100+ Resources for ESL/ELL Students, Teachers & Parents

Being able to communicate in English is critical to succeeding in today’s world – yet the language can be challenging to learn as a nonnative speaker. Whether you’re an ESL student, parent, or teacher, use these resources to help make the path to proficiency easier.

Last Updated: 08/14/2020

Meet the Expert
David Ceron

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David Ceron has been an educator for 14 years with experience in elementary, middle school, and high school. He normally has worked in areas where the ELL population is 50% or higher.

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The demand for English-learning services is continuing to rise in the U.S. and abroad. Ten percent of K-12 students in U.S. public schools were English Language Learners (ELLs) in 2017, and it’s expected one in four will be by 2025. Other populations need help learning English, too, including many of the over million international college students studying at U.S. universities, new immigrants to English-speaking countries, and students abroad who are learning English as a second or third language.

Research shows it can take 5 to 7 years to acquire English at the levels needed for professional and academic success and this process can be demanding. Becoming proficient in English should be achievable for anyone who needs it, but finding help isn’t always easy. Designed for ELL/ESL students of all levels, parents, and teachers alike, this guide provides over a hundred practical resources to make the road to English proficiency more enjoyable. From fun quizzes and mobile apps to free lesson plans and valuable support organizations, this is a page you can keep coming back to for help whenever you need it.

Useful English Language Learning Terms to Know

The English language learning world is full of acronyms, abbreviations, and technical terminology. Below is a handy glossary to help you get started.

  • ESL 
    One of the more common designations, ESL (English as a Second Language) refers to learning programs that help non-native students acquire English, or to describe the teachers and students involved in these programs.
  • EFL
    EFL (English as a Foreign Language) describes non-native students who learn English while residing in their home country. They typically learn English in an environment where it is not the official language.
  • ESOL 
    English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) refers to education programs designed to help non-native students learn English.
  • ELL 
    Similar to ESL, ELL (English Language Learners) refers to non-native English language learners. It describes both youth and adults but is most often used in K-12 settings.
  • ELP 
    ELP stands for English language proficiency. It represents the level of skill learners have with the language. In the U.S., most education programs must conform to state and federal ELP standards.
  • ESP
    English for specific purposes (ESP) refers to instruction for learners who need proficiency in the vocabulary specific to their job.
  • IELTS 
    IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. This popular English-proficiency test is used by universities in English-speaking countries to test the skill level of incoming international students.
  • LEP 
    Also known as limited English proficiency, LEP refers to speakers of other languages who have not yet achieved English fluency.
  • Language Fluency
    This broad designation indicates a person’s language use and facility. English fluency means you can express yourself and understand others. It refers to both oral and written skills.
  • Native Language
    Sometimes referred to as first language, this term signifies the language acquired since birth. It is normally the language of your ethnic group or home country.
  • Primary Language 
    Your primary language can be your native language, but not always. It refers to the language you use in education, professional work, or everyday life.
  • TESOL 
    This acronym stands for teachers of English to speakers of other languages. Educators in this area receive professional certification and usually instruct ESL or ELL students.
  • TOEFL 
    The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is one of the primary exams, along with the IELTS, that international students take to prove their English proficiency at English-speaking universities.

ESL/ELL Resources, Tools, and Support

The list below outlines some popular tools, apps, and other websites for ESL/ELL students, teachers, and their families. It includes resources for learners at every level of proficiency.

For Students

Online Resources

Helpful Websites & Articles

Breaking News English (beginner, intermediate):

This site gathers digestible English-language news from around the world. It offers both reading and listening options.

15 Great Tips for Learning English Quickly and Easily (all skill levels):

This article lists some helpful general advice for learning English. It includes linked resources and focuses on self-paced learners.

Five Ways to Improve Your English By Yourself (all skill levels):

This article offers some tips for those looking to supplement their education or learn English at home.

