Resources & Support for ESL/ELL College Students

Uncover some of the best college and higher learning resources for teaching and supporting ESL students, and hear from an international teacher and ESL expert.

Written By

Timon Kaple

- Bio

Timon Kaple, Ph.D., is a full-time writer and researcher. His work focuses on sociolinguistics, small-group folklore, the anthropology of sound, higher education, and student support services. He has experience as an ethnographer and enjoys conducting fieldwork and archival research.

Expert Contributor

Lillie Marshall

- Bio

Lillie Marshall has been a public school English teacher since 2003. She has taught on three continents and is also a prolific writer. Her websites are DrawingsOf.com + TeachingTraveling.com + AroundTheWorldL.com and she can be found on social media at @WorldLillie.

last updated

03/16/2022

You’re about to start college. You have your classes picked, your books purchased, and your bedroom study nook all ready for day one. You nailed the prerequisites last year, and you even did a little summer reading to make sure you’ll hit the ground running. Everything is coming into place. But then you realize, you did a lot of that prep work in your native language, and you’re about to enter a learning environment that’s entirely in English. You passed the TOEFL, of course, but are you ready for the real thing?

During the 2019-2020 school year, about 5% of college enrollees were born in a foreign country. That means one million students reading, writing, speaking, and learning in their second or third language. That’s no easy feat. To help, we’ve created an in-depth guide for students who need improve their English skills. And while we focus on resources for ESL college students, we’ve included sections for younger students, parents, and teachers, too. Read on to find free websites, apps, books, podcasts, videos, study groups, and more.

Glossary of ESL Terms

When it comes to ESL training, courses, and related terms, the many abbreviations and definitions may look like alphabet soup. Here’s a glossary to clear up confusion.

ESL

ESL, or English as a second language, refers to the programs and act of teaching students who aren’t primary English speakers. These programs are typically for learners who reside in an English-speaking location or country. ESL programs tend to focus on breaking down language concepts and rules and integrating them into common school subjects such as science, mathematics, and history.

EFL

The meaning of EFL, or English as a foreign language, is very close to ESL. The difference here is that students are learning in a country where English is not the primary language. EFL classes may follow more traditional structures, where students learn through increasingly complex grammatical structures. This is largely because EFL students have fewer opportunities to practice English outside the classroom.

ESOL

ESOL stands for English for speakers of other languages. This term is most commonly used to indicate ESL programs in K-12 classrooms, though it can apply to adults and college students as well. ESOL focuses on developing English skills primarily through speaking, writing, listening, and reading.

ELL

An English language learner, or ELL, is a student whose English is limited but who is in the process of developing their skills. This term is commonly used in both general and ESL classrooms to refer to K-12 students and adult nonnative English speakers who are actively learning.

ELP

ELP, or English language proficiency, is the level at which a student can use and comprehend English. Teachers and curriculum developers use ELP when determining skill level and creating learning materials for ELLs.

ESP

When ESL students learn English in the context of classes focused on a particular topic, profession, or academic field, this is ESP, or English for special purposes. If students who are native German speakers are preparing to attend architecture school in the U.S., they may be in a math or design course that includes ESP instruction.

IELTS

IELTS, or International English Language Testing System, is a widely recognized test for students planning to live or study in a country that primarily speaks English. IELTS scores are often used by employers, immigration bodies, university admissions, and others to determine a student’s level of comprehension in English.

LEP

LEP stands for limited English proficient. It refers to students with a level of English comprehension that’s lower than what they need to succeed in English-only classes. These students are fluent in one or more other languages but don’t have comparable speaking, writing, reading, or comprehension skills in English.

Language Fluency

Fluency refers to one’s ability to express themselves using spoken or written words with ease and accuracy. Language fluency is measured by one’s ability to use expressions and pauses at a common speed when speaking. Fluency is also concerned with the speaker’s confidence level with a language.

