One of the fantastic things about ESL teaching is that it can be incredible for both the student and the teacher. Compared with other subjects, such as maths, chemistry or physics, languages can be learned using a number of different mediums and stimulate learners in many different ways.
One popular saying is that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. It’s a sentiment that is quite close to the truth with the idea of watching TV in the classroom. But ESL teachers are a resourceful bunch, and we can easily make educational gold out of what others believe has no place in the classroom. The truth has it that a TV series can help provide a balanced mix of entertainment with education, not to mention your rise in status to Ms, Mrs, or Mr Popularity with the students. Before we begin to show you some of the cool things that can be done with a TV series, we thought we would cover some important points to think about when choosing a series.
- Your class is the audience, not you
As much as you love watching House MD and the team unravel their way through a range of diagnoses’ from aortic dissection to Neurofibromatosis, we would bet that your students hate it. Choose a series with simple theme and a relatable story line. Glee is a fine example of this, as it is based around school life, which is something that we can all relate to. Mr Bean works excellently for lower levels and children.
- Educational value
A good teacher ensures that whatever they are showing to their class has some educational value. Showing a movie, series or TV show to a class without a reason is a ‘must avoid’ habit.
- No surprizes
Pre watch the material before you play it in class – it’s common sense, have a quick run through prior to using it in your class just to make sure that all content is suitable for your students.
So, here we go. All the neat and cool things you can use a TV series for in the classroom.
How to Proceed
Reward and Punishment
So the little dears have worked incredibly hard lately, reward them by adding some variety into the class by showing them a popular series. On the other hand, if they have been evil, punish them by showing them a video... But giving them some difficult worksheets and questions to go along with it.
Show the Class Authentic Human Interaction
TV series are one of the best ways that students can experience two or more native speakers having a conversation. As opposed to monotonous dialogue that’s voiced by a couple of English teachers on the hunt for extra cash, showing a TV series can help really put the usage into perspective. Get the students to take notes of some of the expressions that they felt were interesting, and then try to get them to incorporate those expressions into a conversation.
The ‘All-Important’ Context
English is just one of those languages where sometimes you really need to keep track of the context, or else you’ll find it pretty difficult. Many of the students are left bewildered at the unspoken context of speech. By providing the students some clear examples of the subtle nuances and idiosyncrasies that we often use in conversation, they will be able to recognise this more in everyday speech, which will, in turn, help their listening skills. In a very easy-going lesson without too much going on, stop the video after an inference is made and ask the students if there was any hidden meaning or if anything else was implied other than the words spoken. Higher levels may pick up on some of the subtleties, but lower levels may require some explanations.
A favourite for virtually any class, role plays provide a great chance for students to put the language, grammar, and structures into practice, as well as help contribute to a fun and lively classroom atmosphere. Many teachers like to show the students a clip from a highly dramatized episode, and then get them to act it out as naturally as possible.
Listening for Important Info
One of the key skills required for international examinations such as TOEFL or IELTS is the ability to listen for essential information. In the IELTS examination, students are required to listen to dialogues in order to dissect and disseminate information. For higher levels, prepare some questions about the episode they have just watched - in the style of IELTS or TOEFL, and present them to the students to complete in a “test-like” environment. The students enjoy this as it provides them with a wide range of skills that they can use in the exam, while providing topics which are more interesting than found in the usual test material.
For the lower levels, a good idea is to find a lower-level series that uses a wide variety of common English expressions or greetings. Stop the DVD or video after a target phrase, word or expression and have the students repeat it, trying very carefully to mimic the accent and minimise their own accent. This is also good as it builds confidence and the students find the TV series interesting at the same time. Both the student and teacher can have a lot of fun with this.
Following the Dialogue
Whether to turn the subtitles on or off while watching a video in class is an age-old question that has as many different answers as the number of people you ask. For lower levels, we find that having English subtitles displayed while watching a TV series can actually help bring the students up to speed with their speaking and listening skills. Following the dialogue on the screen as it is spoken can work wonders in helping the students increase the pace in which they can listen and speak. Students can practice in pairs, in front of the class, or even in a one-on-one situation with the teacher.
English teachers working in some countries around the world will understand that getting some creative and independent thought from a student can be like drawing blood from a stone. In these cases, you may want to play an open-ended plot from a well-known TV series and stop it just as an important turning point is about to take place. Ignoring the sighs of disgust and annoyance of the students, instruct them to decide how it ends. Students can free write an idea of how the story ends, what happens to the characters, and then present to the class. If you’re a nice enough teacher, you can show them the actual ending of the show.
So there you have it, after putting on our thinking caps we’ve managed to come up with a decent list of some of creative methods to incorporate a television series into your class.
Using a TV series will make your students excited about learning, while providing them with a wider range of interesting materials to learn from. Oh yeah, this also makes you a better teacher!