Academy Curricular Exchange
Columbia Education Center
Social Studies

TITLE:  Communication in U.S. Society; Radio in America

AUTHOR:  Chris Hegele, Denver Academy; Denver, CO


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.


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

     "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

     "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

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

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.

     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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