The 25 Best ESL Books for Teaching Students at Any Age or Skill Level
Great ESL books can be a wonderful asset to maximize class time.
They can help you brainstorm effective activities, set up games, create targeted lesson plans and give specialized assistance to different types of students.
This list contains some of the best ESL books to help you in your classroom.
Whether you’re teaching kids or adults, beginners or more advanced students, these books will let you make the most of class time.
- Books for Teaching ESL to Children
- Books for Teaching ESL to Adults
- Oxford Picture Dictionary Book
- English the American Way
- Cambridge face2face
- American English File
- New English File
- Market Leader
- Compelling Conversations
- ESL Classroom Activities for Teens and Adults
- Keep Talking
- Practical English Usage
- Learning Another Language Through Actions
- The Practice of English Language Teaching
- Easy TEFL Guide to Teaching English as a Foreign Language
- Intermediate Communication Games
- Tips for Choosing an ESL Textbook
- Things to Keep in Mind for ESL Textbooks
Books for Teaching ESL to Children
Author: Ritsuko Nakata, Karen Frazier, Barbara Hoskins & Carolyn Graham
The bright, engaging visuals and accompanying audio of this series makes learning especially fun for the K-6 group.
The book is for children who are just starting to learn English, and aims to have your students speaking and participating in conversations. Reading and writing exercises are formatted to promote students’ confidence.
The audio CD features read-alouds and songs. These can supplement your lessons or be stand-alone activities. You might find the recordings dated or too simple. You can easily pair the book with YouTube videos or music for a more modern option.
There are additional resources online for students to use. You can also find an online dictionary and downloadable extras like coloring pages, videos and more.
- Audio content. The audio works to encourage vocal use of the language. Songs, chants and drum tracks keep studies invigorating and allow for practice of pronunciation and intonation.
Author: Lesley Koustaff & Susan Rivers
This fun six-book series can certainly make English learning more compelling, particularly for the deep thinkers in your class.
Concepts are taught in a concise manner with plenty of varied exercises for practice. The text includes information concerning the world outside the classroom too, like the environment and modern technology. Critical thinking questions are provided to spur children’s natural curiosity.
The teacher’s pack includes a teaching guidebook, audio CDs and visual materials like posters.
There are tips and strategies for lesson plans, plus resources such as phonics worksheets and assessment charts. You’ll also get access to an electronic classroom presentation tool.
- Valuable resources. The teacher’s pack can make a big difference in your lessons. It will help you navigate through the book and track students’ progress.
- Promotes critical thinking. Included questions will have the gears turning in your students’ heads. They’re great icebreakers and conversation starters, allowing students to share their personal insights.
Oxford Picture Dictionary for Kids
Author: Joan Ross Keyes
The “Oxford Picture Dictionary for Kids” is the ultimate vocabulary building book.
A wide variety of pictures and scenarios help young learners discover over 700 words in a fun, easy way. The book is based on K-12 curriculum and aims to meet the needs of beginner to low-elementary level students.
There’s a range of materials available here. You’ll get a student workbook, teacher’s book, audio recordings and even a DVD.
The 60+ topics and multitude of teaching materials will save you time and help capture the attention of your students. Check which books from the series fit the needs of your unique classroom.
- Engaging design. The colorful, artistic photos and illustrations help capture the attention of young learners and keep them engaged with the lessons.
Learning English with Laughter
Author: Ms. Daisy A. Stocker M.Ed. & Dr. George A. Stocker D.D.S.
Laughter is a universal language. Here, the authors use a good laugh to help children learn.
Each set in this series consists of a student book, practice workbook and teacher’s guide. If you want just one, go with the student book or the workbook, but purchasing all three is recommended.
This text is designed for students under seven who have never been introduced to English before. Help your youngest students learn the basics of the English language through coloring activities, rhymes, mazes, puzzles and other fun learning experiences.
- Designed for small children. The letters are large to suit young learners. There are many tracing worksheets to help guide learners through writing their first English words.
- Fun worksheets included. The book comes with many entertaining worksheets that also help students with listening. For example, a coloring worksheet might have specific directions that the teacher should read aloud to tell students how to color the page.
ESL Activities and Mini-Books for Every Classroom
Author: Kama Einhorn
This book is jam-packed with fun resources that teachers can use to liven up their classrooms, including mini-books and flashcards.