Apps, Quizzes, and Games

Babbel (all skill levels)

One of the top-selling language learning apps, Babbel helps you learn English by focusing on everyday use. It offers short, 10-15-minute lessons backed by professional linguists and educators.

Busuu (all skill levels)

This app offers language instruction lessons that do not require an internet connection. Exercises include grammar and pronunciation.

Duolingo (all skill levels)

Duolingo offers language training programming within a game environment. It uses an intuitive, personalized platform that adapts as you progress.

English Club ESL Quizzes (beginner, intermediate)

This popular ESL/ELL site hosts a variety of web-based quizzes. Offerings range from general knowledge and listening to spelling, vocabulary, and reading.

English Media Lab (all skill levels)

This site offers free ESL resources to students. It includes games, puzzles, and grammar exercises.

Studycat Fun English (beginner)

Designed with children and youth in mind, this resource offers English language learning through games and other interactive experiences.

ESL Beginner and Elementary Online Games and Activities (beginner)

At this site, teachers and parents can find intuitive tools for learners who need to improve their reading, listening, and speaking skills.

Games to Learn English (beginner)

The games on this site focus on everyday activities related to food, weather, animals, and clothing.

Starfall (beginner)

Starfall offers ESL/ELL resources for younger learners (Pre-K through the third grade). It also provides a useful parent-teacher center.

Communities and Support Groups

Dave’s ESL Café (all skill levels)

A comprehensive ESL/ELL hub, this site offers a searchable database for learning opportunities. It also hosts an active discussion board.

English Forums (all skill levels)

This resource provides threaded forums where learners gather to collaborate and answer questions.

English Learning Subreddit (all skill levels)

Reddit users can visit this subreddit for all things ESL/ELL related. With nearly 50,000 active users, the forum offers a supportive discussion board.

Unilang (intermediate, advanced)

Unilang hosts several language-specific discussion forums. Participants can ask questions and receive grammatical advice.

Videos, Podcasts & Audiobooks

Learn English with Mister Duncan (all skill levels)

Mr. Duncan’s platform is one of the most popular English language YouTube channels. He offers short, engaging videos to help learners increase their proficiency.

Podcasts in English (all skill levels)

This site hosts free conversational English podcasts. ESL/ELL learners can search for episodes by topic and level.

Project Gutenberg (all skill levels)

This site hosts a massive library of over 60,000 free English eBooks. It focuses on older titles that have entered the public domain.  

Storynory (beginner, intermediate)

A repository for free English stories and audiobooks, this library focuses on resources for aural learners. It includes novels, short stories, fairytales, poems, and music.

The English We Speak (all skill levels)

Sponsored by the BBC, this podcast offers short episodes that examine everyday English. It focuses on slang, idioms, and colloquial phrases.

VOA Learning English (all skill levels)

This YouTube channel takes news reports in American English and offers subtitles read at slower speeds.

Tutoring Services

Improve Your English (all skill levels)

This service connects qualified educators with learners in need. It offers free consultations and personalized instruction.

Skooli (all skill levels)

Learners who use this platform have access to online K-12 tutoring. It uses an accessible, pay-as-you-go format.

Wyzant (all skill levels)

This service offers online ESL/ELL tutoring. Its tutors provide instruction in subjects like grammar, literature, vocabulary, and conversation.

Local Resources & Assistance Programs

Online resources are useful, but in some cases, you may need additional, in-person support. Fortunately, many U.S. states and individual school districts offer local assistance to ELL/ESL learners. These often include individual tutoring services, public library resources, and school social work placements. If you know what to look for you can take full advantage of opportunities often not available in digital formats.

In California, for example, students have access to bilingual coordinators, technical assistance tools, and regular newsletters. New York state provides similar services, including college readiness programs and community resource organizations. It also maintains its own Bill of Rights for ESL/ELL learners and their families. Most other states offer similar support as do local school districts and nonprofit organizations.

You can use this tool to navigate to resources offered by your own state. Most state-level departments of education will also provide an updated listing of qualified programs.

