TV for ESL

My students often ask me if I could recommend a TV series to help them improve their English. Although I would love to recommend series which I truly enjoy watching, such as American Gods or Stranger Things, the truth is that TV series are not made for this purpose and don’t really work for beginner or intermediate students.

Why I don’t recommend using regular TV series in the ESL classroom

Watching a complete TV series or movie to present language structures is unproductive, almost a waste of time. The level of  English is too high! While it may be true that TV shows can facilitate the acquisition of listening comprehension skills,  even if the context is clear and your students more or less understand what’s going on in the episode, you are not teaching and they are not learning language points.
Teaching a language  can be divided into two different sections:
A) presenting vocabulary and grammar structures
B) developing skills (speaking, listening, reading and writing).
As teachers, in order to justify charging money for watching tv series with our students, we would need to create plan lessons around the episodes which can be time consuming (you’d have to watch the full episode/film beforehand just to start with!).  If that’s what you want for your TEFL classes, then this blog has some good ideas.
If you are a little less inspired to create your own classes, over at  NETFLIX ESL you can find activities and worksheets based on Netflix shows such as stranger things 2.

The alternatives to watching hollywood movies in ESL class

People have been teaching ESL for longer than TV or film media have even existed, so the good news is that somebody has already thought about this!

Extr@English TV series for the ESL classroom

Extr@English is a Friends style sitcom from channel 4 learning which has  been made especially for ESL learners. Hector comes from Argentina to learn English, viewers learn vocabulary and grammar structures with him along the way.

extr@ promises language learning with laughter, in an authentic London setting. With 30 hilarious, half-hour sitcom programmes available on DVD, the extra@ series is a delight for anyone learning English, especially young adults. The adventures of the four main characters in their London flat are stylish, sexy and funny.

The channel4 website has free resources online and workbooks available so you can follow the series in class.

I have seen episodes online for free on YouTube, but as far as I’m aware, you have to pay for legitimate access to this fantastic resource; which is the only downside.

Fortune (chasing time English) drama series for English language learners

Fortune is a mysterious drama series created specifically for English language learners, it combines great production and script with a clear knowledge of the TEFL world. As far as I can tell the series is free to stream and resources for students or teachers are available for download at a reasonable fee.


To support flexibility in classroom delivery, episode materials are conveniently divided into four sections:

  1. Preview vocabulary and discussion activities
  2. Communicative tasks with specific grammar focus
  3. Functional interactions
  4. Extension and review activities


On the teacher’s information page you can view the teaching philosophy and access the first episode and full season materials by clicking on the picture icons.
The materials for the first episode (both Blue and Gold levels) are available for free. If your students enjoy the classroom and homework materials you can purchase the full season of materials by clicking on the picture icon. All teaching materials come with a full range of instructions and answer key.

And one TV show I don’t recommend: BBC Grammar game show

This is the one I don’t recommend, that is unless you are fairly new to TEFL and don’t fully understand the grammar concepts yourself yet.
This is a really cheesy game show like the ones you might remember from the 80s and the 90s. It’s awful. Just don’t.
Here’s the link just so you can see what I mean.


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