Hello English teachers! Welcome to your ultimate guide to teaching English conversation skills using TV shows.
Whether you are new to teaching English conversation classes or you’re just looking for new ways to spice up your lesson planning, you’ve come to the right place.
We will discuss how to teach conversational English to students, how TV shows are a great teaching resource, how you can teach various aspects of language through TV, and suggest some great conversational English exercises.
Lastly, we'll leave you with some great TV show recommendations for teaching conversational English. So, if you’re ready to be the coolest English teacher in town, read on to get inspired!
Table of Contents:
- TV Shows: A Great Teaching Resource
- Teaching Conversational English with TV
- Tips for Teaching Conversation Class
- The Best TV Shows to Teach English Conversation Skills
- FAQs: Teaching Conversational English with TV
- Summary: How to Teach Conversational English with TV Shows
TV Shows: A Great Teaching Resource
Before we dive into the various ways TV shows can be used in conversation classes, you might be wondering why they are considered to be such a good teaching tool.
Well, TV shows made in an English-speaking country feature native speakers using the language naturally in authentic situations. By watching English-language shows, your students can learn new conversational phrases in the appropriate context.
Students can also mimic the delivery of lines to practice English fluency and flow, pick up on slang and idiomatic expressions and learn a bit about the culture of whichever country the TV show is set.
Moreover, students can develop a better understanding of different accents, local dialects, country-specific words and phrases, and cultural differences among the various English-speaking nations of the world.
Remember, there is awesome English-language TV content from North America, the UK, and Oceania, among other regions, so your options are endless.
Get inspired to be the best teacher you can be with Lingopie, the streaming service that teaches languages through foreign TV shows and movies.
Teaching Conversational English with TV
Now, let's have a look at how to incorporate TV shows into your conversational English classes.
You may be teaching English for further study (EFL) or English as a Second Language (ESL) conversation classes. EFL students learn English in a non-English-speaking country, while ESL students are foreign nationals learning English in an English-speaking country.
Whether you are teaching at home or overseas, your English-language students can develop their pronunciation, vocabulary, sentence structure, fluency, and basic understanding of grammar all from watching TV shows.
Something that English-language students frequently struggle with is learning the correct pronunciation of common words and phrases. Depending on which language is their mother tongue, there are different sounds in English that might trip them up.
An extremely helpful activity for pronunciation practice is speech shadowing. This is when a learner repeats a word or phrase spoken by a native speaker. The native English speaker may be their teacher, or else an actor in their favorite TV show.
Teachers can assign homework to their students to watch an episode of an English-language sitcom and shadow the speech of a character of their choice. Students should note the words they struggle with and practice saying them aloud daily.
Watching TV shows is a great way for English language learners to absorb the proper pronunciation of English words while having fun.
Another benefit of watching English-language TV is the exposure to slang and colloquial terms that might not appear in more official learning resources, like textbooks.
Teachers can play a clip from a TV show and ask intermediate to advanced students to note as many colloquial terms as they can.
For beginners, teachers might prefer to hand out a sheet of paper with all of the colloquialisms in the clip already noted and ask students to translate them based on the context of the clip.
When you teach conversational classes, remember you are teaching students how to speak English naturally, with fluency and confidence. To achieve this, you have to teach vocabulary that natives would use.
This includes teaching slang, idioms, casual language, and even some curse words, in adult classes. If you do not teach colloquialisms, students can sound like they are reciting textbooks when speaking English.
Another important aspect of speaking classes is the focus on different sentence structures students can use to get their point across. For instance noun + verb + adjective (the cat is fat)/ noun + verb + object (the dog eats dinner).
In beginner classes, these simple sentence structures are important for helping students to recognize the different parts of speech in dialogues.
As your students progress, you can begin to integrate more complex structures into lessons, such as the third conditional If + past perfect + would + have + past participle (If I had known about the test, I would have studied).
You can use simple activities such as fill-in-the-gap sentences relating to a show the students were asked to watch over the weekend to teach these structures.
eg. If Chandler ____ known that Monica had lunch with Richard, he ____ have been upset.
A big part of teaching conversational English is improving students' fluency and flow. The more a learner practices speaking, the more natural they will sound.
By listening to native English speakers on TV shows, students can familiarize themselves with the sound of the language and improve their own fluency through speech shadowing.
This is a good method to teach in an English conversational class, as it helps with confidence, fluency, and pronunciation.
Students can also role-play characters in their favorite shows and create dialogues to perform for the class. By writing and practicing the dialogue ahead of time, they can work on their fluency before showing the class.
Finally, whether students like it or not, teaching English conversation involves grammar. We have already discussed the importance of sentence structure, but all aspects of grammar are necessary building blocks for English conversation class.
This is an area of language learning many students shy away from. So, try to make grammar lessons as fun and engaging as possible in order to keep English language learners entertained and motivated.
