13 Free ESL Lesson Plans to Master Your ESL Classes

ESL Lessons Focusing on How to Learn English

13 free esl lesson plans
13 Free ESL Lesson Plans to Master Your ESL Classes

Last Updated: Nov 19, 2017

13 Free ESL Lesson Plans to Help Your Students Learn English

We’ve all been there. Standing in the front of your class with nothing. Completely empty-handed.

If you’re teaching English abroad, you’ll need ESL lesson plans to keep your students confident in learning English.

The secret is knowing where, exactly, to find that English teaching playbook. That’s where we have you covered. 🙂

These 13 free ESL lesson plans will help you master your ESL classes. And these ESL games and ESL worksheets can help too.

The Key to ESL Lesson Plans

Your goal as an ESL teacher is to boost student speaking time, while cutting down on your own talking time. But how exactly do you do that?

The key is to keep your students engaged with actionable activities in your ESL lesson plans. Alternatively, if you teach adults, these ESL conversation topics are appropriate.

That’s why these ESL lesson plans have a variety of ways students can learn English. For example, they include group, mixer and open classroom ESL activities. While some think it’s a bad habit to ‘repeat after the teacher’, this is how your students can focus on their pronunciation. These ESL lesson plans will include these types of drills as well.

They also try to engage the four different types of learners – visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. Mixer style activities help kinesthetic learners do by hand-on experience, while the others are quite self-explanatory.

If you’re going to teach English in Japan (or anywhere!), it’s time to put these powerful strategies into practice.

  • ESL Lesson Plan 1. Expectations, Rules, Handouts, Discipline
  • ESL Lesson Plan 2. Making Questions
  • ESL Lesson Plan 3. Everyday English
  • ESL Lesson Plan 4. Get Emotional
  • ESL Lesson Plan 5. Get a Job
  • ESL Lesson Plan 6. Show Me the Way
  • ESL Lesson Plan 7. Powerful Pronunciation
  • ESL Lesson Plan 8. Rhyme Time
  • ESL Lesson Plan 9. Catchy Commercials
  • ESL Lesson Plan 10. Culture Shocked
  • ESL Lesson Plan 11. Holidays
  • ESL Lesson Plan 12. Celebrity Status
  • ESL Lesson Plan 13. Open Mic

ESL Lesson Plan 1 Expectations, Rules, Handouts, Discipline

Let’s be honest.

Your first class is not what you’ll expect.

Your students will be shy. They’ll be uncomfortable. And they probably don’t want to be there.

Or who know? Maybe, they’ll give you a hard time and act up the entire class. Both are realistic possibilities.

Our advice: You’re wise to keep things simple. Keep a positive atmosphere. And make them feel comfortable using the Rassias method.

It’s your chance to help your students feel relaxed in learning English. Tell your students what you expect from them throughout the year. Establish rules for your class like ‘mistakes are ok’, ‘listen and be quiet’ and to ‘ask questions any time’.

1 My Class, My Rules

Your students are listening and attentive. It’s the best time to establish discipline in the classroom. For example, no sleeping in class is a good one. Because it’s their first class with you, it’s also not a bad idea to translate this for your students in their native language. They have no excuse to not understand your rules in the classroom. There’s nothing wrong with starting off simple because your students will thank you for it. As your students progress, you can modify and even add new phrases to your students memory.
Goals Rules and Discipline

2 Teacher Talk, Student Talk

As a teacher, you should repeat phrases like ‘let’s begin’, ‘do you understand?’ and ‘repeat after me’. Your students can use phrases such as ‘please say that again’, ‘I don’t understand’ and ‘please speak more slowly’. This is why you should stick to common phrases in your ESL lessons. In order to do this, you will need to build the teacher talk and student talk dialogue from the opening.
Teacher Talk Student Talk

3 Why Learn English?

There are tons of benefits to learn English. As the true language of globalization, how can English help them in the future?
28 Why Learn English

4 Business Cards

How many times have you introduced yourself? In business culture, new contacts often exchange their company information, phone number or email address. They do this by exchanging a handy business card. Using the business card template, ask your students to fill these out. They can practice introductions by walking around the classroom and greet fellow students.
02 Business Card

ESL Lesson Plan 2 Culture Shocked

One of the best parts of teaching English abroad is the culture exchange. Let’s not forget that culture exchange is two ways. Not only do your students learn about your culture, but you can learn about theirs.

