Free Resources for TEFL Teachers
Teaching English online can be a very rewarding path into TEFL. You have the opportunity to work from anywhere in the world and meet students from all different backgrounds and cultures. Let’s not forget the unbeatable commute to work in the morning.
Teaching online may require you to come up with some inspirational lessons to keep your learners engaged, even when they’re learning from home. We might not be able to do the same things that we would in a classroom. We might have to adapt how we use a resource, or you might even find that you need to completely discard it!
Below are some free resources (or mostly free!) for Teaching English that will help you plan great lessons for your students in the online classroom. Some resources have been specifically made/ adapted for teachers. However, there are others that were made for the traditional classroom, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be used online with some quick thinking from the teacher.
To start, Teach-this.com isn’t an entirely free resource but it’s one of the best resources out there. It’s a subscription service but there are plenty of free options. My advice would be to take a look and take advantage of all of the free stuff they do offer. If you love it, then maybe you’ll invest in a subscription later on.
Even pre-pandemic, this has been a teacher favourite. It’s great for lessons where you want to get your students speaking (which is every lesson isn’t it?). All the activities are communicative and divided into sections to practice a particular grammar point, vocabulary set, or even functional language.
A great feature of Teach-This is that they have adapted to the online teaching phenomenon. Many of their resources are now downable as interactive PDFs. This means that your students and you can actually edit the activities. You can send them to students and/or pairs for them to complete together and then practice the activity. You can also share your screen and edit it with your students.
Tim’s Free English Lessons
This site is a wonderful resource for lesson plans, especially for higher-level learners, or exam students. There is new content almost every week, which is incredibly useful for teachers who need up-to-date and fresh material for their students.
The site has plans and resources according to level or topic. One area that is particularly well developed is the conversation lesson plans. Conversation classes online are very popular, and they can be harder to plan, as you can’t simply use a coursebook. You need new material every week that gets your students speaking- which is where Tim’s English page comes in!
You can also download many of the features and there are materials to accompany the plans. There are worksheets, PowerPoints, and images that you can download to use in your lessons. There are suggestions for what language to focus on and lesson tips included; a very well-thought-out page that your students will enjoy.
Padlet is a great resource for group work, and you can have as many “padlets” as you like. You might need to register for an account, but the rest is free. Padlet is a resource that allows you to create “walls”. On these walls, different students (and you) can post notes. Students can even “like” or “comment” on each other’s notes. Anything that resembles social media in the classroom is always a hit!
A good way to utilise Padlet is to get your students working in pairs/ groups on something. It could be working on a list of questions together or making vocabulary lists. You can paste the link to the Padlet wall in the chat and then the students can work in breakout rooms. They then go and post on the Padlet. Give them a time limit and then you can review their work. Padlet is also good to use for homework tasks where you can see each student’s or group’s contributions.
Busy Teacher is another firm favourite amongst ESL teachers. It is a huge database of worksheets and lesson plan ideas. Predominantly made for the classroom, there aren’t many interactive features, but you can still use the resources in your online classroom.
As an online teacher, the screen share option will be your best friend. This enables you to share any resource with the learners. You can complete worksheets together this way. If you want your student to be more active with their writing, you can give them the ability to share their screen and they edit the worksheet themselves for you to see. This works best in a one-to-one lesson.
For group work with Busy Teacher resources, you can send the worksheets to the students ahead of time or put the document in the chat. Let students share their screens so one person can do this in a group, and they can work on something together. Keep the tasks short as too much time not being as active with a worksheet (if they are not editing it for example) can be boring for students.
This site is designed especially for Exam English resources. Online lessons for preparing students for exams are very popular, particularly one-to-one lessons. It’s important that the teacher has enough resources to work with the student and allow them to practice the exam in a realistic way.
Breakout English contains lots of free resources for Cambridge, IELTS, and Trinity examinations. They cover all areas of the exam. In particular, the speaking resources are very good on this page. They are very easily utilized by screen sharing and doing speaking practice with your students.
Breakout English is also a good site for the students to familiarise themselves with the exam format and get tips on how to complete different parts. You can set them homework to read a section and then perhaps combine it with using Padlet where they have to create their own exam tips based on what they’ve read!
Lingua House is another website that is a subscription service but there are many free resources to use. It provides complete, downloadable lesson plans on a variety of topics for different levels. They also now feature many adaptations for online teaching. Lingua House is particularly good for Business English lesson plans which utilize a variety of authentic material well. The plans cover all the skills.
You can use Lingua House as you might any other lesson plan site. You can share your screen and work through the lessons together. Or you can send the activities on to your students to do together in breakout rooms. The Lingua House lesson plans are very well detailed and guide you with level, vocabulary, timing, and even filler activities.
When your students are sitting in front of a screen in your lessons, you want to make it as visually appealing as possible. If you prefer to introduce new grammar or vocabulary in presentation form, then you can check out Canva. It’s much more modern than your standard Powerpoint. You can make impressive presentations and videos with a range of tools. It’s mostly free to use but there is a paid option for additional features.
No compilation of online free resources would be complete without Kahoot. It’s a fun way of using technology and getting your learners excited about learning. It works very well for children and teenagers. They have to use their phone to answer questions from a quiz that you create. You share the quiz on your screen and then they follow the instructions on their phone to select the right answers. The students love the competitive element and the chance to be able to use their phones in class!
Platforms to use to teach English online
If you don’t work for a bigger company teaching ESL online, you will have to choose a platform for yourself to use. It should be one that you and the student are comfortable using and one that ensures the quality of your online lessons.
One of the most popular platforms to come out of the pandemic, lately zoom has changed its limits on the free time allowance- you can use it for up to 40 minutes. If you have lessons 40 minutes or less, it could be a good option. If your lessons run longer, it’s best to find an alternative. Zoom also has a paid plan which is worth looking into if you are running your own online teaching business.
Skype is the classic video calling platform. It’s free to use for both one-to-one and group lessons. It is updating a lot to keep up with the competition. A lot of people feel comfortable using Skype as their old favorite, but there are more modern platforms out there.
Google Meet is fast becoming a popular option of free resources, especially since Zoom changed its lesson limits for free users. Google Meet is quite similar to other platforms: screen sharing and a whiteboard are key features. However, you don’t always see the student’s video when you’re screen sharing so you may feel like you’re talking to yourself!
A popular choice for business meetings, this platform also works well for online classes. You can send out invites and links for classes more easily than Zoom. It’s also completely free and has no limits on the number of minutes or meetings you use.
There are a range of platforms for online lessons out there. Most are free for general use but often include an option to be a paid user and access more features. If teaching online is your full time job, you might want to look into a paid subscription to get the most out of the platform and improve your learners’ experience.