Whether you’re working with students who need to brush up their English skills or students who have never spoken the language before, there’s material to help you succeed. The book is also sensitive to various learning levels and potential cultural differences.
This text is great for information on teaching English to young children. It consists mostly of the mini-books and flashcards, which can be used as supplementary activities for your main lesson plan.
- Contains mini-books. Each chapter comes with small books to assist students in the early stages of literacy. The content of the booklets coincide with each chapter’s theme.
- Start the class on the right foot. There’s an extremely useful section with advice on the first week of class. It includes tips for making students feel welcome, and how to help them begin the English language learning process.
Assessment and ESL: An Alternative Approach
Author: Barbara Law
Assessments help teachers know where their students are in the learning process. Traditional test-taking may not always yield the most accurate results, however.
This book is for ESL teachers who want an alternative way of assessing progress. It contains example stories of students and their unique struggles to illustrate key points.
Friendly and engaging, this book will help you implement assessment strategies that are realistic, contextual and allow for errors—which, the authors maintain, are an important part of the learning process.
- Themes of language learning. This book discusses the themes of real language, a facilitating environment and a learning continuum.
The authors demonstrate different assessments to go alongside the themes. Here’s a quick snippet to get a sense of the authors’ approach to assessment:
“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
Author: Elizabeth Claire
This book is perfect for ESL teachers who are just starting out in the classroom. It includes simple, effective language activities that are engaging for kids of all ages.
You’ll get a set of Total Physical Response activities, which will get your students active and learning with their whole bodies.
The book follows a logical progression. It starts with the first vocabulary kids learn (like basic teacher commands and verbs around the classroom). Then, you’ll progress into games, activities and crafts.
There’s even social and cultural activities, English integrated into other content areas, and so much more—all with an emphasis on physical activity.
- Thorough, with clear instruction. The book provides step-by-step guidance for each activity. Each one states the best-fit age group, items the teacher may need and the most appropriate learning level.
- Contains various activities. There’s a range of activities from worksheets to outside playground games. All can help shy students out of their comfort zones to begin speaking English!
- Additional tools and tips. This book comes with a checklist of grammar and language structures, plus tips on managing an ESL classroom.
TEFL Flashcard Games for Young Learners
Author: Chris Morton
This text is a perfect collection of flashcard games your young and enthusiastic students will love. If you’re looking to add some pizzazz to your lesson plan, this is a great find.
The fun and exciting games in this book will help your students make connections visually. They’ll learn new vocabulary, pronunciation, visual recognition, and grammar. With some teacher enthusiasm, their eagerness will only grow!
There are several all-time flashcard game favorites in Morton’s book, but there’s also new and original games for young students that you’ve likely never heard of.
- Wide range. There are more than 100 unique activities, helpfully divided into 40 chapters.
- Included instructions. The text guides you on the set-up of each activity, as well as how to run it with your class.
Author: Carolyn Graham
This book is a unique, organic approach to ESL, combining jazz and language learning for optimal listening, speaking and reading.
The student books and audio recordings focus on American English speech and intonation. The text is intended for students up to an intermediate level of English, and this interesting spin on ESL can be enjoyable for you and your students for years to come.
Take a break from the grammar and textbooks and spice up your teaching while enjoying music and English with your students! “Jazz Chants” can give you freedom to develop some exceptional lesson plans that’ll make your students excited for “jazz time” in the classroom.
- Not just for kids. According to reviews of this book, children and adults alike find enjoyment with this text!
Books for Teaching ESL to Adults
Oxford Picture Dictionary Book
Author: Jamie Adelson-Goldstein & Norma Shapiro
The “Oxford Picture Dictionary Book” is a wonderful collection of pictures and scenarios for beginner vocabulary, designed for adults. There are 12 themed vocabulary units and over 4000 words to learn.
This book is solely focused on vocabulary. It’s great to pair with a teacher workbook of lesson plans and teaching strategies so you can optimize the learning experience of your students.
There are two more books in this series. They cover high-elementary and low-intermediate vocabulary. All come paired with helpful audio CDs.
- Useful units. These cover scenarios in everyday life, from common language to food, health and community.
English the American Way
Author: Sheila MacKechnie Murtha M.A., Jane Airey O’Connor M.Ed.
This bestselling textbook is divided into units with chapter titles like “Taking a Drive” and “Dining in Style.” Units cover topics that Americans encounter every day and use these situations to teach English grammar.