At the start of this ESL lesson plan, exchange a business cards and shake hands with students when they enter your class. Maybe, it’s custom to bow in their culture, so this might catch them off guard a bit.

Depending on where you are teaching, your students may not have spoken to a lot of foreigners. Your students are curious about you. And rightfully so.

Do you have any pets? Did you grow up in a house? What are your hobbies? When you include pictures, they will be fascinated in you.

Furthermore, when you open yourself up to them, they are more likely to return the favor. Include quirky things about your life but keep them comfortable in your ESL lesson plans.

1 Teacher Quiz

If you want to get your students out of their chairs in your first class, then this should be your go-to activity. Find clues around the class, and match answers with the clues.
26 Teacher Quiz ESL Worksheet

2 Cultural Differences

The fine line between culture across the globe is thinning because of globalization. However, some key cultural differences still remain. What are they?
36 Cultural Differences

3 Hometown Newspaper

If you want to get your students out of their chairs in your first class, then this should be your go-to activity. Find clues around the class, and match answers with the clues.
17 Hometown Newspaper

4 Cultural Dictionary

The fine line between culture across the globe is thinning because of globalization. However, some key cultural differences still remain. What are they? Culture exchange is two ways. Not only do your students learn about your culture, but you can learn about theirs. Ask students to write down one culturally significant item about their country and put them all together in a dictionary.
03 Cultural Dictionary

ESL Lesson Plan 3 Making Questions

It’s said that through repetition, learners can truly develop a skill that is a stored routine.

Learning English is no different.

Greet students at the door and show them something culturally significant. If you’re Australian, bring a didgeridoo. Canadians can bring a hockey stick. Anything!

In these ESL lesson plans, your students will gain the practice they need to ask questions and increase their confidence in learning English.

And asking questions doesn’t stop here. Encourage your students to keep asking questions in all your ESL lesson plans, as others probably have the same question that you have.

1 What’s in the Box?

At the start of the class, bring a box with an object inside. Your students have to ask “yes” and “no” questions to uncover what’s inside the box.
07 What's in the Box

2 What’s the Question?

For each word in the ESL worksheets, student will make an appropriate question. The teacher can review potential questions for each word in the activity sheet.
14 What's the Question

3 Reverse Quiz Show

This is my greatest activity because students love competing with each other. Instead of answering questions like in a quiz show, students are making the questions. Similar to Jeopardy, each card has a point value. Put students into groups. If they make a correct question, they get those points. But if they get it wrong or take to long to answer, they get negative points.
01 Reverse Quiz Show

4 Talktastic Board Game

In groups of two, students roll the dice and move their game pieces. When they land in a square, they’ll ask their partner the question in the box until they go around the entire board game.
06 Talktastic

ESL Lesson Plan 4 Powerful Pronunciation

Your greatest asset as an ESL teacher is your pronunciation. Without a doubt, this is the one skill you can bring to your classroom that your co-workers secretly idolize.

In this lesson, you get surgical on how to pronounce the various sounds of English. And depending on which country you teach in, some of these sounds can be very foreign to them.

For example, when you place your tongue between your teeth to make the /th/ sound, they might need a bit of practice to get this right.

That’s why you practice the sounds of English at an extreme level. In this free ESL lesson plan, we give you interesting ways to challenge and improve your students pronunciation.