Native Language

Native language, also known as L1 or first language, refers to the language one grew up speaking. This may be what the person spoke in their family or their locale. It is usually the first language a child experiences, but it’s possible for one to claim more than one native language.

Primary Language

For those who speak more than one language, the primary language is the one they prefer or the one in which they are most fluent. Some people consider their primary language to be the one they use most in school, work, or home. In this way, one’s primary language will not always be the same as their first or L1.

TESOL

TESOL, or teaching English to speakers of other languages, indicates a program that’s designed to prepare teaching professionals to provide English instruction to ESL students. Teachers in TESOL study second language learning theory and the best ESL pedagogical practices.

TOEFL

TOEFL, or test of English as a foreign language, is an exam that evaluates a student’s ability to use English in a classroom or academic setting. More than 160 countries and 11,500 academic institutions accept TOEFL scores. The exam covers four skills: reading, speaking, writing, and listening.

Levels of ESL

Educational institutions and instructional companies often separate ESL skill levels into five categories. You might find institutions that break down the essential ESL skills into even more, but the five basic and most commonly used categories are as follows.

  1. Level One (Beginning) At this level, students have very limited or no English vocabulary. While they may know how to respond to yes or no questions, or provide someone with their name, level one learners rarely possess knowledge beyond that. Students in level one develop foundations of the language by learning single words, common phrases, and how to answer simple commands.
  2. Level Two (High Beginning) Also with a fairly limited range of language skills, students who are high beginners often possess strong listening skills but struggle to produce their own answers. Level two instruction focuses on improving reading skills, oral expression, and listening skills. At the end of this level, students typically possess the skills they need to begin participating in classroom settings.
  3. Level Three (Intermediate) Level three students work on their listening comprehension skills. Students become more comfortable with expressing their thoughts simultaneously and understanding written texts. Intermediate students often become more comfortable participating in the classroom and may be able to complete schoolwork in English at their grade level.
  4. Level Four (High Intermediate) Level four students have strong enough foundational skills to quickly expand their vocabularies. They possess stronger comprehension and listening skills and can meet higher teacher expectations. Students may still struggle with abstract and complex concepts. Their confidence levels, however, are high despite these hurdles.
  5. Level Five (Advanced) Level five instruction helps students get the point where they’re more than comfortable participating in classroom settings. They can write and read at or close to their grade level with the help of a dictionary or some teacher intervention. After level five instruction, students usually need much less teacher assistance and have a very high level of confidence in their listening, speaking, and writing skills.

Online Support & Resources for ESL Students

You’ll find useful tools and resources online for ESL learners of all skill levels—but not all tools offer quality instruction. The following list will help you quickly find valuable learning tools, including the best apps and games, podcasts and videos, online classes and tutoring, and study groups for ESL students.

Apps & Games

  • Fun English Designed by award-winning educators, Studycat’s Fun English app best serves 3- to 8-year-olds. The app features 191 lessons with practice activities in reading, grammar, pronunciation, and spelling.
  • English Media Lab This site includes puzzles and games for ESL learners, including interactive crosswords and pronunciation exercises. The site has K-8 math and science video instruction tailored for ESL learners. Students of all five skill levels take online quizzes about what they’ve learned.
  • Kids Picture Dictionary App ESL students can take advantage of this app’s alphabetical list of picture flashcards to build vocabulary. It has over 650 flashcards paired with audio recording features so students can record themselves speaking each vocabulary word and check their pronunciations against the app.
  • Starfall This site features dozens of games for ELLs who are in the beginning stages of English language acquisition. The games are conveniently divided into modules for prek/kindergarten and grades 1-3 students. These highly participatory learning exercises include nursery rhymes, sing-alongs, math songs, and a talking library.

