Summer is also the time for our best ideas to grow. I just came back from the inspiring NCTE Summer Institute, where I made teacher friends from around the world and I maxed out my library holds in about twenty minutes of talking to fellow teachers. And if that’s not enough to remind you that summers are important, I’ll remind you that Hamilton wouldn’t be a musical if it weren’t for summer.
One of the ways I am taking time for myself is by watching television. Lots and lots and lots of television. And I’m not talking thoughtful, high-quality, content-rich TV: I’m talking vote-em-out reality shows where portmanteaus like “showmance” are frequently used.
I am not going to try to convince you that you should waste your time like me watch these TV shows. However, I have noticed that I spend about as much time reading about TV shows and writing about TV shows as I actually spend watching the show.
Using myself as an example, I have some thoughts on how to bring this television into our classrooms for reading and writing.
Reading about TV — research and mentor texts:
- People, Entertainment Weekly, and Rolling Stone all have solid and consistent coverage of television shows with articles and interviews that are sufficiently detailed and not too sensational.
- For reality TV in particular: The New Yorker has this wild story about a failed reality TV concept. Reality Blurred covers the underbelly of the TV shows and provides a glimpse into casting, productions, and trends. My fellow Survivor friends would be disappointed if I didn’t include a link to Rob Has a Podcast.
- Medium is a good medium (ha!) between social media discussions about TV shows and something more professional. You can do a search for specific shows or do a search by topic.
Writing about TV: prompts to get writers started in notebooks.
- What are five TV shows that other students/people should watch? Why?
- If you’re a fan of a specific TV show, what’s the best/worst season? Why?
- You are a producer of your favorite TV show. What would you change/fix/add?
- What TV show was a big disappointment for you? Why were you looking forward to it? Why didn’t it meet your expectations?
- How does where the TV show takes place influence what happens in an episode?
- What episodes do you rewatch? Why?
- Who are some of your favorite characters? Why?
- What’s a funny TV show for you? What makes it so funny?
- How does this TV show portray race, class, gender, and relationships? Does that portrayal line up with how you see your life?
- Reality television is often distorted by “the edit” – the snips and clips that make the final cut and represent a fraction of a percent of what a contestant does. How might the edit differ from the real story? Why?
Now that I’ve laid bare some of my passions — what are you up to this summer? Do you think it will influence how you teach next year?
Amy Estersohn is an English teacher in New York. Her favorite season of Survivor for entertainment value, strong characterization, and sociological discussion is Marquesas (Season 4).