One of the main struggles of an ESL teacher abroad is brainstorming lessons that are fun, engaging, and maximize your students’ potential learning of the English language. Even after the first term of the academic schedule, your students may be less energetic or seem bored during your lessons if you adhere to the same book and similar lesson structure for every class. You may also have a hard time coming up with creative ideas week after week to help your students learn. Fortunately, we are here to help!
Fellow teachers are usually more than willing to share methods they have found successful in the classroom. Most teachers don’t outright copyright their lesson plans and sue those that want to utilize their successful teaching methods. Exchanging lesson ideas and methodology is a common practice throughout the teaching kingdom, and for one universal reason: we all want our students to learn (and we want them to enjoy our lessons…and love us as their teacher). If you are the only foreign teacher at your school, you can explore the wealth of information online that offers downloadable supplemental material, fresh lesson plans, and specific advice all with the goal of keeping your ESL lessons enjoyable, educational, and involving for your students.
Here is a collection of 5 extremely helpful websites, both free and subscription-based, that all contribute teaching materials and wisdom towards the ESL Teaching profession.
Free online resources
- Dave Sperling organized his extensive knowledge and experience teaching EFL into one website that has one goal: help teacher’s teach English. For the past 20 years, his website has continually grown to the education database, for both teachers and students, it is today. Here you can find forums to bounce potential lessons off of other teachers from all over the world, ideas on how to teach a variety of topics ranging from how to teach kids to games to holiday lesson ideas (seriously there are more than 20 lesson plans for each topic), advice on how you can be a better teacher, and how to incorporate multimedia into your lessons. The amount of help here for ESL teachers here is impressive.
- The British Council developed TeachingEnglish, a website dedicated to providing ESL teachers with a highly active community and accessible resources. The website provides interactive training videos and resources to reference in the classroom. Here you can find over 200 detailed lesson plans covering many common and uncommon topics including: life on other planets, festivals, environmental problems, fairy tales, lost empires, and many more. It takes the accessibility of these lesson plans a step further by giving you direct download pdfs of the outlined lesson plan. Teaching English’s popular Twitter page also posts multiple times a day with content covering teaching advice, lesson plans, and information about the organization. The website also incorporates a rating system so you can immediately see feedback regarding the success of a particular lesson or advice.
- A direct and straight-forward TEFL resources and activities website, UsingEnglish claims to hold 513 grammar and vocabulary printable handouts and 735 PDF lesson plans available for direct download. You can search through the large amount of educational material by theme, difficulty, and grammar topic so you should have a few ideas in mind before trying to peruse through the entire database. Similar to the other websites, the lesson plans are diverse incorporating games, listening, writing, speaking, and reading activities to create thorough and in-depth lessons.
Subscription-based online resources
- This online resource is part of the Macmillan Education organization and definitely provides a large amount of resource material to those willing to pay the £42 yearly subscription. Flashcards, worksheets, multimedia material, and lesson plans are included in the yearly subscription and you can also take advantage of the website’s Learning Calendar. Through this resource, teachers are able to organize the resources they obtain from the website, plan their lessons in one place, and teachers can easily share materials with each other. The lesson plans range in difficulty allowing educators to choose from elementary to upper-intermediate/high school level lessons depending on their students. Onestopenglish also offers a free 30-day trial for you to sample its members resources, but there are materials available for free. The materials provided by onestopenglish are provided by current and former ESL and ELT teachers and contributors who have worked with Macmillan Education. For more questions, consult the website’s FAQ.
- Although this website focuses on English courses KS3-KS5, Teachit is another website offering help to English teachers. A great quality of Teachit is it focuses on literature, plays, drama, and skills while still having dedicated sections on listening, speaking, writing, and reading activities. Many of the downloadable lesson plans come in pdf format, but you do have to register an account to access the free materials. Free users also have access to the TeachitTimer which allows you to practice and save timed lesson plans; it’s also handy in the classroom as a timer for group activities and the like. A greater amount of Teachit resources including more in-depth teaching packs and interactive materials are available with an individual subscription for £49.95 per year or a department subscription for £199.
Obviously there are many more resources out there, but I’ve personally found success in using the free materials accessible on each of these 5 websites. You may have to search a bit to find a lesson you are comfortable with, but be willing to set aside some time tailoring the plans to suit your needs. Don’t be afraid to try out a new lesson plan every now and then. Teaching the same type of lesson structure from the same English book week in and week out can lead to a monotonous and unexciting classroom environment. Introducing an uncommon topic with a new game and group activity is always a breath of fresh air. The change of pace is also positive for you, the teacher, as you attempt to teach different learning methods, lesson plans, and keep your students guessing about what they will learn next in the crazy, law-breaking world of the English language.