TV shows and films about politics and the monarchy

The following TV shows and films deal with aspects of British and American politics, as well as general views on political systems. They can help you gain insight into the history and traditions of those countries, as well as increase your vocabulary on the subject.

UK politics: 

Yes, Minister (1980-1984)/Yes, Prime Minister (1986-1988)- (C2)

The Thick of It (2005-2012) [includes lots of profanity and swearwords]

Love Actually (2003)

One of the many subplots the film deals with involves the British Prime Minister:

The Iron Lady (2011):

Would you like to watch the sessions of the British Parliament live? Click here for BBC Parliament.

British Monarchy: 

The Queen (2006) [B2 and upwards, fairly clear British accents]

The King’s Speech (2010) [B2 and upwards, fairly clear British accents]

The Crown (2016-) [B2 and upwards, fairly clear British accents]

A Very English Scandal (2018) [B2 and upwards, fairly clear British accents]

Years and Years (2019) [show set in Manchester, some Northern accents are noticeable]

US politics: 

All the President’s Men (1976)

The West Wing (1999-2006)

(from 1’30”)

House of Cards (2013-2018)

Veep (2012-2019)

General views on politics: 

The Great Dictator (1940):

V for Vendetta (2005) [B2 and upwards- international cast, but most of them use British English RP pronunciations, regardless of their original accents]

The Handmaid’s Tale (2017-)

Listening- Alan Turing to feature on the 50 GBP note

Some months ago, there was a consultation in the UK about the candidates to feature on the new £50 banknotes. You can read more about it and do a listening comprehension exercise on the news here:

Listening comprehension: The new £50 note.

The winner has been announced, and mathematician Alan Turing has been chosen as the face of Britain’s new £50 banknote.

Now, read the questions in the form below. Then, listen to this news report about the mathematician who is going to feature on the new £50 note. You can listen to it twice. Once you have finished, submit your answers to check whether you were right or wrong. Please pay attention to the feedback to both right and wrong answers.

Open form in a new tab

You can also read the transcript here.

Further reading:

More about Alan Turing in the blog:

BBC shows and documentaries for History / Geography teachers

If you’re teaching History in English, these BBC documentaries might be useful to you:

Andrew Marr’s Making of Modern Britain– (2009) [1901-1945] – episodes

Andrew Marr’s History of Modern Britain (2007) [1945-2007]- episodes

Andrew Marr’s History of the World: (2012)

Blood and Gold (BBC, 2015): This 3-part documentary explores 2,000 years of the history of Spain, from the early years of the country, its emergence as the battleground of empires and its golden age under the Cordoba Caliphate; the truth about El Cid and the Spanish Inquisition; and Spain’s golden age under Philip II through to the Spanish Civil War and dictatorship under Franco.

  1. Conquest (VOSI)
  2. Reconquest (VOSI)
  3. Nation 

If you’re teaching Geography in English, these might be interesting to you:

Andrew Marr’s Britain from Above  (2008)

Andrew Marr’s Megacities  (2011): documentary about how some of the world’s biggest cities feed, protect and move their citizens.

Comedy shows related to History:

Blackadder (1983-1989):

Blackadder is a series of four pseudo-historical sitcoms, which originally aired in the 1980s. All episodes starred Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean, Johnny English) as the anti-hero Edmund Blackadder. Other comedians such as Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry played different roles from series 2.

Each series was set in a different historical period. In my view, they got increasingly better with time (the first series is almost universally agreed to be the weakest of the four; the fourth one, I would say is the best):

  1. Middle Ages- “The Black Adder” is Richard IV’s unfavoured second son Edmund, the Duke of Edinburgh.
  2. Renaissance- Blackadder is a courtesan of Elizabeth I’s.
  3. Regency period- Blackadder is the Prince Regent’s butler.
  4. WWI- Blackadder becomes a Captain in the trenches.

Cunk on Britain (2018):

Philomena Cunk is a spoof comedy character created by Charlie Brooker (Black Mirror), played by comedian Diane Morgan. The show is a tongue-in-cheek parody of BBC documentaries like the ones mentioned above. And definitely, with the least likely BBC-RP accent you may come across.

Guy Fawkes Night / Bonfire Night

On November 5th, “Guy Fawkes night”, also called “Bonfire Night” is celebrated across the UK. Would you like to know what it is? Watch this video to learn about the origins of the celebration.