For example, in the “Taking a Drive” chapter, students will learn vocabulary about cars, the DMV, police officers and driving. They’ll also learn the present simple tense, comparatives and superlatives.
The book contains dialogues and conversations, which can be played via audio recordings that accompany the book. Conversations are natural and realistic, providing students with excellent examples of what they might hear in real life.
- Uses authentic conversations. Teaches about slang, idioms and other useful phrases that Americans use on daily basis.
- Discusses etiquette. Students are taught what type of English language is appropriate for a variety of situations.
- Provides pronunciation tips. “Pronunciation pointers” give students 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’.”
Author: Chris Redston & Gillie Cunningham
This series is a great choice if you want the whole package. The methodology behind “Cambridge face2face” is a systematic progression of English material building on previously taught sections.
Students will be able to develop grammar, vocabulary, reading and listening skills. As a teacher, you’ll have the resources you need to teach effectively and cover the key language your students need to communicate in English.
While the books have a formal textbook feel, they offer a communicative component that focuses on all aspects of ESL learning. This is done through interactive features like classroom games, group discussions and activities. A DVD is included.
Available books range from elementary to advanced levels, so students can see their progress as they move from book to book.
- Subtle grammar. Students will learn essential English grammar without even knowing it.
- Covers all skills. Again, this is a great all-in-one text that includes everything you could want to teach in an ESL class.
American English File
Author: Christina Latham-Koenig & Clive Oxenden
This six-book series covers a comprehensive English curriculum. The first book is for “starter” learners (roughly A1 level), and the final book is meant for advanced learners (roughly C1 level).
The books are well organized, and each chapter grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation lessons. Odd-numbered chapters also have “practical English” sections to show concepts in real-life situations. Even-numbered chapters have review sections.
Supporting illustrations and photographs make the book appealing to adult learners. The texts and blurbs detail information that’s relevant to students’ lives, like family or scientific statistics.
There’s also an online practice resource that can be included as homework. The website houses interactive exercises and review questions to reinforce the lessons in the text.
- Focuses on speaking. A primary goal is to “get students talking.” The lessons prepare students for speaking proficiency in class or elsewhere.
- Has a “modern” appearance. The texts are approachable for adult learners. The organized format and engaging content bolster students’ willingness to use the books extensively.
Publisher: Oxford University Press
The books in the “Clockwise” series are intended for small classes, and have short units around two to four pages long.
Each unit opens with a warm-up section and a vocabulary section. The “English in use” section features either a reading passage or listening practice. The speaking section at the end of the unit helps students practice talking about what was covered in the lesson.
There is no workbook, but there is an extra practice section at the back of each book. Also included are writing activities. The back-of-book material is good for homework if you have class more often than once a week.
- Speaking sections. No matter class size or time constraints, these sections are beneficial. They’re simple and get students’ minds working from the get-go.
- Easy to vary assignments. For example, it’s easy to use the reading section as a popcorn-style activity for a large class. Or, it can be assigned as homework for smaller classes or individuals.
Publisher: Oxford University Press
The “Headway” series is intended for bigger, longer classes. Units cover everything you could imagine teaching at any skill level.
Each unit has a section for grammar, vocabulary, everyday English, reading, speaking, listening and writing. They encourage independent student work and include games, puzzles and other fun exercises. There is also a student workbook.
These are great books to use if your class is big (more than 20 students) and long (at least two hours per class). There is plenty of material to get you through the lesson.
- Everyday English. These sections are are aptly named and benefit the students greatly.
- Easy to assign homework. Listening can easily be skipped and used for homework. Many exercises can be done individually, so always make good homework assignments.
New English File
Publisher: Oxford University Press
The well-rounded books in the “New English File” series are quite popular. The units cover a lot of ground and are usually 8-10 pages long.
Every unit of each text includes grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation sections, plus a mix of reading, writing, listening, and speaking sections. There is a revision section at the end of each unit for review.
The books come with a great selection of mini-activities (rather than only a few “normal-sized” activities). The back of the book includes communication activities, and there is also a workbook.
For more advanced classes, you might use each activity but only touch a little on pronunciation unless there seems to be some difficulty in the class. More beginner levels will benefit from all exercises.
- “Revise and check” sections. These are a smorgasbord of everything that was just covered. They’re usually two pages long and quite thorough.
- Helpful for listening practice. The lengthy listening sections are particularly useful if your students struggle with listening. If not, they make good homework or extra credit assignments!
