Number one for English language teachers

ESOL extra

In this section, Adrian Tennant takes a look at some of the ESOL materials available on onestopenglish and suggests how they can be integrated into your teaching.

My first tip would be to start by reading the following two articles that are in the ESOL support section:

These two articles give you a good overview of the complexities surrounding teaching ESOL, at least in the UK. If you’re new to teaching ESOL I’d say these were essential reading, and even if you’ve been teaching in the sector for a while they are still well worth a read.

Now we’ll take a look at a selection of materials from the following sections:

Lesson Share Audio and Podcasts News Lessons Pronunciation skills Vocabulary Speaking skills Writing skills Teacher Support Magazine Conclusion

Lesson Share

I’m going to start with the Lesson Share section. The reason for this is simple: many of the lessons here are written by practicing teachers, teachers on the ground or at the chalkface and if these lessons have worked for them – why not for you? Of course, there’s a section with the Lesson Share area for ESOL teachers, but that’s clearly marked, so what we’re interested in is other resources that might be of interest.

One of the key things in ESOL lessons is personalization and giving students the opportunity to speak about themselves, so lessons like this one on talking about experiences might be of use or this one on using can for ability.

Another area that’s worth exploring is routines/daily life and role plays are also great to use with ESOL students, so why not try this fun speaking lesson about a job interview situation.

As you can see there’s a lot of variety and, even if you can’t use the exact lesson plan, the ideas can easily be adapted to suit your ESOL students.

Audio and Podcasts

One if the most important skills for ESOL students to develop is listening. They don’t really need extended listening texts, but in many of the tests they take there is a Listen and Respond component which requires them to comprehend short listening extracts, so these are important. Why not try some of the Live from … series of authentic interviews and see if these are useful? A couple that seem to be particularly useful for ESOL are these Live from Londonlessons on talking about the news and talking about breakfast. Your students might also enjoy listening to one of the serialized Macmillan Readers and trying the activities. You could try Northanger Abbey, although you might need to give your students a bit of background information as it is very culturally bound.

News Lessons

The News Lessons on onestopenglish could be extremely useful for ESOL students as they are up-to-date and will often have immediate relevance to what is going on around them. For example, one of the main topics in the news over recent months has been Global Warming (but then when has it been out of the news in the last ten years?). Over the past year there have been at least three lessons on this topic from different angles. One was about how people from the Maldives might have to look for somewhere else to live as their islands are under threat. Another was about how eating meat can increase global warming. And very recently there was a lesson about climate change in Russia’s Arctic tundra. I’ve also used lessons on Barack Obama, who everyone seems to have heard about and binge drinking, which my students had heard about from the local news but didn’t understand.

Each news lesson is available on onestopenglish for a year in order to keep the topics current and relevant to your students. New news lessons are published every week, so there will be plenty of new lessons throughout the year that are useful and relevant in ESOL classes.

Pronunciation skills

This is an area that I’ve often found ESOL students struggle with and want more practice. Within the Skills section there’s a whole subsection on Pronunciation skills, and it’s well worth a visit. Some of the activities I’ve used have been the activities focusing on distinguishing between different phonemesand these simple pronunciation activities. All of these activities have accompanying audio files, making them extremely useful and easy to use.

Another fantastic feature – and very useful tool for the classroom – is the Interactive phonemic chart.


Students often come into lessons saying they’ve heard or seen something and they don’t understand it – what does X mean? One source of misunderstandings is signs – here are some fun lessons that deal with exactly this issue. There are also lots of very useful theme-based vocabulary lessons in this section. In the last few months I’ve used lessons connected to illness, this pre-intermediate lesson about jobs and a lesson on schools, which was a great way of providing the vocabulary that many of the ESOL students needed.

Speaking skills

All ESOL students seem to want to practise speaking, but they want the topics to be relevant to their everyday needs. There’s plenty of material in the Speaking skills area of the Skills section. For example, Get out of the classroom 1 and Get out of the classroom 2 are two sets of ideas for getting your students out and about and using their English.

I’ve also found role play lessons useful, especially on the theme of job interviews. You could try these three:

A number of other lessons that I’ve found extremely useful are this lesson on giving directions, this lesson on habits and a board game about habits and routines.

Writing skills

Encouraging our students to write is really important. Any writing activity needs one (or more) of the following. Either, immediate relevance; a fun/interest factor; a connection/personalization aspect or some form of information exchange. Here are three lesson ideas that fulfill one or more of these criteria:

Teacher Support

Apart from classroom activities and lesson plans there’s also a lot of support for teachers in terms of ideas on methodology and tips on how to use certain techniques. In the Skills sections there are articles on reading, writing, listening, speaking and pronunciation all entitled ‘… matters’, as well as a series on assessment in the Exams section.

There are also some useful articles in the Teacher Support area including some great stuff in the Methodology section. And under Ask the Experts you can find the following interesting responses to questions specifically about teaching ESOL and ESL:


Finally, it’s also worth checking out the Magazine section as sometimes there are really interesting articles and ideas there. For example, I found this class report and this ESOL case-study really uplifting and motivating. For those of you on the other side of the pond (the Atlantic Ocean!) you might be interested in this article about teaching ESL in California.


So, as you can see, there’s a huge amount of material on onestopenglish that is suitable for using with ESOL and ESL classes – it’s just a matter of knowing where to look, or having the time to do some exploring.

Good luck!

Adrian Tennant

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