My Favorite Resources for Planning English Lessons

Dear Sam,

As we’ve talked about before, planning out your first English lessons can be difficult (let’s be honest, I still have moments when I struggle with this five years later) and it’s especially hard to know where to get started. Thankfully, the internet is bursting with useful resources so let’s break it down into a few different categories of what you might want to include in your lessons as well as some of the best places to find the resources you’ll need!

 You can find so many great, free resources online.

You can find so many great, free resources online.

General Ideas

Why/When you might need these:

There are literally thousands of way to teach whatever topic you want to cover in your English lessons and yet when faced with a specific one you might struggle to come up with a single original idea. Not to fear, teachers have been sharing their lesson plans and ideas online for decades and you can easily use these to get inspired.

Some of my favorite resources:

Pinterest.com - If you still don’t have a Pinterest account, it’s worth getting one JUST for the lesson plan ideas! You can search for anything and save all of the ideas in one simple place to come back to later. It’s ideal for all those times you happen upon a great blog that has ideas for Christmas projects but that’s two months away and you’ll never remember when the time rolls around. While you’re there, why not follow us for Spain inspiration (and the occasional teaching English tool, too)?

http://www.teachingandtapas.com/blog and other teacher’s blogs - This is just one of the useful blogs I’ve found through Pinterest but I really enjoy happening upon teacher’s blogs as well as home-schooling parents (they are usually SO creative!!) as they share not only their lessons but also some insight into exactly how they executed them and other advice you may find helpful.

 Worksheets can be useful to introduce or reinforce new ideas.

Worksheets can be useful to introduce or reinforce new ideas.

Worksheets and other “Printables” (for Kids and Adults)

Why/When you might want to use these:

Best for adult learners, a group classroom setting, or younger students you know have an ability to sit still and complete a worksheet. Of course, there are many printable games, flashcards, and roleplay activities so you can find some winners for your more active students as well.

Some of my favorite resources:

https://www.teach-this.com/ - This website is very well-organized into grammar, functional language, games, and teaching tips. Not only can you find many free printables (without a subscription), but also read up on what has worked (and hasn’t worked) for other teachers!

https://en.islcollective.com/ - Another great site for similar resources, although you need to register for access to download their materials.

https://www.education.com/ - Especially useful for young learners, this site offers material labeled by grade (PreK-5th). While the focus is not on English as a Foreign Language I find the worksheets useful for introducing topics young students might not yet be learning in English but that they’ve learned in their native language and can start to grasp.

https://www.weareteachers.com/category/free-printables-for-teachers/ - Great for ideas and advice in general, you will need to sign up in order to access the free printables.

 Most kids love dancing along to a good song.

Most kids love dancing along to a good song.

Songs and Videos for Kids

Why/When you want to use these:

Music is one of the easiest ways to store new information and kids respond very positively to engaging songs. Search for a particular song you want to teach or take half an hour before class to listen to one of the longer videos that has multiple songs and make some flashcards with words and images related to the songs (yay, vocabulary acquisition). This could be especially helpful in order to have ‘something to show’ in terms of having prepped your class, not just shown up and put on a video. Alternatively, you can choose songs that require actions or dance moves to get your kid active.

Some of my favorite resources:

https://www.youtube.com/user/SuperSimpleSongs - This YouTube channels seems to have endless videos of interactive, repetitive songs that are ideal for young learners.

https://www.youtube.com/user/LittleBabyBum - Similar to the above channel, this one is geared towards young learners and often has songs that are a bit slower than Super Simple Songs.

Search for Barney and Friends, Sesame Street, and whatever your favorite shows were as a child - I find I often remember (more or less) the songs I used to sing as a kid but when I try to teach these to my students without any props or visual stimulation, they quickly get bored. Instead, try searching for clips from the original shows!

 Adults often enjoy learning with music too.

Adults often enjoy learning with music too.

