introductory ESL resources

Resource List: Designed to help volunteers who are interested in providing effective ESL tutoring for their refugee friend.


  • Very Beginner Conversational English Ideas:  This is intended to be used primarily for those who meet one-on-one or with a very small group in the homes of our refugee/immigrant families. It is for very beginners! Some of this resource is for literate learners. (Please print the "worded_emotion_faces" and the "wordless_faces" documents attached [below] in addition to the "Conversational English Ideas" document found through the blue link above.)

  • A Handbook for Teaching English to Afghan Women Refugee: lessons can be found on pp. 90-118

  • Women's ESL Literacy Tutoring Content/Ideas - see attached doc below

  • 52 Topics (doc attached below)  - a year of weekly ideas to practice English with your refugee friend

  • Teaching Vowel Sounds - video

  • Concept checking - video teaching you how to determine whether your refugee friend really understands a new concept you're trying to teach him/her

  • BBC Drilling Practice Video

  • Language Functions (doc attached below)  Speaking English requires use of different language functions—e.g. asking for clarification, apologizing, making suggestions. Your new friend will need to learn the appropriate language to perform these functions. 

  • Visit the Tacoma Community House to view the Working with Pre-Literate Adult Refugee Students book, also attached below. 

  • Hands On! Literacy Activities: A free, reproducible book of 283 pages of literacy and beginning ESL activities. This is a fantastic resource with lots of activity ideas and minimal preparation work needed. Note that it is from Canada, so some chapters will need to be adapted to U.S. contexts (money, etc), but there are so many ideas that it makes it easy!

  • Reep World: Interactive story lessons for beginners. This is a great way to learn about health, work, and family. There are simple lessons and interactive activities as well as basic stories with audio and pictures. The stories require a basic level of English comprehension. Good for practicing computer literacy, too.

  • ESL Literacy Readers: Stories about refugee experiences in the United States at beginning literacy level and up. They are extremely well done with real pictures and have the option to download and print a booklet or watch and listen online.

  • Pre-Beginning ESL Curriculum and Beginning ESL Curriculum: These are complete curriculums that have many basic, practical handouts for students as well as many lesson ideas. They are focused on practical life-skills English. Note that the lessons often reference textbooks that we do not have access to. However, if you scroll through, you can find several handouts that may be valuable to you (such as business hours worksheets or pictures of common apartment problems). The beginning level stories are quite challenging. Be wary of giving too much text to lower level readers!

  • Duolingo: This is a free online language learning site and mobile app. Great for beginners learning English. You can help your refugee friend set it up on their computer or smart phone. They have English for Arabic, Ukrainian and French Speakers.

  • Online ESL GamesAppropriate for all ages and skill levels, this site also provides printable games for classroom use.

  • Quizlet: Free online resource that allows you to make flashcards and play games.

PDF icon worded_emotion_faces.pdf205.08 KB
File wordless_faces.docx675.86 KB
PDF icon 52_topics.pdf493.26 KB
PDF icon language_functions.pdf148.48 KB