ESL for Students and Teachers

Over the past decade, teaching and learning English has become one of the most prominent education trends in schools across the country. What was once a nation full of English speakers has evolved into the most linguistically diverse country in the world, according to research from the U.S. Census Bureau.

In the face of such change and diversity, teachers are challenged with educating populations of non-English speakers who want to learn the world’s most widely spoken language. For both teachers and students, ESL education is the most vital resource available to develop the speaking, reading, and writing skills required to master the English language.

Today’s teachers and students have access to a plethora of resourceful, up-to-date ESL tutorials, readings, videos, and assignments to help them hone and develop vital vocabulary, grammar, conversation, and cultural skills. Many of the assets are designed to break down concepts in the English language that can help students succeed in all of their classes, ranging from social studies to science, history, art, mathematics — you name it.

Resources for Teachers

Curriculum Planning

ESL teachers have a lot on their plates. Not only are they in charge of managing classroom operations and aiding students in mastering the English language, they must also organize classroom curriculum and materials. Curriculum planning is essential to providing a through, balanced education to ESL students. Without the proper curriculum planning, your students may suffer in developing language, vocabulary, grammar, pronunciations, and conversation skills. If you are you looking for insight on the keys to successful curriculum planning, here are a few resources to consider:

  • Texas Standardized Curriculum Framework: This university website is useful for teachers who are searching for lesson plans that discuss everyday topics, such as job interviews, family members, transportation, community events, health and nutrition, money, and more. Since many of these topics are related to adult issues, these ESL lessons are best suited for students 16 and up. A few of the impressive curriculum resources include medical terms, money management, and more.
  • ESL Curriculum Exemplars: This resource from the New Jersey Department of Education assists teachers with curriculum examples in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. This page is relevant for teachers of five grade-level clusters (ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade) and five English-language proficiency levels, with both formative and summative frameworks. The key components in these curriculum outlines include academic language, key vocabulary, and language structures.
  • The Torrance Adult School: This resource features nearly 100 pages of descriptions on how to take curriculum from an idea to a concept, from the first week of class until the end of the school year. Literacy, speaking, reading, writing, and 21st century skills are some of the many concepts discussed at length. Moreover, this guide helps teachers divide their curriculum into beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels.
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigrant Services’ Supplement Resources: It’s not surprising that an office dedicated to immigration services would provide resources to ESL education. This federal office works diligently to help individuals migrate and assimilate to U.S. life, and a big part of that transition is language acquisition. Featured on this page is a compilation of lesson plans, curriculum guides, and additional resources for teachers.
  • California Adult Literacy Professional Development Project: This curriculum guide from the California Department of Education walks new ESL teachers through identifying student needs, strategizing in lesson planning, and measuring performance assessments. Also included in this project are techniques on how to guide the classroom from day one.

Keep in mind, these are just a small helping of the many curriculum guides out there. A simple Google search will lead you to a pool of links, most of which aren’t that helpful. That being said, always make sure your curriculum guides are coming from school districts, federal programs, state programs, and well-known, credible ESL resources. Although bloggers and for-profit ESL programs can provide useful ESL information, they aren’t always trustworthy and transparent. For more information on trustworthy ESL resources, see the Purdue Online Writing Lab’s page for ESL Teacher Resources.


Videos can be great resources for mapping out lesson plans. There are a host of poorly made, ineffective ESL videos on the Web, so be careful about which ones you use to help you out. Here are a few resourceful videos to check out.

  • Virginia Department of Education: This page features a small compilation of ESL videos that talk teachers through explaining basic language concepts like categorizing, sequencing, math language, and more. The videos are up-to-date and usually shorter than 10 minutes. Also featured on the website are links to assessment guides, instructional resources, and more.
  • The Choices Program: If you’re looking for videos to guide you in explaining historical and social issues — such as the Cuban Missile Crisiss, Global Warming, and U.S. Independence — to adults, the Choices Program offers a selection of videos that break down these extensive, in-depth concepts into easy-to-explain lessons for ESL teachers. These videos aren’t meant to do the instructing for the teacher; instead, they serve as quick guides, helping teachers figure out how to begin to explain things like Civil Rights and the Afghanistan War.
  • National Council of Teachers of English: Not only is this website useful for tracking down ESL videos, it also provides a variety of additional resources for ESL teachers. There is no one page on this website dedicated to ESL videos, so teachers will have to be specific in their search inquiries. The Council also links teachers to outside websites that feature thorough videos, guides, and curriculum outlines.
  • Free English Resources Online: Teachers looking for videos to assist them in the classroom will find this extensive collection tremendously helpful. These short videos are primarily intended for kindergarten to young adult learners and feature topics in vocabulary, grammar, conversation skills, and basic writing skills. To get a feel for what to expect from this website, check out the videos for talking about food; using they’re, their, and there; and colors of the rainbow.
  • New American Horizons Foundation: This 12-part series serves as a guide for ESL adult instruction. The 30-minute videos seek to guide teachers in working in group settings, assessing learning in the ESL classroom, promoting oral skills, developing listening skills, and more. Through these videos, you’ll see real-world ESL teachers working alongside students and guiding them to mastering the English language.

