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Lanternfish creative writing story starters

5 Invaluable Online ESL Teaching Resources You Can’t Live Without

Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, that special class that does well with everything—but really thrives when given a truly engaging activity, the one you work extra hard to please.

Whether you have the former or latter class (or both, as usually is the case), it’s important to have a collection of tried and true go-to online resources for your ESL lesson planning.

If you’ve ever googled “ESL teaching resources,” you know that there’s no shortage of resources online. But how do you know what works?

What sites should you trust? To what will your students best respond? What exercise will both capture the attention of the struggling student and—at the same time—challenge your top students?

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

The ESL Teacher’s Tool Belt

What’s in your tool belt? Maybe it’s flashcards you take to every class. Or an ice-breaker activity or game that you play at the start of class. Or maybe it’s a listening exercise that gets your students tuned in to English. All students are different, and learn in different ways.

To reach the many different types of ESL learners, it’s important for every teacher to have a tool belt, stuffed with all the essentials for teaching English through reading, listening, speaking and writing.

Of course a few tools all ESL teachers need are patience, a good attitude and genuine passion for teaching English.

But it’s also important for your tool belt to include a collection of resources ready for lesson planning at a moment’s notice. Take a look at these five fantastic online resources that you can’t and shouldn’t live without.

5 Invaluable Online ESL Teaching Resources You Can’t Live Without

1. ESL Library: Dynamic Lesson Plans and Materials

ESLlibrary.com is one of the best, most comprehensive ESL online teaching resources available. While it does require membership (currently $55 for one year, with shorter subscriptions also available), many ESL teachers find this site incredibly helpful.

Membership to the site allows you full access to their lesson plan library, which has more than 500 ready-made lesson plans and more than 2,000 ready-to-print images and flashcards.

The site also takes current events and creates diverse lesson plans. This week, for example, they’ve taken the hot topic of the Ferguson, Missouri shooting to provide your students with an engaging debate topic. In this lesson plan, your students would read about, discuss and debate the militarization of police forces across the United States. How did police forces acquire so much military equipment and how is it affecting their relationship with local citizens? This topic is very current and the lesson is sure to get your students talking!

The site also has a breakdown of lessons by topic, such as business in English, role plays, writing in English, holidays, grammar stories and more.

2. ESL Printables: Give and Receive

ESLprintables.com is a great website for teachers who have also already made a lot of their own curriculum. It’s a resource with hundreds of thousands of ready-made worksheets, PowerPoint presentations and online exercises. The caveat here is that you must submit contributions before you can download them.

Worksheet downloads are conveniently organized by grammar, vocabulary, listening, speaking, reading and writing worksheets. In addition, they offer cinema, television, games and song worksheets. For example, under the “cinema and television” category, you could use a worksheet about “The Simpsons” that talks about hobbies—all that feature Bart and family.

The site also has a forum for teachers, where ESL instructors can ask questions, get advice and share ideas. The form is well managed and up-to-date, making it easy to take part or just skim through for ideas.

3. LanternFish (BogglesWorldESL): Building Vocabulary

I have often used LanternFish for young ESL learners, but it’s also a valuable site for teenage and adult learners. With hundreds of worksheets and lesson plans, it’s a helpful resource with lots of great ideas to better engage your students.

LanternFish offers flashcards, ESL exercises specifically for adults, a writer’s workshop and fun worksheet activities like word searches and crosswords for your students.

The site has a large listing of creative writing prompts, which can be really fun for more advanced students. For example, with Christmas just around the corner, they have a writing prompt titled “Christmas Elves on Strike!” They start the prompt with a paragraph that explains why the elves are on strike (no holidays or breaks, zero wages, terrible uniforms, to name a few reasons). “We, the Union of Workshop Elves, refuse to make any more toys until the following demands are met.” The students must then continue the story.

Building vocabulary through flashcards and exercises is one of this site’s major strengths. They have a collection of games and vocabulary exercises on a variety of themes from beginner to intermediate students. (FluentU also offers vocabulary lists and videos targeted at every level of language learner!)

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.

4. BusyTeacher: Warmers and Fillers and More!

BusyTeacher.org is one of the best sites on the web for ESL teachers. It has thousands of worksheets and activities available immediately for free download. No signing up, no membership and no fees (though you can purchase their entire library for about $100).

One especially helpful offering is their 360 free “warmers and fillers” which include warm-up activities and ice-breakers to get your students engaged quickly from the start of your lesson. One of their warmers is the “How Was Your Weekend” activity. Sure, it’s boring when you ask it every Monday. But the idea here is to give the students the identity of a famous person on a slip of paper (or let them think of their own). In pairs, the students ask questions and try to guess one another’s identity based on what they did over the weekend.

The site also offers great advice for ESL teachers, interesting creative writing prompts and much more.

5. Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab: Listen Up!

This online listening lab is the perfect resource for listening exercises in your ESL classroom. Audio is important, and as ESL teachers, we need to introduce other forms of listening exercises to our classes in order to improve student focus.

The audio listening exercises are organized by level of difficulty (easy, medium, difficult) and are listed by topic. Topic examples include “Clothing Styles,” “Car Rental,” “Breakfast Recipes” and “Friday Night Mishaps.”

Each lesson includes a short audio clip (usually less than two minutes), a quiz, vocabulary activities, post-listening exercises and online investigations, which ask the student to research the topic further online.

