Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Unreal TV

Hat tip: Upworthy

These ads, which have been recorded for a fundraising campaign for public TV in the U.S., mock reality TV and may serve as a springboard for debate in the English language classroom.

For more commercials like these, go to the campaign website

 If you want to use them in a conversation class, here are a few suggestions:
  • Lead-in:
    • Pair Ss up to talk about the questions:
      a) What are your favorite TV shows? Why do you like them? (If you don't like TV, why don't you?)
      b) How do you (or people you know) choose new TV shows to watch? 
    • Give each S 3 blank slips of paper. On each slip they will write a name of a TV show. One of the slips will have the name of their favorite TV show; the other will be the name of a TV show they can't stand and the last one the name of a TV show they like but can live without.
    • Pair Ss up. Ss will have to read the 3 slips their partner wrote and find out which is which (which is their partner's favorite, which is the one they can't stand, etc). But they can't ask that straight ahead of course! They have to ask other questions to try and suss it out. 
    • Ask Ss to write the names of their 2 favorite TV shows and 2 TV shows they can't stand.
    • Ss mingle to find someone who is very similar to them and sit next to their "TV soulmates".
  • Listening/Viewing for gist: 
    • Tell Ss they are going to see two TV commercials to identify what they are advertising and what they have in common.
    • Show two of the commercials and stop right before the white titles in the black background. Ask them to pair check and elicit their answers. (Key: Both advertise reality shows. There are a lot of things in common: both show recorded scenes of the program; both finish by saying the date and time of the show, etc.)
    • Ss chat in pairs: Would you like to watch those shows? Why (not)? Do you think these shows would be successful in your country? Why (not)?"
  • Reading/Viewing for inference: 
    • Show the end of the commercials. With a new partner, Ss have to come up with what they think these commercials were used for.
    • After you have collected a few ideas, tell Ss this is a fundraising campaign for public TV. Ask Ss if they think the campaign is going to be successful.
  • Debate: 
    • Preparation: Divide your class in 2 groups. Tell a group to list arguments in favor of reality shows, while the other group lists arguments against them. 
    • 1st round: Get 2 students from each group, making groups of 4 to discuss the future of reality TV. (If you have a strong group, you can spice things up by asking Ss to argue for the opposite position, not the one they prepared for.)
    • Collect and give feedback. 
    • 2nd round: Change groups. Ss will have to discuss again, now standing up for what they believe in. (You may want to ask Ss to sort themselves into people who are actually pro and against reality TV so you can mix them for this stage.)
  • Wrap-up:
    • Show the end of the commercial again and draw attention to the tag #TVgonewrong. Ask them if they agree with it.

  • Possible follow-ups:
    • In groups Ss come up with another reality show spoof and sell their idea to their classmates.
    • If they really got into the campaign, Ss can go online to find out how much money the campaign has raised so far and see the other ads.
    • Ask Ss if they believe reality shows are "really real". Refer Ss to this On the Media podcast about the subject.

Would you use these ads in class? How? :D


  1. As always, a great post! Natália I wish you keep up your amazing work on this blog.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Danilo. =) If you ever use these ideas (which would be a great honor to me!), please let me know how they worked out for you.


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