Essential ESL Teaching Materials
All teachers have
their favorite ESL teaching materials, an essential
"toolkit" of resources that they keep either in their home or
Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.)
This is the most important of all the essential ESL teaching materials.
Don't leave home without it!
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