Many a foreign ESL teacher in China has entered the office of their new school, asked what teaching materials are to be used and been met with blank stares. Just go in and teach, they say.
Assuming you don’t have the ability to conjure books from thin air, you will need access to learning materials and fast. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Today we are going to introduce you to 14 awesome free online teaching resources for foreign ESL teachers in China.
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 the resources section where there are blogs on stuff like short speaking activities and fingerplay songs for kids.
8. ESL Galaxy
This little site was great when it came to studying classes, supervision, and those times when you’ve got a clever clog 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.
10. K5 Learning
You don’t have much time.
You’re frantically searching for a grammar sheet for your class.
You find the perfect one, only to discover it won’t print correctly or requires payment.
Put an end to this disappointing struggle with K5 Learning.
This website has dozens of easy-to-print exercises covering vocabulary, grammar, spelling, writing, and phonics.
The exercises are nicely divided by appropriate class levels and topics.
Each worksheet is simple, employs a wide range of activities, and usually contains a bright fun graphic to keep the students’ eyes from melting.
While the website is oriented towards younger learners, it’s also an excellent resource if you need a quick grammar exercise for older learners with holes in their basics.
The site requires no signup or registration and is free to use.
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’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!
But for the love of God, don’t let the kids go directly onto the site. It is unfortunately prone to lewd pop-up advertisements that are grossly inappropriate for younger students. Always print out your material!
Please post in the comments section below if you think we’ve missed any awesome free online resources for foreign ESL teachers in China.