Breaking News English: Integrate Current Events into your Classes

News Breaking
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I have spent the past few years working in learning object and course development. In August, I am returning to the classroom to teach EFL. Putting on my teacher hat, I remember that it is important to have an emergency kit of prepared learning events in a variety of media. Worksheets, bookmarked web activities, flash cards, board games, videos, audio clips and technology such as a digital camera will contribute to future icebreakers, Friday afternoon fillers, motivation boosting sessions or the odd substitution call. I have found a reliable resource that I will be adapting and have started stocking this kit with a few activities from Breaking News English.

I think that the majority of ESL instructors would agree that using current events with students increases motivation and interest. Current events can add relevance to language instruction by creating a connection between the classroom and the real world. Students can draw from their past experiences, identify patterns or predict what will happen based on news pieces. Class conversations can be empowered through opinions, speculation, emotion, intellect and interest when a real news event is the focus of a classroom learning event. Students can be engaged in exploring real-world issues and possibly solving authentic problems with information gleaned from current events articles.

Sean Banville, the creator of Breaking News English, has spent more than a decade creating over 4000 ESL activities. The majority of these are based on current events. He has generously refined and shared these resources with us through his website Breaking News English. If you have flexibility in your syllabus to choose some of the materials and classes, I recommend that you have a look at this site to add interest to your courses.

As of June 2015, there are two thousand and seventy-one free lessons at this site. These are easily retrievable through a search feature, as well as a table listing lessons by dates. This is remarkable as he has taken the time from his busy teaching schedule to create, document, tag and file this collection of instructional resources.

Lessons can also be accessed by one of seven levels. As teachers well understand, this can save a great deal of preparation time and difficulty during the classes themselves. A typical higher-level lesson embodies the characteristics listed below:

• Integration of skills
• Potentially 7 instructional levels
• Ease of use for instructors and students
• Print friendly format
• Sections:
o Warm up
o Pre-Reading/ Pre-listening
o Cloze activity
o Listening with worksheet
o Listening with cloze
o Comprehension questions
o Multiple Choice
o Role Play
o Post-reading / Post-listening
o Survey
o Discussion
o Spelling
o Sequencing sentences
o Sequencing paragraphs
o Word pairs
o Insert missing letters
o Punctuation
o Insert a space
o Free writing
o Academic writing
o Homework

Each lesson includes too many activity options, but a pattern is followed from lesson to lesson, so working with this resource is consistent and stress-free. Believe it or not, there is more! Lesson themes also include audio that can be played back at different speeds, interactive grammar, reading, spelling and vocabulary activities.

If this is all too much for you, there is the two-page mini lesson option. I will be including a few of these in my emergency teaching kit, as well as links to relevant interactive activities and audio clips.

In addition to the Breaking News English resource, Sean also publishes eight additional sites that focus on movies, discussion, people, holidays, business, listening and American Presidents. I recommend that instructors of English take the time to examine these amazing resources.

If you have any experience with this site, please share in the comment box below.

Resources mentioned in this post

Breaking News English,
Sean’s Websites,

Hi—I'm John Allan. I am an educator who works in the technology enhanced language learning field. I create online learning opportunities and mentor instructors on the Avenue project. I have experience teaching ESL and EFL in Canada and the Middle East. I hold an MSC in Computer Assisted Language learning, a M.Ed. in Distance Education, TESL B. Ed., a B.Ed. (OCT), and a variety of TESL relevant certifications from TESL Canada, TESL Ontario and the Ontario Ministry of Education. For more articles, learning objects, projects and blog links see


16 thoughts on “Breaking News English: Integrate Current Events into your Classes”

  1. Cool, I have found that it is so amazing how much there is to choose from as I am building learning units for September. I am teaching lower intermediate levels so it good to know that you have used this with these students.

  2. Hi John,
    Thanks for sharing the sites – 4,164 lessons! A nice addition to any teachers folder.

    1. Lynn, once a teacher starts exploring this site, it becomes apparent that it there seems to be limitless number of opportunities.

  3. Hi John,

    One way to bring global issues into an ESL class is through the use of news and current events. Breaking News English is a wonderful site which offers articles and supporting activities as .docs, .pdfs and .mp3s. My students like the stories very much. Thank you for Sean’s Website – what a great resource for ESL teachers!

    1. Mirjana, I agree. I am also trying the Newsela resource to encourage reading and social awareness. It allows a student to choose from five different levels. You might find this useful as well.


  4. Hi John,

    I’m so glad you’ve brought attention to this absolutely wonderful teaching resource! I’ve used it many times with both basic and intermediate level learners. This website offers such a variety of learning events and is great for independent work, note-taking practice, mini presentations, group discussions and so much more!

  5. Hi John Allan
    Is that the same person who studied with me at Brock University? If it is you, I am so proud that you are still teaching ESL. You have always been an inspiration. I trust you are doing well. Keep up the good work!

  6. Ernie! It has been a long time. Thanks for your kind words. I remember the practicum course in 1988. That class produced a lot of career TESL folk that are still doing great work. Oddly, quite a few are still in the Niagara Region. It must be the wine and good weather. 🙂 As well, many others are also teaching in other sectors. We were inspired by the Brock profs and the promise of overseas experiences. I hope our paths will cross soon.


  7. Carolyn, thanks to you and your team for locating and sharing these resources on the web!


  8. I’m late to comment, but thanks for giving this site some more awareness, John. I teach overseas and I often use breakingnewsenglish to get a discussion going. I’ve used it for different levels and ages and the articles always make for a good discussion. Thanks again!

  9. Matthew, thanks for the comment. I find BreakingNewEnglish really a great tool for various situations as well.

    all the best,


  10. John,

    This site looks amazing, I wish I had known about it earlier. Thank your for bringing it to my attention. I hope I can use it in the near future in the highschool where I am currently teaching ESL courses.

    I was wondering what your thoughts are on “real world problems” in the ESL classroom. I feel like this website would be good access for students to have discussions on some of these real world problems and how they can also be active in them.

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