Teaching English is hard work!
Unless you’re an all-knowing superhuman, you could probably use the help of a textbook.
A great ESL textbook can be a wonderful asset to help maximize the class time.
It will help you brainstorm effective activities, set up games, create targeted lesson plans and give specialized assistance to different types of students.
Between Amazon, teacher message boards and never-ending resource rooms, it can be hard to decide on just one or two textbooks.
And, hey, we teachers have to make our money go the distance.
Not to worry! We’ve compiled a list of some of the very best ESL textbooks for you to use in your classroom.
7 Best ESL Textbooks for Teaching Students Both Young and Old
When choosing the best ESL textbooks for the classroom- a few things were taken into consideration.
Think about these factors when seeking out textbooks in the future!
Do these people know what they’re talking about?
Each one of these books was written by a professional (or multiple professionals) that’s been in the English teaching business for a very long time! They know their stuff and have lots to offer. They know the needs of both new teachers, who are just getting started, and well-seasoned teachers, who are looking for a way to spice up their existing curriculum.
How is this book specialized for children or for adults?
The list is broken down into two different categories: Textbooks that were either specially made for kids or have characteristics that would work well with children, and textbooks that were designed to accommodate older and adult students. The authors of these books understand that teaching kids and adults have their unique challenges and therefore have created textbooks specializing on one group or the other.
Is this book flexible?
In today’s classroom, flexibility is a must. Gone are the days of teaching out of a textbook for the entire class period. Gone are the days where it’s believed that every student is at the same learning level. We know that teaching and learning are more rounded experiences that must be filled with activity and variety in order to maximize learning. With that in mind, each of these textbooks is extra-flexible, and meant to be used and consulted when needed in different situations. It’s not necessary to do every single chapter in order for them to be used effectively!
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Best ESL Textbooks for Teaching Children and Younger Students
“ESL Activities and Mini-Books for Every Classroom” by Kama Einhorn
At a Glance: This textbook is jam-packed with activities and other fun resources that teachers can use to liven up their classrooms. Whether you’re working with students that just need to brush up on their English skills or students that have never spoken the language before, there’s sure to be an activity in here that will benefit all levels and learning styles!
- One of the best features about this book is the not-so-mini collection of mini-books that it comes with. Accompanying each chapter of the textbook are mini-books to help assist students in the early stages of literacy. These mini-books are patterned, predictable and filled with content that coincides with the chapter’s thematic content.
- This book comes with an extremely useful section that has advice on how to run the first week of class. This section has tips on how to make students feel welcome and help usher students into the English language learning process. For example, one piece of advice that this section of the book gives is to take a picture of the whole class on the first day and give each student a copy of the picture with everyone’s name labeled on the picture. This way, the students are able to grow familiar with each other and begin to build a foundation for socializing!
“Children’s ESL Curriculum: Learning English with Laughter” by Ms. Daisy A. Stocker M.Ed. & Dr. George A. Stocker D.D.S.
At a Glance: Laughter is a universal language. Who doesn’t love to laugh? In this textbook, the authors know the power of a good laugh and they use it to help children learn! This set of textbooks is comprised of a student book, a practice book and a teacher’s guide. All of it is designed for kids that have never been introduced to the English language before. This set is loaded with exercises and activities that are designed to let kids have fun while learning English.
- A great feature about this book is the formatting. The letters are very large in order to suit younger learners. Inside the book are lots of tracing worksheets to help guide younger learners through writing their first English words.
- Because this book is focused on younger learners, it comes with a lot of fun worksheets that have oral directions to help students with listening to the English language along the way. For example, a coloring worksheet might have specific directions that the teacher should read aloud to students.
“Assessment and ESL: An Alternative Approach” by Barbara Law
At a Glance: Assessment is necessary in order for teachers to know where their students are in the learning process, but traditional test-taking may not always yield the most accurate results. While this bestselling book isn’t a traditional textbook to be used in the classroom, it’s a great resource for teachers who work with ESL students and are looking for an alternative way of assessing their students’ progress. In this book, the author focuses on giving teachers methods of documenting and tracking the learning process of English learners.
- The author discusses the four themes of learning a language: real language, integrated and whole language, a facilitating environment and a learning continuum. In this book, the author demonstrates the different types of assessment that go alongside these four themes. Here’s a quick snippet!
- “Real Language is referring to language that has a realistic purpose. Students are learning the language for more reasons than just to please the teacher.”
“ESL Teacher’s Activities Kit” by Elizabeth Claire
At a Glance: Don’t be misled by the fact that this book was written in 1998. This book still has tons to offer and is perfect for ESL teachers that are just starting out in the classroom. This book includes simple yet highly effective language activities that are engaging for kids of all ages.
