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English Tutoring at the Literacy Center

Using the Internet to Teach ESL

The research project prepared by intern Elizabeth Chapmen in 2002 is presented below in its entirety.  It contains  are many good suggestions for planning lessons with the Web.  While some of the links below may be out of date, please refer to the previous Web Guide for more current information on websites, a project undertaken in Spring 2010 by intern Marie Dador. 

Note of April 21, 2003: A short list of sites has been added; see the end of the table of contents.

The Literacy Center encourages tutors to make informed used of the Web resources in tutoring. The following paper was prepared by intern Elisabeth Chapman in Fall 2002 and has been made available, with her permission, for use by our tutors. Any use of Elisabeth's work requires that you obtain her permission. We are grateful to her for her research and cooperation.

Allen J. Frantzen
Director, LCLC

Technology and ESL: An Internet Resource
Guide for ESL Tutors*
Elisabeth Chapman

December 2002

* The links in this paper were active as of January 27, 2003.

Table of Contents


This essay is meant to be used as a foundation for technology based ESL lessons. The Loyola Community Literacy Center has limited computer resources, which makes it is unrealistic to imagine that tutors and learners will be able to use a computer during every lesson. While regular computer use may be impossible at the LCLC, learners and tutors can use the Internet as a tool for creating lesson plans and developing new ideas.

The Internet is a useful tool for ESL teachers and tutors. Activities, such as listening labs, crossword puzzles, and quizzes can be used by learners in their free time or when the LCLC is closed for a University Break. Internet-based Listening Labs can also be useful with learners who are not immersed in English on a regular basis. Learners can use the Internet as a supplemental tool for use both inside of the LCLC and outside of the LCLC. It is important to remember that there are unreliable resources on the Internet. Look for information about the person(s) or organization(s) that have created and maintained the site prior to use with a learner.


There are many ways to incorporate alternative activities into ESL lesson plans. The Internet can be used a resource when developing lesson plans or as a basis for lesson plans. In ?Electronic Communication, New Technology, and the ESL Student? by Keming Liu, the issue of using technology to teach ESL is addressed. Liu claims that, ?As the information infrastructure shifts from print to digital network, the previously limited and scarce educative resources are expanded and increased to a point where a strategy different than that of simple instruction starts to make sense, and a different approach to learning is developed. Advanced information technologies make construction of integrated learning far more feasible, due to the fact that digital technologies expand personal potentialities and function as a means for augmenting our human intellectual skills? (Smoke, 293). Liu?s examples of technology-based activities range from word processing activities to Internet-based activities. While my lesson plans diverge from Liu?s, the rationale behind incorporating the Internet into ESL lessons is similar. As technology becomes available, use of the Internet becomes a viable and practical way to teach learners necessary skills. Use of the computer in the LCLC, even if for a short period of time, breaks the monotony of one-on-one lessons.


Sample Lesson Plan Format:

Level: Make sure that all lesson plans are level specific. Most Internet literacy sites divide activities and lesson according to levels that can be correlated to the levels used at the LCLC.

: It is important to state the objective at the beginning of a lesson plan. Make sure to note how each activity ties into the objectives for each session at the LCLC. Consistency is important for both the learner and the tutor. Make sure to progress in an organized fashion and choose activities that are related to your learner's needs and interests.

: Listing the steps is a useful way to progress through a lesson plan. It is important to go through each step so that the lesson with flow and relate to other information covered during the session.

Time: It may be helpful to list the approximate time each lesson with take out of your time at the LCLC. Learners and tutors have limited time together at the LCLC, which makes time management a necessary skill. Note that it is usually more effective if a lesson is short enough so that the learner and tutor do not become frustrated or bored with the activity.

Note: It may be helpful to open each session with a brief greeting followed by a discussion of the desired goals for a particular evening.


It is important to remember that tutors are responsible for planning lessons, managing time during lessons and keeping records of their learner?s progress. In I Speak English, by Ruth Johnson Colvin, it is explained that tutors must be aware of why they are tutoring and how they are tutoring. Colvin suggests taking a leaner-centered approach to tutoring, which ?is directly related to the students? needs and goals. It means keeping students? needs at the heart of instruction and seeing students as partners in the learning process? (Colvin 29). Finally, it is important for tutors to keep in mind the point-of-view of their learner. Being attuned to the needs of learner helps tutors tailor lesson based on skill level and personal interest. [   1]

Alternative Lesson Plan Format:

Lesson plans are a way for tutors to plan a session in an organized fashion. Noting goals (objectives) and skill levels serve as reminders to tutors during a session. Tutors can follow lesson plans exactly or use lesson plans as an outline of the desired goals for a session. Colvin writes, Lesson plans can be as simple or as complex as you want. You can use a spiral or loose leaf notebook, putting specific things to be done on the left page, and using the right page for your own comments. Or you can simple draw a line down the center of a page, using the left half for your lesson plans, the right half for your comments (Colvin 151). Note that there is no defined type of lesson plan that is right or wrong. The format should simply reflect the needed information for a given exercise.

