TEFL Tip Tuesday – Top Five Resources For Any ESL Teacher

I’ve been teaching English for about a year and a half now and in that time I have discovered a few resources that I find myself returning to again and again. Whether it be for lesson inspiration, warmer and cooler ideas or worksheet creation, these are the books and websites that supply me with engaging activities for both my young learner and adult classes alike.

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Elementary Class, Myanmar

 

  1. YouTube

Ok, let’s get this one out of the way straight of the bat. I am not recommending that you play YouTube videos for the entirety of your lesson! When I first arrived at my school in China they told me plain and simple that my lessons were not to be 40 minutes of the kids watching TV and I mean, fair enough. I was alarmed to think that anyone would even consider it at the time, but once you’ve taught twenty classes a week for a few months you start running out of ideas and 40 minutes of TV starts to sound a little tempting! I luckily never resorted to this, but I have used YouTube in my lesson to enrich and expand on the topic of the day. This has ranged from the smash hit that is “Baby Shark” (every ESL teacher’s secret weapon for a happy classroom) in my first grade and kindergarten classes to how astronauts brush their teeth in space with my level six class here in Myanmar.

YouTube has an unlimited amount of visual resources for any topic and any age but you have to tread wisely. If you want to use YouTube in your classroom make sure you watch the video all the way to the end before you play it over the loudspeakers, you need to check that the content is appropriate for your class. This doesn’t just mean checking for bad language or scenes of a sensitive nature but it also means checking the language used in the video is at the right level for your students and that the speech or song is presented at an easy to understand pace. If you are using video in the classroom it is with the intention that the students will learn from it, so make sure they understand it.

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Grade One dancing to “Baby Monkey”, China
  1. Twisty Noodle

Word-trace worksheets are perfect for young learners who are just beginning to learn English as it allows them to practice their writing skills within a guided context. Twisty noodle is my favourite website for word-trace worksheets, you can find everything from colours to transportation on the site and they allow you to add your own word or phrase to worksheets making them personal to your class. I’ve used Twisty Noodle’s worksheets as stand-alone activities in my classroom but I have also incorporated the word-trace elements from their site into my own worksheets when I want to make things a bit more technical. The site also has colouring pages which I often give to my students as an activity before class if the arrive early to keep them entertained.

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Two Twisty Noodle worksheets combined in one page, China
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Twisty Noodle worksheet used to make Father’s Day cards, Myanmar

 

  1. Brain Training Books

This can be any brain training book and is something I recently added to my TEFL tool belt. I was really struggling to think of warmer for my adult classes, warmers are particularly important when it comes to my Elementary class as there are always at least two late comers (sometimes half an hour or more late but I don’t wait around that long for them, usually I aim for fifteen minutes of warm up time before diving into the course book). I’m brand new to the world of teaching adults having previously only taught 14 year olds or below so for my first couple of lessons I felt completely lost. My friend suggested I take a look at her book “5 Minute Brain Workout” for some inspiration, it turned out to be exactly what I needed. Brain teasers are the perfect warmer for an adult class in my opinion because they are interesting enough that the students won’t get bored easily and challenging enough to keep them thinking while we wait for the stragglers. There are a couple of good warmers out there that I like to use with adults like “find someone who” and “who wrote it?” but these kinds of thing can only be used so many times before they get repetitive or boring. Having a book of brain teasers on hand has proved to be very useful and I’ve even used some of them with my young learner classes for the students who finish everything first, it keeps them quiet and focused on English while the rest of the class finish the task.

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This book has given my adult classes plenty to think about!
  1. Canva

Canva is a free design website that you can use to create just about anything. I love this website for creating my worksheets and activities, it’s so simple to use and it come with templates if you have no idea where to start. I have used Canva for just about every lesson plan since I arrived in Myanmar and it has honestly been a life saver for me. I hate trying to format things in Word, where you move one image and suddenly the rest of the images are ten pages away and upside down! Canva brings me back to my University days and allows me to design beautiful worksheets without all the complicated shortcuts and tools that you get in programmes like InDesign and Illustrator, because who has time for that when all you need to create is one worksheet on gerunds?!

 

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One of my first Canva worksheets, so quick and easy to create, Myanmar

 

  1. Other Teachers!

One of the best and possibly most readily available resources is your fellow teachers. I find brainstorming with other teachers to be one of the most useful ways to plan a lesson and this was especially true when I was just starting out. Being able to bounce ideas of other people and think out loud allows you to think differently than if it’s just you and your laptop or notebook trying to create something alone. Two heads are better than one and when you are trying to think of a fun and engaging lesson it can be really helpful to get a second opinion on an activity. You never know, your fellow teachers may have already done a similar lesson or know of a useful resource you could go to for more inspiration. This doesn’t just have to be people you work with; reach out to the TEFL communities online, if you did an in-class course send a few of your classmates a message and see how they’ve tackled similar lessons, follow other teachers on social media for creative ideas and if you like what they’re doing send them a message and talk about it.

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Me and my fellow teachers, Myanmar

 

Honourable Mentions.

These are definitely my top five favourite resources but they are not the only place I go for inspiration and last minute activities, here are some of my honourable mentions that you can also use if you find yourself stuck for ideas:

Teachers Pay Teachers – There are many free resources on Teachers Pay Teachers and some of them have been exactly what I need, others I have adapted and created my own worksheets and activities from, usually on Canva.

FluentU – This site has a lot of great ideas for speaking classes and can be a real help if you are stuck for ideas for warmers and coolers. The site can be a bit confusing to navigate sometimes though.

Busy Teacher – This was one of the first websites recommended to me by a fellow ESL teacher and I find myself back there now and again. I find the blog posts most useful but I have used the occasional resource from the site, maybe with a little fine tuning…

ISL Collective – This site has a lot of worksheets, and I mean a lot. It can be a little overwhelming at first and finding a worksheet that is perfect for you topic could take a while but there are some gems on there. Again I often find a resource with the relevant topic and tweak it a bit to fit my style of teaching and class needs.

Twinkle – This website honestly has some of my absolute favourite resources and the only reason it isn’t on my top five is because only a limited amount are free to use. It makes sense, they are beautiful worksheets and there are some great activities on there so they are definitely worth paying for but us poor ESL teachers can be a bit strapped for digital cash (most jobs pay cash in hand or, if you’re in China, setting up online banking with your foreign bank account is pretty much impossible)!

 

For more TEFL Tips check out one of my previous posts:

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