So you think you can TEFL? And it’s true, you’ve got the certificate, you’re fully qualified and all set to teach English abroad or even teach English online. You’ve got some lesson ideas under your belt. Maybe you’ve got more lesson ideas than you know what to do with, I was like you once… young, eager, the power of my TEFL notes clouding my vision.
There are days when churning out another TEFL lesson plan is going to feel like an impossible feat. During my second week in South Korea, (a newly-minted teacher with lots of stickers and enthusiasm) I was asked to plan not one, not two, but fifteen weeks worth of two-hour after school classes (that quickly put a stopper on my enthusiasm, and it quickly turned to blind panic.
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to fill up two hours with fun activities for bored fourteen-year-olds… but it’s hard enough when they speak your language, let alone when you will be miming 90% of the time. And then to plan 15 of those lessons….all at the same time.
I was also told the principal would attend these classes. Just you know, to add to the overwhelming feeling of nausea. To say I almost had a heart attack is the understatement of the century.
The 15 weeks’ worth of lesson plans weren’t due by the end of the month - they were due the very next day. You might think - sure, that would never happen to me. Who is this disorganized nincompoop? I bet they gave her loads of notice and she just forgot.
But let me tell you, I am not a nincompoop. I color code my spreadsheets, I plan most things a month in advance and I don’t even find thrillers surprising. I’m a serial organizer. I like to make lists, tick off lists, you get the picture - LISTS are my particular way of life!
I spent a dark, dark night planning those 15 lessons, the internet became my savior. Afterward, I sat back and thought - this is going to happen again, isn’t it?
Rather than go to bed and sleep it off like a reasonable person. I made a list. This list was my way of coping with any last-minute mass ESL lesson planning. Some of these resources helped me with regular lesson planning too. There are so many great teachers out there sharing ideas, exercises and activities for ESL students at every level.
This list of free resources for teaching English as a second language, meant I could get inspiration on demand and even if a request for a truckload of lesson plans came through. I didn’t need to break out in a cold sweat. Although, I did anyway. Some of us are just born this way .
All these resources are not created equal. Some are better for TEFL games, others for summer or winter camp activities, others will help you sort out those painful grammar classes. Never forget, there’s a whole community of teachers out there just like you, and everyone struggles with a lesson plan from time to time.
So here are the best materials for teaching English as a second language.
If you use search words like “summer camp”, “ESL” or “TEFL, Pinterest is a treasure trove of ideas. I even used the DIY sections to build in craft activities for those longer after school camps or winter camps.
Y’know those ambiguous periods where you’re half-teacher, half-babysitter, and 100% worried that the kids might get bored, stop paying attention and start eating potatoes (even though I’m Irish, this was a new one for me!) or stabbing each other with pencils (ditto…)✏️. And yes, I taught teenagers, why do you ask?
One of the best things that ever happened to me was finding this website. From grammar exercises to helpful videos, to listening practice… there is no shortage of free TEFL lesson plans and ideas here. They’re also pre-graded and there are different sections for teaching adults, kids and teenagers. It’s a serial organizer’s dream! This website is also perfect for last-minute planners or emergency classes (you know when there’s suddenly a class on your schedule that wasn’t there before).
Not so much for lesson planning, more for those tricky questions advanced students or co-teachers might try to ask on the spur of the moment. “It just sounds right” won’t be a good enough answer and it can be hard to remember the trickiest rules of English (it’s a pretty fickle language) at a moment’s notice. This is also handy for some ideas on how to teach a few of the trickier tenses. It’s not going to set their eyes alight, but it will help you clarify exactly how to teach the harder bits.
Don’t judge a website by its name, design, or layout! Trust me, the section on this site that’s dedicated to helping teachers is wholesome! From ways to incorporate music, games, video, and film, there’s no shortage of ideas to springboard your next ESL lesson plan. Just try not to cringe over the whole Partyland thing… TEFL turns the best of us into mildly cheesy grammar clowns.
