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Once 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…..at 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.

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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

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

One 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

This 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

  1. Connie
    February 9, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    There is an amazing blog I use a lot, it´s http://www.vanda51.blogspot.com. There are lots and lots of great, free stuff!
    Another great one is http://www.eslprintables.com. You must earn "credits" by uploading original resources (I think we all have quite a few of our own)in order to be able to download printables. All for free! I copy & paste, "Today,10-2-2010, we are 302739 registered users and we have 265112 printables, 20600 powerpoints and 2857 online exercises."

  2. Neil Barker
    February 9, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Great short list, thanks. I also really like VOA's Special English section for ESL:

    http://www.voanews.com/specialenglish/index.cfm

  3. tallguy
    August 18, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    Nice tips...

    You can practice English / Japanese / Spanish verb forms here:

    http:/chriswanson.com/language.aspx

  4. onestopenglish
    July 28, 2009 at 6:31 am

    Thank you for giving onestopenglish a mention!

    We do provide a selection of free material every month to add to our ever-expanding archive, however there's a whole lot more to digest in the Staff Room.

    Here you can access weekly news lessons written by established authors, our series of Spot on news lessons for teens, Live From... podcasts with comprehension activities, our award-winning M Tunes music videos and interactives games for young learners, and lots, lots more...

    Thanks for your support!

    The onestopenglish team

  5. Richard
    July 24, 2009 at 6:41 am

    Apparently, ESLpartyland.com was bought by a commercial group, Texas International Property Associates, and is no longer maintained by Karin M. Cintron.

    I noticed one comment said something not being "aware there was an array of ESL websites."

    One can easily find many more using this google.com search.

    http://www.google.com/search?q=esl+efl+tesl+tefl

  6. andrew
    July 22, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Thankyou for all your information Mark.

    Another good teaching resource with English Songs specifically designed for grammatical structure and pronunciation.

    http://www.letslets.com

    Some teaching strategies with songs are:

    Gap fills or close texts mix ups
    Focus questions
    True-false statements
    Put these lines/words into the correct sequence
    Indicate the word stress
    Indicate the sentence stress
    Phonetics and intonation
    Dictation
    Add verses
    Add antonyms/synonyms of given words
    Spirited discussion and creative writing.
    Introduce slang in easy to remember context

  7. Nik Peachey
    July 22, 2009 at 3:36 am

    Great to see sites for English language teachers being taken seriously.

    I've created my own blog site for EFL ESL learners to help develop English language and digital litercies. I use a lot of the sites I've found here on MakeUseOf and combine them to help students work autonomously by doing a few short activities each day. You can see it here Nik's daily English Activities

    Hope they are useful

    Best
    Nik Peachey | Learning Technology Consultant, Writer, Trainer
    On Twitter: http://twitter.com/NikPeachey

  8. Martin
    July 21, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    Thanks for this article. I regularly refer to and use http://www.englishclub.com, I highly recommend it.

  9. Makeuseof Fan
    July 21, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Thanks, great article. I'm an ESL teacher and this was great information. Wasn't even aware there was an array of ESL websites.

    :-)

  10. C.T. McGinnis
    July 21, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Here's another ESL/EFL resource that I've been involved in getting up and running called TESLtools. We hope to eventually get teachers around the world involved but in the meantime there are quite a few resources available there now.

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