Desert Island Discs as an ice-breaking/mediation activity

Desert Island Discs is a BBC Radio 4 show which has been on air since 1942. The premise behind the show is that the guest has been cast away on a desert island, and they are left with eight recordings, a luxury item and a book, all of their own choosing, together with the complete works of Shakespeare and a copy of the Bible or any other religious/philosophical book. During the show, the guest and host discuss the former’s life, while explaining the reasons why they decided on those particular tracks, book and item.

The guests tend to include world-class celebrities from the fields of culture, literature, Science, entertainment…You can access the archive on the BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs archive. You can find a selection of shows here (literature and music-related podcasts).

This same concept could also be used as a speaking activity for a unit on music/entertainment; to practise second conditionals; or as an ice-breaking activity on the first days of the school year, for students to get to know each other, or for teachers to get to know their students better.

  • What eight recordings would you take to a desert island? Why have you chosen every one of them? How relevant are they to your life? (If you are pressed for time, ask students to pick fewer recordings- it’s a rather time-consuming decision-making process).
  • What luxury item would you take and why?
  • What book would you take and why?

It could even be regarded as a mediation activity: in the Companion Volume to the CEFR, mediating a text includes descriptors for expressing a personal response to creative texts (including literature) [p. 116]. In a way, the student describing their choices (the ‘guest’) would actually be mediating those songs and their lyrics to their partner  (the ‘host’), as they…

  • may express his/her reactions to a work, reporting his/her feelings and ideas in simple language, and say in simple language which aspects of a work especially interested him/her  (A2)
  • might be relating emotions they have felt to those in the song, describe the emotions he/she experienced at a certain point in a story, or explain briefly the feelings and opinions that a work provoked in him/her (B1)
  • could describe his/her emotional response to a work and elaborate on the way in which it has evoked this response, or express in some detail his/her reactions to the form of expression, style and content of a work, explaining what he/she appreciated and why (B2)
  • could be asked to describe in detail his/her personal interpretation of a work, outlining his/her reactions to certain features and explaining their significance (C1/C2).

Listening comprehension- environment: match extracts to headings

Listen to some short extracts about news related to the environment. Match each extract (1 – 6) with the best heading (A – H). ONE of the headings does not correspond to any of the extracts. The first extract is an example (D- More strict regulations). You can listen to the information twice.

Check your answers by submitting them through the Google Form below (click here to open in a new tab):

You can also read the annotated transcript, to help you clarify those answers you were not very sure about.

Game of Thrones blooper spotted- Starbucks cup

Apparently, fans were shocked to find a Starbucks disposable coffee cup on the set of the latest Game of Thrones episode. Listen to this news report to know more about this blooper:

Annotated transcript (pay attention to the highlighted expressions)

  • Do you remember other bloopers you might have seen on film or TV?
  • What’s your take on the last part of the report? Would you say this blooper (or others) are intentional, or simply careless mistakes?

Inversions after negative or restricting adverbs and for conditional clauses- examples in real language use

If you want to know how to use these expressions-typically used for emphasis-you can watch the video below:

  • No sooner had I …than
  • Seldom have I seen…
  • Little did she know…
  • Should you have any further questions do not hesitate to contact me again.
  • Had I known …I wouldn’t have…

You can find examples of these inversions in such TV shows as The Crown, The Big Bang Theory, or Friends:

Not only will I drive you there

Nowhere is it specified that…

Under no circumstance will you give her that engagement ring.

 

  • You can also find plenty of examples in the news:

Not only have I lost a friend, but we have all lost an extraordinary creative mind. 

Only when the capsule has survived that (…) will people talk about success. 

Only then will they be able to agree to an extension. 

Never before has the Security State of Army, Police, intelligence and militias been forced to concede to the will of the people. 

Scientists (…) were prepared to cool the brains, should they show (=in case they showed) any signs of consciousness. Had they done, it would have been hugely significant. (=If they had done, …)

Rarely (in one night) can both main parties have suffered such a grim set of results. [Both the Conservatives and Labour have just lost a significant amount of votes in the recent local elections, in all likelihood as a consequence of the Brexit deadlock].

(On Theresa May standing down as Prime Minister) Perhaps, had she sought compromise much, much earlier (=if she had sought/ looked for compromise…), then Mrs May’s time in Downing Street need not have ended in such disarray and failure. 

(Published 10.02.2019, updated 25.05.2019)

I, Daniel Blake- Ken Loach interview

Watch the trailer for I, Daniel Blake (to watch with subtitles in English, click here):

As you watch the trailer, write down any expressions related to work and unemployment. Then, check your answers against the transcript here.

Then, listen to this clip taken from an interview with filmmaker Ken Loach, the director of I, Daniel Blake, about the film. You can listen to the clip twice. Then, submit your answers through the Google Form.

Open form in new tab here.

Read the full transcript here.

When you check your answers, please pay attention to the feedback given to both right and wrong answers. It includes the quote from the interview that gives you the key to the right answer; definitions of words that might have been distractors (some false friends), as well as audio comments trying to clarify why that is the right answer, or dealing with ambiguities.

Mediation activity about work: recruiting disabled workers/gender pay gap

This is an example of an intralinguistic mediation activity for C1 students. Students are going to listen to two different clips from radio shows about issues related to work and unemployment: disabled workers’ access to the labour market, and the gender pay gap. Half the class will listen to the first clip, the other half will listen to the second clip. They can listen to the clips twice, and are encouraged to take notes. Then, with the notes they have taken, they will have to summarise the main ideas to a classmate, so that they can get a general view of the points mentioned.

This activity has been designed with this descriptor from the Companion Volume to the CEFR in mind:

Descriptor: Can summarise clearly in well-structured speech the main points made in complex spoken and written texts in fields of specialisation other than his/her own, although he/she may occasionally check particular technical concepts.

Before listening, students are given this rubric, which will be used to assess their mediation skills (both for self-assessment and peer assessment).

This is the clip students ‘A’ will listen to:

Transcript (annotated- keywords highlighted and main ideas underlined)

And this is the clip students ‘B’ will listen to:

Transcript (annotated- keywords highlighted and main ideas underlined)

In order to allow students to listen to different clips at the same time, they can be arranged into groups of four/five. I asked students beforehand to bring their own headphones, but I also had spare ones at hand in case anybody forgot to or couldn’t bring them. Each group should have an mp3 player, ipod, ipad or any device which can play an audio file. Then, a splitter can be used to allow up to five students to listen to the clip.

audio splitter

Listening and mediation-online harms white paper

Listen to this BBC news report about a recently published white paper on online harms. Take notes of the main points made in the report.

Then, relay this information to someone who hasn’t heard the report. Make sure you cover all the essential information they need to know.

Alternatively, if you’re training for  ISE III (C1), listen and take notes to answer this question: What are the potential downsides of this paper? Refer them orally in no more than one minute. You can record yourself and then listen to yourself.

Once you have finished, you can check your answers against the transcript here.

Speaking point:

  • What’s your take on the paper? Do you feel this kind of regulation is needed?
  • Can you think of further advantages or disadvantages? Do the advantages of such a regulation outweigh the drawbacks?
  • Should similar regulations be in place in the EU/in Spain? Why / why not?