ESL Lesson Plans, Materials, and Time Killers
If you’re looking for ESL lesson plans, materials, and time killers for your next class or camp, we’ve compiled a list of all the best places to get what you need.
For the last year and a half, Amanda has been teaching and entertaining students at a public high school in Gyeonggi-do. In her short time as a teacher she has discovered that there are some classroom incentives that always work, no matter how old your students are: creativity, cartoons, and candy.
Creating lessons plans that will keep both you and your students entertained can be a stressful ordeal for any teacher. I myself am still hoping Pixar will put out an entire year’s supply of animated shorts, preferably ones that tie into those dreary textbook lessons.
Until then, whether you’re in a creative rut, have exhausted all possibilities on Waygook and Busy Teacher, or just need to fill some time in your after school class, here are the best places to look for lesson plans, material, inspiration, and time killers!
What are you looking for? Use this list to navigate to the appropriate section.
- Lesson Plans
- Materials and Ideas
- Time Killers
Here are some sites where you can find free lesson plans and materials:
- Waygook.orgYou can find lesson plans and material shared by English teachers from all over South Korea.
- Busy TeacherThis site has tons of lessons and material divided by topics and age level. For some great ideas be sure to check out their articles as well.
- Genki EnglishGood for the younger set, this English teacher from Japan provides lots of lesson ideas and actually has some pretty good videos on teaching techniques, as well as lesson and activity demos.
- ESL ClarissaYou’ll have to dig through the blog a bit to find lesson plans and activities, but I’m always impressed by her creativity. For examples: using Baby Shower games as speaking and listening practice.
- Movie Segments to Assess Grammar GoalsJust as the title describes, this blog lets you search for movie clips according to specific grammar points.
- Film EnglishSimilar to the previous site, these lessons are more theme than grammar-based.
- K12reader.comThese aren’t full lessons, but if you need to teach grammar this site has tons of worksheets for drilling basic and intermediate grammar topics, and provides related activity ideas.
- Iteslj. orgProvides good conversation- and discussion-based lessons, including many for advanced or adult learners. I thought they had a unique approach to comparing and contrasting cultures.
Materials and Ideas
Often when planning a lesson you start with the target language and learning goals already in mind, but need to find extra activities and material to make up the meat of the lesson. Here are some ideas and resources to meet your educational goals:
Openers and Closers
- Improv GamesA great way to get your students to warm up and speak spontaneously. You can find common improv games here and here. A quick Google search for “improv games” will yield tons of results.
- Conversation StartersI love Jennifer Teacher’s 26 Fresh ESL Conversation Starters. I’ve based entire lessons on some of them. Her blog also provides a good list of other ESL sites and resources. If you want to try a conversation starter at the beginning of every class, my students were really into teslj.org’s extensive list of conditional questions.
- Summer Camp GamesTraditional camp style games and activities are always good for filling time. They can involve speaking or just be a good way to get the kids moving and active.
- Konglish JokesIf you understand Korean, or can at least get the delivery right, these jokes might get a few chuckles from your students (or at least some groans…)
- SoundsWhile images are a great way to stir conversation and jog students’ memories, you can also try using sound effects. You can have your students identify sounds in English or use them to tell a story. You could also use this site to play recordings of different English accents from around the world.
- There is also the International Dialects of English Archive, which provides an interactive map of the world and samples of non-native English speakers, including South Koreans. Hopefully your students will gain some more confidence when they realize that a perfect “Hollywood accent” isn’t everything, and that English is as adaptable as it is global.
- Phone appsKorean students are addicted to their smart phones, literally. Try to use it to your advantage and take screen shots of English games and apps. You can talk about different games, technology vocabulary, and how to use phone applications in English.
- Google Maps Street ViewGive you students a tour of your hometown or check out major cities! Having your students help you navigate is a great way to practice giving directions. You could have them visit a new place every week. In fact, Google Maps now allows you to go inside thousands of famous landmarks! You can check out a map of all available tours. The Google World Wonders site will give students an even more detailed view of dozens of famous places, like this tour of Versailles for instance.
- Educational ChannelsEnglish education channels, such as the Discovery Network and National Geographic, are guaranteed to have games, activities, and lesson plans for students. For listening, National Geographic even has short podcasts for kids.
