Adult Education ESL Library

ESL resources for adult educators.


    This is a multi-level website where students can practice listening, comprehension and reading skills. Vocabulary exercises are also available.
    A three-level (easy, medium, difficult) website that offers quizzes of different types including crossword puzzles, fill in the blanks and multiple choice exercises.
    A fun study site with word games, puzzles, quizzes, exercises, slang, proverbs and much more.
    The TOEFL test is a requirement for admission into colleges and universities where instruction is in English. In addition, many government, licensing, and certification agencies, and exchange and scholarship programs use TOEFL scores to evaluate the English proficiency of people for whom English is not their native language. Information about the TOEFL tests and services are available online.
    Many worksheets to reinforce grammar taught or for those students who want more practice.
    Good site for movie clips and listening exercises. Can be used individually by students or ideas for a class.
    Printable worksheets and easy crossword puzzles

Books and Periodicals

Easy English News
By Elizabeth Claire
Easy English News PO Box 2596 Fair Lawn, NJ 07410
A monthly newspaper produced for adult ESOL students. It contains timely news stories, a student letter page, feature stories, idioms, great vocabulary and much more.

Hands On English Or 1 -800-ESL-HAND
By subscription this bi-monthly periodical has many seasonal activities which are multileveled and reproducible!

News for You
By New Readers Press
Weekly newspaper for adults. Current and high interest stories. Comes with teacher’s guide and activities that can be photocopied.

Basic English Grammar, Third Edition (Full Student Book with Audio CD and Answer Key)
By Betty Schrarnpfer Azar, Stacy A. Hagen
Betty Azar is the guru of ESL grammar. This is her beginning grammar book, which is good for intermediate and above ESL. It can be used as an ESL teacher’s grammar “bible” to refresh your grammar!

Focus on Grammar
Longman Grammar Series
This series teaches grammar through using the grammar in real life context, stories for example, and then it follows with charts and exercises. Has a companion website for more activities.

Oxford Picture Dictionary
Oxford University Press
This is a great picture dictionary. There are workbooks that are multileveled and a reading series that accompanies the book. It can be used for all levels. The dictionary pictures are clear and not cartoons. The teacher’s guide is very useful and gives ideas on how to teach any level with the dictionary.

Weaving It Together, Connecting Reading and Writing; National Geographic
Connects high interest reading with the basic skills for writing. Includes critical thinking and vocabulary building. Good for intermediate and above levels.

All About The USA
This is a progressive series of 4 books that have short stories of interest about the US. Stories about The Boston Tea Party; Ben and Jerry’s; McDonald’s; Starbucks; historical figures and much more. CD provides another voice in the classroom

Professional Reading

Teaching Large Multilevel Classes
Natalie Hess
Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers — Series Editor Penny Ur
This book provides practical advice for teacher who work with large mixed-ability classes. Easy to follow and rich in techniques that will energize a classroom, it develops student motivation, interest, participation and student responsibility through a range of activities.

Keys to Teaching Grammar to English Language Learners, A Practical Handbook
by Keith Folse
ISBN 978-0-472-03220-4 Michigan Press
Written by a very experience ESL teacher for students but a great resource for teaching to brush up on grammar the know but may have forgotten “why” over time.

Mini Grant Projects

Tried and True Techniques from Christine Powers

Teamwork Worksheets

When you find a good paper activity that will reinforce a skill use it as a class activity to encourage conversation. Each student does not need to finish the page so assign a few numbers to a pair of students. The pairs then split and join another classmate to form a new pair. These “experts” share their answers and then split again. This continues until the page is finished. This leads to a lot of speaking practice as well as writing and gets the students up and moving.

Show and Tell

Yes, this age old activity is good in the adult ESL classroom. It is a “shield” for the ESL student that will allow them a bit of comfort to talk behind. In ABE and diploma classes this activity could be used to promote class community within the first few weeks of school.

Everyone has something special in their life and without too much prodding would be happy to talk about it. Be the leader – as the teacher share one thing with your class that is special to you – a pen, a coin, a picture, I am sure you get the idea! Tell your students why it is special, why you have it or carry it with you. Where did it come from? Who gave it to you and how would you feel if you lost it?

Ask the students to bring something to class that they would like to talk about. Limit the presentation time to no more than 2 minutes. You can decide if there should be questions from the class or limit it to presentations. If your students write in journals in each class have them write what they learned about a classmate. How did it make them feel? Did they want to laugh? Did it make them smile or maybe feel a bit sad?

Students who know something about the other students in the class tend to support each other and take an interest in one another rather than come to class just for the credit, GED or English grammar.

Give this a try – be a kid again!

Reading Comprehension

Many ESL students feel insecure in reading a passage without their dictionary handy. This technique will give them the confidence they need. Find a short article and cover either the left or right side of it with a blank piece of paper and make a copy. They now have half of the story. Ask them to read what they have and talk in pairs about the article. You can ask a few comprehension questions and they will be surprised when they are able to answer them. Finish by giving the whole story to the students and see how good they feel about themselves and their dictionary-free reading. If you can be sure the students won’t peek, you can give them the whole article and ask them to fold it in half!

One Book for the Whole Class!

Think out of the box and the copier. One book would make a great listening activity. If the book comes with a CD you can play the CD. The first time ask the students to listen only. In small groups then talk about what they heard. Play it again and ask them to take notes. This time share their notes with their groups. If you are working in a lower level class you may want to prepare a sheet with some of the vocabulary or put it on the board for them to copy. You can use some of the activities from the book as dictation or put it on the board for students to copy and work on together. If it doesn’t come with a CD you can be the reader or even ask a colleague or friend to record the story for you, thus introducing another voice.