Forums & Study Groups

  • UniLang Forums The UniLang community consists of a large message board forum with dozens of threads, many of which are dedicated to ESL learners. Students check out discussion threads on pronunciations, study tips, specific language skills, and good writing habits.
  • ESL Reddit Forum With more than 105,000 members, the ESL forum on Reddit serves as one of the most active on the internet. Students join the forum for free, find links and recommendations for ESL learning tools, and post questions for other users.
  • Dave’s ESL Cafe In addition to a “find a teacher” feature, the cafe includes active discussion forums. Students find dozens of threads, many of which offer ESL discussions based on location/country of origin. There’s also a dedicated thread for new users so they can get up to speed and take advantage of all the site has to offer.

Podcasts & Videos

  • Culips ESL Podcast This podcast is dedicated to helping ESL learners improve. Listeners receive coaching in learning English idioms, new study tips, and practicing pronunciations.
  • Luke’s English Podcast This award-winning podcast boasts more than 740 episodes. The podcast is entertaining while offering stellar ESL tips and instruction to help learners build robust vocabularies. There are also transcripts for each episode to help listeners follow along.
  • FluentU Podcast List Designed specifically for ESL students, this list of 17 podcasts comes with transcriptions to help learners follow along. Many of the podcasts encourage active participation from listeners, with reading and pronunciation exercises.

Courses & Tutoring

  • Skooli ESL students find tutors who are separated by academic subject and grade level. Learners choose from coaching in math, the humanities, science, and business.
  • English Tutoring Online (ETO) ETO offers remote classes for ELLs ages 3-18. Students take advantage of up to five classes per week during the school year. ETO also offers summer intensives and courses designed for winter holiday breaks. These intensives usually require 5-25 hours of work per week, depending on the program.
  • SuperProf This site offers some of the easiest access to online ESL tutoring. With over 4,000 online tutors in the U.S., ELLs can find a tutor that can meet their language learning needs and desired learning styles.
  • ESL Tutor ESL Tutor is a great resource for students of all ages and skill levels looking for tutoring. The site includes listings for in-person and online tutors. While students must pay for the tutoring itself, it’s free to sign up and browse options.

In-Person Programs & Resources for ESL Students

Some learners prefer in-person instruction and learning. Compared to remote tutoring and online exercises, in-person programs and resources typically have a more personalized feel and help some students better retain information. If you’re looking for in-person programs, consider using this search tool for a list of ESL/ELL resources by state.

Most state departments of education provide lists of ESL-related resources for teachers and students. You may also be able to sign up for ESL newsletters that point you toward bilingual coordinators, English learner toolkits, and other state- or federally funded resources. Find your state’s information here through the U.S. Department of Education.

Study abroad ESL programs are also increasing in popularity. They’re an excellent choice for students looking for one-on-one learning opportunities and quick progress. ESL-Languages.com is one good spot to find study abroad opportunities. In most cases, students ages 7-17 can find ESL tutoring abroad in a host teacher’s home. Minors must discuss extended stay options with a parent or guardian.

ESL Resources for College Students

College students need convenient and cost-effective resources to help them prepare for school in English-speaking locations. From apps and online classes to test prep resources, here’s a look at some of the best college student ESL resources out there.

Websites & Apps

  • Memrise This free language learning app was created by ESL experts and instructors. Using exercises and mnemonic methods, learners can quickly remember new English vocabulary words. The app boasts more than 60 million learners since its launch and works on phones, tablets, laptops, and desktops.
  • Busuu Adults and college students will enjoy this ESL smartphone app, which features dozens of exercises for all skill levels. Areas of instruction include grammar, writing, conversation skills, and pronunciation. The app also incorporates an offline mode, which is good for college students who travel or commute without reliable internet or wifi access.
  • SpeakingPal Using conversational video clips with lifelike scenarios, SpeakingPal helps ESL students build on foundational English skills. Learners also enjoy the voice recognition feature, which allows the app to provide feedback on users’ word choices and pronunciations. With SpeakingPal, it’s easy to track your progress as you move through levels of ESL instruction.

