Interview With Sean Banville Of Breaking News English
Breaking News English creator Sean Banville was kind enough to share some background info on himself and his lessons as well as some practical advice in a TEFL Logue email interview. I’m personally pretty selective about what online material I use in classes, but I can’t speak highly enough about Breaking News English: visit it. Use it. Make a donation if you can. There are literally hundreds of timely topics “ripped from the headlines” (well, from actual news stories) and adapted with simpler English, and each lesson includes a variety of comprehension, vocab and discussion questions, as well as a listening…so what’s involved in creating a BNE lesson?
“The biggest challenge in creating a lesson is to find a news story that will interest as many people as possible, will make people talk, and is conducive to readily creating communicative exercises. There aren’t really any stories I avoid – except where I am in danger of repeating my
themes – there are only so many lessons you can do on Iraq and Afghanistan. Once global warming has been done, I generally wait six months before approaching it again. I like controversial topics as this is what really gets students talking. I enjoy making a lesson or activity that I then really want to use to use in the classroom – this makes creating the lessons a little more fun.”
There is clearly a lot of work involved as well, though he does derive a very practical benefit from his work developing lessons: he can use them in his own classes! Sometimes, that is:
“On quite a few occasions I have even done everything from the 12-page handout as a project, spread over 10 hours of classroom time – this works well with things like global warming or where the story is of big national interest and the students are watching the news after the class in their own language.”
And his advice if you want to find and adapt your own materials:
“Know your students and grade the language to their level. Include words that you think will be useful again and again. Depending on students’ levels, keep to certain grammar (I take out passives and past perfect etc. with lower levels). Avoid slang, colloquialisms and idiomatic language that might make listening harder.”
Read on for Sean’s tips on using debates and also his thoughts on why exactly current events are such compelling topics.