- One of the best parts of this book is its thoroughness. It’s definitely written for a teacher that needs step-by-step guidance and clear instruction. Each activity clearly states the age group that it’ll work best with, the items that the teacher may need and the speaking level that it’s appropriate with. The activities vary from worksheets to outside playground games and are really great for helping shy students to get outside of their comfort zones and begin to speak English!
- This book also comes with a convenient checklist of grammatical structures and language structures along with tips on how to run an ESL classroom as smoothly and effectively as possible.
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Best ESL Textbooks for Teaching Adults
“ESL Classroom Activities for Teens and Adults” by Shelley Ann Vernon
At a Glance: Classroom activities aren’t just for kids, they’re for adults too! Just like younger learners, teens and adults learn better and more effectively when they’re engaged, interested and having fun. In this book focusing on fluency and grammar, the pages are packed with activities and exercises that have been formulated specifically for more mature students.
- The first thing you’ll notice about this book is the wide variety of exercises and games which would be overwhelming if they weren’t so perfectly organized. In the introduction alone the author gives detailed advice about taking into account the students’ cultural backgrounds, personalities and different learning styles. It even gives different activities specific to those different types of students!
- Hands down, the best part of this book is the creative writing prompts and games that it offers for working with advanced students. It gives interesting material that’s flexible to be as challenging or simple as it needs to be depending on the student. For example
- Call My Bluff Definitions: In this game, students write three different definitions for a word that they look up in the dictionary. Two of the definitions should be true and one of them should be fake. Once everyone in the class has done this, students should take turns reading their definitions aloud while the other students try and figure out the fake definition!
“Compelling Conversations” by Eric H. Roth
At a Glance: One of the biggest differences in teaching kids and teaching adults is that adults need to not only learn the English language, they need to be able to converse effectively with other English speaking adults. In this book, the author helps students to improve their fluency and conversation skills by showing them how to share their own life experiences and reflections. This book focuses primarily on the speaking and oral aspects of learning English for advanced ESL students.
- This book is all about the critical thinking. One of the best features of the book is that it has thematic chapters filled with proverbs and quotations to fuel discussion in the classroom.
- Each chapter has a different theme ranging from exploring daily habits to pet peeves.
- After each activity, there is a “the conversation continues” section with a list of quotations pertaining to the subject matter.
- “Conversation means being able to disagree and still continue the conversation.” – Dwight MacDonald
- “Keep it light, bright and polite.” – English Proverb
- “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” – Theodore Roosevelt
“English the American Way” by Sheila MacKechnie Murtha M.A., Jane Airey O’Connor M.Ed.
At a Glance: In this bestselling textbook, the authors divide the book into topical units with fun chapter titles like “Taking a Drive” and “Dining in Style.” In each unit, they cover a topic that Americans deal with every day, but also use the topic to learn grammatical aspects of English. For example, in the “Taking a Drive” chapter students will learn vocabulary surrounding cars, the DMV, police officers and overall driving while simultaneously learning the present simple tense, comparative words and superlatives as well!
- The best thing about this curriculum is that it doesn’t shy away from teaching about American slang, idioms and other useful phrases that Americans use on daily basis.
- Students are able to learn what type of English language is appropriate for a variety of surroundings.
- Throughout the book are “pronunciation pointers” that give students helpful hints on pronunciation. Here’s an example from unit one:
- “In spoken English, we often drop the –ing ending of words. This means that how’s it going will sound like how’s it goin’. Nothing sounds like nothin’” –Page 3
Things to Keep in Mind for ESL Textbooks
The Textbook Doesn’t Make the Teacher
These books are fantastic but they’re nothing without a good teacher! Make sure, as a teacher, that the textbook is only used as a reference for material and activities and isn’t too heavily depended on to teach the students! Remember: The textbook doesn’t know your students, you do!
Supplemental Exercises are Important
Don’t be afraid to mix and match textbooks with other supplemental materials! Listening activities and activities using TV shows and movies are always great ways to keep students engaged and learning. Don’t hesitate to solicit the help of a good app! It’s the 21st century!
And One More Thing...
If you're looking for creative ways to teach English, then you'll love using FluentU in your classroom!
It's got a huge collection of authentic English videos that people in the English-speaking world actually watch regularly. There are tons of great choices there when you're looking for songs for in-class activities.
You'll find music videos, musical numbers from cinema and theater, kids' singalongs, commercial jingles and much, much more.
On FluentU, all the videos are sorted by skill level and are carefully annotated for students.
Words come with example sentences and definitions. Students will be able to add them to their own vocabulary lists, and even see how the words are used in other videos.
For example, if a student taps on the word "searching," they'll see this:
Plus, these great videos are all accompanied by interactive features and active learning tools for students, like multimedia flashcards and fun games like "fill in the blank."
It’s perfect for in-class activities, group projects and solo homework assignments. Not to mention, it's guaranteed to get your students excited about learning English!
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