Ever had those days where it felt like nothing was working?
Maybe your lesson was a bit ho-hum, or perhaps the students were giving you an especially hard time that day.
By the end of the class, you probably wanted to rethink your career path.
Aren’t you glad you didn’t?
You probably ended up learning from your mistakes, because figuring out what does and doesn’t work is what being an excellent ESL teacher is all about.
This is especially true when working with high school students, which is why need to be patient and find some really good resources to use.
Whether you’re a new teacher fresh off your TEFL course or a seasoned veteran with years of experience, you’re bound to need some inspiration from time to time. You can’t always come up with great material all by yourself!
There are plenty of teaching tools out there to help you plan your lessons, find new materials and even sharpen your teaching skills. More importantly, great resources help you learn how to handle or overcome some of the difficulties teachers face when teaching teenagers.
In this post, you’re going to learn where to find brilliant resources for high school ESL courses. But first, let’s look at some challenges you might be facing in a classroom of teenage learners.
Challenges of Teaching High School Students
Being an ESL teacher is a mixture of fun and unique, unexpected challenges—especially when teaching high school students. This particular age group comes with its own set of obstacles, and if you don’t know how to work around those hurdles, you could finish every day with a headache.
First of all, high schools tend to have larger classes, sometimes with 30 or more students. Keeping the attention of such a big group is hard enough, but you’ve still got to teach!
Within those classes, your students are likely to have varied proficiency levels, so you’ll need to adapt your teaching style periodically to suit the needs of different students. Then, you have to find a way to give every student the individual attention they need. This can be especially difficult because teenagers are notorious for lacking motivation or enthusiasm in the classroom.
Successfully teaching high school students requires you to constantly come up with ways to keep them engaged and active in your lessons. That’s a lot of lesson planning, on top of other responsibilities like grading, decorating your classroom, running extra-curricular activities and more. This means your time-management skills have to be on point.
Fortunately, there are resources available that can help cut back on prep time while maximizing your students’ engagement.
Say Goodbye to Long Prep Time with These 9 ESL Resources for High School Teachers
Teaching ESL to high school students doesn’t have to be stressful. There are lots of materials out there to help you along the way.
Below are some helpful resources you can add to your next lesson.
Throughout your teaching career, these should become a trusted part of your teaching toolkit.
The British Council
The British Council’s website is packed with resources for ESL teachers, especially high school teachers.
Their lesson planning section has full lesson plans on a variety of topics, with printable worksheets included. They’re also categorized for different skill levels, making it great to put together a quick lesson if you’re short of time or inspiration.
But that’s not all.
The British Council also has a section on teacher development, where you can find all sorts of resources to help make yourself a better teacher. There, you can find…
- Tips on how to solve various classroom problems
- Videos packed with teaching ideas
- Publications for you to read
- Ideas and language-learning resources from top English teachers worldwide
More importantly, there’s also a dedicated section for teaching teenagers. There, you’ll find a number of fully-planned lessons covering a wide range of topics. One of my favorite lessons is the section that covers online safety for teens, which teaches a combination of modal verbs, conversation and role play.
For something a bit more academic, try the dictionary skills for secondary students lesson.
Want to really reach your high school students? Turn their interests into language-learning material.
If you're looking for creative ways to teach English, then you'll love using FluentU in your classroom! FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
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!
Sign up for a free trial and bring FluentU to your classroom today.
ESL Flow is undoubtedly one of the best ESL resources on the internet—hands down.
No matter what topic you’re teaching, you can find materials for it here. There are flashcards, worksheets, conversation questions, icebreakers, reading comprehension activities and more.
From the homepage, simply click on the topic you’d like to teach to find an extensive list of links. When you click on a link, you’ll either be taken to a PDF file or an external website where you can download a worksheet.
If your students are getting ready to graduate high school, there’s a great reading lesson you can use to teach the differences between high school and university students. If your goal is to improve fluency and critical thinking skills in your learners, while also covering topics teens love to talk about, look at the worksheets and activities in their controversial topics for a debate class section.
With Busy Teacher, you can do a quick search for the topic you want or browse their top worksheets to what’s popular. There are even tools to help you make your own worksheets.
