Thanks to Fabian Bedoya for sharing this excellent intermediate to advanced level lesson plan that employs TV Episodes for effective use in helping students improve their listening, vocabulary and conversation skills. If you would like to contribute lesson plans for teachers to access through this site, please use the submission form for your materials.
This is an exercise which works well as an experiment with your students in class, or as an assignment for homework. I like to call my task-strategy: Passive Listening Gymnastics
The goal of this activity is to bring students up to a level of listening comprehension which helps them feel confident with coping with full, normal-speed listening texts, while not getting distracted by unknown vocabulary they may encounter.
- Tell students to choose a sit-com from TV they like, better if it is one that they can easily relate (i.e. jobs or lifestyles).
- After a sit-com has been chosen by the class, do the following:
- Record a couple of episodes both on video cassette and audio cassette.
- Watch an episode with the class, prompt conversation on what happened to the characters in that episode. Try to prompt the use of new vocabulary learned from the episode.
- Try to connect the new vocabulary brought up by students to specific scenes, settings and moods in the episode.
- Finally, try to compare the episodes' situations to real situations in your students' lives.
- After class, let your students take a copy of the class' episode on audio and tell them to listen to it, noting new vocabulary - especially phrases.
Reasoning and Goals
By first concentrating on the episodes' situations and comparing them to real life (in class), students become primed for the learning of new collocations that might increase their chances of communicative success in similar situations in real life. Further, by concentrating on the episode's language (at home), students sustain their concentration on the language for relatively longer stretches of time, in that way noticing new particularities of the language learned.
One very interesting feature of this exercise is the fact - confirmed by many of my students in Colombia - that, when students first watch the episode, their memories record much more than just the language or the images. In fact, their minds make a very elaborate copy of the episode, linking the tone of speakers, the language used, the mood of each scene, etc. The really fascinating part comes when listening to the audio copy of the episode. What happens, as reported by my students, is that the images jump into their head. A very sophisticated kind of passive thinking in English (or bringing vivid imagery to their mind's eye automatically) has been accomplished.
Further Ideas - Continued Practice
- Turn this activity into an on-going practice throughout the course.
- Recommend that your students concentrate on just one sit-com time after time, as this might help students follow the rhythm and collocations of conversations and help them deal with accents of the characters.
- Suggest that students establish the ritual of focusing their attention on a particular character of their choice, as this helps them fall into familiarity with the character, and this may lead to the eventual injection of the character's mannerisms, collocations, idioms, intonation, etc, into the students' conversation.
- Make sure to give students clear instructions on how to continue this exercise at home. Make them aware of the many nuances of language through activating tasks related to situations and language in the comedy during class.