Resources for Students

Like teachers, students, too, need ESL resources to guide them during their language-acquisition process. Although learning in the classroom should be the chief way students master the English language, that doesn’t mean they can’t turn to online resources for help. Listed below you’ll see a compilation of ESL guides and resources designed to keep education running smoothly and effectively outside the classroom.

Online Guides

Online guides are a great resource for students in need of outlines and handouts that explain how to cultivate and maintain a solid ESL foundation. Trying to tackle ESL education completely on your own can be a risky endeavor, and that’s why it’s important to work alongside your teachers in learning ESL skills. Again, make sure you’re cautious of the ESL resources you find on the Internet. It’s wise to mostly stick to links that end in .gov, .org,, and .edu addresses; however, there are always exceptions to this rule.

  • Center for Applied Linguistics: The Center for Applied Linguistics serves as a resource for both students and teachers searching for guides and advice on how to succeed in ESL teaching and learning. This page contains an assortment of outlines from the Center and from resources the Center deems trustworthy. For students, this website is a great resource to turn to whenever you’re in need of a guide or outline on a particular ESL topic or subject.
  • U.S. Department of Education: Like the Center for Applied Linguistics, the U.S. Department of Education compiles a host of outlines and guides for ESL students. Since the Department’s standards are high, there aren’t a ton of resources featured on the page, but those that are included are among most in-depth, effective resources out there.
  • ESL Gold: This resource comes highly recommended by the Purdue Writing Lab as a helpful ESL tool for teachers and students alike. Through ESL Gold, students can find outlines on how to talk to people in English, read English articles, study current events, and more.
  • Using English: Like ESL Gold, Using English has garnered recommendations from the Purdue Writing Lab. Though this website is primarily intended for ESL teachers, there is a section for students that features links to ESL outlines and articles. With these resources, students can determine what materials and guides they need to build upon their ESL foundation.

Study Tips and Worksheets

  • Purdue Online Writing Lab: The Purdue Writing Lab is one of the most trusted sources for ESL education tips. This page is useful for college-level ESL students who are looking to understand the norms of U.S. college classrooms and how to succeed in them. A few of the helpful tips include reading the newspaper in the morning, having a pocket dictionary on hand, forming study groups, and reading at least one English book a month, among others.
  • ESL HQ: ESL HQ comes recommended by a number of state and federal programs and allows teachers and students to upload worksheets and articles that can be of service to ESL students. Because the website is an open forum, there are a few less-than-stellar posted resources, but thankfully, the website posts user-submitted articles and worksheets in order of popularity and ratings.
  • English Gateway: Worksheets are an invaluable resource in improving basic ESL skills. English Gateway comes recommended by English departments as well as the Purdue Writing Lab. The worksheets posted on the website are ranked by levels (beginning, intermediate, advanced) and define the purpose of each worksheet. Some of the popular worksheet examples include cultural differences and describing smells. If you need additional tips on improving your ESL education, the site also features links to an array of recommended websites.
  • English Leap: Students need more than just worksheets and outlines to make their way to ESL success. Through English Leap, students can get tips on speaking English, learning English grammar, using idioms, and more. This website is also a great resource for ESL students in need of at-home quizzes and exercises.


Students need more than just readings and worksheets to hone and develop their ESL education. When they’re made well, videos can be highly effective in helping students further their understanding of the English language. Many education websites and ESL blogs feature videos, and students usually have plenty of options based on their skill level and the area of study they want to focus on (reading, writing, conversation skills, and so on).

