Lesson Example

This is a suggested lesson for Social Studies English. It looks at island life in some of the islands of Scotland today and why people choose to live there.

Curriculum Aims:

  • elaborate and discuss questions related to social and economic conditions in some English-speaking countries
  • elaborate on and discuss current debates in the English-speaking world

What do you know about places and islands in Scotland?

Try the drag and drop task. How many of the names can you place correctly?

Island Home

What would it be like to live on an island? In Norway, which has about 50,000 islands and has always been a seafaring nation, living on an island is not so unusual compared to some other countries, but what about Scotland?

Callanish Stones, LewisThe Scottish islands have always been centres of habitation. They were occupied in prehistoric times, evidence of which can still be seen today. The standing stones at Callanish in the Outer Hebrides, the Neolithic settlement, Skara Brae on Orkney and numerous Iron Age brochs on Shetland are some examples.

In different periods through the centuries Celts, Norsemen, Scots and Englishmen have all settled in the islands and survived on fishing, crofting and related occupations such as knitting and weaving. This lifestyle was dealt a fatal blow in the 18th and 19th centuries when all over the Scottish Highlands the land was cleared of farms and people to allow sheep farming on a large scale. The people were forced to move and many emigrated to Canada and Australia.
In recent years, the people are taking back the land and there has actually been an increase in the population of the islands. At a time when centralization is the norm, this is encouraging for island societies. Industries like tourism, aquaculture, whisky, oil and marine renewable energy have helped to create jobs and build up the communities and, in addition, there is the attraction of living in a peaceful area where the people are reportedly the happiest in Great Britain, according to data from National Statistics.

“People who live in the remote Scottish islands report the highest levels of life satisfaction, self-worth and happiness across the whole of Great Britain, new Office for National Statisics (ONS) data show.” (Express, October 2013)

Eilean Siar (Western Isles), Orkney and Shetland have the highest average ratings for life satisfaction.

The number of people living on islands at the 2011 census was 103,702, an increase from 99,739 in 2001. Not all islands increased their population. The main increases were in Orkney, Shetland and the Hebrides. (Census for Scotland 2011: Increase in population statistics)
Read more about the increased popularity of island life here: The Independent August 2013, “Population boom as thousands flock to Scottish islands.”

John, taxi driver from UistInterview with a taxi driver from Uist in the Outer Hebrides

Listen to the interview to find out more about living on the islands and the language.

Taxi Driver Hebrides

Now try the multiple choice questions:

What did you notice about the Gaelic language? Discuss with a partner.



Norway, Orkney and Shetland

There have been close connections between Norway, Orkney and Shetland at several periods in history. Find out more about:

  1. The Shetland Bus and Shetland Larsen
  2. An expensive dowry. What is meant by this in reference to the relationship between the islands and Norway?

Find Out

Am Politician Gaelic road sign

  1. Go online and find out the story behind the Am Politician (see picture).
  2. Make a short presentation about the language, Scottish Gaelic, e.g. number of speakers, where spoken, status today, some examples of words, etc.


You are going to spend one year living on an island. You can choose whether it will be a large island like Mainland in the Shetland Islands or an island with a very small population. Discuss the challenges and rewards you would face.


  1. Plane View through plane window
    Write a story about the flight based on the pictures above. Title: “The Strangest Airport in the World”
  2. sunset and footprints beach
    Footprints in the sand – where are they going; where have they come from; who made them; etc. Write a story about these footprints in the sand.

The Hebrides and Shetland are also settings for some recent popular literature. Peter May has written three crime novels from the island of Lewis and Ann Cleeves’ criminal stories from Shetland have now been made into a TV series. These novels give an insight into island life, the people, and not least, the weather and how it affects their lives. ( http://www.petermay.co.uk/, http://www.ur-web.net/PeterMayFrancais/pmvideo.html#LewisResearch, http://anncleeves.com/shetland/)

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