#30GoalsEdu: Goal 4 Revisit an Idea

30goals4 Ideas are often thought of and forgotten in a blink of an eye. Our heads are filled with them and yet there is so little time to put them all into practice. That is one of the reasons why I left this one idea aside for while. Learners though love watching TV series in class, so I thought why not pursue this goal and see what would happen if I used it for a whole semester!

Would they be more motivated? Would they like the one I chose? Would they learn more from it? Would they learn new ways to learn outside the class?

The biggest challenge is developing tasks that don’t kill the natural desire and curiosity that keeps one engaged with a TV series, that is, the story itself. I would need to chose a show was also age appropriated, and in a genre that is popular among teens. Comedy is usually a winner. I chose a sitcom after reading Learning English through TV series by Chia Suan Chong. Even though I thought a sitcom would be good, I was also worried that most of the ones they like tend not to be age appropriate, like Friends or Two-and-Half men.


So I chose THE MIDDLE after a long search and review reading. Each episode is about 20 minutes long.

A family that could pretty much be yours. 😉

Back in April, I watched the live transmition of Jan Blake plenary “They don’t care about the vocabulary, they care about the characters.” and that has sticked to my mind every since. It also made me ask myself why they couldn’t engage or care about the characters from the coursebook and I understood that emotional connection is really important with whatever material you chose to use. Here is something that Jan Blake said in the interview she gave to Vicky Loras – ISTEK 2013 Roving Reporter.

“[..]When they hear me tell stories, they want to engage with the language, they want to discuss with each other, they are eager to figure out if they can’t understand something… they ask each other “what did she say?” they may just say that in their own language and then you have someone quickly translating, but at the same time watching me because they don’t want to lose a thread of the story so for me that’s the beginning of acquiring a language, when you are emotionaly engaged with the language…”

By keeping the idea that empathizing with the characters would help keeping their interest up and at the same connect them with the language, I started as follow:

Episode 1

Before watching, I told them we would play a game called “Whose line is it?” afterwards and that they should pay attention to what Frankie and Mike’s children would say. They watched it in L2 with L1 subtitles. As my main goal was to engage them with the story (most of them had never watched it or heard about it, while very few have and liked it very much), and as I have beginners in the groups, I thought it was important to let them enjoy it and concentrate on English later.

Whose line is it?

You can download the lines here.

I have to chose games that encourage learners to work collaborative or grade it like I did with the previous game “Name that Tune?”. In Whose line is it? game I asked them to work together in pairs or in a group of three when needed and made sure that students in different levels worked together. With the visual media, it helped the lower level learners to add to the game by contributing with what they remembed from the scenes. By having higher levels reading aloud the lines and discussing meaning provided lower level with comprehensible input. I did not interfere with the strategies they used to accomplish the task.

Each team received different lines to help them focus without trying to pay attention to what the other group was doing. I think this is really important thing to do. The number of lines have to be the same to be fair. The winner group was the one that got all of the lines in the correct place. When a group thought they had finished, I would go to their desk check it out without giving away any clue to what line was misplaced, I would count them out as I checked and tell them the number of lines and encourage them to keep working on it.

After the game, I asked each team to copy the sentences onto their notebooks for later activity.

Inspired in #Goal 3: Linking songs to the TV series

Without telling my teens anything about it, I chose a song to match the character Frankie. Frankie is the mom. She goes through a lot in a day in the first episode and the song I chose was Ironic by Alanis Morissete. Check out the Tumblr The Hecks Playlist I have created for me and learners to post their videos and reasons for choosing them. Actually they have already done it and registered on their notebooks. But as I got sick and had to stay way for 2 weeks, we didn’t have the chance to add to it, so they will be sharing their songs online from next week on.

Before asking students to chose a character and song that matches the character, we worked with the videoclip in class. We watched it. We discussed the lyrics. We sang. And focused specifically on the contrast between irony and misfortune, then I asked them about Frankie and how that song relates to her.

With that I introduced the idea to create a playlist – The Middle theme songs, like I said totally inspired by the #30 Goals challenge Goal 3! kudos to the community and thanks for the idea. This was given as homework to bring in the following week, most of them did it! I have prepared other activities and my head is filled with ideas to work with the TV series. Episode 2 focus on very specific trait of the mom and dad – the straight shooter and cheerleader type of person.

What do you think? Any suggestions?


12 thoughts on “#30GoalsEdu: Goal 4 Revisit an Idea

  1. What an interesting idea to use a TV series throughout the whole semester, Rose. I’m absolutely in favour. When I wanted to improve my English a couple of years ago, I watched the X-Files show for two months, one or two episodes a day. I drove my husband crazy but I felt that it really helped. If you watch a genre of one kind for some time, a specific type of vocabulary is repeated over and over again, which helps learning sufficiently. And the benefits related to listening skills are obvious (if the material is not too difficult).
    It’s a challenging task for the teacher though, so thank you for your useful tips. What I find most tricky is choosing something motivating and challenging at the same time. I suppose that it’s a good idea to give the students some control over what they want to watch, so giving them a list from which they can select by voting, for example, could work. Here, in the Czech Republic, teenagers love The Big Bang Theory and How I Met my Mother sitcoms, for example.


