Since so many people found my post on advice for an auxiliar helpful, I thought that everyone would appreciate the links to my favorite TESOL/TEFL resources. Hopefully it’ll save you time and effort in sorting through the millions of websites out there! As I’ve mentioned, I arrived in Spain after taking a month-long intensive TESOL course through SIT. The course was very well taught and I learned a lot about effective teaching methods for small ESOL classes. But here in Spain I just wasn’t teaching that way. This is not a TEFL program! I faced classes of 30 or more teenagers, usually made up of completely mixed levels of English and definitely mixed levels of motivation! I was then told to plan hour-long lessons for these classes… what to do? (As I explained earlier I should have just said NO to start with; the classroom teacher should have helped me plan.) In addition, I also had some private classes at night that ranged in ages and levels from beginners to advanced and from children to adults. Basically, I needed a big variety of good resources.
The first year I spent hours and hours browsing the countless ESL sites out there. My estimate is that 90% are either copies of other sites or junk. Some people basically know that they can post about ESL, use SEO techniques to get their pages to show up in a search, and then swarm them with ads to make some $$ (at least that’s what I think.) But the quality of the majority is horrible!
So save yourself some time. Here is a list of my personal 11 best TEFL resources. I tried narrowing it down to 10, but just couldn’t! I’ve included a description of their content and how I used them. There are many other good sites I have also used, most I don’t have bookmarked, so feel free to do some searching yourselves too. Maybe I’ll post more in the future. For now, I hope these help!
BBC English: I have to start with the best. This is one of the coolest sites for learning English for all levels and ages. It is very interactive and has a variety of tools at both the student and teacher’s disposal. I always recommended that my students use this page at home for extra practice. I often used the “In the News” section either in private classes or I assigned it as homework. I think adults liked the “In the News” because it is real news reporting from the BBC and not “dumbed down” for learning.
Many Things VOA: While this website’s homepage has many categories, I mostly used the Voices of America content. These are podcasts and/or YouTube videos that you can listen to or watch (great if your school has Smartboards) or you can download them as an mp3. The content is great– current and relevant, but the narrator speaks annoyingly slow and is not natural. However, the other people in the series speak normally, making it a good mix! I really like the variety of topics and the fact that the videos have subtitles and podcasts have transcripts. The site also has quizzes and activities to accompany many of the podcasts, although I usually made up my own evaluations based on the class level. You could also go directly to the VOA learning English site, which is also great and has even more selection for advanced levels.
The Internet TESL Journal: This website is fantastic. It is well organized and has many useful categories. The most helpful for me were the lessons and games. I found the games easy to adapt and more creative than other sites in general. The lessons were easy to follow and interesting, with many different parts and optional activities. I used this site a lot when planning big classes.
TEFL Talking Points: This is another site that has a lot of content… but also a lot of ads! This specific part of the site brings you to its “Talking Point” downloadable worksheets. I found them very helpful when I didn’t have much time. I could build off the activities and extend them too. The themes are usually interesting and can promote some good discussions!
Breaking News English: Great site, though flooded with ads… but it is hosted by a veteran TEFL teacher, Sean Banville. Its objective is teaching English based on current events. Although similar to some other sites with the same idea, this one is really thorough, frequently updated, and varied. It is definitely worth checking out, and includes exercises in all competencies: reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
Oral Activities: Amazing site! No ads and all oral activities. This is amazing because auxiliars really shouldn’t be responsible for teaching grammar… ideally they should be promoting use of English and, above all, oral expression in the classroom. This site can help!!!
ESL Galaxy: This site has a lot of content, but I find all of their advertisements too distracting to spend much time searching. I did, however, often use this section with board games. It is nice to print out a board game sometimes because the students really enjoy games. This is the place to do it!
Macmillan Inside Out: This website provides tools for the Macmillan books and people using them. However, you don’t need to be following the book to find them useful! I used the resources that went with the Inside Out Book and… the American English Edition! (Yay!!!) The lessons range in level, change every week, and vary in topic. All are current and relevant and include some activities to go along with them. They are printable, photocopiable and free! This was a saving grace when I just didn’t have time to plan a lesson myself. Looking through the archives I always found an interesting theme!
ESL Base: This is a website I found by chance and, although you have to be a member to access the content, I signed up since it was free. Thank goodness I did. I would say it is one of the sites I have used the most, not because it has a ton of different resources, but because they are great quality. I love their activities for the conditionals and I’ve adapted a lot of stuff for both large groups and private classes. Awesome stuff!
America’s Library: This site by the Library of Congress is fantastic and also a great example of how your ESL resources don’t have to be specifically for ESL! If you teach 3rd graders, look for American 3rd grade (and younger) websites to find elementary school activities. It’s great because it is real content and not something specifically created to teach English. This site has lots of information for kids about the US, the different states, famous Americans etc. You can modify and come up with a lot of activities here.
ESL Flow: It’s an ugly site and there are some annoying ads… but it is useful! They divide their content into categories and then each category has a ton of links. Unfortunately, many are broken and it is totally hit or miss… but it is worth trying because some bring you to great resources that I couldn’t find anywhere else. Basically a mix of good quality links for every level and competency…when they work!
Ok, there they are. I hope they help you plan some classes, even if only your private ones. If you know of any other great resources please leave them as comments! Don’t forget to bring some of your own physical resources over too… anything written in English can be useful (food receipts, recipes, ticket stubs, birthday cards…) Suerte!
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