Writer’s Memo for Homework Podcast
Hello, English 100 Students:
“Make your homework assignments fun!”
I was given this advice right before I left for my freshman year of college. Assignments in college demand time and effort. The beautiful thing about many projects in college is that you can make them your own and be creative—that is what will make your projects more fun. If you have fun, most likely your audience will too.
When I found out that Portfolio 2 was going to involve making a podcast, I didn’t know what to think. Making a podcast sounded like a complicated task, and I had never made one before. A podcast should be interesting, fun, and informative so that people want to listen to it. How in the world was I supposed to wrap these things all into one final product? Fortunately, I was on the speech team at my high school. By being involved in this club, I developed skills of strategic communication (e.g. learning what words to emphasize when presenting). I was excited to see how I could apply the skills that I learned on my high school speech team to my podcast.
The first thing that I struggled with was picking a topic. I wanted my podcast to talk about how different countries have different education systems. I interviewed my house fellow from China to try and find a topic that I could talk about in my podcast. It fascinated me when she talked about how different her education was in China compared to the education of United States. The problem was, there are so many components to education! I had the choice to talk about uniforms, cultural differences, religion, teachers, homework, or standardized tests.
As I started to narrow down my topics of interest, I remembered a video on Facebook that I saw about Finland, where students are not assigned homework. The video talked about how Finland youth have no homework, yet the nation is ranked the number one country for education. Not having homework—this was my childhood dream! But the idea of “no homework” didn’t make sense to me. This confusion led me to pick the topic of homework. I wanted to find out how homework impacts learning in various countries. It is a bonus that I just happen to know a lot about the topic of homework; I have been doing homework for the past fifteen years of my life!
My research question became: “How does homework impact learning within a country?” I was personally interested in diving into this assignment. Picking a topic that you want to work a lot with will make the podcast more enjoyable for you
My friends were happy to help me with this project. For the first draft of the script, I had my friend, Sam, be my co-host. I wanted different voices in my podcast so that the listener didn’t just have to listen to me talk the whole time. This may sound mean, but I recorded some of the podcast with him and he was very monotone. While I was editing the beginning of my podcast one of my other friends, Kyle, came in the room and said that he had created podcasts in high school. He also used to be in musicals and had plenty of practice using his voice to entertain an audience. He really wanted to help me make my podcast better.
After some debate, I let him help me. I decided to rerecord my podcast with Kyle. My other friend, Sam, just didn’t have the voice for a podcast that would capture people’s attention. He didn’t really put emotion into reading the script, and it sounded like he was just reading. Kyle had spunk and a fun tone of voice. By changing the co-host in the second draft of my script, I came to the realization that if the people in the podcast aren’t having fun, the listener won’t either. The sound of the voice is so important when creating a podcast or when speaking in front of an audience.
When I put my podcast together, I tried to come up with fun ways to say things. I was familiar with writing for the ear, I had to write speeches for competitions back in high school. I wanted the listener to gain knowledge about homework around the world, but also laugh at jokes and want to learn more about the topic. I feel as if the listener will remember the information more if they laugh at what is being said.
Podcasts are made to be listened to and must be written for the ear. Having many voices and transitions in my project makes my podcast about homework (a topic people usually think is boring) more entertaining to listen to. When writing a script for a podcast, think about what you find entertaining. What would you like to listen to? Find a balance between fact and fun and think outside of the box.
Instructor Memo by Chrissy Widmayer
for Sophia Madore’s Podcast
For the second sequence of our class, students made informative podcasts. The podcast project followed our first sequence on personal narrative—after having the students focus on themselves, I intended the podcast unit to help them move outside of themselves to engage others in a new way. The first assignment in the sequence was to conduct an interview with someone they considered different from them and then use some of the topics that arose in that interview to form the basis for deeper research on a topic. Sophia chose to interview her friend Fei, who spoke eloquently about the differences in education around the world. Sophia, too, was fascinated by these educational differences. She initially struggled to narrow her topic down because education is a big field with many interesting features, but in the end, she settled on homework differences around the world.
It became immediately clear throughout the sequence how many aspects of good composition that weren’t as obviously important when writing a narrative became significant in composing podcasts. Specifically, making podcasts and “writing for the ear” required the students to always keep their audience in mind. Listening to our podcasts at the end of the sequence helped everyone see how important it was to make a podcast interesting and compelling by writing for the ear, and Sophia’s podcast was integral to demonstrating how effective writing for the ear can be. Sophia was particularly successful in deploying “sonic strategies” and making bold choices to create a captivating podcast. While the information might not be groundbreaking or compelling to most people by itself, her performance and inclusion of a co-host allowed her to play with vocal inflection and use sound effects, reactions, and jokes to lighten the topic. In essence, Sophia’s choices made her podcast have “texture” that would be otherwise lacking from straight-up informative communication, allowing her to keep the listener’s interest.
Though Sophia struggled with narrowing her topic, her commitment to revising and rethinking is evident in this project. Sophia showed a dogged determination and enthusiasm to make this podcast as effective as it could be. In the end, Sophia’s final podcast not only impressed me, but also blew away her classmates. Sophia’s podcast’s success is a testament to the revision process, and a strong demonstration on how one can engage an audience through careful rhetorical choices.
Members of the UW community can access the podcast through the English 100 channel on Kaltura.