ESL Resources for Classroom Teachers

Written by Margaret Nelson

ESL Resources for Teachers: Overview

English as a Second Language (or ESL) teachers work with English language learners to improve their English skills. Due to increased immigration and globalization in recent years, there has been an increased need for educators who can teach students who need help with their English. Such teachers have been able to do amazing work with their students, and their students have gained English proficiency.

However, even the most skilled ESL teachers need support, specifically with classroom resources. Although some resources can work in every type of classroom, specific ESL resources are often required to meet the needs of the students who want to take the TExES ESL certification exam. These resources include things to help improve areas of weakness, such as audio exercises, computer games, board games, and bilingual books. While these resources can help tremendously, they can get expensive, especially if the teacher only has a small budget. Fortunately, there are ways that ESL teachers can secure the resources they need, even if the district cannot pay for them.

Digital ESL Teacher Resources

With the widespread availability of the internet, it is easier than ever to find the right ESL teacher resource. There are resources available regardless of the student's needs and fluency level, such as printable worksheets, listening exercises, instructions for in-class games and activities, language dictionaries, lesson plans, and books, among many others. These can help students improve their English Language skills by giving them opportunities to practice, both independently and in groups.

Digital resources also have several advantages. For example, they are inexpensive, readily available, reusable, and use less classroom space. For these reasons, digital resources are best for teachers with little classroom space and small budgets who need resources as soon as possible.

Printable Worksheets and Activities for ESL Teachers

Many teachers are busy regardless of what they teach, and they don't always have time to create worksheets and other activities. For an ESL teacher who is short on time, there are a variety of printable worksheets and other activities. For example:

  • The Internet TESL Journal has a lot of resources available for ESL teachers, including lessons, conversation starters, activities, games, and jokes. The Journal was active from 1995 to 2010, and the website is now maintained as a free resource for ESL teachers.
  • The National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition has a list of teacher resources available, including bilingual books, translated information sheets for both students and parents, and tips and activities to help integrate ESL learning across subjects. This source mostly provides resources for teacher development, but there are some classroom resources listed.

Multimedia ESL Resources

In addition to printable resources, there are a variety of multimedia ESL resources as well. Multimedia resources can include things like videos, songs, and audio files. Such resources allow students to listen to native English speakers. Resources like songs and audio files also enable students to practice their pronunciation and memorize new vocabulary while having fun. Multimedia resources include the following:

  • Games to Learn English is a free website that includes a variety of online activities. These activities provide fun ways to practice writing, spelling, and formatting sentences, as well as reinforcing grammar. The website provides an option for teachers to create an account, which allows them to set homework tasks, monitor for completion, and upload their own content.
  • The U.S. Department of State has a variety of free printable worksheets and activities, including board games, crossword puzzles, word games, short stories, and songs. There are even instructions provided so that ESL teachers know how to present the lesson. In addition to teaching English, these sources reinforce concepts related to American culture, making them an excellent option for students who have recently moved to the United States.

Physical Classroom ESL Resources

In addition to digital resources, there are many physical resources available for ESL classrooms. These ESL resources can include things like informational posters and games. For example, posters that have the letters of the alphabet help students to see what each letter is supposed to look like. In addition, having charts with vocabulary words and pictures (such as the colors and their names in English) can help reinforce new vocabulary.

Games are also a beneficial ESL resource because they help students engage with the material in a fun, exciting way. Because games are fun for students, they can help increase classroom engagement, which fosters better understanding and increased passion. Games are especially beneficial for young ESL students who might have short attention spans.

Posters, Charts, and other ESL Resources

Posters and charts are especially important ESL resources. They can appeal to visual learners, and they serve as a reminder of important information, such as English vocabulary and how to write the letters of the alphabet. Having posters and charts that connect known information to unknown information is also useful. For example, many show pictures of a group of concepts, such as colors, shapes, holidays, and seasons of the year and add the English word below them. Pictures are often helpful in ESL teaching because they are a non-verbal way of describing a concept. By repeatedly seeing the picture with the new vocabulary word, the student will begin to associate the concept with a new name.

