ESL TV Vocabulary

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

Television is a topic your ESL learners are likely to know a lot about. This lesson provides common TV vocabulary and phrases as well as exercises designed to reinforce the new terminology.

Let's Talk TV

Television can be a big topic. After all, most children watch at least some television every single day. So, it's important to teach ESL students about television vocabulary and the practical use of this vocabulary. This includes the primary ways people access television, the more popular genres of TV shows, and phrases that can be used to discuss TV.

Let's look at the kind of TV vocabulary you might teach your ESL students. Once you feel your students have a good grasp of the basic TV vocabulary, use the activities in the second half of this lesson to reinforce proper usage and pronunciation.

TV Vocabulary

In this section, television vocabulary is divided into types of television format and types of television shows. Many people access television in a variety of ways. Chances are that, while your learners may not know the correct English terminology, they are likely to be familiar with the different genres of television shows and how they are accessed.

When you explain the following vocabulary to your learners, be sure to give specific examples and tailor the definitions to an appropriate English level. It's also important to write the vocabulary on the blackboard to emphasize proper spelling, and be sure to review correct pronunciation as you introduce each word or phrase.

Types of Television Format

Remember to write the bolded terms on the blackboard, and use the names in parenthesis as examples.

  • Broadcast TV (NBC, CBS, PBS): This type of television is available through airwaves and is typically free to access.
  • Cable TV (HBO, ESPN, MTV, CNN): Cable TV requires a paid subscription. Hundreds or even thousands of channels may be available to purchase and view.
  • Streaming / Internet TV (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime): Streaming television requires a subscription and an internet connection, and it often features a mix of older, newer and original shows.

Types of TV Shows

  • Comedy
  • Drama
  • Sports
  • News
  • Animation (cartoons)
  • Reality (This includes many subgenres, such as game shows, dating shows, home improvement shows, music and dance competitions, etc.)

Exercises and Activities

Common TV Phrases

The following phrases will help your students discuss their TV likes and dislikes and will also equip your students with questions they can use to begin conversations with classmates and others.

  • What TV shows do you like to watch?
  • I enjoy / like watching _____.
  • What is your favorite TV show?
  • My favorite TV show is _____.
  • Did you see _____ last night? / What did you watch on TV last night?
  • The new season of _____ is good / bad.

Use these phrases to carry out a conversation exercise in the classroom:

  1. Write the common TV phrases on the blackboard and then ask the class for other questions and phrases that can be used when talking about TV.
  2. Once you have a decent list on the board, put students into pairs and give them approximately one minute to ask and answer TV questions with their partner.
  3. After the minute is up, have students switch partners.
  4. Continue this process for as long as you'd like, then bring the class together to discuss how the conversations went and what language challenges they faced.

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