The “Market Leader” series is the leading name in business English books and it shows.
Book units include warm-ups, vocabulary, discussion, reading, listening, and case studies, along with a review unit every three units. There are workbooks as well as extra writing material at the back of each book.
These books are less ideal for large classes and/or absolute beginners. The focus is to hone existing English skills and build on them with business-specific language.
Knowing your students’ work needs and career goals will help. If they make lots of conference calls, go through the listening sections together and assign reading and writing for homework. If they barely speak at work but must write lots of reports or emails, do the opposite.
- Easy to tailor focus. For groups, skills sections and pair work activities are great. For solo students, use the vocabulary, discussion and skills sections. Review sections work for both!
- Case studies. Pick and choose which ones your students will benefit from. Business is broad—there’s definitely relevant material in here!
Author: Eric H. Roth
Adults learning English need to do so well enough to converse effectively with other English-speaking adults. In this book, the author helps students to improve their fluency and conversation skills by learning to their own life experiences and reflections.
The primary focus is speaking for advanced ESL students, often through discussion of relevant topics, like personal experiences, proverbs and more.
The textbook boasts 500 vocabulary words, 250 American proverbs and idioms and 500 quotes to discuss. It also includes over 1350 questions to get the conversation going. Themed chapters may have the class exploring daily habits or pet peeves.
Best of all, this book functions as a workbook so students can interact and converse. There are instructions for interviewing classmates, working in groups and engaging in authentic discussions.
- Promotes critical thinking. You’ll find no stock phrases or rote memorization in this book. Instead, thematic chapters filled with proverbs and quotes help fuel classroom discussion.
An example: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” —Theodore Roosevelt
ESL Classroom Activities for Teens and Adults
Author: Shelley Ann Vernon
Just like younger learners, teens and adults learn better and more effectively when they’re engaged, interested and having fun.
This book focuses on fluency and grammar. It contains 175 activities, games, quizzes and exercises that are perfectly organized and designed specifically for mature students.
Lessons will be fun for your students, and fun to teach, too! The text aims to imbue your lessons with energy and give students the motivation to speak (even the ones who are normally hesitant to engage!).
- Sensitive to different types of students. There’s detailed advice about accounting for students’ cultural backgrounds, personalities and learning styles, even in activities.
- Flexible options for advanced students. The creative writing prompts and games that it offers can be as challenging or simple as needed, depending on the student.
Author: Friederike Klippel
In this “old but gold” guidebook for English language teachers, Friederike Klippel offers strategies and advice to keep your students active in conversation.
The first part of the book contains speaking exercises, ranging from interviews to miming. Also included are notes and explanations of linguistic goals, targeted levels and the time and prep needed. The second part of the book provides worksheets to accompany these activities.
This text was first published in 1985, but remains a valuable resource for instructors. The activities are diverse and the content is well-organized and easy to navigate.
- Over 100 exercises. Activities are invigorating but not overly demanding. There’s a wide variety of them, as well as variations. Includes supplies like worksheets that can be copied and distributed to students.
- Includes helpful tips. Advice and explanations are provided about activities, what students should know and what you may expect from your students.
Practical English Usage
Author: Michael Swan
Grammar has a reputation of being dry and overly technical, and often causes confusion and struggle. This guide outlines grammatical issues your students are likely to encounter.
It will help you bolster your own confidence in English grammar knowledge, so that you can provide clear and concise lessons. Besides explaining grammar rules, the text also advises how to address common problems that students run into.
While the content can help learners of any level, you may want to reserve it for intermediate or advanced learners who can dive deep into grammar usage. The book was originally written with British English, but it includes differences between that and American English.
- Helps with grammar instruction. Grammar concepts are organized and explained well, giving you a stronger foundation to teach grammar lessons.
- Great for targeted practice. This book can help tackle specific weak points without impeding other teachings. It can also help to ready you and your students understand the instances in which English grammar seems to bend its own rules.
Learning Another Language Through Actions
Author: James J. Asher
James J. Asher is the founder of the Total Physical Response (TPR) method in language learning, and his book “Learning Another Language Through Actions” is a great addition to your ESL library.
The methodology behind TPR is for students to recognize and process English faster by taking action after a specific command. This revolutionary method, designed back in the 1960s by Asher, is an exceptional way for you to get your students moving and shaking around class while learning.