For instance, if you are teaching the simple past tense, use a clip from a show, such as the Friends episode where Rachel famously says "I got off the plane". Ask students to identify the past simple used in the scene and to write a summary of the episode.
eg. Rachel got on a plane to Paris, Ross chased her to the airport and he asked her to stay...
Tips for Teaching Conversation Class
Now that you know all the ways TV shows can help students learn conversational skills, we can take a closer look at how to teach conversational English with TV.
EFL/ ESL teachers can use a few strategies to maximize their lesson delivery. We will provide some top tips for teaching conversational English online and in the classroom.
Student Talking Time
Have your class speak English from the moment the students arrive by making the first lesson of the day an active discussion.
Many teachers struggle to reduce teacher talking time, especially when teaching conversational English online, as it can be harder to get students to engage in the Zoom call format.
However, conversational English lessons should always be student-centered and allow for a lot of structured, well-prompted conversation practice, using the target language. This is essential for developing English skills.
On top of that, students can enjoy a few minutes at the end of a class for free talking in breakout Zoom rooms or in pairs in class.
Use the lesson to teach students how to use a particular sentence structure, tense, or mood, then structure activities around this language for targeted practice. Provide conversation topics to ensure students talk about the relevant themes, using the targeted structures.
Provide Conversation Topics
It is very important when you ask students to discuss something among themselves that you provide them with targeted discussion topics and clear instructions on which sentence structures or aspects of the language they should be using.
Make sure when you are planning an ESL conversation class that your activities clearly prompt the use of the target language. For instance, ask students to tell you three things Joey did in this episode, using the past simple tense. Make sure they answer in full sentences.
Ask follow-up questions or tell students to ask their conversation partner questions about the episode. Directing the conversation and keeping students on the topic is essential when you teach English conversation classes.
Finally, one of the best ways to develop students' speaking confidence is to get students to speak in front of their classes.
Either in small groups or individually, students can prepare presentations about their favorite shows, discussing themes, character development, favorite plots or examples of colloquial language in the show.
By delivering the presentation in front of an audience, answering questions from their peers, and using their notes to prompt a flowing delivery, students will significantly build their confidence in using the spoken language.
Even if you teach conversational English online, the technology is now so good that all the students in your class can have a go presenting via Zoom or similar video chat sites. They can simply share their screen and run the presentation from wherever they are in the world.
The Best TV Shows to Teach English Conversation Skills
Most students will already know and love the sitcom Friends, so you could structure some English lessons around this show to motivate them and keep your classes fun.
Watching a show you already know well in your own language makes it more accessible when you first watch it in English.
Teaching conversational English is made easy with the help of sitcoms and dramas with ensemble casts that are built around dialogues and useful everyday vocabulary.
Other great shows for English students include:
- The Big Bang Theory
- Parks and Recreation
- The Office
- Gilmore Girls
- The Crown
- The Simpsons
- Modern Family
- The Good Place
If you are teaching small groups with similar interests, you can even let students choose which shows they want to use in class. Make this a teaching moment and ask each student to justify their choice using their spoken skills.
FAQs: Teaching Conversational English with TV
Can you teach conversational English just using tv shows?
Yes, you can teach conversational English with TV shows as your main tool. TV shows provide English language exposure to students and you can optimize this opportunity by creating lessons around the language in the shows.
Encourage students to discuss the show, using the new language they have learned, and provide conversation topics as prompts.
What is the best way to teach conversational English online?
When you are teaching conversational English online, it is important that you and the students speak predominantly English.
Conversation classes should be delivered in the target language and any questions or explanations should be delivered in English, as this all counts as valuable practice and quality exposure to the language.
Moreover, try to limit teacher talking time and encourage students to speak as much as possible.
Do conversational English classes need to focus on grammar?
While grammar is not the central focus of conversation class, it is important to provide some explanation and context when it comes to grammar rules.
Students can learn some grammar from watching TV, but it makes sense to reinforce their learning with clear grammar lessons along the way.
These lessons do not need to be complex but merely explain basic concepts and rules so students can speak with more certainty.
Is teaching conversational English possible if English is not your first language?
Yes, you can become an English teacher even if English is not your first language. Many English teachers have learned English as a second language themselves and are therefore in an excellent position to teach the language to others.
By learning English yourself, you can bring your firsthand experience to lessons and focus on areas you know to be particularly challenging.
Summary: How to Teach Conversational English with TV Shows
You should now know how to teach conversational English. As you can see, when it comes to teaching conversational English online or in a classroom, TV shows can be your best resource.
They are great for reinforcing a number of language skills and can make conversation classes fun and engaging.
We have provided some ideas for conversational English class activities and recommended a handful of shows to get you started. Now, you should have all the tools you need to teach an awesome English conversation class!Have fun exploring these new ways to spice up your English conversation classes! And don't forget to check out Lingopie, the TV show streaming platform that specializes in teaching foreign languages.