Using sounds

Note: The ideas in this post came from a talk by Luke Vynor at the IATEFL conference in 2013.


Teachers can record sounds from everyday life and play the recordings in class to help students be creative. Students only hear the sounds; they don’t see a video.


If you use videos or photos, students might not use their imagination so much. But if you just use sound, then students only ‘see’ what is happening in their mind. This means that one student might imagine a very different story to another student, and this can give students more to speak about.


(Picture from ELTpics by @sandymillin)


Tell students to close their eyes and listen. Tell them to imagine what is happening while they are listening. Play an audio clip, like this one. Put students into pairs or groups to make notes about the story.

Use the students’ ideas to do activities like:

–       role plays of police interviews

–       writing a newspaper article about the story

–       telling the story with the audio playing in the background*

Students can use their mobile phones to make recordings of sounds in their daily lives. I made one in the centre of Oxford, in the UK, which you can listen to here.

Top tips!

Write useful language on the board, e.g. “I think it was about…”, “I heard…”, “What about the sound of…?” to help students discuss what they heard.

Students might need to hear the audio two or three times before they can think of ideas.

Some students have difficulty using their imagination. You might like to think of ideas as a whole class and write some words on the board, before you put students into pairs or groups.

If you can’t play audio in your classroom, get students to make the noises. For example, tell students to imagine they are in a rainforest. Ask them what animals they can hear. Tell students to make the noises, louder and louder, and then quieter and quieter. Create a story as a class using these noises.


background (noun – B2): you can hear it, but it’s not the main thing you are listening to.

Useful links:

Materials created by Luke Vynor for One Stop English.

A talk by Luke Vynor.

A YouTube clip of a lesson where students make the sounds themselves.

A YouTube clip of scary Halloween sounds.




Author: Katy Simpson

ELT teacher in Thailand

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