Songs and Videos for Adults

Why/When you want to use these:

Music is one of the easiest ways to store new information—even as an adult! While I won’t make teenaged or older students hop around to the repetitive lyrics of songs like the ones you’ll find above, fill-in-the blank worksheets and/or discussion topics based on the lyrics are a great way to engage with English. In this way, students will actually come to understand the songs they’re listening to on the radio, improve their listening skills, and learn lots of colloquial expression along the way!

Some of my favorite resources:

http://www.learnenglish-online.com/listening/music.html - You can find tons of classics as well as pop songs on this site but the best part is that they’re already categorized into different verb tenses so that you can get students working on grammar in a more dynamic way. Ideal for classroom settings!

http://lessonstream.org/main-activity/videotelling/ - This guy’s got a bit of everything on his blog, but the resource I’ve used most is the “videotelling” section in which he provides video instructions or video content to base a lesson on. It’s broken down into grammar or vocabulary aims as well as the level of the student (both the A1-C2 scale as well as kids, teens, and adults).

Simply search for a specific song on Youtube (I recommend choosing the original music video over a karaoke-style audio with the lyrics) as well on lyrics website like https://www.azlyrics.com/) - Probably your best bet if students want to work with the newest songs or there’s a particular song you want to focus on.

 Be prepared and informed so that you can really prepare your students for their exams.

Be prepared and informed so that you can really prepare your students for their exams.

Specific Exam Preparation

Why/When you want to use these:

Sooner or later you’re bound to have the student who is preparing for a particular exam and who will expect you to know everything about it and the best way to prepare for it. This can be incredibly overwhelming at first, but with time you’ll feel confident enough with the format and expectations to teach without a book! For free online material check out…

My Favorite Resources:

Official Exam Websites (https://www.cambridgeenglish.org/, https://www.trinitycollege.com/site/?id=263, etc): Always put first things first. Before you dive into the endless pool of alternative materials, check out what’s available on the official site of the exam your student will take. These are the for-sure requirements (that you should read up on as your students will likely ask you) as well as the most essential grammar/vocabulary they need to know. You can get by with just these resources for weeks, depending how often you meet with your student.

https://www.examenglish.com/ - This is most definitely my go-to when it comes to additional practice exams and materials. ExamEnglish has resources specific to six different exams as well as resources to help you understand the CEF standards (all those A1-C2 labels) and grammar expectations for each level.

https://www.englishrevealed.co.uk/fce_vocabulary.php - This site specifically boasts preparation for the Cambridge exam but its long list of topics could easily be applied to any exam your student is studying for. I’ve found the word formation, phrasal verbs, and idioms exercises especially useful.

http://examenestrinitysevilla.com/ejercicios-practicos - The site itself is written in Spanish but it’s great either to share with students who might need the added explanations in Spanish or simply use it to download the sample exam exercises.

 Encouraging students to really use English is essential.

Encouraging students to really use English is essential.

Conversation Prompts

Why/When you want to use these:

Once students reach the level needed for conversational English, it’s best to engage them in natural conversation and even debates. You can look specifically for topics and grammar related to what they’re already studying at school, seasonal topics like the holidays, or something completely new.

http://iteslj.org/questions/ - This sight is a gold mine of, specifically for questions to get your conversation started. Simply choose a topic you’re interested in and print out or pull up the list during class. It’s almost impossible to run out fuel with this one; many of the topics have over a page worth of questions!

https://freeenglishlessonplans.com/tag/debate-topics/ Tim has got lots of lesson material’s available on his blog but the debates section is my favorite. Useful expressions and techniques are provided to aid students who are new to debating as well as a handful of “low-stake debate topics” in addition to some much more challenging ones.

And there you have it! With all these resources in your tool belt, you’ll have everything you need to plan engaging lessons for all of your students. Be sure to bookmark a few on your phone for that dreadful moment when you finish with everything you had prepared and still have 10 minutes left of class. Instead of panicking, pull up some new songs (for kids) or some conversation questions (for adults) and you’ll easily fill the remaining time without letting on that you were unprepared at all.

Have you had success with these resources yourself? Do you have other sites you love that we should add to the list? Please don’t hesitate to help a fellow teacher out and comment with your tips!


Sincerely,
Spain