Soap Opera Drama – A Lesson on Intonation

Soap Opera Drama – A Lesson on Intonation

Lesson based on a video directed by the teacher

Level(s): (A2) Pre-Intermediate / (B1) Intermediate
Aimed at: Teenagers/young adults/adults

Listening for gist and specific information/how to use and understand different intonation patterns in accordance to attitude/ Predicting



handout 1: Handout1intonation
handout 2: handout2intonation

Projector (ideally) and laptop or just laptop.

Time: +/- 60 minutes.

It is common knowledge that students are very much familiar with the TV format of soap operas, some are keen followers of this TV programme. This is a lesson that has been trialed and tested by me and some of my colleagues with very positive results.

To introduce the topic and provide the context for the lesson, through a game of hangman, the teacher gets the students to guess the word S O A P O P E R A. Once the word is completed, the teacher asks students to work in pairs and discuss the following questions: Do you ever watch soap operas? What is your favourite soap opera? Have you got a favourite character? Why do you think soap operas are so popular? Next, the teacher writes the following sentence on the board:

People watch soap operas because they are full of …………….. Students brainstorm different feelings often expressed in soap operas: anger, happiness, disappointment, fear, sadness, surprise, etc. (these feelings are written on the board) and eventually elicit the word that should fit the gap – drama.

Then, the teacher writes hello on the board and students as a group brainstorm different intonation patterns we can use in accordance to the feelings previously noted on the board (e.g. students say hello angrily, happily, sadly, etc.)

After this introductory part of the lesson the teacher gives out handout 1 to the students and explains that they are going to watch a short clip from a soap opera the teacher has directed. The teacher explains that the characters in the soap opera are husband and wife and that the story starts when the husband comes back home after a hard day at work, his wife is waiting for him at home. To create interest the teacher asks students what they think will happen next. Students watch the video and choose on the worksheet how the speakers feel according to the different intonation patterns. The teacher stops the video at the last question in handout 1 and students in pairs make predictions. Students finish watching the video, answer the questions in handout 2 and discuss the outcome.

After checking the answer in Handouts 1 and 2 the teacher asks students to prepare a soap opera dialogue choosing their own intonation patterns accordingly. Students then role play their dialogues and the rest of the group makes notes on attitudes noticed in intonation.

In my opinion, this lesson works well because it relies on creativity, role-play and drama. Also, the fact that the video is home-made and the actors are well-known teachers to the students adds an element of fun and informality to the lesson making it memorable (make your own videos!) Moreover, through drama and role-play students can detach from themselves and create a dramatic persona that will give them confidence to use and even exaggerate their intonation patterns.

In conclusion, I tried to show that intonation does not have to be a no-go area in the classroom, even with pre-intermediate students, and as long as students are exposed to real life situations where they can become aware of intonation patterns and are equipped with the tools to recognise those differences, students will gradually feel more confident and open to a range of classroom activities which will help them to be better prepared for the challenges of “real world” communication.

Handout 1

Watch the video. Listen to the intonation of the speakers and decide how Luke and Kasia feel. Only one option is correct.

  1. “Hi honey, I´m home!”
  1. Angry about being home.
  2. Excited and happy to be home.
  3. Sad to be home.
  1. “There´s something I need to tell you”
  1. Afraid.
  2. Sad.
  3. Nervous and afraid
  1. “It´s about our son”
  1. Angry about what her son did today.
  2. Hesitant and anxious to say something shocking.
  3. Excited.
  1. “Is he alright?”
  1. Surprised by some bad news.
  2. Excited to know what happened.
  3. Deeply concerned to know what happened.

Handout 2

What do you think Kasia is going to tell her husband? Tell your partner.

  1. “Patrick, he´s not your real son.”
  1. Happy and relieved.
  2. Nervous but relieved at the end.
  3. Afraid.


  1. “What?”
  1. Surprised.
  2. Shocked.
  3. Angry.


  1. “What do you mean he´s not my real son?”
  1. Disappointed.
  2. Really angry.
  3. Afraid.


  1. “Sorry!”
  1. Angry- apology is not enough.
  2. Very understanding.


  1. “This is crazy”
  1. Angry.
  2. Furious.
  3. Unhappy

The above idea was co-written with Christina Collier and first published at:

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