1 Sounds of English

This ESL worksheet gets surgical for pronunciation showing students exactly where to place their tongue. Lead by example and place emphasis for each challenging sound such as /th/, /s/, /r/ and /l/.
03 Sounds of English Worksheet

2 Pronunciation Pyramid

In groups of two, students roll the dice and move their game pieces. When they land in a square, they’ll ask their partner the question in the box until they go around the entire board game.
02 Pronunciation Pyramid Worksheet

3 Smush It

In pairs, students listen carefully to the teacher and try to grab the correct card. The student who grabs the card faster keeps it. At the end, the students count their cards to see who the winner is..
13 Smush It

4 Tongue Twisters

Oddly enough, tongue twisters are an effortless way to get your students talking. Practice each tongue twister, and have your students try to show off their English skills. Pro tip: they love it if you can say a tongue twister in their native language.
10 Tongue Twisters

ESL Lesson Plan 5 Rhyme Time

Your students are poets and they don’t even know it. This ESL lesson plan puts pronunciation into action. Students can level up their skills with these fail-proof rhyme activity sheets.

To the average English speaker, rhyme doesn’t sound too complicated. But in reality, it’s a foreign concept for ESL learners.

Although students can be hesitant to speak openly, ask about their culture and if they use rhymes. Ask questions. Do singers rhyme? Are there rhymes in poems?

Overall, rhymes compliments pronunciation quite well. We enjoyed putting this ESL lesson plan together and hope you do too.

1 Listening Test

Test your students listening skills with these minimal pairs. Can they differentiate some of the sounds unique to English? Mix up the minimal pairs five times each and correct their papers.
06 Minimal Pairs Worksheet

2 Rhyme Time

Bring out your stopwatch. In groups, get your students to think of as many rhymes as possible. The group with the most rhymes wins.
07 Rhyme Time Worksheet

3 Picture Rhymes

This is one of the funnest ESL worksheets in here. Not only does it helps students practice pronunciation, but they also learn to rhyme. Each picture is a rhyme, what is it?
08 Picture Rhymes Worksheet

4 Roses are Red

Who knew rhymes could be so much fun? Finish the rhyme from the classic poem “Roses are red, violets are blue…”. I love Valentine’s day and so will your kids with this ESL activity sheet.
32 Valentines Day

ESL Lesson Plan 6 Get Emotional

Students always find it hard to express themselves with emotions. Instead of saying the usual emotions like ‘sad’ and ‘happy’, this lesson truly explores our emotions.

As an English teacher, you will be showing various emotions in the classroom. Using facial expressions and gestures is a means of communication everyone understands no matter where you are from.

Your mood state will often change in the classroom, and your students should learn each feeling you share.

After these ESL lesson plans, your students should now be able to put a word to each emotion.

1 Like or Dislike

Each student writes down their likes and dislikes. After, the teacher collects everyone’s answer and read aloud.Can you figure out who wrote what? It’s interactive. There’s an element of intrigue in it. And most importantly, you can learn more from your fellow students.
24 Like or Dislike

2 Emotions Match

Emotions are a common theme in these ESL worksheets because students have a hard time expressing themselves! This simple ESL activity gets students to match emotions with emoticons.
01_Emotions Worksheet

3 Emotions Spin

Of all ESL worksheets, this is the most in-depth vocabulary for emotions. Because students always need help explaining how they feel, their arsenal of emotions will at least triple with this ESL activity.
24 Emotions Spin

4 Your Satisfaction Level

Explore your innermost​ satisfaction. What makes you happy and sad? A lot of ESL worksheets focus on feelings. And this one registers at all levels extreme happiness to sadness.
38 Satisfaction Level

ESL Lesson Plan 7 Everyday English

If your students are interested in pop culture, they’re going to hear a lot of slang and casual English. Further to this, ESL textbooks often teach only basic English.

For these reasons, you can teach them some casual English terms to help them go beyond the basics.

Take things a step further:

Manga is extremely popular in a lot of Asian culture. In the last activity, students fill in these bubbles creating their own story. The students can get quite creative following these ESL lesson plans.

