I just finished an annual expressive writing unit with my 7th graders where they studied old time radio plays to learn about the importance of description, details, and imagery in dialogue. After listening to several examples, students are put into groups and then collaborate to write their own authentic radio play. To add to this authenticity, students also integrate sounds effects to help enhance the imagery of their plays.
In the past, I've struggled with how to handle these sound effects. There are plenty of sites with free wav and mp3 files, but the actual method for playing these can be difficult to coordinate with a live performance. But this year, I had an idea. What if it was possible to create soundboards for each group?
Soundboards are (usually flash) web applications with buttons that link to brief sound clips. They are typically the weapon of choice for juvenile prank phone calls, but I decided they would also be great tools for our radio play performances. My first instinct was to coerce my super-tech brother into creating a customizable flash file for each group. This would have gotten the job done, but with far more effort on my part than necessary. Fortunately, I then had a much easier idea – PowerPoint.
I personally despise PowerPoint as a presentation tool, but it turns out the program makes a great soundboard. The performances were a success and the sound effects flowed seamlessly. This tool can be integrated into any kind of performance, oral reading, or skit – even schools where students run morning announcements could find use in this simple method of adding sounds to a project.
- Open a new file.
- If you're not using my template, use the shape tool to create “buttons” that students will click to trigger the sound.
- Right click on the shape and choose “action settings” in PowerPoint or “Interaction” in OpenOffice.
- Browse for the file that you wish to add to the soundboard.
- When all of your sounds have been added to the soundboard, view the slideshow and your buttons should now be able to be clicked to play the correct sound.
The Interaction menu in OpenOffice Impress
A Few Hints
- Create a small wav file with a few seconds of silence (Audacity can do this quickly and easily) and add to the soundboard as a “stop sound” button. This way students can control how long a clip is played.
- Wav files can be embedded in the file. This makes it easy to manage the soundboard, but it can also make the file very large. MP3 files do not embed but create relative links within the presentation. This means the actual file is small, but must remain in the relative location to the sound files. (If all of this is confusing, you may just want to stick with using wav files. Free software like Format Factory can convert mp3 to wav for your soundboard.
- There are tons of websites for free sound effects, but I've had the most luck with Wavcentral, Soundjay, Soundzabound, and Freeplaymusic. When in doubt, google works wonders.