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Eight excellent digital resources for English language learners

I frequently have students asking for advice on how to improve different areas in which they are struggling. These are my top eight digital resources for learners, broken down by skill. (Also, they’re all free!)

Reading

My pick: ESL Lounge

Organized by level, this website has about 25 reading comprehension exercises per level where you read a short text and then answer some comprehension questions. I would suggest giving yourself a time limit when doing these exercises to also increase reading speed. After you’ve answered the questions, take some time to look up any new words.

Writing

My pick: Write and Improve

This is a cool website for students who are looking to improve their writing, especially in terms of grammar and spelling. There are a variety of prompts according to level that you respond to and are given immediate feedback. It’s not perfect, of course, and may miss some mistakes, but overall it’s a really great tool for improving your writing.

Speaking

My pick: Record function on your device

For students who want to improve their speaking, one of the best ways is by recording yourself. You might feel a little uncomfortable, but I know students who have done this every day and really seen improvement.

Here’s what I suggest: Find a quiet place where you won’t be bothered. Choose a topic or discussion question from one of your classes. Then, turn on your recording device and answer the question, talking for about two to three minutes. You can just use the microphone, or use the video recorder (with or without you in it the shot). Then play it back and listen to yourself. I know, I know, we all hate the way our voice sounds, but I promise you, it’ll be worth it. Do you notice any mistakes? Were there pauses, places where you were searching for a word but couldn’t think of it? Can you look for that word in a translator or dictionary now, so that you’ll be ready the next time you want to use it? Also, simply the act of speaking can help you become more comfortable and fluent.

Listening

My pick: TED Ed

TED talks are quite popular, and with this website, students can find any number of videos related to a topic they are interested in. Each video is accompanied by a lesson that includes comprehension questions to check for understanding as well as open-ended questions and links to explore more about the topic. Most of the videos are pretty short, so you can easily watch it twice if you need, and you can usually find the transcript as well.

Grammar

My pick: The EF English Grammar Guide

The EF English Grammar Guide is an easy-to-use resource with tips about usage, explained simply with examples (and counter-examples!) to illustrate. It can be accessed by teachers or students at anytime. Perfect English Grammar is another website to bookmark. You can search it by grammar topic, read an explanation, and then do an exercise with 10-20 sentences. It doesn’t help very much with using the grammar in context, but it provides great practice for mastering the grammatical structure.

Pronunciation

My pick: Voice-to-text function on your phone or device

This is the best way I know of to improve pronunciation. You can use pretty much any app on your phone: Notes, Pages, Word, an email, etc. Simply make sure the keyboard language is set to English, press the little microphone, and begin speaking. You can either read a text or talk freely for about 20-30 seconds; then press done. Read over what your phone typed, and see if it understood you correctly—was that what you wanted to say? If there are words that your phone didn’t understand, practice these words and go back and try again. The technology isn’t perfect, of course, but it’s fairly accurate so it’s a good way to check and improve your pronunciation.

Vocabulary

My pick: Free Rice

If you’re looking for a fun way to improve your vocabulary that also helps people, check out this website. It’s just a multiple choice vocabulary quiz, but the questions are endless, and as you master new words, you can move up levels. In addition, the organization that runs the website donates ten grains of rice for each question answered correctly!

All skills

My pick: EF SET exam

The EF SET exam is a free language test to identify your level, with scores aligned to internationally approved standards developed by the European Council, meaning it’s understood by employers and universities. The EF SET is extremely user-friendly, with quick and complete test options available, plus an online certificate that can be attached to your LinkedIn profile to easily share your level with your network.

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