For example, in the audio exercise “Joe’s Hamburger Restaurant,” the speakers are a hamburger restaurant worker and a customer. There is an item on the menu called “Everything But the Kitchen Sink,” and the customer asks the worker to explain this phrase. The customer continues to place his order. At the end of the audio, there are quiz questions (which can be taken by the students online for a score or read aloud together). Other activities include multiple-choice and short-answer questions, as well as other post-listening exercises.

The site also has 20-minute ESL vocabulary lessons and longer videos that feature more in-depth interviews and conversations, perfect for your more advanced students.

All students learn in different ways, and these five resources can help you find what works best for all levels, and all different learners!

So add these websites to your ESL tool belt today—you’ll wonder how you ever got on without them!

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

Creative Writing Worksheets and Teaching Resources

This is a collection of free, printable creative writing prompts for teaching ESL.

Creative Writing Prompts

These creative writing worksheets can can be used both in class or as weekly homework assignments. We are always looking for more contributions so if you have an idea please send it to us. Eventually all of the story starters will be turned into worksheets and posted here.

The Secret Passage

The students take a field trip to an Egyptian pyramid and find a secret undiscovered passage within.

Brueghel’ Painting

Students visit an art gallery and watch a painting by Brueghel come alive.

The Tunnel

The students find a mysterious tunnel in the forest and follow it to find what is inside.

The Tricksters in the Tree

The students overhear a group of tricksters plotting to trick them and decide to turn the tables.

Fairies in Danger

A group of forest creatures in danger because of development. The students have to help them out.

Superpowers for a Day

Students imagine what they would do if they had superpowers for a day.

Talking to the Animals

Students imagine if they had the powers of Dr. Doolittle and could talk to animals.

The Portal

A mysterious portal appears to another world. But where does it lead?

The Villain

A diabolical villain poisons the hero and forces the hero to do the villains bidding.

The Letter from Afar

Students imagine their trip to a far away exotic land and write a letter home.

The Shadow from the Depths

A mysterious shadow from the depths of the ocean swims under the ship.

The Time Machine

Where would you go if you had a time machine?

The Invisibility Potion

What would you do if you had an invisibility potion?

The Water Molecule

You are a molecule of water travelling through the water cycle. Describe your journey.

The Alien School

Ack! You discover your teacher is actually an alien.

The Cave

A dark cavern in a mountain. What mystery lies within?

Beware of Humans

Changing perspective. Imagine you were a crocodile. What would you tell your children about humans?

Settlers on Mars

Imagine you were a settler on Mars. What challenges would you face?

The Voice from the Box

There is a box on the table and you hear a voice within. Do you open the box?

The Door Guard

You have to get past the door but the guard is in the way. What do you do?

The Old Lamp

You find an old lamp and rub it. . What do you wish for?

The Strange Machine

There is a strange machine in your uncle’s attic. But what does it do?

The Padlocked Chest

Why is the chest locked? Will you open it?

The Shrinking Potion

What would you do if you had a potion that allowed you to shrink?

The Petsitter

It seemed like easy money until you actually saw the pet.

The Wings of Icarus

Students find an old pair of wings on the island of Crete.

The Labors of Heracles

What chores would you make your siblings do if you had some compromising information on them?

The Greek God Election

Every Greek city had their patron gods. Imagine you were a Greek God. How would you get elected to be patron good of a city?

A Letter from Afar

Students write a letter home describing what they are doing on their travels.

The Gnomes

What are these gnomes doing in the park? Students follow them and find out.

How to Care for You Dragon 1

How do you care for a dragon? Version 1.

How to Care for You Dragon 2

How do you care for a dragon? Version 2

How to Care for You Dinosaur 1

How do you care for a dinosaur? Version 2

How to Care for You Dinosaur 2

How do you care for a dinosaur? Version 2

Planet Pollutonia

You are elected governor of Pollutonia. How do you clean it up?

Planet Criminolia

You are elected governor of Criminolia. How do stop the crime?

The Footprints in the Sand

A strange set of footprints are in the sand. Follow them to find out what made them.

Future School

What will school be like in the future?

The Door in the Woods

A mysterious door in a tree in the woods. Open it and find out where it goes.(sent in by Katelyn)

The Prank

You decide you are going to pull the greatest prank ever.

The Seed

A mysterious seed with a sign that says: Do not plant. Ever! What do you do?

The Lephrechaun’s Gold

How are you going to trap the leprechaun and get its gold.

The Island of Dr. Moreau

You are a mad scientist creating new animals. What do you create?

The Evil Scientist

You follow an evil scientist into a dark room and can’t forget what you saw. (sent in by Curt Winstead)

The Last Tree

All the trees are gone but one. . . (Sent in by Katie Seafield)

Sports Creative Writing

In Goal for the Rockets

Students are mistakenly put into net for the Rockets.

The Monster Match

When the students get out onto the field, they find out that the other team are behemoths.

Minutes to Go: Socccer

Students write about a close game of soccer.

Minutes to Go: Baseball

Students write about a close game of baseball.

Minutes to Go: Hockey

Students write about a close game of hockey.

Christmas Creative Writing

Saving Santa

Santa is stuck in a chimney. Who will save Christmas?

Candycane Mystery

Who stole all the stripes on the candycanes?

Elves on Strike

The elves are striking for better pay and working conditions.

Fall and Halloween Creatie Writing

Are You a Witch?

Students design a test to see if someone is a witch.

Are you a Werewolf?

Students design a test to see if someone is a werewolf.

Are you a Vampire?

Students design a test to see if someone is a vampire.

The Haunted House

Students complete a story about ending up at a haunted house on Halloween.

Planning a creative writing story

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