  • English with Jennifer: Believe it or not, YouTube is a reliable resource for tracking down trusted ESL videos. One of the most popular channels is English with Jennifer, which takes students through short ESL lessons, explaining such topics as verb tenses, lessons for beginners, English vocabulary, and more. She also has a well-run ESL blog worth checking out.
  • U.S.A. Learns: This free website provides students with a selection of video courses that discuss basic ESL skills. It’s important to note that this website is primarily tailored to those whose native language is Spanish.
  • Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab: Perhaps one of the most well-known ESL video compilations out there, Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab features chapters upon chapters of ESL videos. Most of Randall’s videos are primarily focused on developing conversation skills related to everyday situations, such as managing credit cards, growing a garden, and car emergency care. The website also has an extensive collection of general listening quizzes as well, ranked easy, medium, and difficult.
  • English Central: Let’s be honest: ESL videos can get a little boring sometimes. That’s why it’s useful to take a break from time to time to utilize resources that aren’t classified as academic. After all, some of the greatest lessons we learn about the English language are from listening to music and watching movies. English Central is a great resource for students who want to use movies, music, cartoons, speeches, and array of other media to learn about the English language. A few of the featured videos include selections like Alice in Wonderland, Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and romance in movies.
  • Listen and Read Along: This YouTube channel is exactly what it sounds like. There are YouTube audio and video clips that read from books while audiences listen along. In fact, audio-visual training is one of the best ways to learn a new language. A few of the featured videos on this channel include the biography of William Shakespeare and American istory’s Settlers in America.

Vocabulary, Grammar, and Language Resources


If you’re searching for some effective vocabulary exercises, here are a selection of sites that feature quizzes, reading, videos, games, and more.

  • Activities for ESL Students: This website features a collection of vocabulary quizzes with topics ranging from easy to difficult.
  • Flashcard Exchange: This extensive, resourceful website features user-submitted flashcards that help students convert words in other languages into English and vice versa.
  • English Leap’s Vocabulary Exercises: English Leap’s Vocabulary Exercises take students through a host of different words and quiz them on their definitions and associated meanings.
  • ESL Gold’s Learn Vocabulary: This ESL website features a selection of vocabulary exercises that students can access through reading, listening to audio, and watching on video platforms.
  • Using English: If you’re searching for a simple compilation of vocabulary words to practice, look no further. Using English has compiled thousands of words that both teachers and students can utilize in ESL education.
  • ESL Printables: This source is basically a compilation of hundreds of vocabulary worksheets that teachers and students can print out and work on at their leisure. A few of the many topics featured include food, health, numbers, and greetings.
  • ESL Games Plus: – Elementary school students, too, need help in mastering ESL vocabulary, and one of the most effective ways to reach a child’s mind is through their imagination. This website features a host of exciting vocabulary games associated with memory, word association, sentence formation, and numerous other topics that help young kids learn vocabulary.


  • Purdue Owl Writing Lab: We’ve mentioned the Purdue Owl Writing Lab a few times, but that’s because it’s a resource that’s hard to surpass. Included on this page are links to exercises and descriptions on how to use adjectives and adverbs, irregular verbs, subject/verb agreement, and numerous other essential topics.
  • ESL Gold’s Grammar: In addition to training students in vocabulary, ESL Gold features discussions in grammar. Both teachers and students can access this website to take quizzes, gauge their skill levels, and hone their grammar skills.
  • ESL Galaxy’s Grammar: Discussing in-depth grammar topics like causatives, conditionals, future tenses, conjunctions, etc., ESL Galaxy has a compilation of different exercises, quizzes, and handouts that touch on key ESL grammar skills.
  • Sticky Ball’s Grammar Worksheets: Similar to ESL Galaxy, Sticky Ball features a host of useful links that discuss topics in parts of speech, useful for all ages and skill levels.
  • Activities for ESL Students Grammar: More than just compilations of handouts and quizzes, the self-study sheets featured on Activities for ESL Students walk students through articles that explain easy, intermediate, and difficult grammar concepts.
  • Dave’s ESL Café’s Grammar Lessons: The name of this website makes it sound rather fishy, but the content is actually quite impressive. Students can access grammar lessons in adjective clauses, confusing words, conjunctive adverbs, English sounds and spelling, and gerunds.
  • The Blue Book on Grammar and Punctuation: The Blue Book is one of the most-used grammar resources in the English language. Although it isn’t primarily an ESL resource, it is still useful to turn to whenever students or teachers have questions about English grammar regarding topics like who vs. whom, finding subjects and verbs, and more.
  • The Elements of Style: Similar to the Blue Book, The Elements of Style is one of the most important grammar resources in the English language. There isn’t a primary website for the book; however, the link above takes students to an online copy of the book that covers topics like possessive vs. singular, active voice, summaries, omitting needless words, etc. Keep in mind, this resource is intended for advanced learners.