Online ESL Courses

  • Sacred Heart Online ESL Program Sacred Heart offers this noncredit ESL program entirely online. Classes are asynchronous and fit into the busiest of schedules. The school offers four levels of instruction; incoming students take a placement test to determine their entry level.
  • ESOL Courses Online These online courses are split into listening, vocabulary, and grammar learning modules. Students take advantage of exciting learning tools such as ESL learning through popular music and songs. ELLs choose classes from any of its six skill levels to quickly find material that meets their educational needs.
  • Keystone Academic Courses This convenient list of ESL programs, offered remotely through universities and colleges, includes shorter intensive programs and regularly paced programs so students can work them into their busy schedules or holiday breaks.

Test Prep Resources

  • EdX.org TOEFL Test Prep Online students enjoy remote access to this six-week program. Expect to spend 2-4 hours per week preparing with these self-paced materials. While the main service is free, students have the option to upgrade their membership for additional learning features.
  • ETS.org TOEFL Prep Materials ETS, which administers the TOEFL exam, offers free self-paced practice tests. The site also features free downloads with practice questions in listening, speaking, writing, and reading.
  • IELTS Prep These prep materials for the IELTS come from the British Council. Here students find detailed information on the structure of the exam, prep courses, and free online practice exams. The site also offers live group coaching sessions with experts and one-on-one tutoring.

Resources for International Students

  • The Center for Global Education For students planning on attending an educational institution in the U.S., this site offers excellent resources. You’ll find information on financial aid, visas, and immigration. You’ll also get access to guides for student-athletes, cultural competency, and U.S. laws.
  • EducationUSA For international students interested in learning about student life in the U.S., look no further than this extensive site. You’ll find tips on how to locate services on or near your campus, information on applying for a student visa, and a list of school rankings. Most importantly, the site includes a search engine to help international students find educational counseling services.
  • Boundless Schools-How to Apply Are you an international student who’s concerned about applying to colleges in the U.S.? From choosing a college and applying for a visa to financial aid, Boundless offers great advice for international students who want to make sure they have all their bases covered.

On-Campus ESL Student Resources

Most colleges offer lots of resources on campus for ESL students, but sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start. Who should be your first point of contact? Is it better to get help in person or online? Do you have to officially enroll in a program?

First, bear in mind that most colleges and universities offer ESL student support services free of charge. These are included in your tuition and fees, so there’s likely no additional cost to you. Check for offices on campus that have titles like student support services, international student center, writing center, or tutoring center.

Writing centers on campus are one of the most likely places to find ESL resources. These centers employ writing experts and graduate students to help students with a variety of academic challenges—especially writing-heavy assignments. While you’ll still need to do all the work on your own, the writing experts and tutors at campus writing centers can make sure you’re handing in your best work.

Schools may have dedicated programs to help ESL students with challenges they face or to simply help ELLs further develop their English skills. For example, the University of California San Diego’s English-In-Action Conversation Program provides ELLs with conversation partners for 1-2 hours each week. Other on-campus examples include Tennessee State University’s Intensive English Center, Binghamton University’s English Language Institute, and East Los Angeles College’s English Club and ESL Club.

If you’re having trouble finding dedicated ESL resources or student clubs, check with your academic advisor or international student center. Also, be sure to ask around school to see if your fellow ELL students have found services they feel are beneficial.

Online & In-Person Resources for Adult English Language Learners

Many online and in-person resources are designed for adult students, including new immigrants who are working on their reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. Here’s a closer look at some of the best adult learner ESL resources out there.