- Quality videosWhen you’ve had enough of low resolution “epic fail” and cat videos, YouTube rival Vimeo has a vast selection of quality short films and animations to choose from. The most superficial of searches on Vimeo led me to this gem, great for a “what happens next?” lesson. I also really like to show tilt shift videos (those films where everything looks super tiny). Vimeo user Keith Loutit has a great series of them called Bathtub.
- AnimationMost teachers already seem to have a list of go-to animations, but if you need more, try sifting through a list of Oscar-nominated, animated shorts. They tend to cover a range of lesson-related themes, but don’t have dialogue so they can be easily adapted to different activities. My favorite find is French Roast, a “don’t judge a book by its cover” story with a poignant twist ending. There is also Short of the Week which posts up-and-coming shorts and allows you to select films by country, genre, or medium.
- Subtitles!If you need subtitles for recent TV shows or movies, you can search for them here. It’s in Korean but you can search for the titles in English. You use the subtitles together with the video file in GOM Player (Windows Media Player and VLC generally can’t display Korean characters).
- TEDTED talks provide great short video lectures on a number of topics, but can be difficult for students to understand. There is a Korean TED site with translations, including a popular lecture from Hyeonseo Lee, a North Korean refugee.
Games and Puzzles
- Online kid’s magazinesIf you’re from America you might remember reading Highlights magazine while waiting at the doctor’s office. It’s a great kid’s magazine and their website contains animated stories, games, crafts, science experiments, and a number of other activities to keep young minds occupied.
- Game MakersIf you need to drill vocabulary with your students, you can create all kinds of word puzzles using the Armored Penguin generator. If you want to review with a Jeopardy board, you can easily create your own Jeopardy game board here!
- SporcleIn college I was addicted to Sporcle. It’s a website filled with timed quizzes covering everything from history to television. If you can bring it up on a projector screen, you can try to complete quizzes together as a class. There are lots of word and spelling–related quizzes. I myself am a big fan of the geography quizzes. You can now create your own timed quizzes as well!
- No prep activitiesThe best teachers can always change pace quickly when things don’t go according to plan. In case your computer breaks down or you have extra time, always have a list of no-prep games handy! Busy Teacher has lots of them!
- NewsI know some people who use Breaking English News, which provides news stories at different reading levels, for reading material.
If your students read at middle school level, many reputable news outlets also have news sections especially for kids and teens. I like the ones provided by TIME magazine and the New York Times. The NYtimes also has a great “what’s going on in this picture” section.
- ComicsMany Korean students, from elementary to high school, love reading online comics and graphic novels. If you can get the title of their favorite series, perhaps you can get them to read it in English!
- StoriesEslfast has links to hundreds of short stories and conversation ideas.
Tense timelines – English has many complicated tenses, so I like showing students these visual tense timelines from Englishpage.com to help them understand sentences. In addition to other grammar topics, the site has timelines for all the English tenses, along with great explanations, examples, and related practice.
Sometimes you just need to be able to pop open YouTube and hit play for a few minutes… or a whole class. It’s probably no secret to you by now that Korean kids often love slapstick humor. You can’t go wrong with these easy-to-find videos:
- Tom and Jerry or the Road Runner. My students love anything with a cat-and-mouse-style chase.
- The minimalist Italian cartoon series La Linea has also given my students a few laughs, and there are dozens of episodes.
- If your students are more sophisticated, then perhaps you could turn to the antics of Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton.
- One of my favorite blogs, This is Colossal, has videos of all kinds of amazing artworks, installations, and animations. You can blow some minds with videos like ScreenGrab.
- You’re probably aware that Koreans love all things cute. Animal Planet has a Too Cute web series. Your students might not be able to follow the English but I’m sure they will love watching adorable animals. Bath Time for Baby Sloths (embedded below) is a favorite.
- Kids of all ages are usually dazzled by the visuals in the cartoon Adventure Time (the link has all episodes with Korean subtitles; the occasional mild adult humor will probably go over their heads, and they will love the Korean-speaking unicorn). Episodes are only 10 minutes each, but there are tons of them.
(This video brought to you by the committee for attention retention)
If you have a go-to site for last-minute lesson planning and resource grabbing then leave us a comment below. What other tips and tricks do you have for filling in the time? Let us know, by sending us a message to the right!