Helpful (and Free!) Resources for Teaching ESL


Since I started teaching English as a second language (ESL) at an elementary school here in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I have gathered quite the collection of sites to help me in my lesson planning. Recently I’ve found myself using the same handful of resources again and again, so I thought it would be helpful to list those here for any other ESL teachers out there.

I teach English to grades 1, 2, and 3 (focusing on phonics and conversation), so this list is geared toward young learners in those subjects.

Check out some of my favorite resources here!

  • Starfall Books

    • What is it? Free printable books for emergent readers with corresponding worksheets for each level.
    • Why do I like it? The Level 1 books start with very basic CVC (consonant vowel consonant) words, building to more complicated sentences over time. Great for teaching phonics. I probably use these books more than any other resource.
    • Membership required? Nope!
    • Bonus Perk: The printable books are in black and white, which is great for letting the kids color after you finish reading. And, if you have the technology in your classroom, all the books have online elements which could be a fun addition to your lesson plan.
  • Progressive Phonics

    • What is it? Printable books and poems that can independently take you through a comprehensive phonics program, beginning with the sounds of the alphabet all the way up to reading tricky words and sentences.
    • Why do I like it?  Silly, easy to read poems broken down by sound make learning phonics fun. I use these poems weekly with my second and third graders.
    • Memership required? Yes, for some of the downloads, but it’s free.
    • Bonus Perk: Spaces between the lines of the poems are big which allows lots of room for the students to write/copy the sentences. Printing the pages in black and white means the kids can color the pictures.
  • Lanternfish Phonics

    • What is it? Compilation of worksheets, games, flashcards, and lesson ideas for teaching English as a foreign language.
    • Why do I like it? It seems like there’s endless useable content on here. The phonics content has been particularly useful for me.
    • Membership required? Nope!
    • Bonus Perk: The downloads come as .doc files (not .pdf) so you can easily adjust content to your classroom’s specific needs. The spelling tests, too, are great because you can easily generate an unlimited number of tests by simply opening a test, then refreshing your browser.
  •  Teachers Pay Teachers

    • What is it? Printable worksheets and lesson plans created by fellow teachers that you can download instantly.
    • Why do I like it? There are so many high-quality and free printables on this site. I have yet to pay for a single resource, but I could definitely see myself doing so in the future with this site. Great stuff.
    • Membership required? Yes, but it’s free.
    • Bonus Perk: Easily searchable website that allows you to narrow resources down my level, subject, price, etc. There’s even an ESL section!
  • Carl’s Corner

    • What is it? Not the most user-friendly website, but it has some good worksheets if you poke around.
    • Why do I like it? I have found the consonant blends section to be particularly useful for printable worksheets and flashcards.
    • Membership required? Nope.
  • Sound City Reading

    • What is it? Like Carl’s Corner (see above), the website is kind of difficult to navigate, but once you figure it out there is a treasure trove of content that will help you teach your students how to read.
    • Why do I like it? So. Much. Content. You could probably base your whole curriculum off this one site.
    • Membership required? Nope.
  • ESL Gold Speaking Situations

    • What is it? A list of possible scenarios for English conversations.
    • Why do I like it? Great for referencing on those days when you just don’t know what the kids should talk about. Write a script with the scenarios here, print some silly masks for your students to wear, and drill the phrases. Easy way to get your kids talking!
    • Membership required? No.
    • Bonus perk: Speaking sitautions are broken down by level, and if you click through a particular subject, you’ll find suggested phrases and vocabulary that you can use in the lesson.
  • Conversation Starters

    • What is it? A massive list of topics starters for speaking situations.
    • Why do I like it? I haven’t used this too much yet, but I could see it being particularly useful for conversation lessons with students who already have a basic knowledge of English and just need practice producing the language naturally.
    • Membership required? No.
  • Pro Teacher Poetry

    • What is it? Free lesson ideas and teaching guidance for using poetry in the classroom.
    • Why do I like it? There are full lesson plans written out with specific tips for when you’re teaching. I also like the Giggle Poetry section for elementary school kids.
    • Membership required? No.
    • Bonus Perk: You can use the lesson suggestions here to perform poetry written by Kenn Nesbitt for really cute, giggle-inducing performances.

Additional resources you might find useful…


One thought on “Helpful (and Free!) Resources for Teaching ESL

  1. Pingback: An Alright Day in Thailand | Roses on the Road

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