Modern Television — a Talking Points lesson plan for reading, speaking & vocabulary

Modern TV today is just rubbish, isn’t it? Just the same kind of shows repeated again and again. Why do TV companies only show these kinds of shows? Why not show something different?

This is a lesson plan all about television. Today’s students probably watch TV shows via their smartphones, but you can still use this lesson plan to great effect.

I suggest using my article on television as part of this lesson plan — How to talk about TELEVISION in English

You can also download the full lesson plan by clicking the link below…






Do you watch much television?

What do you think of TV shows today?

Are they just for entertainment? Or do some TV shows educate us?


The Idiot Box


Read Barry’s account below and his views on television today…

You know what I call it? The idiot box.

It’s all rubbish, isn’t it? And now it’s got even worse. Nothing but game shows, cooking, gardening and — what’s that other one? — oh yeah, that’s it, reality.

Reality! They’re having a laugh.

My grand-kids love it. They’ll gladly sit in front of it night after night. They got iPads and iPhones and the internet, but that’s not enough. They have to watch reality TV too.

I can’t stand it.

We watched this one show with a load of people who all had to live in the same house for a few weeks. They’re supposed to be normal members of the public. Well, if they’re normal, I don’t know what strange is.

A right bunch of oddballs!

And how anyone could stay inside that house for more than ten minutes, I don’t know.

I would have murdered the lot of them.

They were all really loud, really annoying. Always arguing or crying or shouting at each other.

And the producers of the show made them do tasks. They had to do all these really silly things to win food. It was so stupid.

My grand-kids were laughing all the way through it.

Me, I just wanted to kick the screen in.

And I wouldn’t mind, but we have to pay for this rubbish. If it were all paid for with advertising, I wouldn’t mind. But we have to pay for the TV license every year.

And what do we get? Stupid shows with stupid people living in a house.

The wife likes to watch all the gardening shows. She watches about six of them a week.

Who thought of that for an idea?

Let’s make a TV show about gardening, and people at home can pay us to watch the grass grow.

We must be mad.

I used to like telly in the old days.

We had quality shows back then.

Real comedy shows. Not like this stuff today. They call it comedy, but nobody laughs. I like the old comedy double-acts. That was real comedy. It made me laugh out loud.

And then we had all those great police shows. They were gritty and realistic.

Real edge-of-your-seat stuff.

And another thing, we had years ago were documentaries. I used to love watching those kinds of shows.

I loved the nature programmes where they would show snakes or wolves in their natural habitat. Some of these shows were so fantastic. And I felt like I was actually learning something.

They were entertaining in a way, but also educational.

I think that is what modern television lacks — an educational purpose.

We had dramas, comedies, talk shows and even family entertainment. But many of the shows taught us things. We could learn something by watching the television.

But today.

It’s all garbage. All the TV producers want is to turn us into bigger idiots by watching their stupid shows.

So, yes, the idiot box.


Reading Comprehension Questions


How does Barry call television?

Name four kinds of TV shows Barry thinks are on TV all the time.

Does Barry like reality TV shows? What do his grandchildren think of reality TV?

Describe the example of reality TV that Barry watched.

How does Barry describe the behaviour of the people on the reality TV show he watched?

Is TV free where Barry lives?

What kind of shows does Barry’s wife like to watch?

What does Barry think of these programmes?

Describe the older TV shows Barry liked to watch years ago.

What purpose should TV have according to Barry?


Essential Vocabulary


gameshow reality


gladly I can’t stand it a right bunch…
oddball annoying arguing
producer task advertising
TV license telly quality
doube-acts gritty realistic
edge-of-your-seat documentaries nature
snakes wolves natural habitat
fantastic entertaining educational
purpose dramas comedies
talk shows family entertainment garbage



Write down all the words and phrases in your vocabulary notebook. Look in your dictionary and find the meaning of each word. Write the definition next to each word.

Then make up your own sentences using each word or phrase.

For example:

Notebooka small book with pages of blank paper that students use to make notes when studying.

I left my notebook at home so I was unable to make any notes in my English class.”


Discussion Questions


What do you think of Barry’s opinion of modern television? Do you agree with him? Disagree with him? Why?

How old do you think Barry is? Does this make a big difference in terms of his opinions? How?

What does Barry’s expression The Idiot Box mean, do you think? Do you think this is a good term to describe modern television? Why/why not?

Barry really dislikes reality shows. What do you think of reality shows? Tell your opinions to the class. Give examples.

Barry’s wife likes to watch gardening shows. What kind of show is this?

Why do you think Barry’s wife enjoys gardening shows? Why does Barry dislike this show?

