I remember being a child and feeling so confused as I read the Bible for the first time, trying to make sense of words like thee, thy and thou shalt.
It all felt Greek to me.
In fact, I never was really able to understand the Bible until I got much older.
Instead, I relied on the explanations that my ministers and Sunday school teachers would give me. Because “Noah’s sons were Ham, Shem and Japheth” was so much easier for me to understand than “Noah begat Ham, Shem and Japheth.”
However, most ESL students don’t get that exposure. Many have a hard time understanding the Bible because of the style of English, and struggle to follow ESL Bible lessons as a result. Not only does this make it harder for them to learn Bible lessons, it makes it more challenging for teachers to plan lessons using stories straight from the Bible.
But with the help of the right teaching material and coursework, you can teach ESL Bible lessons in a way that students can comprehend.
Here are some resources to make your ESL Bible lessons easier and more understandable.
5 Top Teaching Resources for the Best ESL Bible Lessons
Great for: Young Learners
The best thing about teaching ESL Bible lessons to young learners is that there’s no shortage of biblical songs to get your students practicing English while singing and having fun. If you’re teaching English to children in Sunday school or as part of a missionary program, this playlist is a great resource to have for practicing spoken English, building vocabulary and learning about the Bible.
The playlist gives you access to more than 20 biblical songs for children, including some popular ones you might already know, like:
And you know what’s really great about teaching English with music? You’re able to fit these songs into your lessons in a number of different ways. Along with being used as great warm-up and lesson-ending activities, they can also be taught alongside relevant Bible stories.
For example, “Go Tell It on the Mountain” is a song about the birth of Jesus Christ, and can be introduced to students when first talking about the New Testament. The song “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” is about how all-powerful and protective God is, making it a great song to sing when covering the creation story in Genesis.
Great for: All Ages and Skill Levels
If you were a child in the ’80s and early ’90s, you may remember this popular Saturday-morning cartoon. “Stories from the Bible” covers a modern-day trio of archaeologists who get sent back in time to the days of the Old Testament. Each cartoon covers a popular Old Testament story, like:
Using “Stories from the Bible” as an educational resource can be especially useful for teachers who’re giving ESL Bible lessons in a classroom setting. The cartoons are entertaining, semi-educational and great for learning conversational English, making them suitable for English language learners of all ages.
Since the series was designed for children, the dialogues are simple and relatively easy to follow. This makes “Stories from the Bible” an especially great learning resource for high beginners all the way to upper-intermediate students.
The benefit of using “Stories from the Bible” as part of your English lesson is that you’re able to test your students’ vocabulary and listening skills while also giving them the chance to learn more about the Old Testament in a simplified language they understand. And if you really want to make your lessons actionable, hold discussions or quiz your students on the story after the cartoon is finished.
Great for: Intermediate and Advanced Learners
This is a comprehensive teaching website covering ESL lessons related to the Bible. The website material is best suited to individuals teaching English to intermediate and advanced students in Bible study classes, as well as Christian schools and universities.
This site is designed specifically for ESL students who’re planning on attending seminary or studying at Bible school. Because of this, the curriculum available on the website focuses completely on the Bible and religion, and may be too specific for the casual student who just enjoys hearing Bible stories.
Some of the free, premium-quality resources on the website include:
- “Vocabulary Building for Biblical Studies”
- “Developing Reading Skills: Jonah”
- “Men and Women in the History of the Church”
Each one of these books is filled with reading passages, definitions of important vocabulary words and workbook-style activities. Like conventional ESL textbooks, the downloadable documents on this website have all of the material you need to plan a semester’s worth of Bible studies. All you need to do is plan how much content you want to cover in a single lesson.
Great for: Beginner and Pre-intermediate Students of All Ages
Don’t let the name fool you. This picture Bible is ideal for teaching children and adults who’re learning English as a second language. Its detailed illustrations and simplified, modern English make this book an easy way for students of all ages to learn about the Bible.
Whether you’re an educator or missionary teaching English in a classroom setting, or a minister delivering weekly sermons to a congregation that speaks English as a second language, “The Complete Illustrated Children’s Bible” is a great resource to have if you’re looking for biblical reading activities.
While the book itself doesn’t come with exercises like some of the other resources, you can easily turn each story into a learning experience by coming up with discussion topics or a list of questions for students to answer after completing their reading.
Great for: English Teachers
This book is great for ministers, teachers and missionaries who’re working with people who speak English as a second language. Unlike the other resources, which are filled with content that you can add to your lessons, the “Handbook for Teaching Bible-Based ESL” focuses on helping teachers and ministers learn how to teach Bible content in an ESL classroom.
More like a teacher’s guide than actual curriculum, the “Handbook for Teaching Bible-Based ESL” can help you:
- Communicate better with your ESL students through scripture.
- Learn how to overcome cultural differences.
- Plan engaging lessons using biblical resources.
For this reason, anyone who’s just starting out their career as a teacher in the church should check out this book for ideas on how to teach and spread the word more effectively.
Teaching English and the Bible
As you can see, there’s an abundance of resources available to help you teach Bible stories in a way that’s interesting and fun.
Merging Bible education and language learning is a great way to motivate students by bringing their values and beliefs together with language proficiency.
And One More Thing…
Keep in mind that when teaching the Bible or any other subject along with ESL, you can use FluentU to draw current, relevant connections, whether that means turning recent movie trailers based on Bible stories into lessons or reflecting on Christian holiday traditions with your class.
It’s got a huge collection of authentic English videos that people in the English-speaking world actually watch on the regular. 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 “brought,” 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 English!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach English with real-world videos.