Interview With Sean Banville Of Breaking News English, Part 2

Find out from Breaking News English creator Sean Banville what exactly goes into each current events lessons on his site and his advice on adapting your own materials for classes in Part 1.
Here, I asked him for tips on tefl debates in general; as I mentioned here, I love debates but sometimes approach them with caution (students may feel put on the spot or simply lack the English to express the nuances of their views). Sean’s thoughts on debates:

“I will create lessons on anything unless I think it would be inappropriate for my young adult students to discuss due to taboo issues or tasteless issues. I think “good” controversial topics can talk about abortion, safe sex, marijuana etc; although I would not go too far and do a
lesson on paedophiles, condoms or female circumcision, etc – It’s difficult to make discussion questions that treat these topics in a delicate way!

Students can be told a week / day in advance about more controversial topics to gauge their interest / preparedness to talk. Using my lessons, the teacher also has the choice to focus on language and vocabulary and the generally neutral article, rather than risking embarrassment with the discussion activities. If teachers feels they want their students to do certain parts of a lesson but feel their presence might inhibit things, then they could use the materials for independent learning – leave the students with the materials and audio, and come back after 50 minutes to see what questions the students have.”

In his words, what’s so appealing about current events in general, and how have such lessons fit into the places he’s taught in?

“I have used my materials quite extensively and successfully in Japan and the Middle East. Students seem to like the relevance and freshness of the materials, even more so if the news is real “breaking news” to them. I have introduced many topics in the classroom and had students in unison say “really?” and then get excited at this happening in the classroom with the materials there to study with. I think most of my lessons would fit in with general English curricula – they are on topics you would find in generic textbooks, just a little more interesting, relevant and perhaps risque at times.”

Having noticed that BNE lessons/topics tend not to flop (this is one of the great things about them), as topics in textbook sometimes seem to do, I asked Sean for his tips on what he’s done in the past if a book lesson has flopped. Read on here!