Barry talks about TV shows from years ago. Do you think these older TV shows would be any different from modern TV shows? How?

What kind of TV shows do you like to watch? Describe these shows. Give examples and tell the class.

What kind of TV shows do your parents like? Why do they like them? What do you think of them?

How do you watch TV? On a TV screen or via the internet on your smartphone?

How many hours of TV shows do you watch every day? Or week? Is this too much?

Is TV a good thing? What is the purpose of it?

Do teenagers today watch TV at all? Has the internet surpassed TV? If so, do you think TV will die out? When will this happen?

Are TV shows today too violent? Why/why not?

Is there too much sex on TV these days? Explain your reasons.

Is there a watershed in your country for TV broadcasting?

What is the best time for the watershed in your country, do you think? Explain your reasons.

Does the watershed apply to the internet? Why/why not?

Is there too much advertising on TV?

What kind of advertising should be allowed on TV?

What about advertising aimed at children on TV?


Role Play


This is a role play activity.

There are two characters in the role play:


Dawn (Barry’s wife)


The Situation

Barry has had enough of his wife, Dawn, watching all the gardening shows on TV.

She loves to watch these shows and gets a great amount of joy from them, but Barry says she watches too many of these shows.

Barry thinks they could spend more time in the garden or going down to the gardening centre to buy plants and flowers for the garden.

They could even make their own garden look like one of the beautiful gardens on TV.

But Dawn says she just likes to watch the gardening shows on TV. She thinks that looking after the garden would be too much work and she gets tired because she has to look after the grand-kids.

The couple discuss things until they reach a happy conclusion!


Work in pairs and take some time to prepare your role play.

When you are ready, show your role play to the rest of the class.




This is a debate activity.

Divide the class into two teams of equal number and choose one student to act as chair for the debate.

The chair must take control of the debate and ensure that all members of the debate have an equal amount of time to talk.


The Debate

The two teams will discuss reality shows on TV.

They will discuss the benefits of these shows and how necessary they are for the public.

Many reality shows have a high sexual content. Or they make people perform dangerous tasks.

Some people leave these shows feeling humiliated or ashamed.

Questions to consider:

Are these shows just entertainment?

Should we not have boundaries of what we can see on TV?

Do reality shows turn us into voyeurs?

But on the other hand, are reality shows merely entertainment?

If we don’t like it, we can just turn it off.

And as long as the shows adhere to the watershed rules of the country, what is the problem with sex on the shows?

People can choose. They can choose to watch the shows. They can also choose to turn the TV off.


Team A

You support free choice.

People have the right to watch whatever they want to watch in the privacy of their own homes. And that includes all the reality shows on TV.

And the people that appear on these shows also have free choice. No one is forcing them to appear on the show. They go on the show using their own free will.

Your motto is: Live and let live.

If people want to watch reality shows, let them.


Team B

You want to see a decline in the number of reality shows on TV.

They seem to be on TV every night of the week, on every channel. TV companies have to provide higher quality programming. There is no need for so many reality shows.

There is also the question of the content.

Some shows have a very high sexual content. Some show violent images. And many of them have very bad language.

Yes, this is part of everyday life, but do we want to see this on TV all the time?

Your idea is that TV companies should bring back better shows for people to watch. Good dramas, or TV series that make people think, rather than watching a group of people stuck in a house together.


In your teams, prepare what comments and ideas you want to express in the debate.

Then when you are ready, begin the debate!


The Perfect TV Show


This is a group exercise.

Get into groups of 4 students.

In your group, you should try to create a new TV show. This TV show should be entertaining — but also educational.

It can be any kind of show you like — comedy, drama, talk show, documentary.

Work together in your groups and think of some great ideas to present to the class.

When you are ready, make a presentation as one group to the class.


Favourite TV Shows


This is a whole class exercise.

  • What are your favourite TV shows of all time?
  • Why do you like these shows?
  • What kind of genre are these shows?

In turns, stand in front of the class and talk about the TV shows you love to watch.

Provide good examples of each show that you like and say why you like it.


Think about things like:

  • The story
  • The actors
  • The production (camera work/the look of the show)


Do other people like these shows? Why/why not?

What are the reviews of these shows? Good or bad?

How do you watch these shows?

Do you binge-watch your favourite TV shows?


Eventually, each student in the class should have a turn at speaking in front of the class.




Write a review of your favourite TV show.

Think about one of your favourite TV shows and then write a review of it.

For reference, you should look at this website — MetaCritic

Just search for your TV show and take a look at the way people write reviews. Try to copy this style of writing.

You should write something that shows the good and bad side of the TV show.

When you have finished, show your review to your teacher.



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