Are you netting the world's best ESL resource?
Tools for Teaching ESL
by Josef Essberger
If you have access to the Internet, whether for yourself or for
your students, you have the world's premier ESL resource at your
Never before has there been such a bank of ESL material. And
it's all there for you, much of it free, accessible, copiable and
How can you capitalise on this outstanding resource? That
depends to some extent on your Internet connection - whether it's you alone, at
home or at school, or some or all of your students, again at home or at school.
Beyond that, the possibilities are endless, because the ways in which you can
exploit the Internet are limited only by your own imagination. And since your
imagination is boundless . . .
But great artists sometimes need a little inspiration. So here
are a few kick-starters to get you going.
If you're going to use Electronic Mail to communicate with
students, the first thing to do is create mailing lists of your students,
grouped in whichever way is most appropriate. Most email programs have an
address book that allows you to do this. Once done, you will then be able to
email all of your students in a particular group with a single mouse click. You
will still, of course, be able to email them individually.
There are several ways in which you can distribute homework by
email. For example, you could create your own exercises, tests or quizzes, and
simply email them to your students. Or you could copy some of the free
exercises to be found at sites like
email those. Another possibility is to email students the URL of a site that
you want them to work on (see WWW below).
If you teach English by telephone, then email is the perfect way
to supply your student with texts to be read before the lesson, with material
that you will use during the lesson or with exercises to be done after the
Working together, but not necessarily in the same location,
students can write and edit a publication of some kind. This might be a one-off
(for example, for a short-term course) or weekly or monthly (for a longer-term
course). It could be related specifically to the group or to any other subject
of interest to the group. The way you organise this is up to you. You might
give each student a different role (editor, advertising manager, journalist
etc) or you might let them work in any way they wish. But you should probably
set some clear objectives: number of words, editorial/advertising ratio,
editorial policy etc.
The beauty of email is that the text can be written,
transmitted, rewritten, edited, retransmitted etc easily between any number of
students working in any location. Text can be either in the body of the email
or attached as a file. Manipulation and correction is particularly easy.
The final product could be published as an email, as a printed
document or as a web page. If you have your own home page, or if your school
has a web site, it should be a fairly easy matter to publish your students'
work. This would give added motivation.
There is plenty of scope here to collaborate with students in
other schools and other countries. For example, two schools based in France and
Japan could create a joint 'Franco-Japanese News'. You would simply need to
find teachers abroad who want to work with you. Find them by leaving a message
on EnglishClub.com ESL Projects.
The World Wide Web
Here we should distinguish between authentic material (of which
there are literally millions of pages) and designed-for-ESL material (which now
occupies a significant and growing portion of the Web). Both have their
To get an idea of the range of material available, just take a
look at Yahoo!'s main index:
- Arts & Humanities
- Business & Economy
- Computers & Internet
- News & Media
- Recreation & Sports
- Social Science
- Society & Culture
These are just the main sections. Within each section, there are
Websites With Authentic Material
The vast majority of websites contain authentic material in the
sense that it is written to convey real information (commercial or otherwise)
to an English-speaking audience without any thought for non-native speakers. It
is a vast range of English from highly formal to familiar or even vulgar. And
it emanates from an equally vast range of sources. But it is 'real' English,
whether British, American, Australian etc, and whether polished or otherwise.
Here, at the click of your mouse, you can find everything from White House
Press Briefings to Joe Bloggs' Home Page. And whether it's IBM, Coca-Cola,
British Airways, Sanyo or Volkswagen, all the multi-nationals and many other
companies can be found on the Web.
You can use this material either as a source for classroom
handouts that you would exploit just like any other authentic material, or as
an arena for your students themselves to explore.
The following ideas are simply examples of what can be done:
Go to http://www.any-company-you-want.com and find the
answers to these questions:
- Where is the head office?
- What is the fax number for the Asian head quarters?
- Who is the Chairman?
- What is the annual turnover?
- What are the company's main products?
- Why, according to the company Annual Report, did sales fall
- What new brands is the company introducing in the current
- Who is in charge of public relations?
- What is the company's environmental policy?
- Describe the company's logo.
- List three job openings and accompanying salary
- What is the projected growth for the coming year?
- Of course, you will modify these questions according to level
Set your students a particular task
I am going to Bangkok on business for six weeks. I need a
self-catering apartment with a living-room and separate bedroom. Please check
out http://www.bangkokapartments.info and recommend a suitable
apartment. It should be reasonably central. Air-conditioning is essential. I
need to know:
- The price:
- The address:
- Size of apartment:
- Does it have a balcony?
- Does it have satellite TV?
- Does it have a laundry service?
- How do I book the apartment?
Websites With Designed-for-ESL Material
Firstly, you can find many excellent, copiable resources for you
to use in class on the Web. Several sites offer classroom worksheets that you
are free to copy and print out for educational purposes. At
TEFL.net ESL Lesson
Plans, for example, you'll find an entire section of ESL worksheets,
categorised by skill and level. These worksheets are specifically designed to
print out easily on A4 or American Letter size paper.
Secondly, several sites offer advice and ideas for ESL teachers.
DevelopingTeachers.com has articles offering really useful
suggestions for teaching; while
EnglishClub.com for ESL Teachers has a great section
covering activities in the ESL classroom.
Thirdly, you can find many study and revision activities for
students to do themselves, with or without your supervision. There are
literally hundreds of these activities that you can find through links pages
and search machines (see below). Listed here are just a few as an indication
You'll find a range of grammar tutorials at
English Grammar, together with associated quizzes and exercises. Let your
students work on these exercises at school if you have Internet access, or send
them the URL and specific tasks by email.
You'll find quizzes about grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation
at EnglishClub.com ESL Quizzes
Try sending your students to
ESL Cafe - Slang or
Top 20 Words at
EnglishClub.com English Vocabulary.
A useful section at EnglishClub.com is the
Reading area where students can find short excerpts from classic texts,
together with hyperlinked notes and definitions.
Finally, you need a way to find the sites with ESL material. All
of the major search engines like
Google or directories like
Yahoo! can help you here,
but they'll probably find you a lot of other, unwanted sites, too. For a more
finely tuned search, check the ESL specialised links directories like:
© Josef Essberger