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Podcasting in the Classroom

Subject:Music, Social Studies, Language Arts

Grade Level: 9-12

Description: In this unit, the Internet, PowerPoint, Microsoft Word, and a sound recording program called Audacity are used to create Podcasts. This project was designed to be a culminating activity for a 9th grade Music History unit covering popular music in America during the 1930s.

How it Works: These lessons enable students to take an active role in their learning by creating their own content. Rather than responding to questions in test form, they are given a chance to develop a creative way in which to record and present their findings.

Final Project/Product: Students create a podcast of a radio show from the Swing era, with an accompanying PowerPoint presentation.

Overall Value: This unit reinforces project-based learning and working cooperatively with others while supporting the content areas of Communication Studies, English Language Arts, Music History, and Social Studies. This unit is unique because it incorporates technology, providing students access to a whole world outside the classroom, and illustrates creative ways to approach learning.

English Language Learners: Podcasting is a wonderful way to help students learn a language. Students get to write, rehearse, and record themselves--and practice all levels of English language acquisition. Podcasting is both audio and visual; it allows ELL students to be engaged with the material and gain new writing and verbal skills.

Tips for the Teacher: Student podcasts are created through the use of images, sound bytes, written information, and multimedia. When students listen to their finished work, these different elements allow them to reflect on the work on many levels. Creating podcasts helps students internalize and see a more holistic view of the topic they are studying.



 Standards Addressed
Students access, generate, process and transfer information using appropriate technologies.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: Technology
Students use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of the 1930s Big Band Swing Era in America.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: Technology
Students use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of major ideas, eras, themes, developments, and turning points in world history, and examine the broad sweep of history from a variety of perspectives.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: Social Studies
Students listen, speak, read, and write in English for critical analysis and evaluation.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: ESL
Students listen, speak, read, and write for social interaction.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: English Language Arts
Students listen, speak, read and write for information and understanding.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: English Language Arts

Day 1: Intro to the Big Band Era
Students research American popular music in the 1930s, specifically the Big Band Swing Era.
Students will be able to identify several big bands.
Students will be able to analyze the makeup, sound, and purpose of a big band.
Students will comprehend the effects of the Great Depression on entertainment in the 1930s.
Benny Goodman's recording of
Copy of the Ken Burns documentary Jazz
Laptop computers w/Internet access
LCD projector
jazz, swing, ensemble, era, big band, great depression
Procedure 1
Play the recording of "Somebody Stole My Girl."
a. List on a chart what the students already know about the music (teacher might list his/her information also).
b. Introduce the words: swing, ensemble, era, and big band. See if any students can define them before providing your own definition.
c. Ask the students what role a big band might play in the entertainment world and what period in time this music might have originated.
d. Investigate the variety of instrumental sounds coming from the recording. Identify the instrumentation. Discuss with students what might be the purpose of the music.
Procedure 2
Use the "Jazz" video to show clips of Benny Goodman's band performing.
a. As students begin to figure out that dancing was a major component of the Big Band Era, identify the popular dances from the 1930s.
b. Explain to students that today they are going to learn about the Swing Era. Students will focus on important Big Band leaders, the makeup and purpose of the bands, and their role in America during the 1930s.
PBS site for the Ken Burns film, Jazz http://pbs.org/jazz/index.htm
Procedure 3
Show clips of the effects of the Great Depression from the Jazz video.
a. Ask the students what, if anything, they know about the Great Depression. Direct students to the Great Depression site, part of the PBS Jazz website.
b. Have students read the article and discuss in pairs. Have them pick out three important points about the Great Depression for a class discussion.
c. Play the music clips on the Jazz web page. Ask students what they hear.
d. Discuss the effects the Great Depression might have had on entertainment in the 1930s and American culture as a whole. Ask students to volunteer their points about the Depression. You can create a classroom chart of their responses, which will be valuable as you move through this unit.
The Great Depression & Jazz http://pbs.org/jazz/time/time_depression.htm
Procedure 4
Explain to students that they will be working in small groups and given laptop computers for Internet research.
a. Through the designated websites, students focus on band leaders and their contributions to music in America during the 1930s.
b. Students can explore the PBS Jazz site, the Swing Music site (below), or find links of their own, which they must cite fully in their notes.
This site has excellent multimedia resources about the Big Band era in popular music history. http://swingmusic.net/getset.html
Procedure 5
The teacher circulates and observes students' work. Share inside stories of artists, musicians, and historical events.
a. Students record their research findings in Microsoft Word or Google Docs.
b. Remind students that when recording their research, they must be careful to put statements in their own words in order to avoid plagiarism.
Students share their findings with the class, and important points are posted on a large chart, visible to all in the classroom.

