Give Students a Healthy Challenge: 21 Practical Resources for Advanced ESL Lessons

Sometimes walking into an advanced ESL lesson is a little bit daunting.

Advanced learners already have robust vocabularies and are often more comfortable with grammar than many native English speakers.

So we teachers are often stuck with the question: “What can I even teach them?”

Luckily, we’re teaching in the days of the World Wide Web.

It takes some digging, but the Internet is an absolute treasure trove of fantastic resources for advanced ESL lessons.

Some of these resources are specially tailored for ESL students. Others aren’t, but work equally well—if not even better—because they provide your advanced learners with rich, authentic English materials meant for native speakers.

We’ve done the digging for you, so the next time you’re running low on ideas for your advanced classes, look no further than these 21 top-notch resources.

21 Top-notch Resources to Transform Your Advanced ESL Lessons

Academic Skills

One thing that advanced lessons often focus on is academic skills. A lot of students are going to be attending university courses taught in English, so they’re not only trying to up their English skills, but their general academic skills as well.

These resources are great for any teacher working on improving their students’ ability to compete in the academic world.

1. The Academic Word List

There’s a certain kind of vocabulary that students need if they’re going to be completing their education in English. In fact, whether they’re going on to university in English or not, this vocabulary is also absolutely necessary for passing a standardized English test, like the IELTS, TOEFL or TOEIC.

Luckily, researchers have actually put together a list of the words that students are likely to need in an English-speaking university context. Oxford has gathered them all into handy sublists so that you can help your students stay organized. Use these lists to create worksheets or other activities, and make sure your advanced ESL students are getting the vocabulary they need.

2. Andy Gillette’s Guide for Students in Higher Education

Aside from the vocabulary that students need to compete at an English-speaking university, they also need certain academic skills that they’re not guaranteed to have learned in their home countries. Andy Gillette’s website focuses on developing listening, reading, writing and research skills.

There’s a specific focus on differences between English-speaking university cultures and other countries regarding study skills, exams and plagiarism. Though the website could use a facelift, the material is still really relevant.

Informal English

Maybe the students in your advanced class are less interested in developing their academic skills, and more interested in getting by socially in an English-speaking country.

Besides, adapting socially is difficult if they lack knowledge of English’s fun but challenging range of slang, idioms and phrasal verbs. If that’s what your students are after, the following four resources for informal English are your best bet.

3. English Club Slang

Almost every English teacher has come across English Club’s website at some point in our desperate Googling for activities. Make sure to have a look at their page on slang! It’s organized alphabetically, as well as by country and by topic, and they provide quizzes and teacher’s notes as a bonus.

4. FluentU

Everyone loves a video break, especially when it’s for something fun. FluentU is a language learning program that’s based on authentic video learning. Play videos like movie trailers, music videos and news segments for your students for a lesson in listening that revolves around real native English.

FluentU organizes its videos by difficulty, including two advanced levels. You can use the program in the classroom or assign homework for students to watch videos on their own. Students will be engaged since they can pick content that they actually care about.

And you know they won’t get lost in the weeds of advanced vocab since every word in the subtitles can be clicked for an instant definition. Students (and teachers) can also create flashcard decks that test students using personalized quizzes.

5. English-Hilfen’s Idioms & Proverbs

So, I generally come across the English-Hilfen site when I’m looking up specific grammar topics, but their page on idioms and informal English is excellent as well. With hundreds of idioms and proverbs presented in context, you won’t be running out any time soon.

6.’s Idioms is another one of those sites I often wind up on in my rabbit hole searches for activities, and their exhaustive list of idioms is also really useful. There’s extra access for paid members, but a large amount are available for free. Mostly they’re organized by topic, but they also have lists of idioms by country, if you’re focusing on a specific region.

7. Learn English Today’s Phrasal Verbs

This alphabetical list of phrasal verbs could keep you busy for months. With definitions, examples in context and quizzes available, it could be used to teach a whole course!

Current Events

Another rich area to focus on in your lessons is current events. This doesn’t mean you have to necessarily teach about what’s going on in English-speaking countries. You could also see how events in the students’ home country are being covered in the English-speaking media.

This exercise is incredibly effective, because not only are your advanced students exposed to the authentic English in the articles or broadcasts, but they can identify how coverage of an event is different from their home country’s media coverage. If you and your students are located in the USA, a handy resource for finding news magazines at lower prices is Magazine Line. Just choose “News & Politics” from the Categories menu, and you’ll see many options for subscriptions to high-profile news magazines with discounts for as much as 81% off.