College Student Resources

Helpful Websites & Articles

Downloadable English Grammar Tutorials

Yale University offers self-guided ESL/ELL tutorials. They cover parts of speech, linking words, and sentence structure.

Getting Ready for College – What ELL Students Need to Know

This page offers some useful tips and advice for first-time learners preparing for college.

Purdue Online Writing Lab

This site hosts a comprehensive college writing handbook for students, including ESL/ELL learners.

Resource for Multilingual Writers

Yale also offers a page dedicated to learners who use English as a primary language in postsecondary settings.

Transitioning Adult ESL Students to College

Language Magazine lists some useful practices for adult learners considering college.

Resources for International Students

50 Tips for International Students

This article lists sound advice for international ESL/ELL learners planning to pursue higher education in North America.

Center for Global Education

This organization exists to support international ESL/ELL students studying in the U.S. It provides resources for parents and students alike.

EducationUSA Advising Centers

A federal entity, EducationUSA provides international learners with this handy, searchable directory of local advising centers.

EducationUSA Special Programs

EducationUSA hosts a number of events and special programs for international learners. These include camps, college clubs, and training initiatives.

Financial Aid for Undergraduate International Students

NAFSA offers some important information on financial aid for international learners.

TOEFL/IELTS Test Prep Resources

TOEFL Practice Tests

ETS administers the TOEFL test but also offers study guides and practice exams.

Union Test Prep

This service provides TOEFL preparation resources. It includes discussion boards, tutoring, flashcards, and practice tests.

Prepare for IELTS

This site is home to IELTS study tools and other prep materials.

Prepare for Your IELTS Test

IELTS also offers its own preparation resources, including prep courses and study guides.

Test Prep Resources

Penn State provides several test preparation guides to its learners. Many colleges and universities offer similar resources.

On-Campus Resources

Most colleges and universities also offer on-campus resources for international learners and ESL/ELL students. Take the University of Washington (UW), for example. It provides an array of services found on many campuses throughout the country.

  • Tutoring Services: Most schools employ student and faculty tutors with ESL-specific training. These individuals help learners gain greater proficiency in English. They also offer personalized assistance in other disciplines that use English as the primary language of instruction.
  • Writing Centers: Many schools like UW also maintain robust writing centers where ESL learners can seek out focused help with academic assignments. These centers offer consultations for most composition courses as well as essay tutorials for learners who need help improving their writing.
  • ESL Centers and Orientation Sessions: UW and other colleges provide additional support to ESL students through support groups, orientation sessions, and dedicated learning centers.

For Adult Learners & U.S. Immigrants

Helpful Websites and Articles

English in Action (all skill levels)

This nonprofit offers ESOL services designed for adult learners. It provides individual and small group tutoring.

ESL Directory (all skill levels)

This site maintains a vast, comprehensive directory of ESL-related programming. Learners can search by location and level of proficiency.

Immigrant Info (intermediate, advanced)

This organization supports immigrants by placing a strong emphasis on ESL education. It offers a class search and other resources.

Learn English – California State Guide (all)

Many states, like California, provide immigrants and adult learners topical ESL guides.

LINCS Learner Center (all)

Operated by the U.S. Department of Education, LINCS connects immigrants with free, ESL-related resources.

ESL/ELL Online Courses

BBC Six Minute English (intermediate)

This free program offers short, bite-sized episodes that develop new vocabulary.

EdX English Courses (intermediate and advanced)

EdX provides many ESL courses geared toward adult learners.

ESOL Courses (all skill levels)

This site hosts a wide range of free online ESL/ELL classes for learners at all levels.

USA Learns Free Online English Courses (beginner, intermediate)

This organization offers video-based ESL courses. Each experience covers listening comprehension, spelling, pronunciation, and grammar.

Udemy ESL Courses (all skill levels)

Udemy’s affordable ESL classes provide English instruction in reading comprehension and writing.

