Online Tools for your ESL Classroom

by Mark Sharron

Making a classroom lesson both educational and enjoyable is a fine balance that even experienced ESL teachers struggle with, never mind those teachers just starting to cut their teeth on their newfound career. Many teachers the world over integrate lesion enhancers, multimedia, and games that complement the subject matter of their lessons and aid in student understanding and engagement. As a new TEFL teacher you may find you’re all too eager to begin planning your lessons stuffed full of interesting activities and educational opportunities, that’s why we’ve compiled this list of just a few of our favourite online ESL resources.

Tell A Story

The oldest and most universal way of imparting cultural tradition, knowledge, and history is, of course, the ancient art of storytelling. Generation after generation, long before the written word was ever devised, passed on education in this manner, and storytelling can be just as effective a tool in the ESL classroom. Though the biggest audience for storytelling are the younger students, storytelling can really be beneficial to anyone of any age, as it utilises both listening and speaking skills.

Before you select a story for your classroom, keep the following in mind:

Prior to adding any story into your lesson plan, it’s a great idea to have several reads of it first so that you are well versed in the plot, characters, figurative language, vocabulary, and so on. Ideally, the story should be no longer than fifteen to twenty minutes, giving you plenty of time after reading to ask questions in order to check for understanding. Questions such as “what do you think will happen next?” can be strategically asked throughout the story in order to gauge comprehension among your students. Though all of this walks a very fine line, a new ESL teacher should always be aware to not disrupt the magic of storytelling by turning it into a complete grammar lesson!

Conveniently, many of the bigger publishing houses have their own range of graded storybooks, such as Oxford University Press’s graded readers, which can be found here:

Flash Cards

ESL students can also retain a great deal of vocabulary words through the use of flash cards. For the ESL teacher there are a number of websites offering free printable cards, or you can create your own by hand. Flash cards have many different applications for ESL learning such as numbers, letters, synonyms / antonyms, pronunciation, and vocabulary words.

If you wish to make your own flash cards for your ESL classroom, Free Tech 4 Teachers is just one website that allows you to design and print your own:

Virtual Tours

Virtual tours are an engaging and fun form of multimedia that work great when incorporated into ESL lessons, allowing any language teacher to take students on trips around the world without ever having to leave the comfort of the classroom. Below are a few pointers on how to make using a virtual tour during your ESL lesson both engaging and educational:

The links below contain a wealth of virtual tours of London:

The Language Laboratory

The Language Laboratory exposes ESL students to native English speaking usage and pronunciation by creating an immersive environment of multimedia, including English language voice recordings, podcasts, and radio, TV, and online programmes.

The main goal of The Language Laboratory is to facilitate more student speaking time than what can be traditionally afforded by the typical ESL classroom, allowing students to talk to a teacher or amongst each other, play and record their own voice, or work through a number of speaking exercises, which affords each student the ability to have more practice in actually speaking English. The Language Laboratory also allows for student recordings and work to be saved as students go along, giving the ESL teacher an accurate look at each individual student’s progress over time. What’s more, The Language Laboratory is fully customisable at the hand of the ESL teacher, allowing for activities to be adapted to specific lesson plans.

Online Games

Games are a great way of making lessons fun while ensuring active student participation. The possibilities with ESL elarning and games are virtually endless, though it is important that games be matched to relevant lesson plan material. Here are just a few of the sites around the web that offer free online ESL games:

It’s important that you always take the time to play a game before introducing your students, as you will need to check that your students’ language level and age are appropriate for the game and that it fits in well with your daily lesson plan. Keep in mind that you may see more loud or disruptive behaviour whilst playing games as your students have fun!


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