What’s special about Breakthrough?
By Miles Craven

You know when you go shopping, for say, some tea or butter… and you look at the aisle in the supermarket and you’re faced with fifty varieties of tea, or twenty different types of butter… everywhere you look. It’s really confusing, isn’t it? [Personally, it drives me crazy.] Well, that’s the kind of situation I think we as teachers face these days every time we have to choose a course for our class.

Sure, it’s good to have a choice, but too much choice makes the task of selecting a suitable textbook so much harder. I doubt there have ever been so many courses to choose from as there are today… and every year more and more courses pour onto the market.

It’s especially hard for us as teachers because so many courses claim to do the same things! I know how frustrating it can be to decide to use a course only to find in the first few classes that it fails to live up to the glowing claims made on the back cover. It’s unfair on the students who buy the book, and it’s unfair on the teacher who has to use it for the rest of the course.

So, this is the first thing that you’ll find is special about Breakthrough – it’s a course that actually delivers on the claims it makes: It’s a comprehensive, four-skills course designed especially for students in Japan. It gives students plenty of support and at the same time it encourages creativity. It offers a high degree of personalization. It’s packed with language, skills and strategies that students will find useful outside the class, too. It can be used successfully even if you have students of different levels within the same class. And finally, it’s a fun course, sprinkled with humor that you and your class will enjoy.

There are many things that make Breakthrough special, but here I want to tell you a little more about just three things which I think are especially important.

 

Stimulating students to communicate

No matter how interesting the topics, without the right support at the right time, the language classroom can become a very stressful place for both teacher and student. Breakthrough understands that students in Japan, however motivated or able, need some support to help them communicate in English. This is why Breakthrough is packed with a wide range of on-page support features: There is an Aims box at the start of each unit to show students what language they are going to cover. There is a Language box which pulls out the target grammar. There are substitution drills to help students gain confidence and fluency in communicating in English. There are also model dialogs to show students the kind of language they need to produce in the freer practice activities. There is even a Study guide giving step-by-step guidance for writing tasks. Your students will really appreciate the help and support that these features give. On-page support like this means students are comfortable with the tasks they are set, and this allows you the time you need to go round the class giving individual help where needed.

 

Managing different levels within the same class

One of the biggest challenges in teaching can be managing different levels within the same class. It is not always possible to stream students perfectly… and balancing the needs of more and less able students within the same class can be really hard work. In fact, it can take a lot of the fun out of teaching, and I firmly believe that teaching should be fun. Breakthrough offers a ready-made solution to the headache of mixed-ability classes. Throughout the course, you will find a Challenge feature that comes up again and again. This special feature is something you can use to keep the more able students occupied while the less able students finish the main task. It can also be used to expand a task if your students are really enjoying it, or you might simply use it to fill in a few minutes before break. This optional feature is a really useful and practical resource that you as a teacher can draw on as and when you need it.

 

Offering genuine flexibility

No two classes are alike and it is often necessary to mix and match activities according to the needs of each particular class. For example, some classes need more reading, others more listening, or writing, etc. Most courses these days claim to offer a degree of flexibility. However, often this is at the expense of the integrity of the course itself, which can disintegrate into a fragmented and disjointed series of individual lessons. Breakthrough solves this problem by offering a two-page Expansion section” at the end of every unit. This is something that you can ’dip into’ depending on the needs of your particular class. This optional section offers more listening and speaking practice, plus extra vocabulary development and practical writing tasks. You can choose whatever you want from these tasks and use them in class, or set them for homework. These activities add a genuine element of welcome flexibility.

There are many more features that make Breakthrough special, and I could go on and on about them… but I’ll stop here and encourage you simply to take a look through for yourself. Remember, Levels 3 and 4 vary slightly in format from Levels 1 and 2 (with added Speaking strategies, listening and reading skills, etc to help maintain motivation at these higher levels), so be sure to take a look through all the books before deciding which is best for your class.

So, the next time you’re in a supermarket, think of Breakthrough! Don’t worry about the huge choice of textbooks on offer… just remember that Breakthrough is a highly communicative, enjoyable course you can depend on.

Join the Breakthrough family and you won’t be disappointed. Oh, and you can always get in touch with me via MLH if you have any queries. I’d love to hear from you.