Desert Island Songs
This activity is based on the popular British radio show Desert Island Discs, which asks famous people what music they would take with them to a desert isle. According to Peter McDonald, one of the contributors to the show, the purpose of the activity is for students to share their characteristics, express opinions, feelings, emotions, talk about likes/dislikes, converse about past experiences, and lead a discussion as a class. This music activity will help students to create and voice their feelings in a positive way.
Desert Island Songs activity is useful for warm-up or follow-up activities.
Preparation is minimal to moderate
- Students should choose four songs that they would like to take to a deserted island. Here are some questions that students can use to reflect on each song: 'Why did you choose this particular song to be included in your castaway disc?', 'What does the song mean to you?', 'Which stage in your life (early childhood, teenage years, etc.) does the song represent?', and 'Which memories of people, places, and other things does the song evoke in you?'.
- Ask the students to share why they selected their songs. The teacher should encourage the students to ask questions to initiate a discussion about music and what music means to them.
Depending on the size of the class, it would take around 30 minutes. The teacher can easily adapt this activity according to their class schedule.
Adaptations and examples
The deserted island song activity can also be used in the online classroom. One possible adaptation could be having each student share their screen and play their favorite verse of the song from their end. As a result, students will have the time to reflect about their classmates as they listen to each song.
Another possible adaptation, contributed by Maha Bali, is creating a video and using an online collaboration hub such as Slack. For asynchronous activity, students can create a video or write a post and embed the video of their favorite song. Their peers will be able to comment on their videos or posts.
Another possibility is to ask two students to share the song they would take to a deserted island. The song can be shared ahead of time on Slack and will be discussed at the start of class as if they are the celebrity being interviewed.
Arnold, J.L. & Herrick, E. (2017). Teaching with Music. Tesol Press, 4, 114-115.