Decentralised Teaching and Learning

“Not all who wander are lost”. J R R Tolkien

Sherlock Lesson – Spoken grammar

Introduction – Warm up

Stage 0 – the learners first watched ‘A Study in Pink’ at home – flipped classroom style!

Benedict_Cumberbatch_filming_Sherlock_cropped1) I got pictures of all the principal characters in Sherlock, laminated them and stuck them to the whiteboard. Then we brainstormed adjectives to describe each character (e.g. Sherlock is methodical, brilliant, outspoken, difficult to deal with). Another further extension of this task would be to ask the learners to consider and describe relationships between the characters – each pair could talk about one relationship.

Task 1

2) I gave them 10 sentences from the episode ‘A Study in Pink’. You can find entire transcripts of Sherlock here, which is a brilliant resource – thank you Ariane DeVere! Here they are:

1) Sherlock: Possible suicides. Four of them. There’s no point sitting at home when there’s finally something fun going on!

2) John Watson: Just met a friend of yours.

3) Sherlock: Always a chance that my number will be recognised. It’s on the website.

4) John Watson: It’s how you get your kicks, isn’t it? Risking your life to prove you’re clever.

5) Anderson:  She’s German. “Rache.” German for “revenge.” She could be trying to tell us…

6) Mrs. Hudson: There’s another bedroom upstairs, if you’ll be needing two bedrooms.

7) John Watson: Well this is a prime spot. Must be expensive.

8) Lestrade: They all did. They’re not strictly speaking ON the drug squad, but they’re very keen.

9) Mycroft: Always so aggressive. Did it never occur to you that you and I belong on the same side?

10) Mollly(jokingly): So, bad day, was it?

So here are ten examples of native speaker utterances from the Sherlock episode that they’d already seen. I thought this would be a great opportunity to focus on features of Spoken Grammar.

Task 2

3) I gave the sentences to the learners (but without the names of the characters). They then had to match the sentences to a character – I also reminded them of the adjectives they had come up with previously, asking “Who do you think would say this?”

4) After learners had matched the sentences to the correct character, I asked them if they had any questions and clarified any grammar or vocabulary points. Then I gave a brief explanation of ‘Heads’/’Tails’ and Ellipsis (shortening sentences or leaving out words) on the whiteboard as very common features of native speaker usage (see Ken Paterson’s ‘Seven features of Spoken Grammar).

Task 3

5) Turning back to the ten sentences, they then had to INVESTIGATE the sentences, a la Sherlock Holmes and find:

– Examples of 2 heads and 1 tail

– 6 examples of ellipsis

– An example of Future Continuous

– 1 common collocation

They had 15 minutes – the game is on!

6) I asked for the answers from the learners, and helped them with any problems:

2 heads – So, bad day was it?                It’s how you get your kicks, isn’t it?

1 tail – There’s another bedroom upstairs, if you’ll be needing two bedrooms.

Ellipsis – (These are) Possible suicides. (There are) Four of them.

(I) Just met a friend of yours. (There’s) always a chance that my  number will be recognised.

Well, this is prime spot. (It) must be expensive. (You’re) Always so aggressive. (That makes 6!)

Future Continuous – “…, if you’ll be needing two bedrooms.”

Common collocation – “strictly spreaking”

Awareness-raising and Clarification

7) I asked learners questions about the language points we had covered.

 Clarification/ Explanation points -Why do native speakers use Heads and Tails? It’s more efficient, for emphasis and clarification and also for variation when speaking.

Ask what kind of words do native speakers often leave out? e.g. There are/ There is (Verb to be is often omitted in general), Pronouns.

Why does Mrs Hudson use Future Continuous? It’s a formal offer – she’s offering the other bedroom.

When else, or in what other situations can we use Future Continuous? For formal enquiry, often in hotels you will hear “Will you be needing….?” Also for sympathetic predictions. e.g. “You’ll be needing a hot bath when you get home.”


Unfortunately, this lesson started late so we had to finish here. But if we’d had more time I would have got the learners to play out scenes from Sherlock, scenes which use the 10 sentences above. A few learners also emailed me their favourite scenes to act out also but there was no more time!

So, this lesson is an extract from the Sherlock lesson I did, and which served as an introduction to some features of spoken grammar. You can download the quotes here, page 1 is the teacher version, page 2 for the learners, which I cut up into individual sentences.

If you use this lesson, let me know how it went!



One comment on “Sherlock Lesson – Spoken grammar

  1. Pingback: 5 Reasons why you should use Sherlock in class | Decentralised Teaching and Learning

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