Travels with Charley - Radio Plays
Language Arts, History, Technology, Performing Arts
6 – 12
Type of Activity
Small Group, Large Group, Cumulative
- Students will strengthen their abilities in creative writing, particularly writing dialogue.
- Students will demonstrate their understanding of key scenes in Travels with Charley.
The 1930s were the apex of the radio era, long before television became a staple in American homes in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The challenge of creating and recording a radio play is that narration and traditional exposition are minimal. The plot moves forward primarily through dialogue and sound effects. Students must keep in mind at all times that they cannot be seen, and that they must create the story this way. This should be a great way for students to experience the limited media of the 1930s.
This activity can be done simply as live, unseen performances (behind a room divider or curtain). Or, for teachers with access to some basic recording equipment, the radio plays can be recorded, edited, and turned into a podcast.
- Basic materials
- A room divider, hiding the performers
- Sound effects devices
- Materials for recording
- A simple sound board
- A computer with recording and editing software (free downloadable Audacity audio software is an easy solution)
- 2 – 5 class periods
- Introduce the concept of a radio play (many middle school and high school Literature
books have sections devoted to screen plays, radio plays, etc.).
- Very little, if any, narration
- Dialogue driven
- Sound effects
- Assign student groups.
- Have each group choose a scene from the book, subject to teacher approval.
- Allow students time to create a script (this could take anywhere from 1 – 2 class
periods). Set a deadline!
- For Travels with Charley, students may need to write additional dialogue (in context) to replace narration.
- Include necessary sound effects. For example, for the sound of horses trotting, students
can rhythmically bang on a desk in unison.
- Students should create a list of items needed for sound effects.
- Use existing dialogue in the book.
- Use realistic voices.
- The final script should be typed.
- For classes that are not ready to immediately adapt a scene, choose a scene, paragraph,
or short passage from Travels with Charley to model with the class. Choose a passage with both dialogue and narration.
- Read the passage out loud.
- Read the passage a second time, but this time:
- Take volunteers to read the dialogue.
- Have students read their parts, but only the dialogue.
- Discussion prompt: “Can we tell from only the dialogue what is happening in this scene?”
- Students should conclude that the dialogue alone is insufficient (e.g. it is difficult to understand the setting or mood through only the dialogue).
- Discussion prompt: “How can we make the listeners know what the setting is, what the
mood is, etc. without a narrator? What can we add?”
- It may help to use examples of radio plays (again, many middle school and high school Literature books have sections devoted to this).
- Point out descriptive parts of the narration – how can those parts be made into sounds or dialogue instead of being narrated?
- Record student ideas on the board; have students develop creative ways to express setting, mood, and other elements through using only sounds and dialogue.
- Allow rehearsal time.
- Set up a room divider (a curtain or sheet works well, anything to hide the performers).
- Each performer needs a copy of the script.
- Set up recording equipment (optional).
- Have groups perform their radio play.
- Post Activities
- Have students write reviews of the other radio plays performed.
- Have students critique their own group. What would they do differently next time? What did they do well?
- Have students edit their recorded radio play.
- Because this is a fun, interactive activity, students should come away with a memorable connection to the book.
- Students should have a stronger understanding of the role dialogue can play.
- Have students refer to their scripts, critiques, and reviews prior to creating another radio play, one act play, etc. Doing so will help reinforce what they learned about the writing and performing process.
- How well did students adhere to the radio play style?
- How realistic was any new dialogue that was created?
- Was the performance successful in creating a vivid image of the scene?
- How well did students work within their group?
California State Content Standards Met
- Performing Arts: Theatre Content Standards
- Creative Expression: 2
- Historical and Cultural Context: 3
Common Core State Standards Met
- Reading Standards for Literature 6-12
- Key Ideas and Details: 2, 3
- Craft and Structure: 4, 5, 6
- Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: 7, 9
- Reading Standards for Informational Text 6-12
- Key Ideas and Details: 3
- Craft and Structure: 4
- Writing Standards 6-12
- Text Types and Purposes: 3
- Production and Distribution of Writing: 4, 5, 6
- Speaking and Listening Standards 6-12
- Comprehension and Collaboration: 1, 2
- Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas: 5, 6
- Language Standards 6-12
- Conventions of Standards of English: 1, 2
- Knowledge of Language: 3
- Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: 4, 5
- Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
- Craft and Structure: 6