October 14, 2017

Student Radio Theater Stories Inspired by My Art!

I came across corndogart and immediately fell in love with the artwork and the possibilities that the images held.

I was honored to have my art chosen and used by the Young Writers Institute‘ in PA. M. E. Shenefiel is the library media specialist and a building technology coach at Eden Hall Upper Elementary School in the Pine-Richland School District. She used my illustrations and videos as a source of inspiration for her students to create old time radio theater stories.

Click on the image below to see and hear their videos:


This is what Ms. Shenefiel said about using art to inspire creative writing and storytelling:

  1. What is the objective of the Writers’ Institute? How long has it been running?

  • The Young Writers’ Institute was  sponsored by Pine-Richland-Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education (PR-PAGE) and facilitated by the Fellows of The Western Pennsylvania Writing Project.  Our goal is to get kids to see themselves as writers with joy and authenticity.  Our institute was open to students in grades 4-8. Students spent the week exploring their creative writing abilities through instruction, modeling, and creation of written works.
    The YWI was first held in Pine-Richland in 2008 but has been on hiatus for several years.  This was the first year that I have participated in the Young Writers’ Institute. I had been asked by the coordinators to teach a digital writing lesson and also to handle many of the technical aspects of the institute, including the digital anthology.
  1. Why did you choose this artwork and what did you hope to get from it?

  • Having never been a participant in the institute, I was not quite sure what the coordinators were expecting from my lesson.  I was told I would be teaching one 45=60 minute lesson, but timing was flexible  and I could use more time if needed. I knew I wanted to do some type of digital storytelling, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted it structured.  My original thought was to create movie but I knew that to do it right that would take more time than I was given.
  • I decided to surf the net a bit and see what was out there.  I came across and immediately fell in love with the artwork and the possibilities that the images held. I knew the images could easily inspire a story.  I decided that to keep the focus on the writing and the production process (and less on finding media,) we would try to create radio theater style broadcasts.
  1. How did you use the work? How did you get your students to actively observe the art and gain insight to the story?

  • Background: I started by grouping the students in groups of three.  I had printed a selection of your images from the website.  The groups were given a few minutes to take a look at the selection and then decide on an image that appealed to the group.  I then had the students look closely at the artwork and jot down what they observed.  I used the resources on your website, specifically “Questions to Elicit Thoughtful Response,” to help prompt them when they seemed stuck.  The students shared what they write with their group members and discussed story possibilities.
    We then put that writing aside and I taught a brief lesson on Radio Theater.  We listened to some old-time and contemporary radio theater style broadcasts.  We talked about some common aspects of those broadcasts including hero, villain, sidekick, sponsors, action, sound effects, music, etc.
  • Pre-Production:  Going back to their story ideas and observations the students used a graphic organizer to plan out how the ideas could be turned into a radio theater script.  We talked a lot about writing for the senses.. We used a two column script to write the script and plan where sound effects could be added.
  • Production: Students downloaded their image from the website.  The script was rehearsed and recorded.  Students chose sound effects and music to accompany their recording. In the interest of time I set the requirement that they only choose three sound effects, and if time permitted, music.
  • Post production: The students listened to their recordings and then made final edits.  The files were exported as .mp4s and I posted them to YouTube.
  1. What software did you use for the final product and why did you choose it?

  • We used iMovie to create the final product basically because it was the easiest to use and it was available.  Again in the interest of time I limited a lot of the choices.  The only image they could use was your artwork.  The students could only use music from iMovie or the website (my “go-to” website for free Creative Commons licensed music for school projects.)  The sound effects could come from iMovie or (also Creative Commons licensed and free.) Each broadcast had to have a title slide, and credits slides for artwork, sound effects and the creators.
  1. If you did this again, would you change anything?

  • I was truly delighted with the quality of their work in spite of the production being rushed,  In the end the project took 3 forty-minute class periods and many of the groups gave up part of their lunch break to work on the production. We fell back to two of my favorite mantras: “It’s about the process not the product,” and, “Completion not perfection.” During pre-production and production I let the students know the object of the game was to focus on the completion of the process rather than having a perfect finished product.  We agreed that, because time was out of our control, we would be satisfied with some degree of imperfection.   I wish we would have had more time to edit and reflect.  The librarian in me also would have liked to have more time to focus on copyright.

See and hear all the stories here:

I’m so happy these students were able to use my illustrations for inspiration!

Find out more about narrative art.

About the Institute:

The Young Writers’ Institute is sponsored by Pine-Richland Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education (PR-PAGE) and facilitated by the Fellows of The Western Pennsylvania Writing Project. Students spend the week exploring their creative writing abilities through instruction, modeling, and creation of written works in grades 4/5, 6, and 7/8.








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