A self-development task during my diploma last year asked me to list all the websites I found useful in my ELT practice. The document I created spanned about 6 pages – it could easily have been longer.
I’m sure there’s a lot of common ground between us teachers, experienced or not. A majority of the sites I use were either found through a Google Search or passed on from colleagues. Nevertheless, I think it’s worth listing a few of my favourite sites as some serve rather specific purposes.
I hope you find at least one new website in the list below. If so, please tell others about it – sharing is caring!
‘I want to find words that collocate with my target vocabulary’
This is a recent find for me (thanks Julian). Type a word into the search bar and you are provided with a list of common collocations for that term. Search results are organised by form. For example, if you search for the term ‘holiday’, results will show typical verb collocations (i.e. ‘go on holiday, take a holiday’), noun collocations (‘bank holiday’, ‘package holiday’), etc. Each term is rated depending on how much it appears in everyday use, and you can view examples of each term in context (via the British National Corpus).
Just-the-word is a great tool for teachers, but is straightforward enough for learners to use too. I recommend it as a vocabulary building tool for intermediate level students and above, and I occasionally use it in class with pre-intermediates. It’s worth checking whether a search term provides results before using the site in class.
If you’re looking for something more technical, I’ve been checking out lextutor.ca recently. Watch this space – a post will follow sometime soon.
‘Do I need affect or effect, historic or historical, if or whether…?’
I recommend… Grammar Girl
There are plenty of grammar reference sites on the net. If I need a concise explanation of a structure I usually visit the something like the English Page as I like the timelines on it. Still, I much prefer flicking through a grammar book like Parrott’s Grammar for English Language Teachers
Grammar Girl is good for answering annoying questions – the ones that make me ramble a lot in class when I’m put on the spot. It’s reassuring to find out that sometimes even Grammar Girl doesn’t have all the answers, especially when it comes to the origins of idioms. Still, she knows far more about grammar than I do, and the site is well-designed too.
‘I want a quick introduction to teaching theory and practice’
‘I need some inspiration for a diploma essay’
‘I need a quick explanation of common learner errors by nationality’
You can find quite a lot on this site if you have a browse. The ‘Teachers’ tab on the top toolbar links to a set of short introductions to teaching theory, and is a good starting point for essay ideas. The list of common pronunciation errors (via the ‘Pronunciation’ tab) is comprehensive enough. There’s a few other things of interest too, such as a description of various language games for the classroom. Looks can be deceiving – this is a VERY useful site.
Note: don’t copy your diploma self-development tasks from this site, try them yourself…
‘I want to copy and paste phonemes into a word document’
I recommend… Phonemicchart.com
I’ve always found this site really easy to use. I also has a feature where you can type in a word and get it translated into phonemic script, although this can be a little hit and miss.
‘I want to help my students understand how to form a sound’
This is another recent find for me. This site created by the University of Iowa has some really clear videos showing how to form sounds, accompanied by diagrams that show how all the articulators move for each sound. You may find it easier just to demonstrate these yourself, but if students are finding certain sounds particularly hard to grasp, these visuals might help. It focuses on American English.
‘I want creative, student-centred lesson plans’
It’s a shame this site isn’t updated much anymore – there are some great activities on it. Finding this a few years ago led to an interest in teaching unplugged/Dogme approach.
The site doesn’t provide an endless amount of resources, and it’s not the place to visit if you’re looking for grammar-focused lessons. However, I’d recommend visiting designer lessons as it does offer something different – conversation-driven lessons, ideas incorporating critical thinking skills, use of interactive resources, etc. I’d guess that the people who created this blog are masters at engaging teenagers/young adult classes – I find most of the stuff here works best with ages 15-18.
Top lesson recommendation: Passing disagreeable notes
‘I need help teaching IELTS, and I need resources for it’
I recommend… IELTS Buddy
IELTS Buddy has been a godsend for me as a new IELTS teacher. I’ve been getting to grips with the course requirements by taking the Cambridge ‘How to Teach IELTS’ course, which incidentally is very good. When it comes to lesson ideas though, Buddy is pretty comprehensive. I’ve sought IELTS related advice from about 20 different teachers over the past month, and I can honestly say that 90% of them recommended this site to me, so I must be onto a winner.
IELTS Liz – I like her too. She does a great job of explaining test criteria and always seems to have an answer for the seemingly inane questions I think of, like ‘can you use your own pen in the exam?’
‘I’d like to follow a blog that will give me lesson ideas’
I recommend… ELT-Cation
I think Svetlana Kandybovich’s blog is great for lesson ideas. Of course there are a lot of great bloggers out there, but ELT-Cation comes top of my list for 3 reasons:
- Every time a new idea is posted on this blog, it’s always something I want to try out in class
- Every time I’ve tried an activity from this blog it’s been relatively successful
- The author is committed to collaboration and sharing ideas, and is always willing to give feedback to others.
There are a good range of posts from the last month alone, I recommend browsing.
‘I’m interested in materials development’
I recommend… John Hughes
John Hughes wrote the Life textbook series published by National Geographic Learning. Every time I flick through a copy of it I’m always amazed at how vibrant it looks, how interesting the topics are, and how well thought out the lesson staging is. Unfortunately, it hasn’t gone down well with any of my classes. I will persist with it, and one day all will fall into place I’m sure!
Regardless of my own experience with the book, you can’t fault the work of the author. John Hughes’ site is worth looking at for its advice on materials design, and its section on critical thinking skills. I’d also recommend going to a talk by Mr Hughes if you get the chance – I’ve only seen him once but it was very engaging.
‘Phonology, aaaargh! Where do I start?!’
I recommend… Developing Teachers
I can see why the phonology module of the DipTESOL is scary. Don’t worry, help is at hand. This site covers the basics, and gives you a few ideas for classroom practice. Another site I found quite useful at the start of the diploma was Phil’s EFL Support Site, and this is also worth a look. However, it doesn’t use the phonemic chart clearly in its explanations, which can be limiting. Nevertheless, look at both, they are good introductions to the topic.
‘I’m looking for a site that covers everything’
I recommend… Teaching English
By popular demand I’m adding this to the list. I didn’t include it in my original post as it’s very well-known, but on the off-chance that you’ve never seen it here is the link. If I were to recommend one particular section on the site, I’d go for ‘Teacher Development‘. If you’re new to teaching then visit this page for all things CPD.
Teaching English is the website for the British Council, and it has a sister site called Learn English. One of the best sections on this site is ‘Word on the Street‘, which has plenty of online video lessons focusing on natural English. These videos also provide a means to explore UK culture. Personally, I think some of these clips are the best resources the British Council have produced.
Ok, that’s a few suggestions. Oh, nearly forgot the honourary mention for eltexperiences.com, after all I wouldn’t be blogging without it.
I hope to get weekly blog posts up and running again soon, but I’m currently rushed off my feet! In the meantime, thanks for the 50,000 hits, and enjoy these sites!