ESL Teaching Supplies

Instructor: Sarah Mills

Sarah is an educational freelance writer and has taught English and ESL in grades k-12 and college. She has a master's degree in both Literacy and TESOL.

In this lesson, teachers of English Language Learner (ESL) students will learn about different teaching materials that can help to enhance their instruction and prepare them for a successful school year.


Different groups of students in your classroom may require different types of instructional support materials. English Language Learner students are no exception. When teaching ESL students, you want to include materials that can help support language learning. Let's take a look at some specific materials that can do just that.


It goes without saying that books are an essential part of most educational environments, but ESL students may require some specialized books beyond what you'd see in a typical classroom.


You should have a variety of bilingual dictionaries that are representative of all of the native languages spoken by your students. Bilingual dictionaries will best serve students with at least an intermediate level of English proficiency, as low-proficiency students will have a much harder time with the English vocabulary. Picture dictionaries are also ideal for reinforcing content-area vocabulary with visuals.

Bilingual Books

Having access to bilingual books can really help improve ESL students' motivation to read. This is especially true for beginners, who are often overwhelmed by the sensory input overload they experience during their first few months in an English classroom. Just giving them access to books in their native language can make a big difference in their comfort level and desire to read. As a bonus, being able to compare their native language side by side with English can help improve their vocabulary.

Graphic Novels

When ESL students are learning to read in English, graphic novels can help reinforce the written word with high-interest visuals. This makes graphic novels an excellent supplement to traditional novels in the ESL classroom.

Audio Books

Listening to audio books is an approach to learning that combines listening with reading for increased comprehension. Consider setting up a listening center in your classroom where students can pick out a favorite audio book during free reading time.


Computers, tablets, or at least access to a computer lab, is an enormous help for successful ESL instruction. The plethora of digital resources available are too many to name. From English-learning software programs, to online games, videos and educational apps, access to a computer or tablet will definitely enhance your instruction and benefit your students.

Language Games

Occasionally, you might have some extra time at the end of a lesson- it's the perfect time to let students extend their learning by playing language-based board games. It's a good idea to keep games like Scattergories, Guess Who?, and Scrabble in the classroom. Any board game that requires students to use language to collaborate with others is ideal for this purpose.

Discussion Cards

Another activity that is perfect for when you have extra instructional time is discussion cards. Each card should have a thought-provoking discussion question on it that is suitable for students' ages, grades, and proficiency levels. The teacher can facilitate the discussion or students can work with partners or in small groups.

Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers are worksheets that use a visual component to help students organize information or ideas from a text. They can also be used to help students prepare for a writing task. One example of a graphic organizer is a Venn diagram, which allows students to compare and contrast information.

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