For Parents and Guardians

Parents and Families of ESL/ELL Students

How Parents Help Their ESL Children Learn English

This article notes some of the unique challenges families face and offers supportive tips

Ideas and Resources for Parents of ESL/ELL Students

Maintained by Teachers First, this page lists over 100 resources for ESL/ELL parents.

Learning and Thinking Differences in English Language Learners

This piece outlines some of the learning differences specific to ESL/ELL students.

Parent Guide for English Learners

Education Northwest offers a bilingual ELL/ESL guide for families.

Reading Tips for Parents (in Multiple Languages)

This resource provides some general reading tips for ELL/ESL families.

Resources for ELL Family Engagement

The Latino Family Literacy Project hosts several ESL/ELL resources, including curriculum tools and phonics charts.

Six Insights for Parents/Caregivers with English Language Learners

This research-based article offers some actionable techniques for supporting your ESL/ELL learner at home.

LEP Parents and Guardians

Colorin Colorado

This organization focuses on ESL/ELL needs in Colorado, but also provides resources for LEP family members throughout the U.S.

Information for LEP Parents and Guardians

Developed by the federal government, this document offers LEP-specific information for families.

LEP.gov

This site is the federal government’s main LEP portal. It aggregates recent news and answers some common questions.

National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition

This site provides LEP fact sheets and demographic data.

Right of English Learners and LEP Parents

Hosted by the Education Law Center, this page provides legal information for LEP people.

Schools’ Civil Rights Obligations to ESL Students and LEP Parents

The U.S. Office for Civil Rights provides a useful list of LEP-related school policies.

Tools that Empower Spanish-Speaking Parents

This page lists many tools LEP family members can use to support ESL/ELL students.

U.S. Department of Education Resources – Spanish Version

LEP parents who are also Spanish speakers can use this version of the site to find useful resources and information.  

For Teachers and Educators

Helpful Websites & Articles

10 Solid Gold ESL Teaching Tips to Maximize Your Students’ Talking Time

This article looks at the importance of making sure students speak in the classroom.

Do’s and Don’ts for Teaching English-Language Learners

This piece includes excerpts from prominent literature in ESL/ELL instruction.

ESL Teacher Resources

Purdue University hosts a dedicated page to ESL/ELL instruction. It lists a few professional organizations and resources for teaching.

Success for ESL Students

Designed for elementary ESL/ELL teachers, this site looks at some practical classroom techniques.

Professional Development

BBC Teacher Development

This portal offers professional development resources for ESL/ELL educators. It includes lesson plans, webinars, and other resources.

ESL Base

This page provides information for new teachers as well as seasoned professionals. It also hosts a job board and facilitates training courses.

Stanford Language Education Courses

Stanford University’s resources include past continuing education courses and current development opportunities.

TESOL

TESOL is the primary international organization supporting ESL/ELL educators. It administers professional certifications and provides career advancement tools.

Lesson Plans & Teaching Materials

ESL Galaxy

This site offers teachers a library of lesson plans and activities. It focuses on elementary school curriculum.

ESL Lounge

Users of this platform can submit and access lesson plans, worksheets, and flashcards.

ESL Teaching – Oxford Seminars

These seminars can be adapted to the needs of just about any classroom. The site offers lesson plans, activities, and classroom management techniques.

One Stop English

This site offers many tools for teachers. It includes grammar activities, exam guidelines, and skills assessments.

Online Communities & Support Groups

ESL Teachers Board

This resource hosts a variety of topical, ESL-related discussion boards. Users can filter by location and education level.

ESL Teachers Facebook Group

This group supports nearly 10,000 teachers by creating an outlet for discussion, collaboration, and engagement.

TESL Subreddit

Active Reddit users can use the platform’s TESL hub to connect with other teachers and crowd-source lesson plans.

Teaching ESL Abroad

How to Choose the Best TEFL Certification for Your Career

This article provides some tips on how to select a TESOL certification provider.

How to Prepare to Teach English Abroad

Hosted by the Geo Visions foundation, this piece offers comprehensive information on what to expect as a TESOL educator abroad.

