Here it is. I’m openly against a “review unit” in the world language class (or any class actually).
(If you love them, keep reading. You might change your mind. If not, we can still be friends even if we disagree.)
I’ve tried starting the year with a review, and here’s what I’ve found. Review seems to divide the class into two groups: the few who remember everything and the rest who forgot it all. I also think it can be boring for the ones who actually remember last year’s content and it can be frustrating to those that didn’t get it as well then (and likely don’t feel confident about it now). Not a great way to win them over.
So why do teachers do it? I think they want to get an idea of what students learned from another teacher, and what really stuck with them. I think it helps them know where to start and what students need more help with. We should find these things out – but let’s do it with style! Proficiency is about communication and what you can do with the language, not isolated knowledge of vocabulary, grammar, or rules. Who cares what they know. I want to see what they can do. So let’s start the year with something both students and native speakers are actually talking about, something that helps them connect with the target culture, and something that gives you as the teacher, insight on how you can help them improve.
This is a unit idea that I would use for returning high school language students (at the intermediate profiency levels) to start with something new and recycle the old. Plus, I added some ideas for authentic resources you could use for each lesson (because it’s REALLY easy to find authres for units that are relavent).
Warning: This post may take you down a rabbithole reading about the upcoming season of your favorite show and/or get you hooked on a new one.
AP Connections: Science and Technology, Contemporary Life
Want to see if they can understand opinions and give their own?
I can understand opinions about popular shows and give my opinion about them.
I can identify positive/negative reviews about a show.
Want to see how well they can describe people?
I can give basic information about key characters in a popular show.
*ASL teachers: You’ll love the video below about Millie Simmonds who stars in 2018’s A Quiet Place. (Recommended by ASL teacher – Matt Hochkeppel)
Want to see if they can compare two different things?
I can compare series produced in different countries.
Examples: La Treve (Belguim), Velvet (Spain), Dark (Germany)
I can compare my favorite show with one from another culture.
I can compare characters.
I can compare different seasons of the same show.
Want to see if they know their numbers?
I can talk about salaries, production costs, and release dates from my favorite Netflix show.
*BTW…The pay for the Stranger Things cast is outrageous. It is very talk-about-able.
I can order key events in a Netflix series when I read.
I can retell what happened in an important episode.
Want to see if they can ask questions?
I can interview a native speaker about their Netflix/entertainment preferences.
I can find out about a new show in a conversation.
Want to see if they know commands?
I can explain to someone the steps on how to use Netflix for the first time.
Want to show them something relevant from the target culture?
I can investigate which Netflix shows are most popular in other countries.
I can compare a show from (target culture) to another show I know.
*Are you curious about which shows are most popular in other countries? You need to watch the video below.
I can predict what will happen in the next episode/season.
*Show a trailer from a show from the target culture. What’s going to happen? What’s your prediction?
Want to see if they know subjunctive?
I can recommend a show to someone based on their preferences.
Have native speakers visit, tell about their personality, favorite movie or show, and then let students pick a new show to recommend for them.
Want to measure their vocab (prior knowledge) + still learn something new?
This unit would probably cover a ton of traditional vocabulary (places, names, descriptions, events, ages, nationalities, clothing/style, jobs, etc) and but also push students to learn new words/phrases/jargon like:
Episode, season, documentaries, series, director, leading actor, writer, trending shows, release date, new arrivals, genres, recommendations based on your viewing history, binge-worthy, download, stream, award-winning, starring, based on, reboot, etc.
Moral of the story:
I know why language teachers do a review unit, but I think there’s a better way to start the year. Start fresh. Start stong. Keep moving forward.
What links, social media accounts, websites would you recommend for a Netflix unit?
What other themes or units have you used to upcycle at the start of a new year?
Share your ideas and inspiration below.
Confession: I had WAY too much fun playing with these ideas, researching, and looking at authres about these shows. If it’s this entertaining for the teacher, I have to believe students would love it, too. Remember, you know your school/students – choose shows/resources that are appropriate for your classes.
