How many reality shows can you name in one minute? Last time I tried, I got up to 15. Reality TV is popular, and new series seem to pop up every season. Though some equate it with raunchy behavior that makes you too afraid to watch in front of your children, there are actually some shows that can be used as education tools in the classroom.
Take "House Hunters," a show where people are searching for their dream home. In each 30-minute episode, the home buyer is presented with three houses to choose from, picked by a real estate agent for their price, location and style.
Hearing the buyers debate their options can model the literacy skills we teach students every day, like comparing and contrasting. Just as we watch the home-buyer deliberate over each potential home’s pros and cons, students can be asked to find similarities and differences among the three houses using a Venn Diagram. Before revealing what house the buyer chooses, have students make an informed prediction using specific evidence from the episode and transition words. Students can also examine character traits of the home-buyers and analyze how those traits contributed to the final decision.
For social-emotional learning, "House Hunters" can also be used to show examples of compromise. If the home-buyers are a couple, there will often be disagreement as they talk through their choices. Have students observe these discussions and then give voice to the techniques they see used on the show to arrive at a compromise.
"Shark Tank" is another reality show that can be an educational brain teaser for intermediate through high school students. The reality show has entrepreneurs pitch their business to five successful venture capitalists to get an investment. In order to get the attention of the “sharks,” these entrepreneurs have to prepare the ultimate persuasive speech about why their idea, product or business is worth the money. Have students analyze these pitches, and pinpoint reasons why they were successful or went home with no deal. Then have students try it for themselves using the tactics they saw on the show.Perhaps the best part of using shows like "House Hunters" and "Shark Tank" to model educational skills is their ability to appeal to multiple learning styles. Visual learners can watch the action, auditory learners can hear it, and verbal learners can easily be accommodated with captions. It goes to show that with a little creativity and planning, even reality TV can be retooled into something more than entertainment to binge-watch on the couch.