Creating Audio Stories: The Ultimate ESL Project Idea

Tick tock.

Tick tock.

ESL classroom time is precious.

Like a pit team at a race car track, you do your best to tighten up your students’ reading, writing, listening and speaking skills in the short time you’re given.

But more often than not, no matter how many creative lesson plans, fun games or engaging activities you mix, match and splice, at least one of those crucial skills gets left behind.

Occasionally, you do need to zoom in on one aspect of language learning to increase your students’ proficiency, but these methods can lack authentic context.

Creating audio stories with your students is a time-friendly project that not only amplifies fluency in your classroom, but also strikes a balance between all four language learning skills.

Audio stories are short clips of information recorded in natural, easy-to-comprehend speech. An audio story can be a personal narrative, history nugget, recent event or drama.

When your students create their own audio stories, they learn how to research, collaborate and express their creativity using authentic English language.

In short, this is the ultimate ESL project idea that will get your students revved up to learn!

Here’s a more in-depth look at how student-created audio stories can benefit your class.

Benefits of Creating Audio Stories in Your ESL Class

Benefit #1: Increase listening skills

Listening is arguably the most important and difficult skill your students will learn.

If your students are going to create audio stories, they’ll need to hear examples first, which is great for working on listening skills. Without visual cues and distractions, listening to audio stories encourages your students to focus closely on the words to infer the meaning of the story. In real-life conversation, students can’t rewind, pause or refer to a transcript, but with audio stories, they have full control of the pace.

Audio stories in general are great warm-up activities for the ear and they teach listening techniques, such as activating background knowledge and using context clues.

Finding audio stories that match your students’ language level and interests can be tricky, but when they create their own, you can control the comprehensible input and choose a topic they relate to and enjoy.

Benefit #2: Boost reading skills

Creating audio stories requires research on a chosen topic. Whether it’s a folktale or a recent news event, your students will dive headfirst into reading material that they’ll not only have to comprehend but also recreate in their transcript and audio recording.

Students will learn how to identify the main points and characters of their story. They’ll practice taking notes as they read along so they can summarize the information later when writing their own transcripts.

Your students will also increase their oral reading fluency when reading the transcripts out loud for recording practice.

Benefit #3: Improve writing skills

Once your students have chosen and researched a topic for their audio story, they’ll need to write and edit a transcript for the recording.

This is a great opportunity to practice storytelling techniques, proper sentence structure and voice. Your students will learn how to organize information in chronological order and use descriptive adjectives to paint a visual picture for their listeners.

Being creative in a second language can be difficult. Audio stories motivate your students to learn the vocabulary and language they need to express themselves.

Benefit #4: Enhance speaking skills

Finally, your students will practice pronunciation and gain confidence in speaking when recording their audio stories.

Speaking in a second language is tough. Speaking in front of a classroom is even tougher. With audio stories, you remove the anxiety of public speaking and give your students the comfort of knowing they can re-record if they mess up.

Because your students will be reading from a script, they’ll be able to focus on enunciating their words carefully and practice intonation, instead of having to worry about what to say.

Creating Audio Stories: The Ultimate ESL Project Idea

How to Introduce Audio Stories into Your Classroom

Creating audio stories can take as little or as much classroom time as you want, but before you get started, you should introduce audio stories to your students.

Determine background knowledge

Ask your students if they’ve ever listened to an audio story, a recorded book on tape or a podcast. What was it about? Where did they hear it? Do they prefer listening to or reading a story? Was it difficult to understand?

If your students haven’t listened to an audio story, you can use the example of a radio broadcast to activate prior knowledge.

Play a sample audio story

Once you’ve got your students thinking about audio stories, play a short sample of one.

Check out this website that lists a variety of short audio stories to get you started.

Identify the parts of an audio story

While your students are listening to the sample audio story, have them identify the parts of the story: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. You can use this printable worksheet as an example.

You should follow up the audio story with questions that will get your students’ mental engines running. What happened in the story? Why do you think that happened? Who was the main character? Where did you envision the story taking place? What did you like or dislike about the story?

This will help your students understand how they should structure their own audio story.

Tools to Create Audio Stories

You can quickly make your own audio story with just the voice recorder on your smartphone, but here are other tools you may need depending on your class and preferences.

  • Sample audio stories or podcasts: Keep sample stories or podcasts handy to help spark your students’ creativity and remind them of how audio stories are structured.
  • Permission slips: If you teach children, and want to publish your students’ audio stories online, you’ll need permission slips from their parents.
  • USB headset microphoneWhile you don’t have to use a USB headset microphone, these are great for improving the sound quality of the audio story and eliminating background noise.

How to Plan Your Audio Stories

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines! It’s time for your students to create their own audio stories. Depending on the size of your class, you may want to divide your students into groups.

Select a topic

Have your students select a topic for their audio story, or you can choose one for them. Here are a few examples of audio story topics:

  • Narrative or personal story
  • History
  • Recent news and events
  • Drama
  • Geography
  • Interviews

Assign roles

Dividing students into segment groups and assigning roles will keep your students focused and organized and save class time. Roles can include transcribers, speakers and editors.

Provide examples

Give your students examples of a script and story outline to guide them through their own writing.

Ask questions

Encourage your students to consider the following when writing their script:

  • What is your story about?
  • What is the name of your story?
  • Who will listen to your story?
  • How long is the story?
  • What is the outline of the story?
  • What will the order of the presentation be?

Submit rough drafts

If time allows, have your students submit rough drafts of their scripts for approval and editing.

How to Record Audio Stories

Once your students have written their transcripts, you’re ready to record!

First, your students should practice their scripts before recording. While they’re rehearsing, you can test out the voice recorder. Record a few lines of a student reading to see how the sound quality and recording will turn out. You can then make necessary adjustments.

You can record the audio in segments to be edited later or all at once. Make sure your students have their script in hand and are ready to speak when you give the cue.

Once you’ve recorded all the audio stories, you can follow these simple post production steps:

  • Edit the audio stories using one of the apps mentioned above.
  • Play back the audio stories to ensure they recorded properly.
  • Play the audio stories for your students.
  • And finally, the fun part: Invite friends, family members or other classes to listen to your students’ completed audio stories!

Rebekah Olsen is a freelance writer, editor and blogger. She has a Master’s in ESL from the University of Memphis and loves working with youth. Her passion is turning complex subjects into exciting articles, but she’ll also settle for a lazy day with her mastiff, Midas. Contact her at

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