Breakthrough Plus Intro level, Unit 6 - Lifestyles
The challenge of a beginner level
Of all the five levels in Breakthrough Plus, this Intro level was my favorite to write – and this unit shows exactly why. Writing a genuine beginner level can be a tough challenge; you need to keep the level low while at the same time maintaining interest, and giving students a sense of progression and achievement. You shouldn't patronize students either. Their level may be low but they are mature learners and the contexts and tasks must reflect that. This was forever in my mind when writing this Intro level, and I think this goes a long way to explain its popularity.
It's always good to get students producing language right from the start, even at the lowest levels. It puts responsibility straight on to their shoulders, boosts their confidence, and reinforces the fact that they are the ones in the driving seat. In the 'Warm-up' stage, students describe what they see in the photographs, using the prompts to guide them. There is no right or wrong answer here; each student is producing whatever language they can, at their own level, which is great for mixed-ability classes.
Using visuals effectively
By the way, it is very important to me that visuals on the page actually have a function, and aren't simply there as decoration to make the page look good. Here on the first page, the main photograph relates directly to the 'Conversation' section. The other two smaller pictures reflect details in the conversation (Pablo in a library and Katie working on reception). A big strength of Breakthrough Plus
is its use of photographs and illustrations to carry information and set context.
Taking the stress out of speaking English
Many students worry about making mistakes, and this may be especially true for beginners. The 'Conversation' section gives all students a chance to speak, and to enjoy speaking, without worrying about making mistakes. Later, in the 'Exchange', they recycle the grammar and vocabulary in a substitution drill that further boosts their confidence.
Good though structured drills are, especially for beginners, they are only a stepping stone towards fluency. Students need to create the language themselves, in their own way. This is what they start to do in 'Language in action'. They are free to dip in and out of each set of pictures, using the grammar and vocabulary they have covered previously to create statements and ask and answer questions. I really like this, because it means students of slightly different levels (which can often be the case in beginner classes) are able to achieve the same task. Some will produce more than others, but they will all be able to 'do' the task. What's more, for the strongest students who finish first, you can give them the 'Challenge!' to keep them busy.
Making it personal
The final section is 'Speaking', which is a comprehensive round-up activity that brings everything together. By this stage, students are ready to freely exchange personal information. They have all the language they need, and have practiced it in a controlled and semi-controlled way... so now they can use that language to personalize the topic. Success!
There are many more things I could say about this unit, but these are the features I especially want to emphasize. Even students at the lowest levels can achieve a great deal if they are shown how, and given the opportunity to practice. I really hope you, and your students, like using the course!
Miles Craven, Breakthrough Plus
authorDownload the lesson
You can also download the Teacher’s Book sample pages, audio samples and find out more about Breathrough Plus here or download this article as a pdf.