The basic idea is to get students to analyze something in which they are interested and to express their conclusions in writing. This will make homework more palatable and lead students to give it their best effort.

The worksheets created by TWM are generic; useful for almost any program of the type indicated.

The 2010 Common Core State Standards require that teachers in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects join in the effort to assist students in learning how to read, write, and listen. See Common Core State Standards page 5, item # 6, and pages 59 – 69. This may be a change for teachers in those subjects. The worksheets listed in this article will help teachers in subjects other than ELA to meet the requirements of the standards.

To use the worksheets, first review them to make sure that they are appropriate for the class and the assignment; adjust as necessary. In most cases, have the class read the questions on the worksheets before watching the programs. If the whole class is watching one program or one type of program, the worksheet prompts can be read out loud in class. Teachers should also have an alternative assignment available for those students who do not have television in the home or who cannot access the program for some other reason. See TWM’s Cell Phone Lesson Plan.

TWM recommends that, whenever possible, teachers suggest or show productions of high artistic quality with important themes, something that is difficult to accomplish when allowing students to choose which shows to watch. This is perhaps the largest disadvantage of using the lesson plan materials linked in this page and one of the reasons that TWM recommends that such assignments be homework. Teachers may also want to consider using these assignments for extra credit.

A Note About the Advantages of Using Generic Worksheets: Many worksheets, created primarily to be used when students watch movies, contain questions about specific scenes or details to test whether students have been paying attention. When students watch television programs at home, requiring responses to prompts in a TV program worksheet ensures that students follow the show and don’t daydream or become distracted. This type of worksheet is clearly beneficial when the program itself has educational value or is going to be used to drive assignments requiring the exercise of important skills. Using such a worksheet is usually better than just letting students watch the program.

Worksheets with generic questions have the same advantages, however, they also ensure that students will begin to see that programming of the same type has certain common characteristics that can be broken down and analyzed. Generic worksheets require that students use thinking skills of a higher level than worksheets requiring only that students recall and regurgitate scenes or facts. For these reasons, TWM suggests that teachers use generic worksheets, or worksheets with primarily generic questions, in their lesson plans.

Finally, when students are going to be choosing the exact program to watch, it will be impossible for teachers to formulate specific questions for each student.

An exhaustive discussion of the potential uses of television programming is beyond the scope of this article. However, set out below are some cursory comments to assist teachers in using TV program homework assignments as part of a lesson plans.


Using TV Program Worksheets for Homework Assignments in ELA Lesson Plans


Many types of television shows employ the elements of story. Obviously, story is important in drama and often in comedy. In addition, reality TV shows, including competition and survival shows, often employ the devices of story to keep audiences interested.

Finding the Right TV Show: Many teachers will be surprised at the TV programs their students watch. One TWM contributor discovered that her 11th and 12th grade ELA students, male and female, were watching cooking shows such as “Chopped,” “Master Chef,” “Iron Chef,” or “Hell’s Kitchen.” Some kids watch sports-like competitions or even “Jeopardy.”

On a Friday afternoon or perhaps during the last class before a holiday, when attention spans are particularly short, hold a brief discussion with the class on “What are your favorite TV programs?” Have a trusted student take notes or have the class write their favorites on index cards and hand them in. The responses may be surprising.

TWM’s TV Program Worksheet for Homework — Fiction will make it clear that the TV program being watched contains the elements and employs the devices of fiction. See also, TWM’s Movies as Literature Homework Project.


Using TV Program Worksheets for Homework Assignments in History or Social Studies Classes


There are three types of television shows that are useful in history/social studies lesson planning: documentaries, historical fiction, and current events, including news shows. The class can be assigned to watch a documentary type show and to write responses to questions about it. Excellent question prompts can be found at TV Program Worksheet for Homework — Informational Documentary and TV Program Worksheet for Homework — Documentary Designed to Persuade.

Some TV programs are works of historical fiction. In fact, most students, when they get out of school, will not read books of historical analysis. They will obtain most of their knowledge of past events through historical fiction, from television, movies, or novels. Teaching students how to evaluate historical fiction gives them tools for analysis that they can employ their entire adult lives. See also, TWM’s Historical Fiction in Film Homework Project.

Current events or news programing can be useful in several ways. One example is to ask students to compare a current event to past events, e.g., students can be asked to listen to a news broadcast or a documentary on the most recent iteration of the Arab Spring revolutions and write an essay on what relation these events have to another non-violent revolutions such as the independence movement in India led by Mahatma Gandhi or the U.S. Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King. (For a film detailing the ties between Gandhi and nonviolent mass action across the globe, see Learning Guide to A Force More Powerful.) For a homework worksheet for news or current events programming, click here.

Students complain that school is divorced from their reality. TV programming offers an opening for teachers to create homework assignments in writing that relate to what students do at home. Kids will be more interested in completing these assignments, and they will gain perspective