10 English Teaching Apps for the 21st-century ESL Teacher

A modern ESL teacher doesn’t have to follow a set path.

Being an up-to-date ESL educator these days might mean using all the latest technology to make classroom learning more exciting for your students.

Or it might mean teaching English entirely online from the comfort of your own home.

It might even involve using the internet to bring English-language culture to your students in China, Thailand or wherever else you may be.

But no matter what your goals in ESL teaching are, you can carry the tools you need to achieve them in your pocket.

In this post, we’ll be looking at all different kinds of apps that have proven helpful (and maybe even essential) to a variety of ESL teachers: at-home educators, classroom teachers, those teaching at home and abroad.

Are you in need of some inspired, new lesson plans for your ESL classroom?

Do you want to build a career tutoring students online, or to make a little extra money teaching English on the side?

Regardless of how many students you have or where you’re teaching them, are you looking for some fun study tools to keep them engaged and learning?

With one smartphone or any number of devices, these awesome apps and a little creativity, you’ve got all you need to enter the world of 21st-century ESL teaching!

Uses of English Teaching Apps

Today there are apps for just about everything. If used correctly, apps can help enrich the learning experience for ESL students of all ages and levels, in the classroom and at home! In this post, we’ll be looking at several different apps, but they fall into two main categories:

  • There are apps that can help with aspects of actually teaching the language, such as the organization or creation of lesson plans, producing quizzes and making flashcards. You can also find apps that are skill-focused. Some apps are designed to help with listening comprehension and speaking, for example, while others focus on grammar.
  • A growing number of apps connect students with native English speakers all over the world for one-on-one tutoring sessions. While these apps are great for students, they also give you, the expert ESL teacher, a chance to develop a work-from-home career or to generate additional income.

These convenient, easy-to-access apps can be incorporated into every aspect of your teaching career!

10 English Teaching Apps for the 21st-century ESL Teacher

Staying Organized and On Track


This app makes classroom management, communication with students and parents outside of school hours, and keeping track of student progress a breeze! You can set up each of your classes to have a private, online classroom community, furthering a positive classroom culture. It also gives you the chance to reward students for a job well done with points and digital stickers.

For example, if a shy ESL student finally speaks up in class, you can give her a point for “participation” on the app. Students can drop questions into the online community or add thoughts and comments related to class discussions and activities, to continue using English even after your class has ended. The app also includes a private messaging feature that allows you to connect with parents.

Compatibility: Android and iOS

Price: Free

Creating Study Material and Lesson Plans

Study Flash

Digital flashcards. Need I say more? Select from several of the pre-made decks or create your own set of cards based on vocabulary you’ve covered in class or even grammar rules. The cards can include pictures, audio and text.

For example, after a lesson on a group of nouns or the various verb tenses, you can create cards to help students study the new vocabulary or review the rules. One card might say “Past Tense” and on the other side have an explanation of the tense. You can export the cards or share the content between app users.

You might spend the first few moments of class doing some vocabulary drills, or you can advise your students to use the app to review vocabulary at home. Either way, this is one app you should seriously consider adding to your teacher toolbox.

Compatibility: iOS

Cost: $1.99


You know how excited students of all ages get when you wheel the TV in for a movie day? FluentU harnesses that excitement by teaching with engaging videos that students will enjoy, like movie clips, music videos, vlogs, funny commercials and more.

All videos have accurate subtitles so students can read along as they watch. Hovering over a word in the subtitles will pause the video and pull up a quick definition, image and grammar info card. Clicking on the word expands this card into a more thorough overview of the term which includes an audio pronunciation, example sentences (also with audio) and clips from other videos on FluentU that use the word.

This dictionary is also contextual, showing only the relevant definitions for the context in which the word was found.

FluentU also has quizzes that adapt to how well students know each word.

You can use the program to learn with videos together in the classroom, or assign homework so learners can study on their own at home. But they won’t be entirely alone: You can check on each student’s progress and see which questions they got wrong from the teacher dashboard.

