Friday, February 3, 2012

Animonths! Shaun the Sheep: Netflix and Home Sheep Home Apps

This post continues Animonths, a two-month focus on animation resources on SpeechTechie. Shaun the Sheep is a terrific series from Aardman Animation, the UK studio that brought us Wallace and Gromit, among other gems.  Their productions are great resources for targeting language because they are mostly wordless, providing an opportunity for kids to talk out the story.  In addition, the large eyes and faces of the characters, plus the fact that the stories are really told through nonverbal actions, let us target inferential, nonverbal and social reasoning in a context that is funny and motivating for kids (Michelle Garcia Winner of Social Thinking often recommends Wallace and Gromit for lessons on "thinking with your eyes" to search for nonverbal clues).

Shaun the Sheep, a series of animated shorts depicting the humorous events on a British farm, is pretty much entirely wordless. Each episode therefore is a wealth of inferential talking points about what the characters see, know, think, guess, plan, and on and on...  Shaun is available on DVD (and you can find some copyright-violating clips on YouTube but I didn't say so, and don't count on them being there when you go back to find them), but can also be accessed by your laptop or iPad if you have a worthwhile ($7.99 monthly in US) Netflix streaming account.  Each Shawn episode--they have 2 seasons in one collection on Netflix-- is broken up into three 6-minute stories, many of which would make a great language lesson.  If you watch a 6-minute clip with your group, kids can usually tolerate/benefit from 1 or 2 stopping points for discussion and summarization, and then you can complete a story map or other post-activity.

You'll have to explore for yourself, but two starting clips I can recommend:

Season 1, Episode 1: The Bull- Shaun inadvertently angers the local bull, and his issues with the herd are complicated when the pigs play a plank and add some bull-maddening red paint to the situation.

Season 2, Episode 2: In the Doghouse- A passing truck ejects a grossly messy sheep who, when bathed, turns out to be a love match for Shaun.  Shaun and his love interest attempt to evade the rest of the herd to get just a little time together, and finally all conspire to keep her from being returned home.

The context of Shaun can be extended toward a nice cooperative group problem solving and verbal reasoning activity with the use of the Home Sheep Home free animated webgame or iPhone/iPad app ($.99, there is also a Part 2). This game has 20 levels, though you may just want to try a few, across which your students can work together to figure out which objects, actions, and sequence therein are required to get the three sheep past a given obstacle.  The game is slow-paced, and though a timer is displayed on screen there is no time limit.  It is conducive to turn-taking as on each level, kids could play the role of a particular sheep or however you help them structure it.  Lots of great causal and conditional language can be elicited as you verbally plan and review strategies!


  1. We also love the episode where the chicks imprint on Shaun and follow him around for the whole episode. Classic stuff! Great ideas!

  2. My 2 children LOVE Shaun the Sheep and we watched all 2 Netflix seasons this summer. I was contemplating what a great lesson this would be for some of my language kiddos this summer as we were watching. So fun to see that someone beat me to it!