Storytelling Through Music 

Students create and share with peers a playlist that tells a story in seven songs as a way to provide support, solace, and inspiration during hard times.



To the Teacher

Music influences all our lives in a wide variety of ways. Whether we are looking for comfort in a sad time, solidarity in a breakup, an outlet for rage against a system, or a way to celebrate love, joy and resistance, we often turn to music at critical moments. For many of us - and our students - right now is one of those moments. 

This music exchange activity seeks to honor and uplift the value of music and give us the opportunity to connect more deeply with one another. It incorporates aspects of restorative practices and social and emotional learning, and can be adapted for advisory or classroom use (or can be adapted for adults). This activity will build skills in:

  • Listening 
  • Sharing 
  • Storytelling 
  • Community Building 

Storytelling Through Music

Part 1: Circle prep 

Arrange seats in a circle - or, if you are online, post participants’ names in the chat box to establish a circle order.

Ask participants to share in a go round:

  • What do you value about music? 
  • How do you feel about sharing your personal music tastes with others?
  • What is a time in your life when a story told through music resonated with you?

Part 2: Community Agreements for Musical Sharing

Given what we heard from one another about our musical values as well as the vulnerability we may feel about sharing our musical preferences with each other, what, if anything do we need to add to our community agreements? 

If your class has not established community agreements, invite students to think about how they’d like to treat each other in this gathering, and chart responses. (They might be things like, one mic, listen closely when someone else is talking, no putdowns, confidentiality…)


Part 3: Storytelling

Participants will be asked to create a playlist that tells a story in seven songs.

Storytelling prompt options:

  • Tell the story of your life in seven songs
  • Tell a story about a specific time in your life in seven songs
  • Tell the story of your experience of 2020 in seven songs

Playlist parameters:

  • Seven songs 
  • Order is intentional 
  • 35 minutes maximum 


Part 4: Playlist Exchange

Pair up students randomly. Ask each student to share their playlist with their partner.

Each student will listen through their partner’s playlist at least twice before the next class or gathering.


Part 5: Sharing

In pairs (breakout rooms if remote), students will respond to the following prompts in a listening exchange.

Listening exchange guidelines:

  • Each student will have three minutes to share their response to each prompt while their partner practices active listening.  
  • This is not a back and forth conversations, but rather an opportunity for each person to share their uninterrupted response to the prompt. 

Listening Exchange Prompts:

  • What is the story you heard when you listened to your partner’s playlist? (3 minutes each)
  • What story were you telling when you composed your playlist, and what similarities or differences do you notice in your partner’s interpretation? (3 minutes each)
  • What will you take away from this experience? (3 minutes each)

Group Share Out and Closing

Invite students to share out about their experience with this activity. Tell students that they should speak from the “I” perspective and not share anything their partner may have shared during the exchange (unless they have their partner’s express consent). 

Closing: Well of Confidentiality 

End the session with the "well of confidentiality."

Ask participants to reach their left hand into the center of the circle (or toward their screen and the camera) creating a "well." Invite students to hold everything you have talked about in their right hand, and then symbolically drop what’s in that hand into the well. This is where the things we've talked about will stay.