Compatibility: Browser, Android and iOS

Cost: Inquire for price and a free trial


This app is great for teaching vocabulary and phrases. You can use this app in the classroom or instruct students to use it at home to review material covered in class. Select from a number of free courses that offer phrases and vocabulary lists on different topics.

Perhaps after a lesson on English idioms, you can create a set of cards to help students study and memorize the new phrases and their meanings. Or you might create a word list of verbs or nouns, using English and your students’ native language. Students can go at their own pace or work based on what you assign them.

Compatibility: Android and iOS

Cost: Free


Kahoot! is changing the way students learn. This is a game-based learning app that can be customized for language learning. You can use this app to design games based on material you’ve covered in class during previous lessons. The game’s format is multiple choice. You create the number of questions and the questions themselves. You can include videos, images or diagrams.

After a unit on the future tense, for example, you might play a game of Kahoot! with questions regarding the correct usage of the future tense, or perhaps after an ESL literature unit, you can test your students’ knowledge by designing questions based on the texts they’ve read. Students can work in teams or individually and race to answer the questions first.

In the classroom, you can project the game onto the wall or board at the front of the room. Students can then use their own mobile devices as game controllers to select their answers. This app certainly leads to hours of fun and learning!

Compatibility: Android and iOS

Cost: Free


Culips is a great resource for teachers who want to include some listening-based lessons in their curriculum or want to incorporate listening into homework assignments. Culips offers various podcasts or episodes that feature everyday English. Culips caters to all levels of ESL learners and includes interesting and intelligent topics.

Perhaps you’re doing a lesson on idioms. You could start your lesson by having students listen to a short Culips podcast from your phone. Another option might be to have your students listen to one of Culips’ “Chatterbox” episodes followed by some listening comprehension questions and discussion. The possibilities and topics are endless.

Compatability: Android and iOS

Cost: Free, with additional material available through membership


If you work in a traditional brick-and-mortar school and want to supplement your income or you want to work from home, the following apps are a great way to get started. In fact, depending on your level of commitment, why not download them all?

If you’re a classroom teacher, you can recommend these apps to your students who need a little extra tutoring or one-on-one speaking practice.


Cambly connects English learners from all over the world with private, native-English-speaking tutors. Teachers can pick their hours and designate their specialization, such as “IELTS practice” or “Intermediate Level Tutoring” in their profile. Cambly is convenient and super easy to use. You don’t need to have any teaching experience and downloading the app is free. Teachers are paid $10.20 per hour.

Compatibility: Android and iOS

Cost: Free to download, students pay for services


NiceTalk is China’s first mobile language learning platform. It’s another hassle-free app for English teachers looking to connect with students in a classroom-free environment. All you need is some free time and a friendly, open attitude. Students can practice speaking at the touch of a button, anytime, anywhere. Teachers have complete control of their schedules and get paid by the minute ($10 per hour).

Compatibility: Android and iOS (not in the iTunes store, but you can download the app from the site)

Cost: Free to download, students pay for services


Palfish generally follows the same structure as the other tutoring apps mentioned. Teachers and students from every corner of the earth connect via video chat to speak English. Teachers can design lessons or simply lead everyday English conversations. The main difference is that in addition to setting your own schedule, you must set your own prices. This means you could potentially make more per hour than some of the other apps will pay you, but there’s a lot of competition between teachers.

Compatibility: Android and iOS

Cost: Free to download, students pay for services


Italki is a platform used by teachers and learners of all languages to connect. Learners can search for a tutor that suits their needs. As the teacher, you can offer customized lessons and should set your own hours and hourly rates. Most teachers have several years of teaching experience, either in a classroom or online, and hold some level of certification. This may be a good choice if you’re hoping to develop a career in teaching from home.

Compatibility: Android and iOS (limited services)

Cost: Free to download, students pay for services


No matter where you are in your teaching career or what that career involves, these mobile apps can help you stay connected, keep your teaching fresh and keep your students engaged.

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