Thank you!! I am planning my first unit around this!!!
Fun! Let us know how it goes!
Lovely ideas!! I’m going to think about this for some of my 6th and 7th grade French students. Merci beaucoup!
PW – I would love to hear about any French language Netflix shows that work with middle school!
Hi from Houston. I don’t know about series in French but a few ideas for films that are appropriate for M.S.: Avril et le Monde Extraordinaire (this is French but I think you have to choose French lang version on Netflix as they also show a dubbed version, April and the …), The African Doctor, He even has your eyes. I’m going to talk to my students about these!
Thanks for sharing, Shelley!
some very good ideas here!
Holy crapola! You have the best ideas EVER. I totally agree about the review unit dividing the kids into “those who remember” and “those who might have had a frontal lobotomy over the summer”. This idea is so fun…. in fact, I want to do it myself, just for kicks and giggles- and for someone who has taught as long as I have, that doesn’t happen very often (where I want to do the lesson for fun). 🙂 I’ve followed you for about 3-4 years…. Your ideas are impeccable. Every single one. Thank you so much for being willing to share you with the rest of us. Suzie
Haha! Thank you, Suzie! This comment made my day! Let me know if you end up teaching a Netflix unit! I’d love to hear about it!
What show would be a fun and appropriate show in Spanish to watch with a class of high school seniors?
I loved the Celia series (a few episodes might not be appropriate for school but there are 80 so you have enough to show). I’ve heard a few teachers talking about Money Heist and Velvet, so they might be worth checking out. Good luck!
Your creativity is amazing! Do you have this all planned out, or are these ideas floating around in your head currently? If it is all planned out, I think you should upload it to “Adios Textbook!!!!!” Wink-wink. But seriously, thank you for sharing your creativity!!!!
Thanks, Lori! It’s not all planned but it may be coming to AT this year! Just need to find the right TL show!
You’re amazing. Your ideas are incredible. I wish EVERY world language teacher followed your blog. They’d benefit so much!
Thanks, Katlynne! 🙂
I love this! I appreciate what you said about instead of focusing on what your students know, focus on what they can do. I agree that the use of real-life tasks is a great way for students to demonstrate their knowledge of a grammatical structure or another topic that we wish to assess. You might be interested in some tasks that I like to use: http://teachinginthetargetlanguage.com/real-life-tasks-for-the-world-language-class/. I never would have thought to incorporate Netflix with real-life tasks, but I think I will give this a try! My students will love this! Thank you for sharing this great idea and best of luck with the new school year! 🙂
Thanks, Laura! Same to you!
The Department of Time or El Ministerio del Tiempo is awesome! There are only 2 or 3 episodes that are not appropriate for school (unless you fast forward through the short scene) in which case, it is all appropriate. It is great for connecting history to the class as well. I will most likely use episodes from this series. Good stuff.
What a fun way to start the year. I will definitely try it out in my German 3 class. They will have a blast with it and wouldn’t even notice all the German they are speaking, because they want to talk about their favourite shows. You could even extend it to Hulu and Amazon Prime shows.
I’ve just spent the first two weeks of my French 4 Pre AP (College level 201) class with a Netflix review unit inspired by your post- What a success!!! WAY better than boring grammar review! I have also included some fun screen shots of poor subtitles on Netflix shows- ie Prison Break has a character named “Pope” which was translated to “le Pape” in French (The Pope- like in Rome!)
My class had great discussions and discovered so many commonalities with me and each other that I really believe it greatly contributed to establishing a positive class culture and sense of community. What a great way to start the year!
Thank you for putting this together!!
Thanks for sharing your success, Sarah! Sounds like a really positive start to a new year of learning! Yay!
Thank you for the inspiration! I would love to tackle this, but wonder is it to advanced for a Spanish 2 class in September as review?
I think you could still do some of these goals… describing characters from shows, giving opinions about shows, comparing…(this show is more popular then….), and looking at shows from another culture. Let me know if you try it, I’d love to hear how it goes!