    • Thanks Hana for your comment. I have used tv series with the same purpose and I find it really great for language development. The challenge though is to bring to the classroom without killing the pleasure of following the story. It took me a long time to decide which one to buy to work with my teens, and after talking to them informally I discovered that it would be impossible to bring one that everyone would like as they have different tastes. Their poster work they are doing right now also shows that very clearly. So I based my decision on what I thought would be most likely: comedy and language that would be used for them to learn and use on a daily basis. I read that the scriptwriters did a very good work on the lines, so that helped me chose. My rationale was like is that the kind of thing they would say? Or hear parents, friends, siblings and so on.
      My intention is not just provide language learning, but also for them to develop learning skills that they will take with them when they watch their favorite ones. 🙂


  2. Oh Rose!: sitcoms, songs…my faves!!! I haven´t watched much this year so far, but with my Advanced group we started watching a movie called “Cyberbully”, wow!, we talked about the topic…I´ll share everything with you all soon!
    Like Hana said, those two sitcoms are the most watched here in Argentina, too!
    I love comedies, specially one called “According to Jim”…he is so much fun!.
    Thank you for sharing your great ideas!


    • Hi Fabiana, by writing here my ideas and how they worked it helps me thinking of new ones. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. 🙂 I really like using those medias in class too but I think they should be used more extensively and that is what I am putting into practice here. How would that benefit learners, as they don’t do it themselves at home. Some of them watch in English, but with the subtitle in L1 without never stopping or trying to listen to it. Although they would love too, they think it is too hard to listen to just English. Even higher levels don’t do it. And as my children do watch a lot of movies in the same way, I can see on a daily basis that does not help them improve their English at all. Not without a bit of effort to listen, understand and practice even if it is just in their mind. I wish I had done that earlier in the year. Well, next year I will definitely do it. 🙂


  3. Pingback: The Middle: (1) Exploring Episode 2 | ROSE BARD – Teaching Journal

  4. Hi Rose!! I really loved it! For sure when our students are engaged within the activity because it get close to their reality, we can see that our goal was reached. The emotional connection that you claim in your post is essential and also important for their knowledge about the context in the story. I had the opportunity to work with my students an episode from Glee called “Born this way” ( well I do not like Glee and also Lady Gaga, but it is their context), they really got the objective of the activity at first, because of the story was close enough for their lifes, It is for teenagers, who have the same dreams and expectations that is why I chose worked with them. Thus, I do agree with Jan Black “They are not worry about grammar, vocabulary but they are involved with what the Characters carry to them. Rose, It is an amazing activity, very good one and inspiring too.
    Great!!! Indeed!!! Congratulations!!


    • Did you work with glee? I love it. But most my students don’t like the musical and drama genre… unless there is horror in it. lol Last year one of my groups (3 learners) had a student who loved it and the other classmates were very kind to let him bring the dvd. He also chose the episode. If I am not mistaken that was the one too. After watching, they brought the subject of prejudice up and we had a nice discussion about it and other related things. I believe it is important for them to have a chance to talk about things they feel and think. Not always that is possible in class, so I am bit careful in bringing up discussions into the classroom, unless someone does (then I welcome it) and the rest of the group is up to discuss it nicely and respectfully. I don’t allow any room for prejudice and I teach love for one another above all things. One student in her poster work wrote about glee and she said that what she hates about it is because of it is just about the issues teenagers go through. So, I guess without the humor, it becomes too much for some teens to deal with. So, I don’t use it in class. I love the songs and I would love to explore the songs as well. Alas! What can I do if they don’t really like it? But I wish I could use it in class.

      Thanks so much for your feedback Pri. I’m glad that you think it is good.


  5. Hi Rose! It’s a great one. It’s inspiring me. I really want to try it with my students. I will choose one of the sitcoms which are popular here and related to their life style as teens. Rose, Is it a group work or not?
    Thanks for sharing Rose^^

    Squid hugs,


    • Hi Ika, I’m glad you found it useful to try out in your classes. What sitcoms are popular among your teens? As you can see, here in Brazil the American tv series are more popular. Well, Mr. Bean also would bring a lot of laughter, but like you pointed out yourself, I wanted one where they could relate to the characters.
      The activities I am developing depends pretty much as the objective of the lesson. I have groups that vary in size from only one learner to groups with 8 Ss. So, I adapt it to suit each group. I hadn’t started working with the Sitcom with my class of one learner. He is intermediate level, very talkative and we were talking about things that he liked. He is actually my advisor. When I have a doubt about how other Ss feels about something, he usually can give me some different points of view. Anyway, with him I did totally different and that gave me an opportunity to test the worksheet I designed before using with other groups. I will share the worksheet later and try to write down a short guide. My posts come in a reflective package, so it may be a bit difficult to follow exactly what I did. I’ll try another format and share with you soon.

      But before I do, keep in mind that those are just ideas you can easily adapt to any other sitcom and I’m sure you can come up with tons of other ideas on your own. Let me know if you. I can use your ideas too and please feel free to give your suggestions on how to do them differently.

      Warm hugs from Brazil!


  6. Pingback: #4 Revisit an Idea | Pearltrees

  7. Pingback: #7 Share a Lesson Idea | Pearltrees

  8. Pingback: Challenging Learners to listen with both ears! | ROSE BARD – Teaching Journal

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