Listen like a Boss

Professional audio dramatizations of classic stories nicely support ELA outcomes. Different than audio books which are simply oral readings of text, dramatizations have actors, sound effects, mood music. The CBS Radio Mystery Theatre, produced from 1974 to 1982 has almost 1400 episodes of quality radio drama including about 200 adaptations and dramatizations of classic stories from such authors as Poe, Tolstoy, Bierce, Doyle, de Maupassant, Kippling, Shaw, Checkov. They're all freely and legally available with an index of adaptations from

Listening to a drama is different than watching a program, or reading a book. Students listening to a story have to actively listen: process what they hear,  make meaning from the sounds, construct their own images, and read subtle vocal cues to identify emotions. The tools used by audio story tellers are different than book authors and film makers; creating a sense of time and space with sound alone is a real challenge. Learning the language of audio stories is a skill that translates to all instances where active listening is required. Listeners take cues from vocal intonation, sound effects, and background music.

I have had students use the Saturday comics as a souce for creating mini audio dramas using their own voices, sound effects and appropriate music to set the tone. While direct narration is one way to tell the story, it isn't necessarily the best in a radio drama. Creating an audio story without direct narration is a challenge, but worth the effort.  The subtle shift in writing needed to add essential details naturally in dialogue is a good writing skill that requires the writer / producer to be very aware of the audience and the character's voice. Creating the setting requires students to be still, reflective, and present in an environment. Adding effects to vocal recording help listeners understand whether the action is outside, in a large hall, over the phone, or in the cab of a truck.

Most portable devices are capable of recording audio and there are several free audio editors to assemble the final product. Sound effects and short musical jingles are also freely available under creative commons licensing. This is a perfect Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) project.

Want to explore some story options for the younger kids? Check out This collection of audio stories from the 1930 - 70s is a great addition to the kid's mobile devices. Read more about how I have used audio stories at home


  1. Denise Krebs says:

    Nice idea, Miles. I bookmarked this for adding to my English repertoire! Thanks for sharing the resources.


  2. Super, Denise. It's a fun project and makes for great digital sharing.

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