At the click of a button, you can create your own word search or puzzle. This is great for teaching vocabulary lessons. You’ll just have to sign up for a free account to download the materials.
For part of a cultural lesson on the United States, you can use Busy Teacher’s worksheet about American High schools and draw comparisons to your students’ local schools. There’s even a high school grammar exam you can use to test your students’ ability on English grammar.
BBC Learning English
This website is good for finding interactive games and activities, which can be used in the class or set as homework for your students. There are also lots of videos, questionnaires and short courses for students to complete, and the website is updated with new content regularly.
The Grammar Gameshow is a great resource for turning boring grammar lessons into fun activities for your high school students. Shot in the same style as a TV game show, this activity challenges students to answer a number of grammatical questions, ranging from basic grammar to the really difficult stuff. Best of all, there are more than 30 episodes, and each episode has its own theme.
If you want something with less prep time, try the English in a Minute videos. These videos take words that ESL students commonly mix up, like hard/hardly, make/do and must/have to, and explain them succinctly in just one minute.
BBC Learning English is particularly useful for teaching about news and current affairs. High school students often struggle to keep up with the speed of TV news reports. Plus, the formal language makes them particularly hard to understand. LingoHack breaks down real news videos and teaches key words and phrases. For your next listening lesson, use News Report to play audio clips reporting current events.
You don’t have to spend time creating, cutting and laminating cards in order to have good ESL games for your lessons. The ESL Games+ website has a range of games prepared for you, which you can bring up at the click of a button.
Great for if you have an interactive board or a projector in your classroom, the games on ESL Games+ can get your high school students working together to solve challenges or compete against opposing teams.
One of the main reasons why I like to use ESL Games+ with my high school students is because it gives them a fun break from the regular learning routine, which is really important for keeping teens engaged and motivated. I find using these games as a wrap-up activity at the end of grammar and vocabulary lessons is a great way to review previously-taught material and end your lesson on a high note.
Visit the “500 Words for Exams” section for handy vocabulary lists, and try the idiom quizzes for more advanced classes.
ISL Collective has a range of printable worksheets, educational images and video lessons for teachers to use. You can filter materials by grammar, vocabulary, material type, level and even the most popular worksheets, so it’s easy to find exactly what you need for your high school class.
You need to register for an account to use the site, but it’s free to do so and only takes a minute or two.
Tip: When searching for worksheets, make sure to set the filter to high school students.
Breaking News English
If you need up-to-date lessons on hot topics for your high school lessons, Breaking News English is the one of the best sites out there. It has a huge database of lessons on news stories, which include fill-the-blank exercises, dictation, word pairing, brainstorming and survey questions for students to ask each other.
Perfect for the last-minute activities, Breaking News English requires absolutely no lesson preparation and covers topics that are especially interesting to sophomores and seniors in high school, like sports, current events, science and more.
TEFL Bootcamp Podcast
As well as constantly looking for new ideas for lessons, good teachers are always striving for improvement and looking for ways to develop themselves. You don’t need to take extra courses to learn how to engage your high school learners—just listening to the right podcasts can improve your teaching skills.
While more of a general resource, the TEFL Bootcamp podcast is perfect for high school teachers because it’s filled with valuable tips on teaching methods, lesson planning, classroom management and more. All of the content is extremely helpful for learning how to motivate listless teenage students.
Since everything is broken down in short episodes, which you can listen to on your lunch break or during your daily commute. Try the Teaching Methods for TEFL episode for some inspiration for your next class.
Keep Things Interesting
One of the keys to being a great teacher is versatility. Instead of teaching the same old lessons every week, change things up. Play around with the format and content of your classes and keep your high school students on their toes. That way, they’ll stay engaged and ready to learn.
With the resources listed above, you have more than enough material at your fingertips to come up with new classroom ideas for your high school students. And believe me, they’ll appreciate you for making the learning experience fun and more enjoyable.
Emma Thomas is an ESL teacher in Bangkok with more than five years of experience in teaching students of all ages. You can read more about her experiences as a teacher in Thailand at Under the Ropes.
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