Day 2: PowerPoint Research
Students will create PowerPoint presentations based on their research utilizing images and period recordings.
Students will gain knowledge of the Big Band Era.
Students will identify the components of a big band and their entertainment value.
Students will be able to follow complex directions.
laptop computers w/Internet access
Previous research materials and/or charted findings
Procedure 1
Recall the prior lesson.
a. Explain to the students that they will whittle down the information they have gathered.
b. This will help them focus on important points and concepts that they might want to include in their podcast.
Procedure 2
Using an LCD projector, the teacher models the creation of a PowerPoint presentation.
a. This include slide development, adding text, dragging images from the Internet into slides, and adding sound bytes.
b. Guide students to several sites for possible images and sound bytes (on the sites listed previously, or through Google Images or Flickr.com).
c. Explain that the students will create their own PowerPoint presentations that include factual information, images from the era, and period recordings.
d. These PowerPoint presentations will be the basis for their podcast scripts.
Procedure 3
Students are organized into groups. I like to create heterogeneous groups, but how you choose to group your students is up to you.
a. Once in their groups, the students begin developing their group PowerPoint presentation.
b. The teacher moves from group to group, modeling a variety of ways to develop slides. Encourage good use of the software (not too much text, no overwhelming graphics, etc.).
Procedure 4
Once the PowerPoint is completed (this may take 1-3 days, depending on your class), each group will share their presentations with the class.
a. Each group will participate in a Q&A session.
b. Students should consider questions to pose to each group and write down some possibilities. The teacher can suggest some options, such as: (1) What were the significance and/or contributions of your highlighted band leaders from the 1930s? (2) What role did the Great Depression play in the entertainment industry? (3) Who were some of the significant figures in America during this time period?
c. Students should take notes on salient information presented by each group to help them prepare for their podcast.
If the PowerPoint continues for more than one day, working on material to contribute to the presentation can be assigned for homework.
The presentations of each group and the questions asked by other students.

Day 3: Prepping the Podcast
Students will create a 1930s-style radio program podcast.
Students will write a script for their podcasts.
Students will perform their radio skits in class.
laptop computers with Internet access
word processing program, such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs
skit, script, radio show, podcast
Procedure 1
Each group reviews their PowerPoint presentation and uses it as a jumping-off point to come up with a concept for their podcast script.
a. Each group chooses a figure from their research to "interview" in the context of their radio show (the podcast).
b. To understand the sound and style of a 1930s radio show, the teacher should play some examples. Several can be found at the "Old Time Radio" page on the Internet Archive site (link below).
c. Ask students what they hear as you play the radio shows. Tell them to write down adjectives that describe the format of the show (a good opportunity to review parts of speech, if necessary).
d. Create a list of attributes of these radio shows. This will help students get focused when they replicate the style in their own podcasts.
Old Time Radio Internet Archive http://archive.org/details/oldtimeradio
Procedure 2
Depending on the knowledge of your students, you should explain what a podcast is, and how it is similar and different from a radio program.
a. Play some examples of a podcast (found on iTunes, Podcast Alley, iPodder, to name a few portals). Google some samples, and play some of your own favorites.
b. Explain some of the unique features of podcasts: playing on demand, creating archives of material, the user-friendly aspect, home broadcasting, etc.
c. Show students the article, "What Is a Podcast and How Can I Use One?"
d. Come back together as a class and make sure everyone understands what a podcast is.
What Is a Podcast and How Can I Use One? http://entrepreneurs-journey.com/203/what-is-a-podcast/
Procedure 3
The students begin planning their scripts. Make sure everyone understands a script and the format of an interview.
a. The teacher should model possible interview scenarios for the class. For example, "Today on Big Band 93.3FM, we have a special guest, Duke Ellington. He has just returned to New York City from a a brief tour of the Midwest where his band lifted the spirits so many Americans struggling through the Depression. So Duke, what new compositions are you working on?"
b. The teacher asks the class what other creative ideas they can utilize for their scripts.
c. The teacher lists the students' responses on the board.
d. Students begin working on their scripts.
Procedure 4
In their groups, students create a format for their podcasts and craft interview questions.
a. Students assign roles for each other, and come up with Q&A script in character.
b. The teacher circulates as students discuss and create their podcast scripts.
c. The teacher probes students into deeper thinking and creativity, assisting groups when necessary. The teacher makes sure that all groups are using accountable talk, and that everyone is playing an active role in the creation of each script.
Procedure 5
Once completed, students practice their skit in class several times. The teacher should try to watch each group at least once.
a. The teacher asks each group whether or not they think their script truly represents a 1930s radio program. Refer back to the list of attributes.
b. If not, ask the groups what are some ways in which the script can be made more authentic (using period slang, more conversational interview style, etc.).
c. Students share their skits with the other groups.
d. Students participate in a question-and-answer session covering the specifics of how each group came up with the content for their skits.
teacher observation, group scripts, class Q&A session

