50 life-saving ESL TESOL lesson plan resources

What if you could halve the time that you spend on planning lessons!?

Here are 50+ online teaching resources (lesson plans, curricula and textbooks) for freelance online English teachers and those needing pre-made materials. I’ve put together the biggest list of lesson plan resources for online English teachers out there with access to an estimated 10,000+ lesson plans! I’ll discuss the different types of resources on the list and which ones might be best for you, no matter your experience or planning style. 

lesson plan
Leson planning from scratch can be overwhelming [Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels].

My lesson planning experiences

When I first started teaching English overseas (more than a decade ago!), I didn’t have much experience beyond what I’d learned during my TESOL certification.

Being so inexperienced, for the first year I barely deviated from the Cambridge ‘Interchange’ textbooks that my company in Mexico provided me. While I always tried to make things fun and engaging with additional warm-ups and games, the classroom content in my lesson plan came directly from the page.

Five years later, working as a private tutor, I had swung heavily in the other direction. I was writing a lesson plan for every class and creating all my own curriculum. Now, while my teaching confidence and quality had improved exponentially, I was also spending hours a week on preparation time!

When I realised that there were many quality lesson planning resources out there that would make my classes quicker and easier to plan, it was a life saver!


What lesson plan resources do I need?

Wherever you are on your online English teaching journey, you likely lie somewhere in between my two stages above. I’ll refer to these stages generally as “from scratch”, “inspiring” and “pre-made/done for you”.

Lesson plans 'from scratch'

Freelance online English teachers and private tutors might need to write their own plans “from scratch”. Occasionally, companies ask you to provide your own lesson plans, but this is less common. If you have the confidence and you want to create your own, see my post with 10 Free online English lesson plans and ideas that includes links to lesson planning templates and videos on the basics of how to do this. 

'Inspiring' lesson plans

If you are interested in having the ‘inspiration’ provided for you (in terms of theme etc.) and using this as a shortcut to creating your own lesson plan, you are most likely to have luck with the free lesson plans on the list. I’ve enjoyed using British Council and BusyTeacher resources in the past ‘in a pinch’ but they didn’t work for me long-term. Some are able to be taught ‘as is’, but more often than not I find that free resources require adjustment both to the level and age of my students and the larger learning goals.

While there are some great free lesson plans out there, they tend to be part of a short series or based on some of the most common English challenges. They usually do not have worksheets or activities aligned with the curriculum and may or not be based on common language levels like CEFR or age-appropriate. You may need additional sources for this. 

'Done for you' lesson plans/curriculum

If you’re looking to save the most time, you might need to pay for ‘pre-made’ lesson plans or curriculum. I was reluctant to pay for resources for many years but they can save you many, many hours of time and energy. Your time is valuable!

They tend to work best for General English classes or teachers with students that are approximately the same age and level, although some resources on the list apply to multiple demographics. The main speciality areas that you’ll find resources for older learners are test preparation (IELTS, TOEFL, TOEIC etc) and Business English. For children, phonics and reading are common areas of focus. 

Have a good look at their website and exactly what you’ll receive for your money. If they have a free plan or trial, sign up and see if the materials work for you. Email the publisher or site and ask any questions. 

Alongside being a huge time saver, they help you map your classes onto a pre-made curriculum. This means that you are able to assure your students that they are working towards clear language goals. If there is built-in assessment, activities and homework – even better – this will save you even more time. 

You may prefer to purchase a curriculum/lesson plan series that is designed specifically for online teachers or to purchase a textbook from one of the major ELT publishers and adapt it to your needs. Each publisher has multiple areas of focus and I couldn’t cover them all in the list, so you might need to go online and ask in teacher groups for suggestions or recommendations if you have a few to choose from. 

Your lesson planning is a highly individual choice

It took me many years of trying a number of different lesson plan resources before settling on something that worked. Using pre-made lesson plans can be a great place to start for new teachers or those short on time. You may use lesson plans or textbooks as inspiration or decide to tailor a curriculum for a specific learning outcome. 

I eventually returned to creating my own plans for my private tutoring business and the second time around (using elements of those I’d paid for) spent much less than planning than I had before. I hope this list helps you save time – whatever your planning style!

There are 100s of options and the best lesson plan resources for you will be highly individual – based on the ages, levels, demographics and needs of your students.

Enter your email for the FREE list of 50+ lesson plans, curricula, textbooks, graded readers and reference books (to help you save precious time, energy and importantly, your sanity).


If you’re an Australasian online English (TESOL) teacher, come and join our facebook group to network and discuss teaching resources and lesson planning.

Now, over to you: do you have any lesson planning resources to share? Comment below!

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