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December 2022 - Year 24 - Issue 6

ISSN 1755-9715

Using Netflix in the EFL Classroom - An Example

Anna Pereszlényi is a language teacher at the Department of Language Pedagogy at Eötvös Loránd University and a temporary lecturer at Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Budapest. She is also a PhD candidate in the Language Pedagogy Programme of ELTE. Her main interests include teaching with literary texts, teaching culture and materials design. Email:



The following lesson plan is an example of a series of lesson plans designed for a language course which aimed to reflect on the ongoing changes that characterise the world we live in. The course addressed various questions and topics related to modern life (e.g., emotional intelligence and its importance, gender pay gap, how our memory works) mostly with the help of a series created by Vox and available on the streaming platform, Netflix. The course included second-year university students who majored in English and whose language level was B2.



Indisputably, the world we live in has changed dramatically in the past couple of decades. New technological advancements, changes on the job market, globalisation, climate change and unpredictable future – just a few examples that have serious and far-reaching repercussions on our lives. Certainly, education has had to respond to these changes so that it could nurture individuals who can “adapt to an ever-changing world and tackle emerging issues in their lives” (Divéki & Pereszlényi, 2021, p.68). Therefore, the primary role of education has shifted from transmission of knowledge to “building of values, soft skills and attitudes among learners” (UNESCO, 2014, p.11) that are necessary for one in order to cope with various challenges and obstacles. Another factor to be noted is that youngsters are concerned by various current issues (Integrity Lab, 2016), they are interested in the world around us, they have questions, thoughts and ideas that could be vital parts of the EFL classroom as well. Over the last couple of years my students initiated discussions on current issues, they raised questions and commented on current events in class which prompted the idea of building the content of a course solely on questions that interest and concern us in the 21st century.

I intended to design a course which not only raises awareness to various issues and develop students’ critical thinking skills, but also widens students’ horizons in an entertaining way. Also, it was important to me to find such content that is relevant and close to my students’ generation. Since the majority of my students watch films and series on a regular basis, I decided to look for an appropriate material on streaming platforms that are well-known to them. Finally, I opted for a documentary series titled Explained created by Vox, available on Netflix and partly on Youtube. The series has had three seasons so far and it consists of 15-20-minute-long episodes. The reason why this particular series was picked lies in its topic: each episode addresses an intriguing question or a topical issue (Klein & Posner, 2018) such as water crisis, cults, cryptocurrency or whether it will be possible to live forever. Some of these episodes were uploaded on Youtube and are available under the official Netflix and Vox channels – which make it even easier to access and use the series in the classroom.


The structure of the lessons

I decided to pick topics that are likely to be interesting and relevant to my students; and I also tried to combine some complex topics with some lighter ones due to the fact that the pandemic had taken its toll on everybody. All the topics addressed various questions so that every student could relate to at least one topic. Nevertheless, just to ensure that indeed everybody could find some relevant and interesting content in these lessons, the students decided on the last topic.

Different materials were used during the semester; however, most lessons were based on Explained. Each episode that we watched in class was accompanied by a worksheet that I had compiled. Various activities were included in these worksheets, so no two lessons were alike, although there were some typical activities (e.g., discussion, listening comprehension questions) that ensured structure in these lessons.


Addressing gender discrimination through Explained

During the semester, two lessons were dedicated to the discussion of gender discrimination. The episode is titled Why Women Are Paid Less (season 1, ep.18) and it focuses on the rights of women at the workplace, it explains the gender pay gap and its roots with the help of public figures. The episode is available on Youtube:

The first lesson was solely built on the 18-minute-long episode while the second lesson addressed gender discrimination from another perspective with the help of Emma Watson’s UN speech (also available on Youtube). As it was a language course, the aims of the lesson included the development of the students’ language skills (primarily their speaking and listening skills) and the expansion of their vocabulary. Apart from language-related purposes, the lesson also intended to raise awareness to gender discrimination, to develop critical thinking skills and problem-solving skills, and to enhance cooperation.

