TITLE: Communication in U.S. Society; Radio in America AUTHOR: Chris Hegele, Denver Academy; Denver, CO GRADE LEVEL: 10-12 OVERVIEW: Radio was perhaps the most important technological invention to modern American society. Its impact revolutionized life for the average American and life would never be the same. for the MTV generation radio's impact may seem unlikely but this lesson will show them how powerful the second revolution (the first being the printed word) in the media was to life in the United States. PURPOSE: The purpose of this lesson is to show students how radio began the modern consumer society, shaped societal views on peoples and cultures, changed family home life forever, "shrank" the world by bringing far-away places, events, and individuals into peoples living rooms, stoked the imagination of generations of Americans, and tied us together as a people. ACTIVITIES AND PROCEDURES: 1. The slogan "R.A.D.I.O.S." is used to introduce fundamental background information on the radio. this can take as long as the instructor wishes (generally two days). "R" -- Racism (by our standards today), Sexism, Ethnic jokes; "Real News" (By 1930's live broadcasts were common) "A" -- Advertising (the shaping of our modern consumer society) Product identification with specific, recognized entertainers. Saturation advertising made claims believable. "D" -- Designed for family; women's shows in a.m.; children's shows in afternoon' family shows in evening "I" -- Imagination enhanced by sound effects with shows such as "Nick Danger: Third Eye", "The Lone Ranger", and "Charlie McCarthy"; Advent of radio broadcast of important sporting events: college football, World Series "O" -- On 700-900 radio stations organized into NBC- Red, NBC-Blue, CBS, and Mutual "S" -- Stereotypical/slapstick; Blacks (Negroes) as illiterate, argumentative types, husband-wife domestic scenarios, simple plots made up much of radio's early programming. 2. After lecture is given and anecdotal stories on lecture notes exhausted the class, by whole group discussion, will decide on a working definition of "racism", "sexism", "stereotyping", "slapstick", and "saturation advertising". These definitions will be the operating premise of the following activity. Students may be divided into three groups of four. Each group is required to listen to several audio cassette clips to determine if they can identify examples of racism, stereotyping of sexes, cultures, how advertising was used to sway audiences to purchase product, how radio skillfully engaged the imagination, and what attributes a show would need to quality as a woman's, children's, and "family hour" type program. 3. At the end of the three to four audio clips each group listens to (the instructor will know which group has what clips) the student will argue in writing why that particular clip of a show was an example of stereotyping, saturation advertising, racial slurs, or a family show. (One group member may take one of the definitions, write down his/her impressions and discuss his/her findings orally with the group to determine accuracy). 4. These written defenses can be shared with the class by the teacher (with the student's permission) after a particular clip is played to see if the student's peers outside of the group agree with him/her. Lively debate usually occurs. 5. (Optional) Another activity is to have students watch a typical evening's programming on T.V. and write a compare/contrast essay with the visual medium of television and the audio medium of radio. TYING IT ALL TOGETHER: I usually end this unit by having students correctly identify radio personalities with their reputation via a matching test (Jack Benny and his penchant for being a cheapskate), play previously unheard clips to them and have them identify what category the shows belong to, and write general reaction pieces to the shows they heard and why they hold their particular opinion about them. The last activity mentioned (#5) is an effective way to tie in radio with the instrument that has changed and will continue to change the way we live: the television. Television's enormous popularity was caused in part by how radio shaped our lives and our perceptions of current events. Interviews with grandparents/parents can be a useful technique to give students perspective on radio and television. These can be shared with the class or the individuals themselves may be invited to the classroom to share how radio impacted their reality.
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