If you peeked into Room 705, you’d find students hovered over their laptops, headphones on, tapping quietly on their keyboards. What you wouldn’t know is the students are meticulously mixing a blend of music, sound effects and their voices to create their very own podcasts.
What began as an English assignment soon transformed into a digitalized monologue. English teacher Mallory Neidich ’06 tasked Class 6 students with writing a personal narrative about a unique experience in their lives. Inspired by a similar unit from Teachers College at Columbia University, Ms. Neidich crafted her own version and provided an example for her students by writing a piece about her first subway ride alone.
A diligent study of the importance of descriptive detail, dialogue and other factors that make a great story, resulted in each student creating her own compelling tale. Ms. Neidich said, “These stories allowed students to explore deep themes such as fear, self-doubt, and staying true to yourself.” Following a process of composing and editing drafts, they brought their final typed-up versions to Technology and Design with Middle School Technology Department Head Trude Goodman.
“Who’s ready to record?” Ms. Goodman asked. Beaming bright smiles, students shot their hands into the air. Each pulled out her uniquely decorated laptop and opened up GarageBand, a digital audio feature that encompasses free sound effects including instruments and various melodies.
Students then spread themselves out into quiet spots such as the library, Ms. Goodman’s office, or in the halls, and excitedly began recording their narratives. Podcast topics ranged dramatically between each student, as each had the freedom to write and talk about what she wanted. “I like the independence of it,” offered one student, “You get to choose what you say and what you do,” which may be rare for an 11- or 12-year-old.
Some students took it upon themselves to partner up and use unique voices to create different characters in their podcasts. For example, one student spoke in a low tone to record the secondary dialogue of a police officer in her classmate’s story. In return, she and her friend conversed with normal voices to portray a counselor and her camper.
“All ideas are valuable and important,” shared Ms. Goodman, reflecting on the creativity of her students. One podcast told the story of a student trying out for Volleyball. Although she was very unprepared and nervous, the student admitted that, in the end, it wasn’t as bad as she thought it would be. She went on to play the whole season, which boosted her confidence. “I think about that time whenever I’m scared,” she revealed.
A second student offered detail on her podcast topic: the charity she began in 2016. “It all started with a bake sale,” she began. Now, she is only a year away from becoming a certified charity that raises money for cancer. Other podcast titles included “Trump vs. the Truth” and “Storytime with Riley.”
Students gleefully deliberated over names and “sponsorships” for their podcasts. Although not required, one student dramatically noted that, “When you listen to podcasts on Spotify you get 5,000 ads!” She believed, therefore, that they should have ads as well to make their podcasts more authentic.
Another important conversation between students centered around what sounds they could add to their podcast to help engage listeners with the story. “I want a build-up kind of sound,” one student said, referring to a crescendo, as she fervently searched through her options. “I need to add Rock music!” claimed another. After recording intros, outros and editing all of the desired additions, the final podcasts were between 6-10 minutes.
“I really liked writing the story, and this is cool because we can add sound effects and music,” one student noted. This interdisciplinary project certainly proved to be both informative and gratifying for these industrious Class 6 students.