1 Detective Clues

In groups of four, students will walk around the ESL classroom searching for clues. While one student is the secretary, the other three are detectives. The detectives memorize each clue in English. They return to the secretary who writes down the clue, of course in English as well. Finally, once all the clues are found, the student detectives solve the puzzle.
05 Detective Clues

2 Text Message Translation

From their native tongue to English, students translate a typical text message they would send with their friends. Or better yet, they can make it up if they don’t feel comfortable sharing.
30 Text Message Translations

3 Phone Emoticon

Kids use a ridiculous amount of emoticons in phone conversation nowadays. What do they all mean? How do you associate an emoticon to an emotion? Cut out a select few, and use them in a written conversation.
33 Phone Emoticons

4 Casual Comics

Almost every kid loves comic books. But what if they didn’t have any words? Let’s fill in these speech bubbles with an interesting story.
22 Comic Book Creation

ESL Lesson Plan 8 Get a Job

It’s not easy picking a career. Honestly, some people never find their career path. But when you find something you love doing, it’s almost as if you’re not working at all.

This ESL lesson plan explores your students career interests. What job do they want to do after they graduate?

Talk about potential career paths.

Taking it to the next level is actually preparing for a job interview and landing that job. These ESL lesson plans should get your students thinking.

1 Top 10 Jobs

A Family Feud style ESL worksheet that helps kids reflect their future jobs. Let them guess the top 10 jobs students in North America want to be. They might be surprised.
04 Top 10 Jobs ESL Worksheets

2 Jobs Match

In the same theme of exploring students future, they associate jobs with pictures in this one.
05 Jobs Match ESL Worksheet

3 Find Your Dream Job

In pairs, students ask each other the list of questions in the sheet. After answering all the questions, everyone can find out their perfect job.
 Job Interviews

4 Job Interview

The unexpected job interview that registers at all levels. Imagine students have landed interviews for their dream job. With the set of questions in the handout, students can write down answers to the interview questions.
Job Interviews

ESL Lesson Plan 9 Directions & Travel

As English becomes the universal language of communication, traveling becomes much easier when you speak English.

And if there’s one skill you oughta learn before you travel abroad, it has to be asking directions.

How many times have you need directions to get somewhere?

These activities are meant to broaden student’s minds when they start travelling abroad.

1 Country Outlines

I love geography. Who doesn’t? Match the country with its outline, then draw a country. How close are you to the real thing? One of my brightest students always loved drawing country outlines for fun so I dedicate this one to him.
37 Country Outlines

2 Blind Directions

A twist on the maze game, where one student closes his or her eyes and the other tells the way using directions. I’d be surprised if anyone got it perfectly, but that’s why this activity is so good. It’s challenging.
19 Blind Directions

3 Obstacle Course

One blindfolded student gets directed where to go in a classroom obstacle course. The blind leading the blind? I don’t think so, as they improve directions in real-time.
35 The Obstacle Course

4 Dice Questions

Each number on the small dice corresponds to a type of question – who, what, when, where, why and have you ever. The big dice is worth a point value. Students roll the dice. When the student asks a successful question, they earn that value of points. Keep track of points in hopes this gets them talking.
22 Dice Questions

ESL Lesson Plan 10 Who, When, Where and What

We continue to master the art of asking questions. These enjoyable activities lighten the mood practicing all these types of questions.

Throughout these ESL lesson plans, encourage your students to keep asking questions, as others probably have the same question that you have.

Harness the power of asking questions.

This recurring theme will pay off big in the future.

1 Birthday Match

Get your students off their feet to search for clues around the classroom. The detectives pass the information to the secretary and match birthdays with some of the most prolific figures in the history.
34 Birthday Match

2 Timeless Timelines

Students arrange the timeline according to the birth date and the invention year. From youngest to oldest, who can put them in the right order first?
23 Timeless Timelines

3 Prepositions

Where is the ball? In this ESL worksheet, students practice prepositions by writing down the location of the ball in each scene.
21 Preposition Practice

4 Shout It

Get your partner to say the top word on the card. But the only rule is that you can’t say that word. Describe it. Use gestures. But don’t say the word.
26 Shout It

ESL Lesson Plan 11 Celebrity Status

How awesome would it be to be a celebrity for a day? Well, now students can get celebrity status with these ESL activities.