How to Teach English to Beginners

This piece provides some practical tips for TESOL professionals who work with novice ESL/ELL learners.

I Have 13 Years of TEFL Experience. Here is My Advice to You

Written by a seasoned professional, this article gives some evidence-based advice to aspiring teachers.

Teaching in International Schools Overseas

The U.S. Department of State offers some tools for citizens who teach abroad. It includes job listings and TESOL organizations.

TEFL Certification Guide

This handy guide details several different ways that teachers can obtain their TEFL/TESOL credentials.

The Benefit of Teaching Abroad and How to Get Started

Created by Diversity Abroad, this page gives some advice on how to begin teaching abroad.

The Definitive Guide to Teaching English Abroad

Sponsored by TEFL, this one-stop guide provides new educators with everything they need to know about teaching abroad.

Assisting ESL Students as a Traditional Teacher

12 Ways to Support English Learners in the Mainstream Classroom

This pedagogy-focused page lists some concrete steps teachers can take to support students in traditional classrooms.

ELL Strategies that Work for the Whole Class

Hosted by TeachHub, this piece looks additional measures teachers can implement to better serve ESL/ELL learners.

ESL Students in the Mainstream

Published by the international TESOL association, this list includes several online tools teachers can use.

How Can I Support ELLs in My Classroom?

This Penn State University page focuses on how to create a welcoming classroom environment for ESL/ELL learners.

Preparing Mainstream Teachers for English-Language Learners

This research article looks at how teachers can prepare for ESL/ELL support before instruction begins.

Distance Learning ESL/ELL Resources

5 Invaluable Online ESL Teaching Resources You Can’t Live Without

FluentU lists several popular tools remote TESOL teachers can use.

6 Key Considerations for Supporting English Learners with Distance Learning

This piece uses recent research to develop new considerations for TESOL distance learning.

Digital Resources for EL Students

This post lists over 30 tools ESL/ELL learners can use to enhance distance learning.

Distance Learning for ELLs

Colorin Colorado devotes an entire page to distance ESL/ELL learning. It includes teacher resources as well as online activity guides.

Helpful Online Resources for Teaching ELLs

This guide focuses on accessible content and resources ELL/ESL students can use to improve their learning.

How to Use Technology to Support ELLs in Your Classroom

This article focuses on instructional technology and looks at how educators can improve their pedagogy.

Resources for Online Teachers

This guide lists some resources specific to online learning that any TESOL professional can use to supplement their lesson plans.

Ten Strategies for Teaching English-Language Learners Online

Education Week’s lengthy blog outlines proven strategies for TESOL success online.

Special Education ESL/ELL Resources

5 Myths About ELLs and Special Education

This article dispels several common misconceptions about ELLs and special education.

Bilingual Special Ed

This site is devoted to ESL/ELL instruction with a special education focus. It offers some useful tools and lists professional development opportunities.

English Language Learners with Special Needs

This page discusses some effective instructional strategies for interacting with ESL/ELL learners with special needs.

English Learner Disability Resources

Minnesota’s Department of Education offers resources for teachers who work with ESL/ELL students with disabilities.

Tools and Resources for Addressing English Learners with Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Education devotes a whole chapter of its ELL toolkit to this topic. It looks at recent research lists some government resources.

ESL/ELL Advocacy Organizations

American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages

This organization supports TESOL professionals through advocacy, regular events, and continuing education.

Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition

This center conducts innovative research on English language acquisition.

International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language

This association hosts a job board for TESOL teachers and facilitates professional development events.

National Association for Bilingual Education

This organization promotes bilingual education across the world through symposiums and research institutes.  

National Council of Teachers of English

This council supports TESOL teachers in the U.S. It facilitates networking opportunities and sponsors regional events.

Office of English Language Acquisition

This federal agency promotes national policy surrounding ESL/ELL learning.

