In this activity, students visualise a castaway alone on a desert island. They collaborate and construct a narrative to explain how he got there, how he attempts to escape, and what he writes in his message in a bottle. Finally, students listen to the 1979 song by The Police.
- Language level: Pre-intermediate – Upper intermediate (A2 – B1)
- Learner type: Teens; Adults
- Time: 45 minutes
- Activity: Building a story; Writing a message; Listening to a song
- Topic: Castaways; Love and loneliness
- Language: Present perfect; The verb to wish
Part one: Introduction
- Introduce the topic by showing students the first image (see below). Find out if anyone has seen the film. If so, ask them to recall the title (which is obscured on the image) and tell the rest of the class what the film is about.
- Confirm by showing the second image (see below). Students will now see that the title of the film is Cast Away which tells the story of a FedX employee stranded on an uninhabited island after his plane crashes in the South Pacific.
Part two: Visualisation
- Tell students the following:
- This small description contains three pieces of target language contained in the song lyrics (the terms in bold). Write these on the board if necessary.
- Don’t feel that you have to ask students to close their eyes for visualisations like this. Students can feel awkward about doing so and it isn’t actually necessary. After all, visualisation is an important part of reading and it is impossible to read with your eyes closed!
- Ask students the following questions:
“I want you to imagine a castaway,
lost at sea on a desert island.”
- Is the castaway male or female?
- What is his or her name?
- What else do you see in the image? (Popular suggestions = monkeys, parrots, sharks, palm trees, coconuts, a shipwreck, etc.)
Draw a picture on the board and add to it as the image develops. If you are bad at drawing, ask for a volunteer student to do the artistic work.
Part three: Narrative construction
- Dictate the following questions that relate to the scene:
- How long has he/she been there? (Present perfect)
- How did he/she get there? (Past simple)
- How does he/she feel? (Present simple)
- What is he/she thinking? (Present continuous)
- Put students into pairs or small groups. Ask them to consider answers to these questions.
- Feedback ideas and write new or useful language on the board (note that the PDF lesson plan contains suggestions for language to study during feedback).
Part four: Escape plan
- Ask your students if they could bear the loneliness of a desert island.
- Tell students that their character is feeling particularly lonely and needs a plan for escape. Ask students to suggest as many things as possible that he could do (build a raft, get a fire ready for a passing plane, send a message in a bottle, etc.)
- To the board drawing, add two thought bubbles coming from the castaway’s head.
Note that this question contains two pieces of target language contained in the song lyrics (the terms in bold). Write these on the board if necessary.
- In the first thought bubble write the words: I’ll send an SOS to the world.
- In the second thought bubble write the words: I hope that someone gets my message in a bottle.
Note that these two lines come from the song Message in a Bottle. There is no problem if students realise this at this stage.
Part five: Writing messages
Ask students to write castaway messages (i.e. the messages to go in bottles). They should write in the first person and should include as much new language as possible (language that you have written on the board). They should include the following information:
- The castaway’s name.
- Roughly where the island is (the ocean, for example.)
- A description of the island.
- How he/she got there.
- How long he/she has been there.
Note that if students are unaware of the idea of a message in a bottle, you could demonstrate the idea with a bottle with a screw cap and a piece of paper. Fold up the paper so that it fits into the bottle and drop it in. For real messages in bottles, plastic bottles are the most practical.
Part six: The song
- Tell students that they are going to hear a song called Message in a Bottle. Ask students if they know who it is by (answer = The Police).
- Tell students to listen to the song and pay attention to what happens after the castaway sends the message in a bottle.
- Ask students to form pairs and share what they understood.
- Play the song again.
- Give out copies of the song lyrics. These are included in the PDF download. Ask students to complete the ‘Find a word or term’ task (also included in the PDF download).
- Let students hear the song one more time. This time they can read and listen to the lyrics at the same time.
- Ask students to consider whether the song lyrics are to be taken literally or metaphorically. In the case of the latter, ask students to speculate on the meaning behind them.
So you probably already know this one. But just in case you’ve never seen it before: