Simple English ~ Nicola Prentis

Thoughts on ELT, English and whatever else comes into my head

Breaking down: Part II

The people behind Breaking News English are busy — busy making templates, that is, for no less than nine sites.

While Breaking News English might not be all bad, they’ve taken the very worst of it and turned it into sites on everything from business to movies to holidays. However, in most cases the big plus is the introductory/input text which is adapted to suit the level the lessons are aimed at, saving you the bother of plundering and levelling the Wikipedia entry yourself.


Activities 1-10

A set of activities regarding the film poster and trailer  that don’t  touchon anything specific to that film.

Activity 11

1 Match the phrase to the                                                                 2 synonym.

3 Sentences are taken from the                                                      4 intro text.

Activity 12

Of course, now the text has been turned into a 1_____________________

Activity 13

Phrases from the text with scrambled wdors.

Activity 14-16

the pointless no capitals and punctuation version of the text students have to add the capitals and punctuation

Th_  t_xt  _g_ _n  b_t  w_th  n_ v_w_ls


Activity 17

Discussion. Write your own questions about why this site is popular.

Student A


Student B


Activity 18

Write 5 GOOD questions about the film.


  1. Why is none of this lesson involving actually watching excerpts from the film?
  2. Why are there no activities about the themes or characters in this film?
  3. Why is every lesson the same except Back to the Future is replaced by The X-Men etc?
  4. Is this the first lesson I’ve ever seen where plonking the students in front of the subtitled version of the film for a whole lesson would actually be more pedagogically justifiable than using this lesson plan?
  5. Can we watch the film now, please?

Activity 19

Write a review.

I just have! Did you like it?

Activity 20

Homework activity suggestions, with the film title replaced not specific to the film itself. They’re not bad follow up activities to a lesson where the film had actually been part of the class. But otherwise, very demotivating I expect.


The  adapted Wikipedia text and a pick and mix of the exact same activities above, including identical homework tasks, with a couple from Breaking News thrown in.

ESL Holiday Lesson

The adapted Wikipedia text and a pick and mix of the exact same activities above, including identical homework tasks, with a couple from Breaking News thrown in. (I cut and pasted this from the one above.  Why reinvent the wheel, eh?)


A short text with….insert from above.


Template, can you do the honours again…?


This site is fine, enough discussion questions on a variety of topics that have actually been written by a person and vary according to the topic. I have no problem with materials that are quick and easy to produce, it’s when they’re bland, pointless and lacking in any thought whatsoever by the site’s creator that I object.


The worst one. When you think how rich a seam a case study of a business could be, and then instead there’s the Wikipedia adapted entry with Prada replaced by IKEA, it’s infuriating to say the least. The usual suspects lesson activity wise but the role plays are the biggest insult. There’s so much you could do with these but instead there are two versions of the role play which they’re the same, word for word, for every single company.

And then there’s the writing task. Write a letter of complaint to Porsche or Twitter or whoever about one of their products. Someone needs to tell the Algie the Algorithm that Twitter doesn’t make products.



The template now puts a whole site into another site, presumably to make sure all traffic for Breaking News gets suckered in. I can’t tell if this is genius or not.


All these sites make money from advertising, nothing wrong with that. Asking for donations, more dubious as it suggests that the site’s creator is not making anything otherwise. Most of these sites are just like bad course book material. Apart from the very current news sites, they’ve not even got the need for speed inherent in producing thrice weekly lesson plans for constantly changing content.

I think all the sites encourage bad and lazy teaching and do a disservice to students, yet just through good Google management and pulling the wool over the eyes of the British Council judges who shortlisted Breaking News for an ELTon, they appear validated.

I’d love to know why the ELTons chose this as “a fully comprehensive website for teachers and a really useful resource for a blended learning program” when there are lots of truly innovative blended learning programs around. Where is the innovation – if we think that this word always implies positive progress – in making a quick buck from shoddy content?

People have been doing that for hundreds of years.




One comment on “Breaking down: Part II

  1. Pingback: Breaking down Breaking News English | Simple English ~ Nicola Prentis

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This entry was posted on June 20, 2014 by in ELT and tagged , , , , .
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