Time Allotment: two class periods
1. Many students may not be familiar with Garrison Keillor or his radio program about the fictitious town of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota. To get the students interested and to provide them with some background about A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION, distribute the Scavenger Hunt worksheet. Working in pairs or small groups, the students can use their Internet research skills to find the answers to the questions on the worksheet.
2. Give them 20 to 30 minutes to complete the Scavenger Hunt. If you choose, offer a small reward (e.g., a piece of candy, a special classroom privilege) for the students who complete the activity first and/or those who complete it most accurately.
3. Facilitate a class review and discussion of the correct answers to the Scavenger Hunt questions. This should provide the students with basic background knowledge about Keillor and his program.
4. Explain to the students that Garrison Keillor's weekly radio program, A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION, is modeled after old-time radio shows that were a common form of family entertainment in the United States before the invention of the television. Here's some information about radio's significance that you can share with the class:
5. Introduce the students to Garrison Keillor and his radio show by listening to one of the broadcasts. Visit the archive section of the PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION Web site (http://prairiehome.publicradio.org/programs/), select a show, and share various excerpts of it with the class. Be sure to listen to the segment entitled "News from Lake Wobegon," one or two other sketches, Keillor's interview with one of the show's guests, a musical performance, and an advertisement. As the students are listening, take time to discuss each segment briefly. When they have finished listening, facilitate a short class discussion about the show using questions such as:
- Radio programming was most popular from the 1920s to the late 1950s.
- In earlier decades, the radio was what television, the Internet, and cell phones are to people today -- a primary form of communication. People got their news and information from radio and were also entertained by radio programming.
- Various types of programs were presented on the radio, including variety shows (such as Keillor's), talk shows, news programs, and lots of "audio theater" or dramas. The first soap operas were radio broadcasts. A famous drama that caused a nationwide panic was the airing of "The War of the Worlds" as a Halloween special in 1938.
- Families often settled by the radio in the evening and tuned in to their favorite programs, much like we do with TV shows. People had to rely on their listening skills to follow the story and learn about the characters.
- Special effects were included in the productions and artists who specialized in creating these effects vocally and with props were a big part of them.
- Radio productions were broadcast live from a network's studio. The actors and actresses playing the parts performed them in real time, live on the air.
- Musical performances that were part of the programs were also performed live.
- In what ways was the radio broadcast similar to a TV talk show like THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO or LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN? How is it different?
(Note to Teachers: You could document this discussion using a graphic organizer such as a Venn Diagram to help the students practice comparing and contrasting.)
- Did you personally find the program entertaining? Why or why not?
- What did you notice about the advertisements that was different from what you are used to hearing on the radio?
Time Allotment: three class periods
1. Now that the students have a basic understanding of Garrison Keillor's radio program and have heard examples of it, introduce them to GARRISON KEILLOR'S NEW YEAR'S EVE SPECIAL. Explain to the students that they will be watching a televised version of the radio show A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION. Hosted by Garrison Keillor, it will feature the radio shows' regular performers along with a number of special musical guests.
2. Direct the students to watch the program in its entirety and then complete the Viewing Guide using details and information from the show.
3. Facilitate a discussion of the questions in the Viewing Guide.
4. Using "A Brief History of Radio Drama in America," available at http://www.balancepublishing.com/golden.htm, or a similar resource, discuss why radio was culturally and historically significant to Americans as an information source and form of entertainment. Conclude the discussion by talking about why Garrison Keillor and those who listen to his program and others like it might feel it is important to perpetuate this genre of radio entertainment.
5. As a class, access the Generic Radio Workshop: Vintage Radio Script Library at http://www.genericradio.com/library.php. Discuss the various types of programs that were heard on the radio (comedy, drama, mystery, variety, westerns, science fiction, music, game shows, etc.) and review the scripts from them. Point out the following to the students:
- how advertisements and sponsors are presented at the beginning and end of the shows and during breaks in the action;
- how sound effects are described when they are to be used in the program;
- how special directions are included for the actors (how a line should be said, when they should speak loudly or softly, etc.);
- how music is incorporated (e.g., perhaps a theme song performed at the beginning of the program, music used to heighten the mood of the program).
Time Allotment: three class periods
1. Assign the students to work in small groups. Have them select a script from the Generic Radio Workshop site, print it, and perform the radio broadcast, including music and sound effects, as a group, using only their voices and the materials available to them at their seats. Provide 15 to 20 minutes for them to do this activity.
(Note to Teachers: Because students will be performing their scripts in groups simultaneously, this will be a noisy activity.)
2. At the end of the allotted performance time, facilitate a short discussion including questions such as:
- What challenges did you face as you worked as a group to perform the script?
- What did you enjoy most about performing the script?
- If you had been performing this script live on the radio, what technical challenges do you think you would have faced in terms of your ability to execute all the parts of the script correctly?
3. Keep the students in their small groups and distribute the Radio Program Planning Guide. Review all of the project guidelines together as a class. Provide them with at least one class period to plan their program for performance in class.
4. When all the groups have created their radio programs, provide class time for the students to listen to each presentation. As they listen, they should complete a peer evaluation form or provide constructive, written feedback about the content and performance. Each group should then be given time to review the feedback they've gotten from their classmates.
1. Sponsor an Old-Time Radio day or evening at your school. Create displays that document the history of radio, particularly its golden age. Have various locations where attendees can listen to the students' radio productions completed in this lesson. Students can also act as docents to guide attendees to different activities and to teach them about radio history through the interactive displays and activities.
2. Start an old-time radio style broadcast that airs weekly, monthly, or quarterly and can be shared with the entire school through the public announcement system and/or on the Internet using podcasting technology.