Documentary on One


Gleeless looks at US high schools and examines what they are really like. Students think about their knowledge and stereotypes of the American education system, compare it to our own system, examine music in documentaries and write a script for a scene.

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Suitable for: All students from 1st year – TY

Documentary length: 11 mins

To download the worksheet, simply right click on 'Download the Junior Cycle Worksheet' link on your left - and select 'Save Link As'.

Irish teenagers see almost as much of US High Schools as they do Irish schools...they see them on TV shows and films such as "Glee" and "High School Musical".

What do they think of them and would they like to go to school in the US? In this documentary, producer Ronan Kelly talks to Irish students about their perceptions of American schools and then visits one and chats to the students and staff there.

While it is suitable for any year, it might be a nice activity for a first year group who are only getting to know their school and thinking about their expectations of the school year and indeed their time in secondary school.

The thematic unit of work uses the documentary as a primary text, as is recommended in the English Specification.

  • In studying the documentary, students engage with all four LITERACY skills, i.e.  Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing.
  • The oral and written assignments support development of JUNIOR CYCLE KEY SKILLS as well as a selection of LEARNING OUTCOMES from the ENGLISH SPECIFICATION.
  • In a carefully staged, AFL process, the unit begins with pre-listening, challenging students to tap into their prior knowledge, their thoughts and feelings about the context in the text.
  • The documentary, for classroom purposes has been divided into short, relevant clips and the associated activities/ worksheets will develop a variety of comprehension skills, e.g. anticipation; active-listening; discussion; post-listening and reflective/ creative activities.
  • Methodologies used in the teaching and learning resources encourage the student to become a critical, autonomous, self-directed and reflective learner. This is facilitated through AFL tasks which include peer and self-reflection sheets.
  • By the end of this unit of work, students will be ready to complete a summative assessment task, suitable for the Oral Communication Task. An outline of the CBA can be found in the specification for Junior Cycle English (October 2015) which is available on the JCT website       

Throughout the unit of work, students will be guided through activities which include:
- A pre-listening exercise to consider the theme of the unit; stereotypes
- Anticipating the content of the documentary by brainstorming words they associate with US high schools
- Completing a comprehension exercise based on a clip from the documentary
- Active-listening work accompanied by a series of multiple-choice questions
- Post-listening creative work, picking appropriate songs for a radio documentary about Irish schools

The unit builds up to the final, summative task; a script-writing activity exploring the central theme of Stereotypes. 

The summative task is preceded by scaffolding activities, followed by AfL materials including self and peers assessment activities.


The website of Portland High School in Portland, Maine.

Music used in the programme

"Closing Theme", Glee Cast
"We're All In This Together", High School Musical Cast
"Don't Stop Believin'", Glee Cast
"Stick To The Status Quo", High School Musical Cast

First broadcast March 2011

Produced by Ronan Kelly

(A short Irish radio documentary from RTE Ireland)

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