Games for ESL Teachers

In addition to posters and charts, there are numerous games available for an ESL teacher to use in their classroom. Games are an effective teaching tool. They can fit any budget, reinforce topics, and benefit all students, regardless of their age or fluency level. According to experts, some examples of games include the following:

  • For children and adolescents, a game of I Spy can help them practice describing everyday objects and reinforce the use of adjectives.
  • For beginner to intermediate learners, sentence scrambles allow them to review vocabulary and sentence structure. This game has a lot of variations. The students could work individually or in teams, and they could race to see who correctly unscrambles their sentences first.
  • For more advanced learners, word games like Scrabble and Bananagrams provide opportunities to use the vocabulary they have learned and reinforce their spelling.

There is an abundance of free and inexpensive games available to help students reinforce their learning. By searching online for "ESL games" and the desired topic, an ESL teacher can find games for their classroom.

Funding for ESL Resources

It is easy to see that the internet has plenty of free and low-cost ESL resources. However, sometimes ESL teachers need more expensive resources to help their students. For example, they might need new computers to access listening exercises or online games. Unfortunately, many school districts struggle to provide adequate funding for their teachers, and many programs are subject to budget cuts. This trend can be a frustrating challenge for many ESL teachers because if they cannot find the proper funding for these resources, it might make their teaching less effective. Fortunately, even if school districts cannot or will not pay for these resources, there are many ways that ESL teachers can secure funding without having to pay out of pocket.

State and Local Funding for ESL Resources

If a teacher needs to secure funding for ESL resources, the first step is to see if they can secure funding through their school district. Even if the resources are unlikely to be funded, it is still a good idea to check because there is still a chance that there might be sufficient funding. Even if that is not the case, teachers might be required to check with their districts before seeking outside funding.

Once there is confirmation that the district cannot provide funding, teachers can start their searches. Often, grants are available through the state's department of education website. Once on the website, the teacher should search for a page that says something like grants or teacher funding. The name will vary, but this page will include a list of every grant sponsored by or affiliated with the state department of education. These grants usually have rules, so read all information thoroughly before applying.

Also, consider applying to both ESL-related grants and non-ESL-related ones. For example, if a teacher works at a Title I school, they could consider applying for Title I school grants.

Grants for ESL Teachers

In addition, there are many grants available specifically for ESL teachers. Many associations offer grants for classroom resources, professional development, and continuing education. These include the following:

  • The TESOL International Association has a list of funding opportunities for ESL teachers. These include travel grants for members to travel to the association's events, awards that recognize excellence in the ESL field, scholarships to fund professional development, and grants to pay for teaching materials.
  • The National Council of Teachers of English provides grants for students, foundations, and teachers interested in conducting research to improve the quality of English-language learning.
  • The English Language Program is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State. It grants ESL teachers the opportunity to accept a 10-month assignment teaching English in person in another country. When accepted into the Fellow Program, teachers give English lessons, receive further training, and have opportunities for cultural exchange.

These are just a few of the opportunities available for ESL teachers. Even though some have requirements (such as joining an association as a member), these grant opportunities are worth considering to get your resources and professional development funded.

Fundraising for ESL Resources

Fundraising is another option to pay for resources. As a busy teacher, it can be hard to find the time to fundraise in addition to the normal responsibilities. Thankfully, it does not need much time or effort. Here are a few ways to fundraise and pay for ESL resources:

  • Crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is where many contribute small amounts of money to help fund a project. Research before setting up a campaign because some platforms charge money and others cost nothing. Online fundraising can reach a wider audience beyond your geographic area because you can share a link via social media, text, or email.
    • Get Classroom Help. Depending on your community, there might be many people who want to help fund a specific classroom. Such people often get more satisfaction donating to a specific classroom, instead of a general education fund. Particularly generous community members or local businesses might be willing to match contributions or sell the desired items to you at a reduced price.
  • Consider organizing a fundraiser at school. The possibilities are endless for effective fundraisers. For example:
    • Have a bake sale. See if you can get students and teachers to sign up to bring a baked good to sell. If you can, sell them either before or after school. Make sure to check with the school's policies, though. Many prohibit peanuts and other common allergens, which would make a bake sale harder.
    • Organize a book sale. Selling books is a good alternative because everyone can enjoy books, regardless of allergies, unlike a bake sale. In the weeks ahead, have students drop off their unwanted books. Once they are categorized and organized, price them inexpensively and allow students and parents to purchase them. For example, a suggested price could be 25 cents for paperbacks and 50 cents for hardcover books. Parents would likely be willing to donate books to clear out space, and many would be willing to give their kids money. This kind of fundraiser has several benefits: students can build their home libraries inexpensively, the school gets to promote at-home literacy and ESL teachers get money to purchase necessary resources.