Shine the spotlight on them with a celebrity-style interview.

The challenging ‘No Subtitles’ activity has your students lip-sync with a film of your choice. Just say anything! Creativity is important.

By far, this is the most challenging of all ESL lesson plans so far.

1 Famous Foreheads

In this ESL game, all players sit in a circle. Give each student a post-it note and a pencil. Each player writes down the name of a famous person and passes the note face-down to the player on the left. Each player sticks the note on his/her forehead and everyone take turns asking “Yes” or “No” questions to find out who they are. The first player to guess the name on his/her forehead is the winner.
19 Famous Foreheads

2 No Subtitles

Turn any English movie on mute. In groups of two, have your students re-enact the voices. When the movie stars move their lips, so do the students. They can say anything.
15 No Subtitles

3 Celebrity Interview

Shine the spotlight on your class with this celebrity-style interview. Take turns giving each other interviews. Students guess which celebrity their partner is.
21 Celebrity Interview

4 Group Charades

Charades works for outgoing classes. But for introvert classes, it can be an epic failure. However, in groups suddenly introverts become extroverts… and they’re much more likely to be more relaxed. Rather than one person acting out, the entire group acts it out and one person guesses.
04 Group Charades

ESL Lesson Plan 12 Merry Christmas

It’s time to expose students to Christmas, a time of joy, curiosity, anticipation, love and trust.

To get your students in the spirit of Christmas, let them decide what they would buy for you…

Most importantly, why would they pick that Christmas present?

This wide range of activities boosts vocabulary, practices spelling and exchanges culture.

1 Word Untangle

A surprisingly difficult activity where students get to decipher words from a bunch of letters. Even the teacher might find it challenging.
12 Christmas Untangle

2 Jingle Bells Order

Students listen to the classic Christmas song “Jingle Bells” and order sentences when they hear them.
13 Jingle Bells Song Order

3 The Ultimate Christmas Present

Imagine your students had enough money to buy the ultimate Christmas for you… What present would they buy? And most importantly, why would they buy it?
11 The Ultimate Christmas Present

4 Christmas Crossword

Some say crosswords are non-educational ESL activities. But I disagree. Not only do students learn to improve their vocabulary, they learn to spell holiday words.
11 Christmas Crossword ESL Worksheet

ESL Lesson Plan 13 The Big Question

It’s the Hail Mary to spark conversation on class.

In order to sharpen their English skills further, students put their thinking caps on and truly converse in English.

The centerpiece in this ESL lesson is ‘101 conversation topics’. There are enough challenging questions in here to keep them speaking for days.

Practice makes perfect.

1 Would You Rather?

“Would you rather” questions are great because there are only two answers! And the other person has to provide one of two potential answers. Stand up and ask ‘would you rather’ questions until you get a tic-tac-toe in both game boards.
20 Would You Rather

2 Elephant in the Room

In your ESL classroom, there is a NO and YES side. Start asking YES or NO questions getting your students moving to either side. Encourage students to volunteer and take the role of the teacher.
16 Elephant in the Room

3 Topics From a Hat

Energize your classroom with these engaging topics from a hat. Print them off. Cut them up. Put them in a hat. Select a topic at random and let your students talk in pairs or as a classroom.
27 Topics From a Hat

4 Compound Words

Slightly unrelated to the ESL lesson plan, but it’s a good visual activity that gets students thinking. Figure out each compound word in the worksheet and then have them draw one in the last square.
20 Compound Words

Now, it’s your turn

Are you new to teaching English abroad? Or are you thinking about going to teach English in Korea or China?

Are you in need of ESL lesson plans to succeed as an ESL teacher?

These ESL lesson plans will transform your repertoire into a teaching empire.

Any questions? Let me know with a comment below.

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