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5 Online Resources For English Language (ESL) Teachers esl1Once upon a time (before coming to work at MakeUseOf), I was an English language teacher here in Germany.  I still do it to a certain extent but I am not sure if one student a month really counts anymore.

But from 2004-2007, I had up to 15 German students a week who would pay me for the pleasure of putting them through their lingustic paces – “the Polish started to polish their boots… the bank she looked at the interest on her loan with interest….after eating dessert, the army deserted in the desert…”.   At the end, I would wonder why the students staggered off looking for the nearest bar.

English language teaching is very hard and one of the hardest parts about it is preparing lesson materials.  Robin Williams made it look easy in the movie “Good Morning Vietnam” with his quick fire wit and dialogue – but that’s just in movie-land.  In real life, it is much more difficult.   If you are teaching classes of up to 30 people (which I did for a short while), then you have to constantly find lesson materials that will motivate them and hold their interest for the 45 minutes you have to teach them (it’s even more difficult if you’re teaching children).   This means spending up to 2 hours a day, each day, solely on preparing your lessons for the next day.   No wonder a lot of teachers burn out fast.

English language teachers are constantly looking online for new sources of material and the internet is a great place to look if you know of the right places.   A lot of the good sites on offer are run by ESL (English As A Second Language) teachers themselves who sympathise with their fellow teachers and who want to help out.

Here’s some of the places where I got my material from :

Breaking News English

esl2If you are stuck for what to teach someone, the day’s current affairs is always a good place to go to.  Everyone has an opinion about what’s in the news, whether it’s the war in Iraq, the financial crisis or Michael Jackson’s death.


Breaking News English attempts to fill that niche by providing 1000+ news reports and questions for discussion.  As you can see on the left, the recent lesson plans have ranged from “Israel & Hamas reject Amnesty report” to something more low-brow “Manchester United agree to sell Ronaldo”.  So there’s something for everyone there.

You can download each lesson plan in doc, PDF and mp3 format.

ESL Cafe

5 Online Resources For English Language (ESL) Teachers esl3

This is quite a popular site which has been around for quite a long time.   It has a bit of an Asian angle to it (they have dedicated job boards and forums for Korea and China) but the stuff that Dave Sperling includes on the site can be used anywhere.

You can find links to lesson plans, links for students and teacher forums. You can even apply for a new job if you hate the one you’ve got.

One Stop English

5 Online Resources For English Language (ESL) Teachers esl4One of my really favourite sites.   You can download LOTS of lesson plans here, made by other teachers.   They tend to steer you towards the paid “staff room” but you can ignore all that and stick to the free stuff instead.  Things like Lesson Share, Monthly Topical News Lessons, Games & Activities and Grammar & Vocabulary.

Inside Out

esl5I’ve just discovered that this website has had a big makeover since I was last there a couple of years ago.   But it still seems to be hosting the free lesson plans.

This is good news because for quite a while, I relied mostly on Inside Out to give me ideas.   The site is part of the MacMillan dictionary people so the lessons sometime refer to the MacMillan definition of words but regardless, you can still use these lesson plans with other dictionaries (I’m an Oxford dictionary man myself).

The subjects of the lessons can be a bit dry sometimes (the recent one is on litter).   So sometimes you strike out here and you have to go looking elsewhere.   But on the whole, they have some really good stuff here.

ESL Partyland

5 Online Resources For English Language (ESL) Teachers esl6This site (which has also had a recent makeover) has some really good conversational lesson ideas.   This was the first site that my predecessor at a local language school recommended to me before she left and I can see why.   With the conversational questions that ESL Partyland offers, you will have the students talking non-stop right away.

The site also has some excellent grammar lessons which I used constantly.

So these are the ones that I used.    If you teach English to foreigners, what sites do YOU use?   Please recommend them to us in the comments.

Image Credit : Trey Menefee

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