Online Resources

  • Intercambio Classes Online and in-person classes are available through Intercambio on seven skill levels. In-person classes take place in Boulder, Colorado, while remote options are available to adult learners nationwide.
  • Topica Native This organization caters to ELLs from Southeast Asia, offering online students access to more than 2,000 teachers who help adult students improve their conversational English.
  • ESOL Courses for Work If you’re looking for ESL lessons that are specifically designed for working adults, check out ESOLcourses.com. This site helps you better understand English communication in the workplace, as well as common documents that employees encounter while applying for jobs and learning about company safety protocols.
  • LINCS Learning Center LINCS connects you to free online learning resources that focus on helping adult ELLs learn to read, apply for jobs, gain U.S. citizenship, and tackle academic subjects like science and math.
  • ImmigrantInfo.org This site connects adult ELLs with local resources and ESL classes. Users also find information on immigrant legal services, housing resources, care for people with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ resources, and more.
  • USALearns.org This site offers free online ESL classes for beginner and intermediate adult learners. You’ll also get information on becoming a U.S. citizen and preparing for a naturalization interview.
  • English in Action With individual tutoring and small-group workshops, English in Action has been helping adult ESOL students further develop their writing, reading, speaking, and listening skills since 1994. In-person tutoring takes place in Colorado, but the organization offers Zoom classes and office hours for out-of-state English learners.
  • Region 11 Instructional Services For adult English learners residing in Texas, this organization offers free ESL classes in Fort Worth and the surrounding counties. Some classes are dedicated to learning English for adults in the workplace, developing reading skills, and improving conversation skills.

In-Person Resources

  • Community College Classes for Adults The American Association of Community Colleges offers this free community college finder. With over 1,200 community colleges in the U.S., adult ESL learners can typically find one in their area with on-campus English classes.
  • ESL Directory This database includes information for more than 1,000 ESL schools around the globe. Adult ESL students locate classes in their area by conducting a search in their state or city.
  • Literacy Mid-South This organization provides in-person English tutoring for adults (typically those who read at a 6th-grade level or lower). One-on-one tutoring services are available for ESL adult learners in the Memphis area or online. Students pay a $10 one-time fee for 1-2 tutoring sessions per week.
  • TakeLessons In-person and online ESL tutors are available for adults through TakeLessons. Lessons cost as little as $15/lesson.
  • Berlitz Private Instruction Berlitz offers in-person ESL lessons for adults at learning centers in D.C., Maryland, Florida, New Jersey, and New York. Remote ESL tutoring is also available.
  • ABC Adult School This institution helps you prepare for a job, citizenship interview, and college-level learning with in-person adult ESL tutoring services. The campus is in Cerritos, California.
  • CUNY Adult Literacy/High School Equivalency/ESL With 14 campuses across New York City, CUNY offers easy in-person access to ESL classes for adults living in eastern New York. The program serves more than 10,000 students per year in conjunction with the New York State Education Department.
  • Belmont United Methodist Church Local churches, like this one in Nashville, Tennessee, often offer ESL classes for adults. Classes at Belmont United Methodist are offered from September through May and cover seven skill levels.
  • City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) ESL Classes CCC offers free ESL classes, along with professional certificate and citizenship classes, for adults living in Illinois. Any student age 18 or older can participate. Currently all coursework is online.

ESL Resources for Teachers & Parents

With state and federal support for ESL students lacking, teachers and parents play some of the most essential roles in the success of English language learners. Let’s look at some of the better in-person and online resources out there.

ESL Resources & Support for Teachers

Know your surroundings

  • ESLteacherEDU.org Teacher Training and Degree Programs ESL teachers are in demand in U.S. public schools. Prospective preK-grade 12 teachers in public school settings need ESL credentials; this site offers a detailed look at graduate and undergraduate programs.
  • American College of Education (ACE) Master’s Program For ESL teachers looking to take their skills to the next level, ACE offers one of the top master’s programs. Consider its MEd in English as a Second Language and Bilingual Education, which takes only 16-17 months to complete.
  • ColorinColorado.org-What ELL Students Need to Know This guide focuses on helping current ESL teachers better serve students preparing for college. It offers tips on boosting morale, building on students’ strengths, and assisting ESL learners in exploring the differences between college programs. There’s also a section on preparing ESL students for standardized tests and college entrance exams.
  • Bridge Universe-Professional Development for ESL Teachers Looking for ways to bolster your resume as an ESL teacher? Bridge Universe offers information on career development opportunities and strategies, including TEFL/TESOL certification, specialized certificates, workshops, educator-to-educator networking, and online conferences.

