Essential ESL Teaching Materials

Essential ESL Teaching MaterialsAll teachers have their favorite ESL teaching materials, an essential "toolkit" of resources that they keep either in their home or their workplace.

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Whilst many schools and colleges will provide course books and some other materials, this isn't always the case and there are some things you shouldn't be without.

My toolkit has evolved over the years. Let me share the contents with you.

1. Board pens

OK, this one may be a little boring to be number one, but it's always essential to have a supply of spare board pens, chalk, or whatever you need for your classroom.

Even though your school may provide them, the last thing you want is to have to leave the class to get more pens in the middle of a lesson.

2. Spare paper and pens for students

I always take extra paper and pens into a class, and I often have a supply of small notebooks at the start of a semester.

I give the notebooks to the students and encourage them to record new vocabulary in it. Because the books are a gift, the students seem more motivated to use them.

3. Colored paper

This has so many uses!

You can use this to illustrate grammar points (different parts of speech on a different colored sheet of paper), to get students into groups or pairs (have half a sentence on two matching sheets of paper – students have to find the other half of the sentence), it can be used in craft projects, in poster making, or simply for students to write final copies of work on for display.

The colored paper will make the work seem more special.

4. Pictures/photographs

Every teacher should have access to a pile of pictures! These can be used in so many ways.

For example, students can practice speaking for a minute about the picture without hesitation.

They can be used to illustrate the difference between present simple (for describing appearance) and present progressive (for describing the actions) tenses.

They can also be used as prompts for vocabulary, to stimulate discussion among students, or in many other ways.

5. Word cards

One thing I recently added to my "essential ESL materials" box is a set of laminated word cards which I made myself.

I picked a variety of words – nouns, verbs, adjectives, conjunctions, adverbs, etc. – printed them on colored paper, laminated them and cut them up into individual cards.

There are many ways you can use these, either as a basis for a whole activity or to fill a short gap at the end of the lesson.

One of my favorites is to give the students a few cards and get them to tell a story or make a sentence using all the words I give them. Some of the results can be hilarious!

6. A piece of string

Again, there are lots of possible uses for this. You can use it as the basis for a creative activity where students have to imagine it is something else and create a dialogue about it.

You could use it to illustrate tenses as an alternative to drawing a time line on the board. Students could tie or clip phrases, verbs or actions onto the string in the order they happened.

This adds a great visual, hands-on dimension.

7. Magazines

Magazines and travel brochures are essential in an ESL classroom. They can be used for reading activities, discussions, or they can be cut up and the pictures used in other projects such as posters.

8. Large sheets of paper

Invaluable for making classroom displays. The students feel a great sense of achievement when their work is displayed for other people to see.

9. Stickers and stars

Do not underestimate the motivational value of small prizes. Stars, stickers and wristbands are all inexpensive and can even help motivate teenagers who seem lazy.

You can either create sticker charts, or just give the students the rewards for effort or achievement. They can then put the stickers wherever they like.

(A sticker chart is a chart on the wall with names on. Stickers are added to the chart and a small prize given when a target is reached.)

10. Enthusiasm

This is the most important of all the essential ESL teaching materials. Don't leave home without it!

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