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KS2 PSHE and Literacy: Monty Python (1969-74)

Exploring melodrama and conflict resolution with the Monty Python team

Main image of KS2 PSHE and Literacy: Monty Python (1969-74)
Author Alexandra Roberts
TopicResolving conflict
Show full lesson spec

In this clip from Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969-74) a polite request for a clean fork in a restaurant has unexpected consequences.

Monty Python's Flying Circus might seem an odd starting point for a PSHE/literacy lesson, but the clip Dirty Fork is an excellent way into looking at how to deal (or rather how not to deal) with everyday situations pupils might face.

In this lesson idea pupils are encouraged to think about what we mean by 'melodrama' and look at how certain responses in everyday situations can lead to conflict or misunderstanding. They are also asked to generate ideas about how to defuse difficult situations or prevent certain disagreements spiraling out of control. NB. John Cleese uses the word 'bastard' twice, roughly three and a half minutes into the clip - please watch through so that you can mute the sound at this stage in the clip.

Lesson Objective

  • To understand the word melodrama.
  • To create a short role-play to prompt discussions about problem solving strategies.
  • To develop an active attitude towards reading film; seeking answers, anticipating events, empathising with characters and imaging events that are described.


Watch Dirty Fork clip up to the point where the fork has been shown to the headwaiter. Watch with the sound muted and ask the children to tell a partner what they think has happened. Look for clues by discussing the setting, the characters, their facial expressions etc. Now, watch the first part of the film again with the volume turned up. Can students think of a similar situation in which they might need to make polite complaint? Have they had experience of making a polite complaint? Hear some suggestions from the class.


Main Attraction

Watch the whole clip (with sound but mute following John Cleese's entry towards the end). Why is it difficult to empathise with the waiting staff? Explain to the class that the Monty Python team were acting in a melodramatic fashion. This can lead into a more detailed exploration of the word 'melodramatic' by looking at and discussing a selection of different muted clips, which are all examples of melodrama (suggested extracts are listed as links on the right hand column of this page). Ask students to identify the range of emotions being shown in the various clips and build up collections of words for the different emotions displayed. The explicit meanings of new vocabulary can be reinforced by asking children to use the word appropriately in a sentence.

How did students know what the characters might be feeling even when they couldn't hear what was being said? Discuss the kinds of things that directed their thinking - for example: facial features, body language, the framing of the shot etc.). Now, return to the original Dirty Fork clip, looking at a paused image somewhere near the end, and quickly identify how certain different characters, including the husband and wife, reacted to the situation.

Now, split the class into smallish groups (of around 4 members). Each group should be given a situation card - ie. a teacher corrects a students work/someone pushes into a queue at the cafeteria/a shopkeeper gives someone the wrong change. Ask each group to create a short, silent role-play showing someone or a group of people overreacting to these situations. In developing their role-play, students need to think about who the various people in their group are and how they each of them reacts. They should also be encouraged to think about how they will convey what is happening without any sound (facial expressions, movement etc.).


End Credits

Ask each group to perform their role-play for the class, asking them to freeze as the action reaches a crescendo! Can the rest of the class guess what is happening from the image they can see? Ask different characters to step out of the freeze frame and explain what is happening from their perspective. Invite a pupil from outside the group to step into the freeze frame and suggest a suitable way of solving this problem.


External Links

Video Clips
Dirty Fork (5:27)
Downloadable Teaching Resources

Related Films and TV programmes

Thumbnail image of Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969-74)Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969-74)

Read more about this programme

See also

Thumbnail image of MelodramaMelodrama

Torrid passions and doomed desires