Here are some of the top sources for news by country:

8. The New York Times

The New York Times is one of the USA’s leading newspapers for both national and international coverage. You can view a certain number of articles for free every month, but a paid subscription will get you full access and be most convenient for using in a classroom setting.

9. BBC

For the British perspective, you can’t go wrong with the BBC. Britain’s leading news organization provides up-to-date coverage of events both in Britain and abroad.

10. The Irish Times

Ireland’s most well known and progressive source of news is The Irish Times. Providing international news as well as a local perspective, this source also has a sports section that includes sports your students may have never heard of, like hurling and gaelic football!

11. The Globe and Mail

To hear the Canadian take on North American and world events, get your students reading The Globe and Mail, one of Canada’s leading dailies.

12. The Australian

For perspective from the Land Down Under, head to The Australian‘s website. They specialize in business and political news, but everything is covered. Asian students will be particularly interested in this one, due to Australia’s proximity to Asia.

Australian news is often ignored in European and American newspapers, so it’s good to check out what’s up in the southern hemisphere once in a while!

13. The NZ Herald

Finally, let’s not forget about Australia’s important neighbor, New Zealand. The New Zealand Herald is your go-to for Kiwi news, which isn’t often featured in any of the other newspapers on this list.

Cultural Lessons

In addition to learning about how English-speaking countries view world events, your advanced classes might also be interested in gaining an understanding of English-speaking cultures.

This next section of resources can be used to familiarize your students with the holidays, religious practices and taboos of the English-speaking world.

14.’s Holiday page

With a special focus on holidays observed within the United States,’s holiday page has a wealth of videos, pictures and speeches that can be adapted into full lesson plans.

The featured holidays range from the typical, like Christmas and the Fourth of July, to the more obscure, like Rosh Hashanah and Kwanzaa, which your students may have never heard of.

15. ReligionFacts

Priding itself on objectivism, ReligionFacts presents the world’s religions with facts and nothing more. From the homepage you can choose a religion for detailed articles about its practices, symbols and beliefs, or you can download their visually engaging religion charts that compare and contrast each religion.

16. “Taboos and Issues” by Richard MacAndrew and Ron Martinez

Taboos and Issues (LTP Instant Lessons)

This is the only hard copy resource I’ve included on this list, but I’m including it for good reason. Advanced ESL classes are often mature enough to take on subjects that are commonly considered taboo: gay marriage, age gaps in relationships, transgenderism and the death penalty, for example.

This book is well loved by English teachers around the world for its ability to create stirring debates in the classroom.

17. Heads Up English’s Culture Lessons

Don’t be fooled by the big ads for membership on the culture page from Heads Up English. Their full lesson plans are actually free for teacher’s use and deal with topics like emigration and anxiety.

Click the topic you’re interested in and scroll all the way to the bottom for listening, speaking, vocabulary or full lesson downloads. This one’s a real time saver!

English for Specific Purposes

There’s a lot of talk in the ESL industry right now about English for Specific Purposes, and for good reason. Having the right vocabulary and expressions for your job is crucial!

Use these final four resources to help your advanced class excel at their jobs, whether they’ve immigrated into an English-speaking country, or whether they’re just looking to improve their workplace English at home.

18. Business English Resources

This website is jam-packed with resources for the business world. Teaching everything from euphemisms and idioms in the workplace to writing polite emails and getting your point across in a meeting, they have it all! You can use the pre-made exercises, vocabulary lists and handouts, or delve into the full lesson plans.

19. Hospital English

More and more hospitals in the English-speaking world are employing foreign doctors, nurses and administrative staff. Likewise, English-speaking medical employees are in high demand in non-English-speaking countries to help deal with foreign patients who don’t speak the local language.

Hospital English provides flashcards and lesson plans for medical staff, but they’re useful for any advanced ESL class that would like to learn a bit about English medical terminology.

20. Hotel TEFL

The tourism industry is booming and tons of hotels and travel agents are sending their employees to ESL classes. If your students are interested in tourism, this is place to look for resources on language to use when checking guests in and out of hotels, settling up bills and more.

21. Banking and Finance from is good for all areas of business English, but these resources are specifically tailored for students who are in the accounting, banking and finance sectors.

With exercises on everything from tax to loan vocabulary, it’s useful for anyone in those industries, but also for any of your students who are living or plan to live in an English-speaking country. After all, they might have to apply for a loan one day!

Although they can be demanding, your advanced students are knowledgeable and capable of diving into interesting material. Armed with these 21

resources, you’ll be able to walk into your lessons confident, prepared and ready to wow. Happy teaching!

Enter your e-mail address to get your free PDF!

We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe