Painting a New Picture as Online Teachers

Our lives are changing quickly, and at different moments over the past week I’m sure we’ve all been more grateful than ever for the Internet, our computers, and our mobile devices. In trying times, it’s important to stay connected and find sources of support.

As many of you move completely online for ESL/EFL instruction, you’re likely adding to your toolkit and building a list of resources. Please remember the support that professional associations can offer. TESOL’s Communities of Practice are coming out in full force to provide useful links, tips, and points of contact. Check out their offerings.

Right now, let me put together a short list of online resources that I make use of and recommend.

I mostly like using the nonfictional texts on this free site. I appreciate the different filters I can use to search for content. There are articles written for K-12 (fiction and nonfiction). It’s geared toward kids, but you’ll find topics that are appropriate for adult ELLs, too. You can easily create classes, assign texts, and correct answers. I appreciate the quality of the question sets. They’ve allowed students to focus on comprehension outside of class; we can then focus on discussion when we meet. Most articles offer audio so that students can read along and listen, and a growing number already have recordings with a human voice, including mine. If you want a list of articles I’ve recorded for ReadWorks, write to me.

I recommend this resource for independent reading because the site determine’s the user’s level from the start and then recommends texts from its database. Comprehension questions make sure there’s sufficient understanding. Such a resource could be useful if you’d like students to read weekly and report to you with an oral or written summary.

If you want to bring in current issues that are appropriate for younger learners and/or ELLs at the intermediate level, check out Newsela. This platform provides instructional content for levels K-12. As with ReadWorks, you can search for various topics. There are short quizzes and writing prompts, but no audio. I appreciate the range of topics and the use of reputable sources.

This is one of many news sites I turn to when I compile a list of weekly discussion topics for upper level students. I appreciate the availability of text and podcasts (with transcripts).

TED Talks
Who doesn’t like a good TED Talk? My high intermediate and advanced students have done well with the challenge of listening to these fast-paced talks. Transcripts are readily available, so support is there when they can’t easily catch a word or phrase. In class, students can ask me about new expressions or unfamiliar grammar, but their main task is to summarize and react to the topic. Any TED Talk is a springboard to a larger conversation. Last week we had fun exchanging insights gleaned from Tim Urban’s 2016 talk Inside the mind of Master Procrastinator.

There are also some online tools I put in the hands of learners to increase their independence. Perhaps that will be a topic for a future post.

I hope some of the resources listed here will be of use to you and your students. At the present time, we’re all painting a new picture, so don’t be afraid to pick up a different brush, dip it into a bold color, and take experimental strokes. The canvas is yours — it belongs to you and your students. Have fun!

Featured photo by Skitterphoto. Retrieved from

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