Watching TV series is often a favourite pastime for many of my students, and not just the millennials. Most of those who are in C1 and C2 are already watching them in English, as they are aware that they can learn everything from the newest slang to an authentic-sounding accent.
Series are shorter than films, they let you come back to the characters again and again and predict what will happen to them next. They often reflect real life, which means people in them use real language and grammar. Therefore, it’s a great resource to exploit inside and outside the classroom. Here are some things I have done in class:
This year I have been trying to encourage and guide my students into practising their English outside the classroom every day, so I provided them with a list of things they could do to practise the different skills. One of the suggestions was, of course, to watch series in English. Therefore every two weeks, at the beginning of the class, they get into groups and talk about what they have been doing in English outside class. Invariably, watching series is the most popular activity and they engage in lengthy conversations and consequent recommendations of the latest series they’re watching. After one of such sessions, a couple of students started to put these recommendations up on Edmodo, they didn’t quite write full reviews but then that’s something I’m going to work on!
following a series in class
Last year, due to the success of the reading circle, I decided to do something similar, but with a TV series. After a recommendation from my dear friend and colleague, I chose the award- winning BBC series, the Night Manager, based on the novel by John Le Carre and it worked like a treat!
How to choose an appropriate series-
- A mini series works well, I’d say between 5 and 10 episodes.
- Something that will appeal to all audiences.
- Not too much explicit language and sex (be aware of the age of your students).
- A series with a reasonable amount of dialogue; not too much and not too little.
- Preferably contemporary so that the language is more relevant.
Here you have a list of the best British TV series 2017.
How to go about it-
- Students watch one episode a week, at home, on Netflix, HBO or ororotv. I recommend they watch it with English subtitles.
- Prepare some questions for each episode about the plot, the characters or the language. I often used online reviews of the episodes to help me.
- Students get together in groups and discuss the questions.
- The activity usually lasts between 20 to 30 minutes.
- Round up with a discussion about what they think will happen in the next episode.
- As a teacher you can make notes on any language problems to put on the board and go over, at the end of the activity.
- Once you have finished the series, the students could perhaps write a review in class or record their opinions and post them on Edmodo.
playphrase.me for language practice
A couple of years ago, I came across the amazing website called playphrase.me, which allows you to search for specific phrases in a database of video clips from popular films and TV shows, like an online corpus of authentic spoken English. It has loads of possibilities for looking at grammar structures and vocabulary like phrasal verbs, idioms etc, in the context of famous series and films such as House, Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings to name but a few. Here is the link to the phrasal verb ‘look up’, to give you an example.
I’m still looking into different ways to use it in my teaching and the classroom and so far I’ve done a powerpoint with clips from the site on ‘I wish’ and ‘If only’, talking about hypothetical past situations, based on an idea I saw on anthonyteacher.com. Be careful though, it’s highly addictive!
Do you have any ideas about using series in class?