Professional Development and Continuing Education for ESL Teachers

In addition to having the right classroom resources, another resource for an ESL teacher is professional development and continuing education. For some teachers, keeping up with professional development can be difficult. Because of all of their classroom responsibilities, they might not have a lot of time or energy to find professional development materials and complete them.

However, it still needs to prioritize professional development for a couple of reasons:

  • First, many districts require teachers to complete professional development hours each year. This number varies depending on the school district and the teacher's specialization.
  • Second, keeping knowledge and education up to date makes them more effective because they learn how to use the most effective teaching methods. Experts are always researching teaching, psychology, and child development, and they are always making new recommendations in response to new information.

By completing their professional development, every ESL teacher can ensure that their teaching remains effective.

Workshops and Seminars for ESL Teachers

Workshops and seminars can be excellent for ESL teachers to fulfill their professional development requirements. With workshops and seminars, ESL teachers can network, learn from the top experts, and walk away with new strategies to use in their classrooms. Here are a few conferences and seminars available:

  • The TESOL International Association offers in-person conferences, symposiums, and workshops for ESL teachers. Each is in a different location and requires varying time commitments. However, they provide opportunities to network with other teachers, learn from leading experts, and discover new teaching strategies.
  • Wheaton College offers three ESL workshops online and in-person. Each workshop lasts for one day, and a participant can learn the foundational skills for becoming an effective ESL teacher. Participants can choose to complete one, two, or all three workshops. A certificate of completion will be awarded after each workshop, and upon completion of all three workshops, participants will earn a 30-hour Reach Out with English (ROWE) certificate.

ESL Certification Programs and Courses

In addition to workshops, there are many programs and courses that provide an ESL certification for teachers (or prospective teachers) to prepare themselves for the classroom and improve their effectiveness. Different institutions require different certifications, so thorough research is needed. These include the following:

  • The TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification equips ESL teachers with crucial knowledge of how to teach all aspects of the English language. This certificate is generally helpful for students who want to teach abroad or outside the public school system in the U.S. There are numerous programs available, both through universities and online.
  • The TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification is similar to the TESOL certification in that they both help prepare prospective teachers to teach ESL. It also tends to be beneficial for those who wish to teach online. Many times, this program is offered online as a self-paced course.
  • The CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) is a popular certificate program, and employers often request this certification. The goal is to help equip students with the teaching techniques they need, often by combining classroom instruction and hands-on practice. This program is offered online and in-person, and some have part-time and full-time options.

Regardless of the certificate program, it's important to research it to make sure it is reputable and will fulfill the desired job requirements.

TExES Exams and Other Standardized Tests

Teachers often must pass a state certification exam to become licensed to teach in a specific state. For instance, in the state of Texas, teachers must pass one or more TExES exams. Passing the TExES exam ensures that teachers have sufficient knowledge of the subject(s) they want to teach. There are also tests available for bilingual education and ESL.

Test-takers often have to spend several weeks studying before the TExES exams. For ESL teachers, this study time can be just as useful as the certificate itself. Rather than studying just to pass a test, spend extra time with the material. Doing so can reinforce knowledge obtained during school and introduce additional information to ensure a successful transition to the classroom.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What resources can I use to teach English?

    Thanks to the widespread availability of the internet, there are many ESL resources available. These include things like audio recordings, songs, online games, board games, posters, and bilingual books.

  • What is an ESL resource?

    An ESL teacher resource is anything that can be used to help students increase their ESL proficiency. Depending on the student's needs, some resources might be more effective than others.

  • What are the resources you use in your classroom for teaching English language effectively?

    There are a variety of ESL resources for teachers. In order to find the most effective ones, teachers must understand their student's needs. For example, if a student struggles to understand spoken English, then the teacher should focus on using auditory resources, such as listening exercises and songs.

  • What are some online resources for teachers?

    There are many online ESL resources for teachers that help to save time and deliver more effective instruction. These resources include websites like, which provides free printables and, which provides free listening exercises.