In order to trigger the students’ thoughts on the topic and to explore their opinions and experience related to gender discrimination, the lesson started with a discussion. Four statements were included in the worksheet which were discussed in pairs followed by the two questions. The pairs were asked to provide some feedback on the statements (i.e., strong arguments for or against) and some situations related to the first question, then some examples of gender stereotypes were listed together in the group.

1 Discussion

  • D you agree or disagree with the following statements? Why?
  • Women who have a child under school age should not work full-time.
  • Men who have a child under school age should work full-time.
  • Women do not get equal pay for equal work.
  • Men should become stay-at-home dads once they have a baby.
  • What is gender discriminatin? Can you think of some examples?
  • What are sme of the common stereotypes of men and women? Collect 4-4.

The next couple of activities were closely linked to the topics explored in the episode. The second activity served as a warmer to the episode. Six statements had been created based on the episode and the students were asked to decide whether they are true or false based on their previous knowledge or their hunches. For example:

1 Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007) was the first female president in a Muslim majority country.     2 Sally Ride (1951-2012) was the first woman in space.
3 Family photos should not be displayed on your office walls if you are a woman.
4 Sweden and Norway managed to shrink the pay gap between men and women.

After watching the episode for the first time and checking the true or false statements, the students did two vocabulary activities. First, relying solely on context, the students completed sentences with unfamiliar words taken from the episode, then, they matched these words with their meanings. The vocabulary task was followed by a multiple-choice activity which focused again on the content of the episode. The students read the questions and picked their responses based on their memories, then, they watched the episode for the second time and checked themselves. Some open-ended questions were added as next which were answered in pairs and checked in class.

The follow-up activities included some discussion questions and a problem-solving groupwork activity. Some examples of the causes for the pay gap in the 50s and 60s mentioned in the episode were picked and the students were asked to reflect on the current situation in their country based on their knowledge and opinion, and to compare the current situation to the situation shown in the picture. To provide a conclusion to the episode and its message, the students brainstormed in pairs or in smaller groups and they tried to find solutions to some examples of gender discrimination.

Follow-up activities

Since the episode explored the pay gap and gender discrimination from the perspective of women, I decided to broaden the scope and dedicate another lesson to the topic. In the next lesson, we addressed gender discrimination from another angle and collected other severe issues and stereotypes related to gender. It is important to highlight, though, that these lessons were primarily language lessons for EFL learners which means that the issues were explored and discussed but not studied nor investigated.



There were numerous little signs in the classroom that showed that the students enjoyed these lessons: rare absences, active participation, lively discussions and debates, questions, laughs. More explicit feedback was provided at the end of semester in the form of anonymous feedback forms such as interesting and thought-provoking topics, becoming interested in new topics, lively discussions, the opportunity to express their own thoughts and views and the fact that they started to use the new vocabulary items learnt during the course.

As a teacher, my most ambitious goal is to encourage my students to become aware of ongoing changes, to think, to be critical of current issues and to make their voice heard in the classroom. Certainly, these are ambitious plans for a course which lasts for a semester, consists of only one 90-minute-long session each week and includes 15-17 students, however, it is not unattainable as the following anecdote shows. One of my students fell ill and could not attend two lessons. Next time he came to class he told me that he was so interested in the questions and topics discussed in class that he had binge-watched the entire three seasons of the series. This piece of feedback is certainly the cherry on top.



Divéki, R., & Pereszlényi, A. (2021). Materials design for using literature to nurture global citizens in the EFL classroom: A pilot study. In J. Sazdovska, É. Illés, Zs. Soproni, & Á. Farkas (Eds.), Engaged Spotlight on Learning – 29th IATEFL Hungary Conference Selections (pp. 68-91). IATEFL Hungary.

Integrity Lab. (2016). Generációs helyzetkép – Fiatalok, részvétel, politika. [A Generational Overview – Youth, Participation, Politics.]

Klein, E., & Posner, J. (2018). Vox’s Netflix show “Explained”, explained. Vox.

UNESCO. (2014). Global citizenship education: Preparing learners for the challenges of the 21st century. Paris: UNESCO.


Please check the Pilgrims f2f courses at Pilgrims website.

Please check the Pilgrims online courses at Pilgrims website.

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