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How-To: Get Started

Today in the News  Rosemary Shaw

Nothing is harder than keeping high school students awake during a history lesson. 

I found this out my first year of teaching! I did well as long as I was interested in the subject, or knew the subject perfectly. But, being human, I didn’t know everything, nor was I interested in everything. One time period that I am not an expert in is US History during the 1920s and 1930s. Ask me about the Civil War, ask me about Vietnam, but please, don’t ask me about Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall! And I still don’t know what the Teapot Dome Scandal was… 

What did I have to teach, my first year of teaching? Oh yes… 

Luckily, at the same time I was teaching about the Teapot Dome Scandal, I fell right into one of the best tactics for getting students to do excellent reports. Don’t just do a report…be a news reporter. AND TAPE IT! Since then, I have used video and audio taping on all levels – for elementary, middle and high school students. Almost all students like to be recorded, and usually, when they know this is happening, they are more interested in doing the research and they do a better job. To keep with the time period, my high school students did radio reports. We first listened to recordings from the 1930s and 1940s. We talked about life before the Internet, before the computer, even before TVs. We began with dramatic re-creations and later listened to actual broadcasts recorded as events happened. Radio was our link to the world beyond our community. To quote from Radio News, these were “events that shaped our lives, which became a part of us simply by our listening.” 

I was surprised to see the intensity in my students’ faces as they listened to the taped reports. I know I was spellbound when I heard Edward R. Murrow reporting from a London rooftop during the Blitz, but I was surprised to see my students were, too. They seemed much more interested than when they watched videos. They were really paying attention. It also didn’t stop there! When I played back the students’ reports, after taping them on an old cassette player, the students seemed to be quieter, pay more attention, and to get more out of the “radio broadcasts.” 

Of course, since then, I have often used video recordings for reports and for taping events in the classroom, but I never forget the power of radio. It’s a part of our history, and it’s a fun way to do a report from the time period before TV!! 

Resources
Radio news: http://otr.com/news.html
United Press from Audio Center:
http://audiocenter.com/downhold/cavalcade.htm
Yellow pages- Links to Old Time Radio:

http://yellowpages.pl/ca/42157/Arts/Radio/Formats/Old-Time_Radio/

 

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