The final version of this document will have pre- and post- discussion questions for every episode in the US version of the TV comedy, The Office. The discussion questions are designed for intermediate to advanced English as a second language (ESL) students. Based on experience, I would recommend letting the students watch the episodes with English subtitles. I have used the plot synopsis of each episode from Wikipedia and would like to thank Wikipedia for their invaluable work.
A similar project done with the TV series Outsourced can be found at:
Season 1, Episode 1 “Pilot”
A documentary crew arrives at the Scranton, Pennsylvania offices of Dunder
Mifflin to observe the employees and learn about modern management.
Manager Michael Scott (played by Steve Carell) tries to paint a happy picture in the face of potential downsizing from corporate. The office also gets new employee Ryan Howard (B.J. Novak) as a temporary worker, while Jim Halpert’s (John Krasinski) pranks antagonize Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson).
Explain “Whuz up” as a contraction.
Explain the word “downsizing”.
What does Dunder Mifflin sell?
What does Pam do?
What is Michael’s job title?
What prank did Jim play on Dwight?
What is the relationship between Roy and Pam?
Michael states, “I am a friend first and boss second”. Do you agree with Michael?
What do you think of Michael’s fake firing of Pam?
Season 1, Episode 2, “Diversity Day”
Manager Michael Scott’s controversial imitation of a Chris Rock routine forces the staff to undergo a racial diversity seminar. A consultant (Larry Wilmore) arrives to teach the staff about tolerance and diversity, but Michael insists on imparting his own knowledge—aggravating both the consultant and the entire office staff—and creates his own diversity seminar. He eventually assigns each staff member an index card with a different race on it, causing tempers to slowly simmer until they finally snap. Meanwhile, Jim struggles to keep hold of a lucrative contract extension, but Dwight makes the sale for himself. Nevertheless, when Jim’s love interest, Pam Beesly, falls asleep on his shoulder at the end of the meeting, he concludes that it was “not a bad day.”
What is “corporate”?
What is diversity training?
What does “sales commission” mean?
What does color free/colorblind mean?
What is a stereotype?
What do you know about Chris Rock?
What incident caused “corporate” to send Mr. Brown to do diversity training?
Why is Jim’s paper sale to Mr. Deckard so important to him?
Jim mentions on the phone that the paper is sturdy and “100% post consumer content”. What do you think “100% post consumer content” means?
Michael supports a color free zone. Mr. Brown thinks people should not pretend to be colorblind. What do you think?
Do you think Michael behaved appropriately during Mr. Brown’s diversity
training? Why or why not?
Why is it ok for Chris Rock to do a certain routine but not Michael?
Mr. Brown uses the following hero acronym: Honesty, Empathy, Respect and Open-Mindedness. Do you agree with Mr. Brown’s definition of a hero?
What is wrong with Dwight’s definition of a hero?
What does Michael mean when he says “Oprah moment”?
Where are Oscar’s parents from?
Why does Kelly slap Michael during his diversity training?
Is there anything offensive about Michael’s diversity training?
Season 1 Episode 3, “Health Care”
In an effort to save money to prevent downsizing, Michael puts Dwight in charge of choosing the company’s new health care plan. Dwight’s chosen plan slashes benefits, much to the chagrin of the other employees. In an attempt to appease them, Michael promises the entire office a surprise, and then spends the rest of the day scrambling to come through with his promise. The employees wait for Michael’s surprise, which he awkwardly never delivers. Meanwhile, Jim and Pam amuse themselves with Dwight’s medical forms.
What is a healthcare plan?
What is a deductible?
Michael states, “The most sacred thing I do is care, and
provide for my workers, my family”. Do you agree? Why or why not?
What big decision does Michael have to do?
Michael delegates the health care plan decision to Dwight. Why does Michael do this?
Dwight receives a ‘work space” but wants to call it an “office”. Why does Dwight do this?
Dwight picks a health care plan that is unpopular with the other workers, why are the workers unhappy?
Why does Dwight pick the health plan that he does?
Dwight’s plan has a 1,200 USD deductible, would you like a plan with such a high deductible?
Why does Dwight have the workers write down any diseases?
In the US personal health information such as information about personal diseases are confidential, is this a good idea?
Jim and Pam create fictional diseases, what are some of the diseases they invent?
Jim tells Pam to not write down Ebola or Mad Cow disease since he already wrote them down. Do you believe Jim has these diseases? If not why would he write them down?
Why does Jim lock Dwight in the work space? Is this appropriate office behavior?
How does Michael avoid talking with his subordinates in the office?
Michael announces a “surprise” for the workers at the end of the day. Why does Michael do this? What is his surprise in the end?
What surprise does Michael try at first?
WereVerse Universe Baby!
Excellent. I agree.
great, thanks for posting this. are there more?
I gave up on The Office after a few episodes because I didnt have a lot of success with The Office with my Asian ESL students. I had the most success with Outsourced. Friends is probably number two.
You are a wonderful human being. I love this idea.
Well its one of my favorite shows and it is used in business classes in the US BUT I found that my students in Asia had a hard time relating to the show. I had a lot more luck with https://foxhugh.com/multicultural/outsourced-discussion-questions/