TV Series lesson plan: What makes a great TV series pilot?

TV-SERIESLESSONPLANThe aim of this lesson is to discuss main features of successful TV series pilots using appropriate vocabulary. Students practice their reading and listening skills, as well as speaking and writing.

I adapted the article by Martie Cook to prepare the Reading worksheet  and this YouTube clip to prepare the Listening worksheet .

The Task

Start with introducing the term “pilot” to see whether your students are familiar with it, and then ask them whether they recall seeing a memorable TV series pilot. Ask your class what they think the features of a good pilot are (a good opportunity to revise some basic vocabulary such as plot, characters, episode, sitcom, drama, suspense) and put their ideas on the board.

Distribute Reading worksheets. In Part, 1 ask the students to ignore the highlighted words and first focus on filling in the gaps with the words from the box (individually). Step two involves matching the highlighted words with their definitions and filling in gapped sentences (pair-work / whole class). Once you have completed the advice, compare the ideas from the article with the ones you had put on the board.

Move on to Part 2 which contains the list of TV pilot writing don’ts. You might read them together to see whether you agree. Then, match the highlighted expressions with their meaning and fill in the sentences.

Before you distribute the Listening worksheets tell your students they are about to see the list of Top 10 Pilot Episodes of TV Dramas (basically meaning no sitcoms like “Friends” or “How I met your mother”, but TV series with episodes around 40 minutes long). Ask them to predict which TV series are likely to be mentioned, put the titles on the board. Distribute the worksheets, see how many titles your students managed to guess correctly (it is really going to differ depending on the age of your students, but the list contains titles known to virtually everybody). Students watch the video and fill in the gaps to find out what was so special about these TV pilots. After completing the task ask your students whether they agree with the ranking or maybe they would change it etc. Go through the vocabulary from the Listening and decide which are the necessary ingredients of a successful pilot (choose 5).

The follow-up activity involves writing a short (80-100 words) description of the best TV pilot ever using words and expressions from the Reading and Listening parts. Students may prepare a draft in class and then rewrite it at home.

Personal Experience

This topic worked great with my teenage and adult students (FCE and CAE groups). Everybody had their favourite TV series (sometimes more than one) and an opinion on why it was so successful or better than other TV shows. A number of new words might have been a bit overwhelming for some students, but at the same time they enjoyed being able to discuss their favourite shows using more accurate and varied vocabulary.


TV Series Pilot

TV Series Pilot_key


One Comment

  1. Man, I just love your ideas and lesson plans! Congratulations! The best ELT website ever!

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