This is an activity that I did with my students today as part of a past tenses review.  This was a Zoom lesson, so while it is easily adaptable for face to face, it’s probably more useful for online classes.

Sound stories are audio sequences of sound effects, edited together to provide a basic narrative, but without any speech or language.  There are quite a few available on You Tube of varying lengths and complexity, including one or two designed for ELT purposes.  I chose one that was about two minutes long and had a simple morning routine narrative – with a twist!

I played the You Tube video on my computer as a screen share with shared audio.  My students listened to the recording and took notes on what they heard, knowing they would use the notes to recreate the story. 

I then set up collaborative writing pads in, with one pad per pair of students.  I shared the link through the chat and gave them all screen sharing permissions.  They then went onto breakout rooms and worked together to create a story based on what they had heard.   I then gave everyone a chance to listen to the story again and make any changes they wanted.  Finally the students came back into the main meeting room and told each other the stories and discussed any differences and why.  

I then moved on into a “reactive” input stage where we looked at narrative tenses a bit more atomistically, and did some controlled practice work.  As free(er) practice & production, the students then had a couple of minutes preparation time and told each other a short story from their lives – which I asked them to write up for homework.


I was impressed by the fact that it all actually worked as it was meant to! I really liked the combination of the video chat with the meeting words documents – it gave me the chance to drop in and add corrections and reformulations through the meetingwords chat function, as well as ask questions to the students if they had missed something in the video meeting.  The meetingwords chat correction meant things were less intrusive – it’s hot correction but it doesn’t interfere with the flow.  A bit like writing stuff up on the whiteboard while the students are discussing something, but with each pair having their own whiteboard.  I was happy to see that they incorporated the reformulation without prompting.  The sound story itself was nice, there was enough ambiguity for discussion and interpretation, but it was a straightforward linear account.  You could adapt it for lower levels by pre-teaching key verbs and then asking the learners to sequence them as they listened, before writing up a more cohesive account (they would also need linkers & sequencing devices); or by using a more complex sound story for more advanced levels.

Hope you all enjoy this – if you use it let me know how it went and what you did differently!