Materials and Lesson Plans for ESL Teachers

  • Busy Teacher For teachers looking for ready-made assignments and worksheets for ESL students, Busy Teacher is a great resource. Find quick reads on developing fun games for the classroom and how to use participatory learning in ESL classes.
  • ESL Teen Stuff From online learning tools and printable worksheets to PowerPoint slides and PDF textbooks, ESL Teen Stuff and ESL Kid Stuff is a membership-based service that can save you hours of ESL lesson preparation time. Materials are available for beginner to advanced learners, so you know you’ll be able to find skill-appropriate lessons when you’re in a pinch. Members pay $34-$49 per year.
  • ESLSpeaking.org-Games for Teenagers This site offers great tips on keeping ESL learners engaged in the classroom. Teachers can use resources available on the site or sign up for the mailing list. The weekly list delivers more than 40 games and exercises to help you get less-than-enthusiastic ESL students excited to read, write, and speak English.
  • ESL Library This subscription service comes with more than 1,000 lesson plans for ESL teachers. The $145-$180 per year subscription comes with lessons at seven skill levels. Materials are easy to access and broken down into helpful categories such as English in business, young learners, adult literacy, holidays and travel, and everyday English.

ESL Resources & Support for Parents

  • Office of Civil Rights School systems in the U.S. have civil rights obligations to ESL students and limited English proficient parents. Learn more about school-to-parent communication requirements, discrimination, and equality in education.
  • ESL-Languages.com-Courses for Families This site offers information on study abroad programs for ESL students and their families. Parents can set up 1- to 4-week trips for themselves and their ESL children ages of 5-17. Five study abroad destinations are available: Noosa, Australia; Brighton, England; London, England; St. Julian’s, Malta; and Jersey, England.
  • Understood.org-ESL Myths Parents of ESL students may be worried about things they’ve read or heard about student experiences in the U.S. public school system. This site addresses several myths about ELLs and special education students and offers fresh perspectives on how to deal with challenges children might encounter in the classroom.
  • Lisa Academy Resources for Parents For parents with limited English skills, transitioning to life in a primarily English-speaking location, especially with young children, can be challenging. This site includes links to journal articles and sites that focus on helping parents prepare for this transition and become more involved in their child’s schooling.
  • Ideas and Resources for Parents of ESL/ELL Students If you’re looking for some materials to provide your ESL learner with extra help at home, TeachersFirst.com has you covered with games and activities that build children’s English language skills.
  • YourDictionary-ESL Parents YourDictionary offers quick tips for parents of ESL students. These methods focus on helping parents motivate their students, get them prepared for class, and communicate effectively with teachers.
  • ColorinColorado.org This site includes a “For Families” section with extensive information for parents of ESL students. Entries in this section include tips for engaging young and teenage ESL students in learning at home and how to take advantage of local resources and libraries.

Getting to Know Your Rights: Laws & Regulations for ESL/ELL Students

Laws and regulations to support ESL learners have improved over the years. Let’s take a quick look at the progress of U.S. education laws and how they’ve affected ESL students.

Bilingual Education Act

Signed into law in 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson, the Bilingual Education Act (BEA) was intended to improve educational services for students with limited English speaking, writing, and reading skills. This was the first federal policy of its kind and provided financial assistance for the development and enhancement of bilingual programs. Culturally speaking, the BEA was important because it helped promote and celebrate cultural and linguistic diversity.

Equal Education Opportunity Act

The Equal Education Opportunity Act (EEOA) was signed into law in 1974. Designed to address widespread and ongoing civil rights issues in the U.S. school system, the EEOA prevented states from discriminating against students based on their race, gender, or nationality.

The EEOA was also meant to address how ESL students and racial minorities were supported by the U.S. public school system. Under this act, public schools were required to offer classes in languages in addition to English and to provide ELLs with equal access to education and resources. Under the EEOA, students experiencing discrimination in public schools had legal recourse.