TEFL worksheets, lesson plans and games galore. This is a great little hub of ideas that will get your students excited about learning English. From lessons like creating your own restaurant to designing your own music magazine, this is a wonderful resource for some project-based learning. I particularly love the blog and it has lots of great articles, like this one on unique intro classes.
This website is amazing! It’s also quite ugly, but don’t let that put you off. What they lack in fancy design work, they make up for in sheer brilliant content. The lesson plans are lifesavers and if you’re looking for some interesting conversation class ideas - then you won’t be disappointed. There’s also plenty of articles and research on teaching techniques that will be invaluable in the classroom.
When it comes to finding exactly what you want at the last minute - this site isn’t great. But it sure is worth a browse. If you pop into the teaching section, it’s divided by ESL levels, so you can easily find different types of games and lesson plans for students at different levels.
Beautifully named, this site is perfect for some of those formal or business English classes, this collection of blogs has plenty of ideas for dialogue, conversations and class management. I quite like resources section where there are blogs on stuff like short speaking activities and fingerplay songs for kids.
9. ESL Galaxy
This little site was great when it came to study classes, supervision and those times when you’ve got a clever clogs that is way ahead of the rest.♀️ You can easily print off some worksheets here that will keep even your highest level students busy, while you focus on getting the rest of the class caught up. When you’ve got 30 students in one room, and 40 minutes - sometimes a simple worksheet can give you valuable minutes. There’s nothing worse than watching a bright kid dying a little inside, so I always tried to keep mine on their toes.
Depending on where you’re teaching - YouTube and short online videos can be a HUGE resource. Even the potato-eaters paid attention when I played a clip. I used to trawl youtube for fun things my students might like and then build out quizzes and blank fills for them. But there are days when trawling the internet is not the best use of your time and this site already has videos and exercises sorted by ability level. So whether you’re looking for a song with appropriate vocabulary for your ESL students or a TED talk that won’t leave them scratching their heads, this is definitely a quick fix.
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An oldie but a goodie! Busy Teacher is one of those sites where you can get some pretty interesting resources. As I write this one of the top worksheets of the week is Donald Trump’s Speech (Designed for Russian-speaking students!), But there are fewer niche resources and you can easily find some TEFL board games and worksheets that will pad out those lesson plans.
12. ESL Games World
There’s nothing my students loved more than being tricked into learning with interactive games. This site is a great one if you’ve got access to computers. Everyone can work at their own level. Although I would only suggest computers in smaller classes where you can make sure they’re not just googling cute popstars. “Teacher, is he sexy?” - is technically English, but maybe not what I was setting out to achieve in my classes. The site has printables too, and everything is based around target language that you’re most likely going to be teaching. I found this site helpful for printables as I didn’t have access to much technology in most classes.
It depends where you’re teaching. But I was in South Korea and there is an English for Korean speakers section. It’s worth checking it out. Gamification at its finest. Even my weakest kids loved to get 5 minutes on their phone to level-up. I positioned it as a reward, little did they realize they were learning! They’d often come up to me to show me a new lesson or unit they had completed. I had to walk the co-teachers through the app first. They were older and a little suspicious of the students learning English on their phones.
One of my co-teachers became a bit of an addict! She absolutely loved getting her bonus points for perfection! It only keeps the students amused for 5 minutes and you can’t really use it for a whole lesson, but I got my students to make sure it reminded them to practice every day.
While sites like Pinterest can be a great source of inspiration for classroom activities, the real challenge is often planning the delivery of your chosen activity and setting clear objectives and outcomes for your students.
Whether you’re teaching online or in-person, a great lesson plan is the best way to stay organized, get excited about your lessons, increase student engagement and improve learning outcomes. And why not have a little fun creating eye-catching lesson plans while you're at it?
Canva is a very user-friendly (and free!) graphic design tool that provides dozens of lesson plan templates that can be easily customized and exported in several file formats or sent to print right from the editor!