Inside the Actors Studio: A classroom application

Bob Jones, REJ English House


Quick guide

  • Key words:Listening, question and answer, personal information
  • Learner English level:Pre-intermediate and above
  • Learner maturity:University and adult
  • Preparation time:10 minutes to type up the worksheet (after selecting the program)
  • Activity time:40 to 50 minutes
  • Materials:Computer with Internet access or video/DVD, worksheets


This activity is based on Bravo cable TV’sInside the Actors Studio, in which well-known actors and directors are interviewed about their life and work. Towards the end of each program James Lipton, the host, submits his guest to a 10-point questionnaire which includes such questions as:

  • What’s your favorite word?
  • What’s your least favorite word?
  • What sound or noise do you love?(See Appendix A for the complete list.)

In my experience, students usually enjoy listening to their favorite stars answering the questions. I have also found that the questionnaire provides a stimulating way of enabling students to talk about their own likes and dislikes.


View several examples of guests responding to Lipton’s questions, many of which are available on YouTube, and choose one that seems appropriate for the level of your students. For lower level students, my personal recommendation would be Stephen Spielberg or Johnny Depp, both of whom give short, concise answers.


Step 1:Give the students some background information about the program. Distribute the TV interview worksheet (see Appendix B), go through the questions, and explain any items which may be unclear.

Step 2:Show the video extract. Have the students fill in the guest’s replies in the middle column of the worksheet.

Step 3:Have students check their answers with each other in pairs.

Step 4:Show the video extract once more. Have the students re-check their answers and write up any further details the guest gives in the third column of the worksheet.

Step 5:Check the answers with the class.

Step 6:Invite the students to ask you the same questions. Some advantages of this step are that (a) they are getting extra input and further examples of the type of answers that can be given; (b) you as teacher can adjust your answers to a level that will be appropriate for your students; and (c) as it is desirable that in Step 8 (see below) students go beyond simple one-word answers and explain their choices, you as teacher can provide models of how this may be done.

Step 7:Give the students a few minutes to prepare their own answers to the questions.

Step 8:Give out copies of the student questionnaire (see Appendix C). Have the students ask each other the questions and note down their partner’s answers.

Step 9:Hold a general feedback session and invite students to share particularly interesting replies with other class members.

Some Considerations

Many teachers may be uncomfortable with Lipton’s seventh question: What’s your favorite curse word? How to deal with this should be a matter of individual discretion but, speaking for myself, I tend to skip over it with minimal comment and do not include it in the student questionnaire. Some teachers may also feel uncomfortable with Question 10: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you reach the Pearly Gates? This could be replaced by another question of the teacher’s choice (e.g., How would you like to be remembered in years to come?).

When choosing clips, be aware that some guests give short simple answers while others give longer, more complex answers. Appendix D provides one list of guests who may be suitable for lower-level students, and another for students at higher levels. URLs for YouTube links are also provided.


Generally, I have found that students enjoy asking each other the questions and often come up with interesting replies. One of my personal favorites was the student who answered “Being busy” to What turns you on? and “Not being busy” to What turns you off? As her teacher, I heartily welcomed her sentiments.

Appendices: Available below