Day 4: Recording the Podcasts
Students will learn to use audio recording software, Audacity, to record 1930s radio skits.
Students will learn to convert audio recordings into MP3 files.
Students will be able to upload MP3 files to a web site for viewing and listening on the Web.
Students will learn all facets of creating their own podcasts.
laptop computers w/Internet access
Audacity software for editing audio files (free software, downloadable)
Procedure 1
Revisit prior lessons in the unit and discuss ways in which the students can utilize creative strategies when recording their podcasts.
a. Remind the students of all the things that they have learned from the previous lessons on the Swing Era, and encourage them to include as much new knowledge as possible in their podcasts.
b. Model examples such as having the students create a short script for a commercial for a product from the 1930s. This could be used as a lead-in to the radio broadcast/podcasts.
c. Pass out laptops and direct students to the Audacity web site: http://audacity.sourceforge.net.
Procedure 2
Pass out laptops and direct students to the Audacity web site: http://audacity.sourceforge.net. Show students how to download this free program onto their own computers (if not already pre-loaded). NOTE: Apple GarageBand is an excellent substitute for Audacity. If you are working with Macs, you may be more comfortable using GarageBand, which is already installed on Macs with OSX operating systems. The way the two programs work is very similar and free tutorials for both are readily available on the Web.
a. Instruct students on how the program is used and the basics of recording. Demonstrate for the whole class, and also walk around as the podcasts are being created to help troubleshoot. NOTE: Depending on the computers you are using, you may want to explore obtaining cheap microphones to help students record their voices and sounds.
b. The teacher models how to record their podcasts and creates a short podcast on the fly.
c. The teacher instructs each group to finalize their podcasts and practice them one last time.
Audacity Sound Editing software http://audacity.sourceforge.net.
Procedure 3
One at a time, each group performs their radio broadcast while recording the spoken words into Audacity.
a. The teacher is present during each recording, and helps students with any technical problems. Remind the students that there is no one way in which to complete the podcast, and that each group should be as creative as possible.
b. While groups are recording, other groups should be rehearsing their scripts or preparing for their final class presentation, once finished.
Procedure 4
After each group has recorded the spoken word portion, the teacher models the sound editing process on Audacity.
a. Direct students to Audacity's help pages and tutorials on the web (also free).
b. Students will edit their own recordings by adding period music that reflects the time period. The teacher works with each group on various sound editing procedures.
c. When each group has finished their podcast, they convert their audio file to an MP3 file and upload the file to the school's website for worldwide viewing and listening. The teacher should demonstrate this process first. You may or may not want to restrict access to your own school website, and you may want to collect these MP3 files individually and upload them yourself. You know your own students and school culture best--make a choice that is smart for you.
d. The intended audience is parents, students, and teachers, but the podcasts are available to anyone who has access to the Internet.
Audacity Tutorials http://audacity.sourceforge.net/help/tutorials
Procedure 5
Students present their audio recordings to the class.
a. Students have the opportunity to ask how each group created their podcast and why certain decisions were made (editing, script, etc.).
Ask students to compare life and music in the 1930s with today's American music and lifestyle. What do they have in common? What major differences exist?
Podcast, podcast presentation

Rian Wilkinson


The Heritage School
1680 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10029

Rian Wilkinson has been teaching music history and music performance at The Heritage School in East Harlem, New York, for three years. He has a B.A. in Music Education from City College, and is currently completing his M.A. degree in Music Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Important documents for this lesson plan.


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