Teaching Students About the Dallas TV Show


The Dallas TV show, which aired from 1978 to 1991, was a cultural phenomenon that captivated audiences all over the world. It was known for its intricate and suspenseful plots, high drama, and memorable characters such as J.R. Ewing, Bobby Ewing, Sue Ellen, and others. This legendary show provides an opportunity for educators to engage students in discussions about television history, societal values, and media literacy.

Incorporating Dallas into the Classroom

Contextualize the Era: Start with a brief history lesson to help students understand the social and political climate of the late 1970s and 1980s. Discuss topics such as economic conditions, pop culture, fashion trends, technology, and major historical events that would have influenced viewership.

Analyze Key Themes: Break down various themes that Dallas portrays, such as power dynamics within families and society in general. Encourage students to examine character relationships, motivations, and storylines that reveal truths about these dynamics.

Media Literacy: Discuss how television shapes perceptions of reality by analyzing how the show represents wealth, gender roles, moral values, and more. Examine how Dallas would exaggerate certain elements to drive its narrative.

Examining Archetypes: Analyze the different character archetypes showcased in the series – the villain (J.R. Ewing), the hero (Bobby Ewing), the innocent (Pamela Barnes), etc. Discuss how these archetypes resonate with audiences across time periods.

The Impact of Cliffhangers: Describe how suspenseful plotlines like “Who Shot J.R.?” gripped audiences and changed television storytelling conventions forever. Discuss strategies that producers used to ensure viewers would return week after week.

Creative Writing Exercise: Encourage students to create their own storylines based on the Dallas characters, setting, or themes. Have them discuss their choices and how they were influenced by the show’s structure.

Comparing Old with New: Compare changes in TV storytelling, production values, and viewer expectations from the era of Dallas to present day. Discuss binge-watching culture and whether a show like Dallas would have the same impact today.

Iconic Scenes: Watch selected scenes from the show that demonstrate its hallmark traits such as high drama, suspense, memorable dialogues, and iconic moments. Engage students in an analysis of these scenes by discussing script, acting, and cinematography choices.


Teaching students about the Dallas TV show can provide valuable insights into television history, societal values of its time, and critical media literacy skills. By exploring these topics through lively discussions and creative exercises in the classroom, educators can introduce students to a fascinating period of storytelling that has influenced the way we consume media today.

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