Speaking the Language

  • Daily ESL: This website seeks to help students improve their speaking skills in topics that relate to daily life, such as going to the bank, reading menus, and attending classes.
  • Learning English Kids: If you’re working with ESL students no older than 10, this resource is useful in practicing speaking skills. Through this website, children can learn how to use sounds and spelling to learn how to speak effectively.
  • Conversation Questions for the ESL Classroom: Teachers looking to engage their students in an assortment of topics can use this website for idea generation. Though it’s nothing more than a compilation of questions and topic discussions, it’s a great place to start when it comes to teaching students speaking skills.
  • ESL Partyland’s Conversation Practice Lessons: Students can use this website to practice conversations topics on their own time. There are more than enough lessons to keep students occupied for months.
  • 5-Minute English: Sometimes the best way to learn English is by taking baby steps. This resource features guides on English grammar, vocabulary, and speaking that will help readings engage in basic conversation topics.


  • BBC: One of the most effective ways to teach children to read is to introduce them to captivating stories. The BBC features a webpage full of enthralling reads, perfect for reading both in and out of the classroom.
  • Clifford: Clifford is not only a classic children’s book; it’s also one of the most popular ESL reads out there. If you’re working with students who have just began their ESL instruction, this book is a great resource to use whenever they’re working in independent reading.
  • Jump Start Reading Practice: Reading worksheets are a great way to introduce students to complicated concepts they may come across in their independent readings. Jump Start has compiled a myriad of resources for elementary students that need to learn about word meanings, adjectives, rhymes, and various other core reading concepts.

Learning the Culture

Learning about English-language culture requires students to immerse themselves in reading, writing, and listening. Here are some helpful tips.

  • Watch popular movies: Americans love their movies, so one of the best ways to learn about English-language culture, values, and interests is through movies. The link above takes you to the top 50 American movies of all time (according to IMDb users), which ESL teachers can use in the classroom and ESL students can watch on their own time.
  • Learn about government: A key part of understanding English-language values is to learn where they came from. Aside from religion, Americans take great pride in their government, which is divided into three democratic branches. To brush up on your skills about government, check out the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.
  • Read the news: Understanding any country’s culture requires reading and watching the news. Americans have a host of news outlets they value, such as PBS, The New York Times, and Fox News. To learn more about English-language cultural values, start reading and watching the news every day.
  • Learn how they eat: Food is not only a source of survival in English-language culture; it signifies values. English speakers have some of the most odd-yet-intriguing eating habits in the whole world. If you’re curious about what food says about a group’s cultural values, start evaluating what your own dietary habits say about your identity.

ESL Teachers: Final Points to Consider

What should an ESL classroom look like?: If you’re a teacher, you might wonder what your ESL classroom should look like. Well, an ESL classroom looks like most classrooms you see in schools today, but with a few additional ESL-inspired touches. According to this visual guide from the Fort Worth Independent School District, ESL classrooms should have decorations that promote language and create a comfortable, soothing ESL environment. Tools like word walls, work stations, small classroom libraries, dictionaries, hands-on exercises, desks that face the teachers, and an array of other materials aid teachers in taking a stripped classroom and turning it into an ESL wonderland.

What to expect from your ESL students: Are you ready to take on a classroom of students? Of course you are! You’ve prepared for the challenges ahead both in theory and practice, but that doesn’t mean you’re absolutely certain of who your students will be or how they’ll act. ESL students come from a host of different ethnicities, homes, and communities, but they often go through a few stages of cultural accommodation, such as euphoria, culture shock, acceptance, and assimilation. How can you help them adjust? Some suggestions include learning their names the way they like to say them, offering one-on-one assistance, and inviting culture into the classroom. Read more on Colorín Colorado, an organization funded by the U.S. Department of Education and the American Federation of Teachers.

ESL Students: Things to Remember

What should I expect in my ESL classes?: ESL classrooms come in many different shapes and sizes. Adult ESL classes focus on core language, vocabulary, reading, and grammar skills that assist people in functioning in their day-to-day personal and professional lives. ESL classes for toddlers to young adults, on the other hand, usually focus on basic language skills that students will expand on through additional classes and homework assignments. So what will your ESL be like? There’s no telling, but it’s important to be committed, focused, and remain steadfast against whatever comes your way.

How to keep the learning going outside the classroom: Learning outside the ESL classroom is an essential part of developing a well-rounded, complete understanding of the English language. If you want to keep learning outside the classroom, find a handful of resources that aid you in your understanding of ESL grammar, vocabulary, reading, and other necessary skills. Take at least 30 minutes out of your day and dedicate it to ESL learning, and before you know it, you’ll be ready to tackle any assignment, reading, conversation, quiz — you name it. Good luck!

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