Adult Ed
TV and Video in the Classroom


Activity One: Choosing something to watch
Activity Two: Background knowledge
Activity Three: Predicting
Activity Four: Summarizing
Activity Five: Giving Opinions
Activity Six: Comparing
Activity Seven: Abstracting

Activity One: Choosing something to watch
NOTE: You don't have to go through all these steps. Your class can decide what to watch at any point.

Step 1 Present Students with a short list of the titles of videos that are available. These can be titles of mainstream movies or series. This could also be a list of programs, episodes or segments for Thirteen/WNET's adult education broadcast schedule which includes WORKPLACE ESSENTIAL SKILLS, CROSSROADS CAFÉ, LEARN TO READ, GED ON TV, or GED ON TV EN ESPANOL.

Step 2Discuss the titles. Ask questions like:
  • Has anyone ever heard of this show or seen it?
  • If so, what did you think?
  • What do you think a show called "Title of Show" will be about? (Some titles such as WORKPLACE ESSENTIAL SKILLS could merit a group brainstorming on the chalkboard)
Step 3 Using the Video box
  • Discuss any pictures on the cover
  • Read any print on the video box to the class
Step 4 Previewing
  • Watch five minutes of a few different shows or movies. After each preview, have the class write for a minute or two about what they thought. Have class members offer their opinions and read what they wrote to make a decision about what the class will what.

Try this: Your students probably have movies on videotape at home. Have students bring in a movie they think the rest of the class will like, and make short presentations to pitch their movie. You might want to have the class make rules about what is appropriate for classroom viewing. For example : "No R-rated. No really violent movies."

Activity Two: Background Knowledge

Part One: The Top Ten

Step 1 Establishing a topic
Sometimes the title is enough to get you started. For example, if you want to show Ken Burns' documentary series JAZZ, the title gives you a subject for developing background knowledge. If the title doesn't give enough good information about the subject, you need to provide an area for research. For example, if you class doesn't know about THE GREAT GATSBY, you need to announce a topic such as "the roaring twenties."

Step 2 What Do We Already Know?
  • Have each class member write down what they know about the topic.
  • When they are finished writing what they know, ask them to write any questions they have about the subject at the bottom of the page.
  • Divide the class into groups and have them share their writing, knowledge, and questions
  • Have each group give a short presentation that includes what they know as well as questions they have. Write all the groups' questions on the chalkboard
  • Students can write another piece about what they know about the subject after the discussions and presentations.
If your group has problems with open-ended activities, you may need to remind them that there is no right answer and that everyone’s lists will be different.

Step 3 What We Need to Know
Use the questions from the activity above to create research topics. Introduce other topics if you know there is background knowledge that will make the viewing more meaningful.
  • Bring in articles about the topic for the class to read
  • Go over background vocabulary words. You can go over it as a group. Another option is to give each student a word to look up. Then have the students present their definitions to the class. (It's a good idea to check students' definitions before letting them present.)
  • Send students on fact finding missions about people, places, and events. Have them use the Internet, encyclopedias, and other resources to create short reports or presentations.

After your students get practice going through these steps with TV, try the very same thing with books, articles, essays, or stories.

Activity Three: Predicting
1. Before Viewing
Use the title, background knowledge, and the video box to make predictions before viewing. Make sure the class understands that it is okay to make a wrong prediction. You can't know until you watch the show.

2. During Viewing
Stop the video in the middle. Discuss or write about what students think will happen next.

3. After Viewing
If the video allows for this, predict what will happen next to the characters.

After your students get practice going through these steps with TV, try it with books or stories.

Activity Four: Summarizing

Summarizing is an especially good activity for more basic writers. They don't have to worry a lot about what they will write, so they can focus more clearly on the mechanics of writing.

Step 1 Ask students to write what the video was about in one sentence. You might want to give them a cue: "This show is about..."

Step 1Discuss the short summaries.

Step 1Come back together as a whole group. Discuss what was easy, what was hard, what surprised them, what was good, and what was bad.

Step 14. Share the writing as a whole group or in smaller groups. Discuss how different summaries can be valid.

After your students get good at summarizing TV material, try it with books, articles, essays, or stories

Activity Five: Giving Opinions.
Ask students to write about or discuss any of the following topics

  • This is why I liked/disliked this show.
  • This is why I think it was/was not a good idea to spend class time watching this show.
  • My favorite part of the show was....
  • My favorite character was....
  • I thought the actors were good/bad.
  • I thought the story was believable/unbelievable.
  • I agree/disagree with the point of view presented in this show.
This is a place where you might notice a big difference between how students respond to TV versus how they respond to print. People give "critical analyses" of TV shows all the time. After students get used to giving their opinions about TV, use the same pre and post questions and activities to engage them with print materials. Use the same prompts and questions. Remind students that they have done the activities before using TV.

Activity Six: Activity Six: Comparing
"Compare and contrast these two characters" might be an overwhelming questions for many students. Try more specific prompts to generate some good analytical thinking and writing:
  • Which show did you like best? Why did you like it more than the others?
  • Which show did you learn the most from? Explain what you learned and compare it to what you learned from the other shows.
  • Which show was the most realistic? Why do you think it was more realistic than the others?
  • Which show has the most objective point of view. Explain how it shows different sides of the story.
  • Which character to you like the best? Compare her to another character you don't like as much
  • Which character is most like you? Explain how you and that character are the same and how you are different
You can get real specific with questions. Here are some examples as models:
  • Who do you think is a better parent in this show: Stephanie or Laura?
  • Who do you think has the best relationship in the story: Lisa and Pepo, or Diane and John?
  • Who would you pick to have as a friend: Craig or Patrick? Why would you choose one over the other?
  • Who do you think is a nicer person: Carla or Rayleen?

Activity Seven: Abstracting
Abstracting is pulling out the themes or main ideas. Practicing with TV can be a way to help students learn to abstract. Later you can apply the skills to print materials.

Part One: Themes
Step One: Introducing Themes
Introduce students to a list of one-word themes:

Love Greed Luck
Money Success Trust
Politics Temptation Honesty
Morals Growth Ethics
Family Decay Ambition
Choices Hate Fate
Happiness Generosity  

Step Two:
Ask students to pick out one or more themes of a show they watched.

Step Three:
Ask students to write about why they think that is the theme of the show.

Step Four:
Read what the students wrote and discuss the different possible themes of the show.

Part Two: Purpose and Point of View
Discussion topics for the class:

  • What do you think the people who make this show want us to learn?
  • What do you think the makers of this show believe about the topic?
  • What lessons are to be learned from this?
  • How successful is the show in getting a message across?
  • How could they have done a better job of getting their message across?
  • What is the main point here?
  • What is this about? (You might want to start by giving students a list to choose from:, etc)
NOTE: We know that everyone does not have the same resources. Some teachers have a TV in their classroom; some have to book one weeks in advance. Some teachers have cable reception; some don't. Some TVs are attached to a VCR; some aren't. Some schools have great video collections; some don't have any. These lessons try to take that into consideration. But let's face it, if you have more resourcesŃyou have more options.

NOTE: What to Watch? Some video and TV doesn't need much support from you to make it highly educational. It is pretty clear how educational shows designed for adults can be of value to your class. Some shows might be a bit of a stretch. You can inject reading and writing into horror movies, action-adventure, and teen movies, but it might not be worth it. There are lots of entertaining movies about historic periods, people, and events. Movies like that are more likely to seem of value to the students, and they can be jumping off points into other meaningful research activities.

See the link below to the ITV Schedule. You will find a wealth of educational programs that may be useful.


See the link below to the ITV Schedule. You will find a wealth of educational programs that may be useful.