No Child Left Behind

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was signed into law in 2001 by President George W. Bush. The act required that all ELL students receive quality instruction, both in learning English and other academic subjects. The act was also designed to increase schools’ accountability for ELL student progress. Ultimately, NCLB was intended to close the student achievement gap.

NCLB required ELL students to take an English language proficiency exam each year. States, districts, and schools were to be held accountable for making sure their ELLs met standards for progress each year.

Unfortunately, the NCLB did not actually increase ESL learners’ performance on standardized tests. Critics of NCLB argue that it may have helped identify which schools were failing their students but didn’t offer constructive solutions on how to fix the problem.

Every Student Succeeds Act

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replaced NCLB in 2015 and focused on ensuring a quality education for historically disadvantaged students. Those students primarily benefiting from ESSA include students in poverty, learners in special education programs, students with limited English language skills, and students of color.

While still following federal guidelines, the ESSA gives each state license to develop its own educational programs. Each state must lay out terms for handling its standardized testing and support for struggling schools. The ESSA also contributes federal funds for school literacy programs.

Under the ESSA, schools must develop a standardized system for identifying ELLs, deliver appropriate educational services in ESL programs, and have a system for moving advanced ELLs into educational tracks with their primary English-speaking peers, including effective postsecondary school preparation.

From the Expert: Succeeding as an ESL/ELL Student

A public school English teacher since 2003, Lillie Marshall has taught on three continents and is a prolific writer. Her websites are DrawingsOf.com, TeachingTraveling.com, and AroundTheWorldL.com, plus she can be found on social media at @WorldLillie.

Q: What is your experience in ESL?

A: I have taught grades 7-12 English Language Arts for 18 years in very linguistically diverse schools in Boston, using techniques to support the ELLs in my classes. In addition, I completed TEFL certification in Costa Rica and taught younger ESL students in Peru. I also taught a course for adult ESL students who had recently arrived in Boston, guiding them to create and publish their life stories in English.

Q: What is a key concept in ESL teaching?

A: One of the key components is giving explicit instruction about the structure of English and teaching strategies for figuring out new words from context. Many native speakers can also benefit from these skills.

Q: What are some online resources you recommend for ESL learners?

A: The key as an ESL learner is finding a topic that interests you. Newspapers, graphic novels, and magazines can be wonderful places to start if they mesh with your passions. Just have a dictionary (or app) nearby to look up any words that are stopping you from understanding the gist. You don’t need to understand every word, but some terms will be key to the heart of the piece.

Q: What are some resources you’d recommend for ESL teachers? What about for the parents of ESL students?

A: I have enjoyed the short and engaging passages on CommonLit and Newsela.

For kids and older learners, I find teaching and learning songs to be absolutely wonderful. I’ll never forget the chorus of little voices in Peru belting out, “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt!

Q: You own DrawingsOf.com. What would you like readers to know about it and any ESL-related content there?

A: I created DrawingsOf.com Educational Cartoon Site in 2020 to widely share the hand-drawn English and ESL lessons I’ve been sketching on chalkboards for years! For example, I have a long (and growing) list of commonly confused words that explains the difference between such tricksters as “there, they’re, and their,” and “apart vs. a part” in fun and memorable ways.

Though these homophones are challenging for native speakers, they’re even more confounding for ESL students, so I wanted to create a resource that would be enjoyable to use. Oh, and I take drawing requests if there’s a particular lesson that you’d like as an ESL teacher or student!

Q: What advice would you give to ESL students who are just getting started?

A: Social and emotional engagement is KEY to learning a language rapidly, so find and join any in-person or online meetups to practice your language skills in a social setting. Most cities have free meetup groups for just this purpose, and they are very welcoming, supportive, and fun.

Q: What else would you like readers to know?

A: The #1 thing that any teacher of ESL students can do is to experience being a new language learner themselves. It wasn’t until I was struggling to learn Spanish in Mexico that I really understood the engagement and emotional safety needed to undertake this feat. Years later, I still mentally draw from those challenging months in my own experience to better teach students learning English.