7 ESL Resources for Teachers to Keep in Their Back Pockets

We’ve all been in a lesson where our planned activities simply aren’t working out like we’d hoped.

Sometimes you fly through an activity at the speed of light, and find yourself with more class time than anticipated.

Other times, you’re just hitting a brick wall of boredom or frustration, and you need to shake things up.

In these situations, it’s good to have a few tricks up our sleeves.

Whether you’d like to make the class easier or more of a challenge, it’s highly recommended that you have a plan B in case you have to change the dynamic in class.

It’s understandable if you don’t want to spend a huge amount of time planning something that’s only plan B, of course.

Don’t worry, these seven resources and our recommendations for them will do the trick!

Stress Less with 7 Back-up Plan ESL Resources for Teachers

1. One Stop English News Lessons

Doing a listening activity and it’s just not resonating with your students?

Sometimes there are lessons where you can just feel that the students aren’t 100 percent focused on the task. This is often the case when the material is too simple, not challenging or not immediately relevant to your students. To get things on track, take a break for a quick classroom discussion or debate on a topical topic.

One Stop English has monthly topical news lessons, and they’re great plan B resources for these types of situations. You can challenge students and give them something they know is useful and relevant. Throwing something topical into the mix can be a great way to shift the focus. There’s probably no better subject than current affairs to pique student curiosity. Younger students feel like they’re joining the adult world. Older students feel like their time is being valued with material at their grown-up level.

Normal news doesn’t always do the trick. It can be hard to gauge how well students will understand the more formal register used in journalism. This can even be the case in higher-level groups. Thankfully, One Stop English does the hard work for you! Each article is edited into three different levels: pre-intermediate/intermediate, upper-intermediate and advanced.

The articles covered range from topics like “the millennials not using social media” to “man quits job to become full-time Pokémon hunter.” As you can see, this is a great website for sparking debate—I bet you can already imagine that your students will have lots of opinions on topics like these.

2. British Council

The British Council teaching website is a must-have resource for teachers.

Whether you’re trying to get out of a planning bind or not, you’ll want to visit this place. Oh, and if you’re an American teacher who’s delivering lessons in American English, you can opt to use the American British Council site instead of the UK one.

There’s simply a huge amount of well-thought-out lesson plans that can be downloaded from this website so that you can have a plan B.

We’re all busy with our teaching jobs. There will be times when you’re so time-crunched that you think you can’t pull together a decent lesson before your next class session. Got sick? Had a personal emergency? Had too many classes to plan for? Ended up scrapping a plan in the last minute? No matter the reason, you’re now covered.

For teachers who want to have a back-up plan when they’re tight on time, it’s very convenient that this site allows you to download teacher notes as well as the student worksheet for each lesson plan. You’ll be good to go for your next class. You can even print out a lesson or two with all the bells and whistles, keep it in your binder or desk drawers and then whip it out when in need.

In a similar vein to the One Stop English monthly news lessons, there are topical lesson plans based around important calendar events, as well as trending topics. A recent example this year is a lesson planned around International Woman’s Day and how it’s celebrated around the world.

The British Council teaching website also curates blog posts aimed at helping teachers succeed in the classroom with helpful tips and tricks. Aside from being a great source for plan B lesson activities, the website itself is a great resource for teacher self-improvement.

3. FluentU

That heavily text-reliant lesson plan just isn’t getting through to the students? Need something to give students a little vim and vigor?

You’ll want to get video involved when students have had too much of reading and writing.

A lot of research has shown that video can be used to inspire and engage students in class. It can increase student motivation, enhance their learning experience and help them to achieve higher marks in class.

Using FluentU, students will be more engaged and learn better. Not only does FluentU offer video, but it offers scaffolding that isn’t available anywhere else; students will find all this authentic content approachable and within reach. Say goodbye to spending hours searching for good videos on YouTube and hello to focusing on actually teaching your students.

Watch videos together in class. Complete each video’s Quiz Mode activities together as a class or in groups. Have students break out their personal gadgets and explore individually or in pairs. The sky’s the limit here! The videos are short enough (one to six minutes long on average) that you can easily work one into a spare chunk of time, and there’s a huge enough quantity of content (thousands of videos and exercises!) that you could keep teaching and learning with FluentU semester after semester.

4. TEFL Tunes

Every once in a while, you’ve got to just let loose in class.

Nothing lets the students do this better than a great tune that they can sing along with while practicing their English. That’s why it’s a great idea to always have a song or two as a back-up in case you need to shift the dynamic in class.

It’s very easy to create a gap-fill exercise from scratch with the simple aid of a lyrics page and a YouTube video. However, if you’re looking to fill a bit more time in class, TEFL Tunes has some great, comprehensive lesson plans based on songs.

The website has a big selection of mainly rock and pop songs, including the likes of the Arctic Monkeys, Amy Winehouse and Taylor Swift. Though a (quite inexpensive) subscription is required to get full access to all the materials, TEFL Tunes does offer some free lesson plans.

5. Lyrics Training

 Another fun option, in a similar vein to TEFL Tunes, is Lyrics Training. It has a huge amount of songs to choose from, and it allows students to work with songs they love. The site challenges students to race against a clock by filling in the gaps in subtitled lyrics while they watch the song’s music video.

Every now and then, we teachers need a bit of a break and a breather in class too. We’ve all been there! Lyrics Training is a cool way to quickly get your students engrossed in a simple, entertaining ESL activity while allowing you time to plan or set up the next fun activity.

This website is especially effective in classes of teens, who tend to appreciate the strong selection of chart-topping music that’s available here.

6. Movie Segments to Assess Grammar Goals

Much in the same way as FluentU, Movie Segments to Assess Grammar Goals allows you to challenge your student’s grammar skills while sidestepping those boring tables and large texts. This site focuses solely on clips from famous movies, which is another surefire way to engage those students!

The website is brilliantly organized. You can search by level (beginners, basic learners, intermediate learners, advanced learners) and grammar points (comparatives, future perfect, idioms, etc.). You can also use the search bar to check in case a movie you or any of the students are particularly fond of has had an activity made out of it.

Movie Segments to Assess Grammar Goals contains a large amount of detailed lesson plans based on the above categories. Pressed for time or need a quick back-up plan? This is an excellent resource that can fill hours and hours of lesson time.

7. ESL Games Plus

Young groups usually need a bit of downtime anyway. A perfect way to give them respite from the challenges of acquiring a new language, while still helping them learn, is to add a set of games to your teaching arsenal.

ESL Games Plus is an ideal resource for kid’s lessons and games that appeal to energetic classes. It contains printable games sheets that you can have on hand in case you’re in need of a simple back-up plan during your lessons. These include crosswords, word spirals, word searches, board games and card games. Using a projector, you can give your students turns on the interactive ESL games that can be played on the website.

This website’s brilliance is in its simplicity. Just choose a game and fire away! Put the printable games to use. Print out several different types of games and set them out on the table, then have students race to be the first to finish all of them!


So, whether your students are begging you for a break from grammar or are simply on the verge of daydreaming through the rest of that lesson on prepositions, it’s always a good idea to have a fun, plan B activity in mind!

Of course you don’t want to cave in to their every request, but getting a good balance between working your students hard and knowing when to give them a breather can be key to a successful teaching and learning relationship.

Always make sure to have one or two learning tricks up your sleeves!

If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach English with real-world videos.

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