By Elizabeth Alloul, Carolyn Buteau and Pascale Pellerin

A balado is a digital audio recording (a podcast) that can be accessed from a website or by using a geo-map or QR code.  In a balado project, the student uses technology to create an informative podcast that can be displayed in public spaces. In this article we will look at a balado project that was carried out in an Intensive ESL classroom.

Pascale Pellerin is an ESL teacher who teaches a grade 6 Intensive class at École Notre-Dame-De-Grâce at the Commission scolaire de Montréal (CSDM), where there is Intensive English for all. Pascale and her students created a class brochure which included podcasts about the NDG neighborhood where her school is located. We interviewed Pascale to find out about her experience using this balado project in her classroom.  Read on to find out all about it.

*     *     *     *     *

LEARN: Why did you choose to do a balado project with your students?
Pascale: I read about a teacher who did a similar project with some of her students.  They even went as far as giving the finished product to their regional tourism center for tourists to consult.  I thought that was pretty neat. That’s how I got the idea.

LEARN: What were your goals?
Pascale: In my case, I wanted my students to learn about functional language related to places and occupations around the neighborhood, and to practice the English grammar rule for there is / there are.  I wanted them to create an authentic product that would be meaningful to them.  In the end, we created a brochure that involved writing, pictures and podcasts that were accessible through QR codes.

LEARN: How did you introduce the project to your students?
Pascale: We started off with a discussion about travelling. You really hook your students when you talk about vacations and holidays, and where you go when you have time off. We talked about where they had been and how they got the information about those places. We got to talking about brochures, and what they are, and the type of information we can find in them. Then we looked at examples of brochures on the Interactive Whiteboard. I also had paper copies so they could manipulate them and look at them. And then I told them we would be making our own class brochure about NDG!

LEARN:  What were the students’ reactions?
Pascale:  The students were really excited about making something that would be given to people afterwards – something that would be distributed to the community. Many of them were intrigued because they didn’t know what a QR code was, and didn’t understand how we could add their voices to a paper document.

LEARN: How did they learn about the places in their neighbourhood?
Pascale: First, we brainstormed places found in a typical neighbourhood. We then created categories and placed the vocabulary into these categories.  For example, under Health, we talked about hospitals, clinics, dentists, spas, yoga centers, vet clinics. We did the same for Education, Food and Sports.  After brainstorming, we walked around the neighbourhood so they could see what was around the school. They also used Google Maps for streets we didn’t get a chance to walk on either because we didn’t have time or because they were too far.  Some went to their locations during the weekend, some referred to Internet sites. We also had to define the boundaries of the neighbourhood to understand how far we could go in terms of places to include.

LEARN: How did they choose their topic?
Pascale :  I picked names from a box, and each student picked a topic they were interested in working on. If more than one student wanted to talk about sports, they had to come up with subtopics for everyone (arenas, parks, community centers).

LEARN: Did they work alone or in teams?
Pascale: Students decided whether to work in teams or individually.

LEARN:  How much time did the project require?
Pascale:  The project was introduced in October and lasted about a month-including the editing and printing.  They researched their topic for a week.  Then, they spent about one hour a day for a week in class to select, organize and personalize the information that they wished to put in the brochure. Then, using this knowledge, they wrote their text using the I Write Texts Checklist.

LEARN:  How did they organize the information they collected?
Pascale:  After they chose their information and wrote their text, they quickly realised that they had too much information for one brochure. That’s when they realised that the podcasts became relevant. They weren’t adding a podcast just for the fun of it, it was to give people more information. They then had to decide which information to put in the paper brochure, and which information would fit better in the podcast.

They had to practice their podcast several times before recording.  You asked me about their reactions at the beginning.  Well, when I told them, “Now it is time to record your voice,” some of them didn’t feel comfortable. They thought they would made mistakes, and they didn’t want to make mistakes, so they practiced for a while. Some chose to practice in teams of two to get peer feedback on their pronunciation.

LEARN:  What was the final product and what did you do with it?
Pascale:  The final product was a paper brochure that all students contributed to.  When it was done, we all listened to everyone’s podcast.

We gave a copy to the parents on report card night. We also have a welcoming class of students that just arrived in Montreal, so we gave them a copy as a resource document to learn more about NDG (community, library, schools, restaurants).  A third copy was given to the public library. The brochure is also being used with all my other groups as an authentic text when talking about the neighbourhood.

LEARN:  How did you evaluate this project?
Pascale:  I used it as a formative evaluation and not a summative one.  I offered a lot of oral and written feedback on pronunciation and on the writing process.  I also gave them feedback on what it is to select, organise and personalize information. You don’t copy and paste information from Wikipedia. You organise it for your purpose and your audience. The students could use their experience from this formative evaluation and benefit from it when it would be time for a summative evaluation situation in the future.

LEARN:  Do you have any tips or suggestions for teachers who would like to try this project with their students?
Pascale:  Yes!

1) Use peer feedback.  During the research phase, teams could share their work and tell each other if they thought they had enough information, where to look for more, what to add. During the writing process, peers could also help each other correct mistakes. While preparing to record their podcast, they could also turn to their partner for feedback on their pronunciation.

2)  Print your brochure on white paper. QR codes can only be read if printed on a white background.  (If you want to use coloured paper, leave white spaces for the QR codes.)

3)  Ask students for help if you encounter problems.  They are often quite computer savvy!

LEARN:  Would you do this project again?
Pascale:  Definitely! Because it is authentic, meaningful, motivating for students and it helps develop the three competencies of the program; students interact orally, they reinvest their understanding of texts and they write a text.

LEARN:  Thank you Pascale, for sharing this very interesting project with us.
Pascale:  You’re very welcome.  It was my pleasure!

*     *     *     *     *

We would love to hear from YOU!  Please contact us if you would like to share a project or activity that we will add to ESL Blogs!

For those who wish to integrate a Balado or Podcast project in their classroom, we’ve added some useful links below.


For the podcasts. Pascale used GarageBand to record the podcasts, however different computer programs or free ipad applications could be used. Examples include:

  1. Audacity (for PC or Mac)
  2. GarageBand (for Mac)
  3. Record MP3 Online (online site)

QR code generators. In order to place the mp3 file of the recording into a QR code, several sites exist (i.e. ). Simply copy the link where your audio file is stored (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc) onto the site, and a QR code will be created. You can then copy/paste your QR code into your document, or download it onto your computer.

Hint: You can also use Google’s URL Shortener to make your links shorter.

Here are some useful resources and sites

 1. RÉCIT – Podcasting Guide: Resources to Produce Podcasts in your Classroom

2. Examples of student podcasts

3. LEARN Web Event about students who did a balado project that informs the public about the history of Montreal

Some useful tutorials

1. How to create a QR code linked to an audio file using Google Drive

2. Creating a QR code linked to an audio file using Record MP3 Online