Two "PERK" Activities

Vocab Chain

This activity is good as you begin a new unit or for a review of a unit. It can also be done as a whole class or in smaller groups as competition. The leader says a word, such as ‘money’; the next person says a related word possibly, ‘bank’; the third student may say ‘saving’ and so on. See how many words the class can come up with or if in groups, each group, in a set amount of time.

What Am I?

On sticky notes write the focused vocabulary. Place one note on the back of each student and have them walk around the room asking about the word but not asking “Am I (the word)”. Instead, ask things such as: “Am I used daily?” “Am I found in the mall?” “Am I red?” and so on. Students could then take the sticky notes and place them in alphabetical order on the board in the room for class review.

One Minute Feedback

As students enter class give each one an index card or small piece of paper. At the end of class ask each student to write for one minute about something they learned in that class. Because the time is short they will not feel pressured to write a lot and won’t have to worry about grammar or spelling. This can tie well into the fluency writing which with you can start the class. If you continue to do this in each class the students will get better at it and look forward to it and you are assessing their progress each time they come to class.

Look - Remember - Tell

All students need and want to increase their vocabulary. Words need to be seen many times before they can be used by a student. The more activities and ways they recycle vocabulary the better! This activity is good when presenting a new story or topic. It allows for individuals to absorb as much or as little as they can and increases active time with the vocabulary as it is discussed in small groups.

Choose 10 to 15 words from a reading or topic that you will be working with. Scramble the words on a piece of paper and give each student a copy face down. When you say go have each student turn the paper over and study the words. Usually 15-20 seconds is enough depending on the number of words and the level of the students. They must then turn the paper face down again. Next have the students individually write as many words as they can remember. Then ask them to write any words that they think may go with the words that they remembered. Working in pairs or small groups, have the students talk about what they think the reading will be about. If the level and time permit, ask students to write a few sentences on the topic. Give each student a copy of the text and allow time for them to read it. Discuss which words they find hard and which words they think the scramble helped them to remember and why.

Remember that the number of words you use to scramble will depend on the level of your students and the length of the reading you will be presenting.

Goal Setting

This may sound like a simple activity and to many teachers it is. You have set many different goals for yourself, one of which was to teach. You found the path you needed (education) and worked towards your goal (took classes). Along this path there were people to help you: parents, friends, family, teachers and perhaps many more.

Adult education students do come to class with goals: GED; high school diploma; read, write, speak and understand English; a job. We are set to help them reach this goal – we have books, computers and many other resources but yet they still drop out frustrated. Why? We are there for them even if they do not have a strong support team outside of the classroom!

Did you become a teacher overnight or after a class or two? Did you ever second guess your goal? Perhaps, but you also knew that you had to work in chunks – step by step. Small goals became part of the larger goal.

When students first come into class and state their large goal – ask why. Why do they need this language? GED? Diploma? Work with them to set smaller, more attainable goals. How does the course you are teaching tie into their lives outside of the classroom? Ask students to keep a monthly log of what they want to accomplish this month and how it fits into their “big picture”. At the end of each month do a goal check – did they reach their goal? Why? Why not? Then set a new goal for the next month.

You can set an example and model this for your students. Take some time to set teaching goals for yourself within your adult education class. How can you improve? What do you want to improve upon?

Remind students that the only way to the top is by climbing the stairs and each step is a success in the right direction.

Building Classroom Community

As the new school year begins you have many new names to learn and remember, and so do the students. Everyone appreciates being called by name. There are many ways to have students introduce themselves to the class but what do you do to reinforce their names is subsequent classes? How about when a new student enters mid year, or sooner with open enrollment?

Have students write their names on index cards and collect them. During the second class dictate the names to the class so they can learn to write them. The first time, or in beginning classes, spell each name out loud as they write it. This can be done once a week for the first month and then as a warm up during the year as well as when a new student joins the class. As students learn their classmates names choose a student to dictate the names.

Students could write the names in a list and then move around the room to talk with each other and check off the names of those they have talked with. They could report back to the class, either orally or in a journal, and tell something they learned about a class mate that day.

Keeping Students Motivated

Adult Students come to class with goals and a sense of what they want and need to learn. If their needs are not met, more than likely they will stop attending. A large part of teaching in adult education is keeping students motivated. Our students’ lives are full with work and family and they do want to learn English and attend class but unlike K-12 our students have the choice to attend or not.

So, what are the tricks to keep students motivated?

"PERK" Progress; Enjoyment; Relevance; Kindness

Students set goals and need to see progress towards those goals. This does not need to be formal testing. Each student can have a check list that they can refer to on a regular basis, biweekly or monthly. Here they can check on their progress. They can keep a journal of what they worked on in class and how they feel about the progress they are making. Fluency writing (see archived Mentor Tips) is a great progress checker. Students can also keep track their own class attendance.

Enjoyment: Class should be fun and stimulating. Activities and games keep students alert and can focus on many skills within the 4 skill areas of an ESL class.

Relevance: How is what the student is doing in class going to help them when they leave class? How will the grammar be used in real life and off the page of a worksheet or textbook? Be aware of what you are teaching and think of how it relates to your students’ lives. Be sure that they too see the connection.

Kindness: No matter how your day is going or has gone, remember no one has ever been killed by kindness! We all deserve a little and a little goes a long way!

Balancing Act - Lesson Planning

When planning lessons for your ESL class you always try to include reading, writing, speaking and listening. Sometimes the class can steer the plan more into one area or feel they only need one or two of the four skill areas. Think of your lessons as a balanced meal – you wouldn’t eat only meat all day so why only read or speak in class? To be healthy you need to choose from all of the food groups and to be a good lesson you need to include all of the skill areas. The main course can be the focus of the class but don’t forget to include all that compliment it to be balanced!