ASSIGNMENT (1BC-1E): Remember you have to go to Edmodo. Watch the video about Bonfire Night that you will find there, and answer the questions to it. You need to answer the questions by Sunday 6th November.

EXTRA RESOURCES:

There is a poem traditionally used on Guy Fawkes day, which appears in the film V for Vendetta. You may watch it below (click CC the second time you watch for subtitles):

https://vimeo.com/189764258

Kids may carry a “guy” around (a dummy they’ve made), asking passers-by for money, saying “penny for the guy?”. You may see it if you watch this clip from a British TV show:

https://vimeo.com/189764154

People in the UK get together to see the bonfires burn. There are fireworks, and they may light sparklers. They eat, among other things, bangers (=sausages). You may see all of this quickly in this supermarket ad (click CC the second time you watch for subtitles):

https://vimeo.com/189764617

 Last year, we even had our very own Guy Fawkes at school:

Tudor sugar paste toothpaste

Watch the video and answer the questions as you watch:

Click on this link if you can’t watch the video, or there is any problem.

CLIL History and gamification

If you’re teaching History in English, you might find these two games useful at some point in your lessons, maybe as a revision, or to help your students remember essential information in an entertaining way:

Guess Who (English heritage version)

An adaptation of well-known game Guess Who. I came across this game some months ago, and then I discovered some CLIL History teachers in Aragón were already building their own for their classes. Ideal to be played in pairs or small teams, it promotes communication by having students ask questions to their opponents to guess the king / queen / historical character.

If you /your students make up your own game trays, you will be able to choose the characters you want to play with, and you will be able to re-use it in the future with different ones.

Brain Box Kings and Queens of England:

I found this game this summer in one of the oldest and better-known toy shops in London. This game relies on the player’s ability to memorise data, using both linguistic and visual prompts. Then students have to ask one another questions to see how much information they’re able to remember.

IMG_7751

 

IMG_7753

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Again, you may create your own cards, instead of buying this, in order to deal with the characters and historical periods you’re really interested in.

International Women´s Day (March 8th)- some classroom resources

In 1977, the UN established March 8th as “International Women’s Day” (why March 8th?). It may be a good excuse to deal with issues of gender relations and gender equality, as well as the role of women along history, in the classroom. Here are some resources you might like to use:

SUFFRAGETTES: 

One of the origins of the celebration is women’s fight for suffrage in Europe. This has been depicted in popular culture lately: extensively in the film Suffragette (2015), and as a subplot in a special episode of the BBC show Sherlock (“The Abominable Bride”, 2015):

  • Sufffragette (B1- B2)

(subtitled trailer in http://www.yourlocalcinema.com/suffragette.html)

  • Sherlock – “The Abominable Bride” (B2-C1)

A rather peculiar (and perhaps ideologically objectionable) depiction of a suffragette appears in Mary Poppins (1964), in the character of Mrs. Banks. (Maybe it’s time to deconstruct a children’s film):

UNICEF VIDEOS: 

You may use this video about Fatna, a girl in eastern Chad, and her struggle to be able to go to school (A2):

(subtitled in English here: http://watchinenglish.blogspot.com.es/2013/10/educating-fatna-unicef-tv.html)

UNICEF Youtube channel

EMPOWERING WOMEN: 

Different campaigns apparently aim at showing more empowered women roles, from Disney to sanitary towels brands, probably in order to suit their own marketing needs:

  • Disney- “I am a princess” (A2)

(subtitled in Spanish in Youtube- to watch with subtitles in English, click here)

It’s very classroom-friendly: use of comparatives, superlatives; lots of vocabulary related to relationships, personality adjectives…

  • Always- “Run like a girl” (A2-B1) (H/T Miriam A.)

(subtitles in English available on Youtube)

SONGS:

  • Beyoncé- If I Were a Boy (A2-B1)

(With the song, you also get to practise type 2 conditional clauses, obviously)

EMMA WATSON-  He for She campaign

The British actress Emma Watson, best known as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films, is the Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women. In September 2014, she gave a speech at the UN about gender inequality and how to fight it.

Transcript

Since then, she has been actively involved in the He for She campaign. You may watch an interview with her, along with some comprehension exercises on the British council Learn English teens website

WOMEN IN COMPUTING: 

Read towards the end of this blog entry to find out about Ada Lovelace (Lord Byron’s daughter) and Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr’s contribution to early computing.