With modern advancements in technology comes shorter student attention spans. Keeping your students eager and active will make your lesson a success. Students often greatly enjoy TPR lessons, and you may learn more about your teaching as well.
- Invaluable TPR resource. The methods are as useful and relevant as the day they were conceived—and here they’re taught to you by the creator of the method himself.
The Practice of English Language Teaching
Author: Jeremy Harmer
Jeremy Harmer’s “The Practice of English Language Teaching” is a well-crafted collection of ESL topics. It also discusses related ideas like psychology in the ESL classroom.
Chapters are organized well and complement one another nicely, explaining the importance behind almost all aspects of ESL teaching. The first four chapters are “The World of English,” “Describing Language,” “Describing Learners” and “Describing Teachers,” and those alone are worth the purchase.
There are various example activities and lesson ideas throughout the book to assist you in developing your class syllabus, as well as developing individual lesson plans for your students. The book comes with a DVD containing classroom techniques, plus teacher interviews.
- Useful for all ESL teachers. While especially superb for new teachers, it’s also a great reference for veteran teachers.
- Lifetime reference material. It may be a bit high in cost, but the 450 pages of material will benefit you throughout your ESL teaching career.
Easy TEFL Guide to Teaching English as a Foreign Language
Author: T.S. Seifert
This is another exceptional all-in-one ESL teaching book. It’s useful for both new and experienced ESL teachers as a reference book.
The book discusses many topics you will need to know in order to successfully teach reading, writing, pronunciation, listening and speaking. It also explains how to implement various ESL sub-skills within your lessons.
Some chapters discuss controlling your students, fitting material to the appropriate ESL level and giving feedback to your students during and after your lessons.
- Well-rounded guide. Covers everything you need to know about teaching English as a foreign language. Plus, you’ll gather at least a few outside-the-box ideas.
Intermediate Communication Games
Author: Jill Hadfield
Building communication into your lessons is an excellent approach for all ESL students, but is particularly essential for intermediate level students. This text is a perfect ESL teaching resource to fill that gap on your bookshelf.
The book includes a great list of communication games and activities that will fit into students’ communicative abilities. “Intermediate Communication Games” contains guidelines for each activity with teacher notes to assist you while you’re crafting your lesson (as well as during the lesson itself).
There are also worksheets available in the book to help students in each activity as they learn and build communication experience. The interactive knowledge will help them immensely in real world scenarios.
- Focuses on speaking practice. This book will challenge and lift your intermediate students to who are hungry for more communication practice and skills.
Tips for Choosing an ESL Textbook
When I was choosing the best ESL textbook for the classroom to include in this list, I took a few factors into consideration.
I’m sure you don’t want to be limited to just my choices. And so, I’ll share the three most important questions to consider when you’re choosing a textbook in the future!
Is the book written by professionals or experts?
You want to look for ESL books that were written by a professional (or multiple professionals) who’s been in the English teaching business for a 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 made with children in mind (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 to kids and teaching to adults have their unique challenges and therefore have created textbooks specializing in 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 when 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!
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!
Using authentic content with textbooks is especially important. The textbook teaches your students the concepts, while the native media shows them how they’re used in action.
So what is authentic content? Basically, any form of mass media that native speakers consume themselves. That could mean anything ranging from that brand new novel that just came out to a classic TV series and beyond.
Before using native-level material, you’ll have to prepare students for feeling overwhelmed or lost at times. It’ll also take more work on your part to tie in the content with additional exercises and your existing textbook materials, as well as to track who’s doing what and when they’re doing it.
If all that sounds too challenging, consider using a virtual immersion program. For example, FluentU lets you assign authentic English videos to your students and set a due date. This enables you to pick and choose which content would most complement your classroom studies.
You can also monitor how often your students are watching assigned videos, as well as their scores on the post-video review quizzes. The quizzes include speaking, multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank questions.
Students themselves can choose to learn from additional videos that pique their interest, and the pop-up instant definitions from the interactive subtitles can address the frustration that comes from not understanding something.
Additionally, students can click on a word for a more detailed definition, along with contextual examples in both text and video form. This same feature is also available by typing a word into the search bar.
Other than the website, the program is available on both iOS and Android.
As you can see, an app like FluentU combined with a good textbook can be a particularly effective combination.
Textbooks don’t have to be the bane of excitement within the classroom!
The right ESL textbook, paired with your steadfastness and creativity, can make English lessons both fun and comfortable for both you and your students.
Best of luck on your English teaching adventure!