menu item where you think you would go to change the
pitch or tone or to make the recorded sound sound funny. Mark it
with the word pitch.
Circle the menu area where you would go to "undo" a mistake you've
made. Mark it with undo.
P O D C A S T I N G & E F L