The National Network for Early Language Learning

This organization focuses on ESL/ELL instruction in early childhood education. It offers resources for parents as well as educators.

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages

The world’s premier ESL/ELL organization, TESOL offers certification opportunities and maintains a comprehensive career center.

Legal Rights of ESL/ELL Students in the U.S.

There are a number of state and federal laws that protect empower ESL/ELL students and teachers. This section looks at just a few of those regulations.

Every Student Succeeds Act

This piece of legislation replaced the No Child Left Behind Act in 2015. It mandates that all states provide effective college preparation for ESL/ELL students.

Equal Education Opportunity Act

A landmark measure first implemented in 1974, this law prohibits educational segregation on the basis of race, ethnicity, or national origin. It requires that all school districts take appropriate action to ensure equal access.

Bilingual Education Act

Initially signed into law in 1968, this legislation was the first federal measure to officially recognize the unique needs of ELL/ESL/LEP learners. It provides federal funding to support English language learning.

Office for Civil Rights

The Office for Civil Rights enforces laws and policies that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, sex, disability, age, or national origin. It works to ensure equal education opportunity nationwide.

Plyler vs Doe

Decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1982, this landmark case denied state-level discrimination of immigrant children in K-12 schools. It ensures that funding and financial aid are properly applied.

Lau vs Nicols

This U.S. Supreme Court case determined that a lack of additional programs for ESL/ELL students violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Heard and decided in 1974, it stipulates appropriate relief for learners.

State Laws and Regulations

Many U.S. states have enacted additional laws that affect, protect, and ensure quality ESL/ELL education. Colorin Colorado offers a useful, actively updated tool that lists these measures by state.

Additional Tips and Insights from an ELL Educator

David Ceron

David Ceron has been an educator for 14 years with experience in elementary, middle school, and high school. He normally has worked in areas where the ELL population is 50% or higher.

Federal legislation and landmark court cases remain in place, but laws and regulations are constantly changing. It can be hard to sift through all the technical terminology, especially if you are new to the language. What should ELL/ESL students know about their legal rights?

Students need to know that there are programs in place that offer assistance, especially when it comes to standardized testing. In Texas, for example, students are offered extra time for exams. They are also offered the use of regular and electronic translation dictionaries while taking exams. And finally, students and parents of ELL students always have the right to remove the label.

How can teachers go beyond standard advice to better serve not only ESL/ELL students but also family members who may have limited proficiency in English?

Having the family buy into the process of learning the English language is key! Although not required, one very effective thing was having a pre-school-year conference with both parents and students. I explained everything I would be covering in my class as well as show the long list of resources provided specifically for ELL students. Parents and students were able to express any questions or concerns they may have prior to the school year.

Some educators may be faced with providing for ESL/ELL students who have additional needs beyond language acquisition. How can special education teachers balance and prioritize their efforts to include both areas?

Communication is key. Once again, having a conference before the start of the school year is absolutely essential. This is where both the regular teacher and the special education teacher can collaborate and game-plan. Doing this has saved me so much time and energy once the school year begins because I am able to create differentiated lessons specifically for special needs/ELL children.

What are some practical things teachers and educators can do to support ESL/ELL students in traditional classrooms where language acquisition may not always be the primary aim?

Many newcomers who are trying to learn the English language tend to be very quiet in class in the hopes that they will never be called on by the teacher. This is where educators must have a student-centered classroom where every student plays an active role. Teach all students how to properly reply to a question by requiring that they start their answer with a teacher-created sentence stem. Create a positive classroom environment where questions are welcomed without shame.

How can parents/guardians better support their ESL/ELL students at home? What challenges do they face and how can they overcome them?  

Parents/guardians play the most important role. It doesn’t help the student when they return home to using solely their native tongue. I’ve seen first-hand how parents who refuse to learn and adapt at home derail positive steps gained at school. When learning a new sport or skill the amount of practice outside lessons greatly determines success. It is so important that ELL students be given the opportunity to practice what they learn at home.