When I get in my car by myself in the morning I turn on National Public Radio (NPR). My favorite radio show to listen to on NPR is Radio Lab with Jad Abrumad and Robert Krulwich. These two gentlemen “integrate reporting and documentary” in a talking conversation about various topics they want to inform the public about. Most of the topics are science related. Even though I do not have a science background, I am still interested and engaged in the radio show because of the way Abrumad and Krulwich present their material. Throughout their informative dialogue are sound bites, music and engaging discussions that make me want to listen and stay listening throughout the entire program.
I think one of the best Radio Lab shows was “Numbers” about the role that mathematics and numbers plays in our lives. This is excellent to share with any math class, especially when our students ask, “Why do we need to know this?”
The more that I listened to Radio Lab and studied the moves that Jad and Robert made in their podcasts I realized that their program is similar to a five paragraph expository essay that teachers expect their secondary students to write.
In my Speech and Debate class we studied Radio Lab episodes to help model our own informative speeches. Students listened to multiple episodes and were asked to identify the elements of informative speech used in the podcast. At the same time, students examined the radio hosts’ vocal expression and speaking style. In class, we pulled out specific lines the radio hosts used to help the audience understand better (something that is necessary in good writing and informing). Here are a few that students brought attention to:
“Let’s start with this . . .” The first words in the Podcast Lucy (2/19/2010)
“Here’s why we included this story . . .” This is where Jad and Robert begin to explain what the story was about and how it relates to the main idea/topic of the podcast. They are making inferences and synthesizing what they have learned so far.
“It appears . . .” (clarifying)
“The question we want to ask now . . .” (After a big idea, refocus, redirect and connect back to main ideas)
“What should we all draw from this?” (Setting up the closing or conclusion)
After examining and deconstructing numerous Radio Lab episodes my students were ready to write their own informative speeches (expository essays) that would be turned into podcasts to share with the school community. We added music and other sound effects similar to Radio Lab. Using the model of Radio Lab in turn, helped students create speeches and podcasts that were creative, in-depth, and informative.