The Sound of Story
Objective: Students will create a brief audio story about a topic of their choice.
Tools/Materials Required: Computer, recording device
Depth of Knowledge: Strategic Thinking
Teacher’s notes are in purple. For the student’s version, see The Sound of Story Student Guide.
Prepare: Learn about the key ideas in this project
Throughout the last decade, podcasts have become increasingly mainstreamed for all kinds of listeners. As the genres and audiences for this medium expand, you may want to take a stab at creating one of your own. In this project, you will start with the basics by creating a short audio story about any topic of your choosing.
Before creating your story, listen to different examples and consider the unique ways the stories are produced. Some examples of short audio stories are below:
- Losing Language by WNYC Radio Rookies
- Walking Together by The Moth
- You Would Always Have My Back by StoryCorps
- Who’s a Smart Dog by Scientific American
What tools are available to you to create your audio story? At the minimum, you will need a computer and a device for recording. The device you use to record could be your smartphone, an audio recorder, or even the mic on your computer.
Practice: Try as many activities to as you would like to build your skills
- Play with your recording device. As you explore how it captures and plays back different sounds, consider how the audio format is different than other media types. How can you harness the strengths of this format and reduce the impact of its limitations?
- Practice your interviewing skills with the project What Makes You Happy?
- Practice constructing a story by creating an outline or storyboard. How do you think creating a story with only audio would be different from static text, images, and/or video content?
- Experiment editing and mixing audio. You may download Audacity, a free software or use another program of your choice.
Produce: Dig into the project and make it your own!
Create a short audio story that runs for five minutes or less. Use the steps below as a guide for your process:
Step One: Find your story
Tell a story about any topic that interests you. Your story can be based on true events or you can tell a fictional story.
If you need ideas to get started, consider the following prompts:
- Tell a story about your community. What matters to you in your community and why?
- Tell a story about someone you admire. How would you describe their most admirable act or quality?
- Tell a story about a memory you cherish. Where were you, what happened, and why is the memory special?
Step Two: Plan and script your story
Before you begin recording, plan the content of your story. Consider the following questions in your planning:
- How will your story be structured?
- All stories have a narrative arc and structure. How will your audience hear your story unfold? Try creating an outline or a storyboard to organize your ideas.
- Whose voices will be included in the story?
- Will you need to interview others for your story? Who will you interview and what will you ask them?
- Will your story include narration? Who will do the voiceover?
- What kinds of sounds will your story include?
- Will you capture ambient sounds to include in your story? Will your story feature clips of other peoples’ voices? Will your story include music
- Will you collaborate with others to create your story?
- Will you produce the story on your own or will you produce the story with others? If working with others, what roles will they play in creating the story?
At some point in the production process, you will want to create a script for your audio story. If you are creating a story told by a narrator that doesn’t introduce interview clips (for example, Walking Together), you may create a script before you record the story. If your story will include audio clips from interviews, it is better to create a script after you have recorded the interviews. Check out this resource from NPR on creating a script.
Step Three: Record sounds
Step Four: Mix the audio
If you decide to use Audacity, you may reference their tutorials as you get started.
Mixing audio is usually the most time consuming part of the production process, particularly for beginners. Encourage students who are new to audio editing software to take their time exploring and experimenting with their audio editing software.
If you include music in your story, be sure to adhere to copyright laws. A list of creative commons music libraries are here.
Step Five: Share and reflect
Export your finished piece to a file format you can share with others. Once your piece is finished, reflect on your process:
- What did you enjoy most about creating your audio story?
- What was most challenging about creating your story?
- What more would you like to learn about creating an audio story?
- What might you do differently the next time you produce an audio story?
Produced by Digital Promise Global, with thanks to the Open Educational Resources listed throughout this guide. Distributed to Learning Studios schools as part of HP, Inc. and Microsoft’s Reinvent the Classroom.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. You may share this project or modified versions of it under this same license.