Internet Addresses for Tutors, 2003:

National Institute for Literacy

National Center on Adult Literacy

Dave's ESL Café

The Virtual English Language Center

PBS LiteracyLink Resources

Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy

Adult Education ESL Teacher's Guide

ESL Lesson Plans and Resources

Internet TESL Journal

TESL: Handouts for Classroom Use

TESL: Internet: Teaching with the Web



Karin's ESL Partyland

Boggle's World

Royalty-Free Clip Art Collection for Foreign/Second Language Instruction


Adult Literacy Resource Institute

Teaching with Technology

Internet Addresses for Learners: Teach English Zone

Randall's ESL Cyber Listening Lab

English Grammar Links for ESL Students

Sample Lessons for Learners:

Computer and Internet Use
Level: Beginner with no computer experience
: The main objectives are: turning the computer on and off and accessing literacy Internet sites.

Step One
: Go over vocabulary pertaining to computers. Vocabulary can include: monitor, screen, mouse, and keyboard. Flashcards will be used to reinforce the names of each piece of equipment.

Step Two: Go over process of turning a computer on and off. Incorporate vocabulary into the exercise. Have the learner go through the step verbally as he or she turns the computer on and off.

Step Three: Practice opening a web browser and entering the web address for a literacy center Internet site.

Step Four: Allow your learner to practice accessing different Internet sites. When finished turn off the computer and have your learner write about his or her experience using the computer.

Time: 20 minutes

Level: Intermediate
Objectives: Incorporate vocabulary related to clothing into an Internet activity using word searches found on http://bogglesworldesl.com/crosswords.htm. [   2]

Step One: Access the above web address. Makes flashcards for the words listed at the bottom of the word search. If your learner does not understand the meanings of the words use a picture dictionary to reinforce the written definitions for the unknown articles of clothing. It may also be helpful to have your learner compare the English definition of the word to a comparable definition in their native language.

Step Two: Complete the word search. Continue to use the picture dictionary if needed.

Step Three: Have your learner write a sentence using each of the vocabulary words. Review the definitions before the end of the session

Time: 15-20 minutes.

Grocery Shopping
Level: Intermediate
Objectives: Learn vocabulary related to grocery shopping using exercises found at Karin's ESL PartyLand. The cloze    [3] exercise that will be used can be found at http://www.eslpartyland.com/quiz%20center/supermarketquiz.htm. Follow up with a crossword puzzle on food quantifiers, which can be found at http://www.eslpartyland.com/quiz%20center/foodcross.htm. Make flashcards for the vocabulary.

Step One: Have your learner complete the cloze exercise. Made flashcards for the vocabulary found while completing the exercise.

Step Two: Complete the crossword puzzle on food quantifiers. If the learner does not understand written definitions of quantities use a picture dictionary for assistance.

Step Three: Review vocabulary found in each exercise. If supplemental material is needed, use a picture dictionary to develop a more extensive list of vocabulary words related to grocery shopping and food.

Time: 15-20 minutes.

Audio Lab
Level: Intermediate
Materials: Headphones.
Objectives: Use Randall's ESL Cyber Listening Lab (www.esl-lab.com/) to complete an exercise on listening comprehension.

Step One: Have your learner listen to the audio track. Note that you should listen to the track prior to the lesson so that you know key question to ask. Testing comprehension is crucial.

Step Two: Ask question that address overriding themes and specific details.

Step Three: If your learner becomes confused, have them listen to the audio track again. Have your learner give you feedback that will help you see what areas need more or less attention. Use the information gathered during listening comprehension lessons when creating future lessons.

Step Four: Ask your learner about confusing vocabulary. Makes flashcards for any unknown words.

Time: 15-20 minutes.

Lesson Plans and Internet Games
Level: Beginner-Advanced.
Objectives: Incorporate Internet games into lesson plans. Pick a lesson that is level appropriate and that addresses pertinent information.

Step One: Play an Internet game with your learner.

Step Two: Make flashcards of vocabulary that is unknown. If needed, review skills that are addressed in the Internet game.

Step Three: Relate the information from the game to a writing exercise. It may be helpful to make a list of vocabulary that will be used in the writing exercise. If your learner has trouble with tenses, it may be helpful to alternate words (sharing the writing task) until all of the words are gone. The tutor should write the first sentence to establish the tense. Sharing writing activities may also help tutors encourage learners to write.

Time: 15-20 minutes.

Internet Vocabulary
Level: Beginner-Intermediate.
Objective: Use vocabulary found on the Internet to practice oral and written exercises. Note that the active use of a computer is not necessary for this exercise. If not using the flashcards on the computer, the tutor should print vocabulary lists or cards prior to the beginning of the session. Vocabulary lists and flashcards can be found at many of the Internet sites listed above.

Step One: Review flashcard on the computer or at a desk.

Step Two: Use the vocabulary to write a story. Have your learner pick the subject of the story.

Step Three: Use the writing sample as a basis for a grammar exercise. Use a grammar book that is level appropriate.

Time: 15-20 minutes.

Works Cited

Adult ESL. Ed. Trudy Smoke. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Associates, 1998.

Davis, Paul, and Mario Rinvolucri . More Grammar Games. New York: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 1995.

Adult Literacy Resource Institute · University of Massachusetts at Boston · Oct. 2002 · http://alri.org/.

Boggle's World . Ed. Cam Lirette . Canadian Global TESOL Training Institute. Oct. 2002 http://bogglesworldesl.com/lessons/archive.htm.

CALST/ACPLS · Dec. 2002 · http://www.caslt.org/teachers/teachers.htm.

Cintron, Karin M. Karin's ESL PartyLand . 1 Mar. 1999 . Oct. 2002 http://www.eslpartyland.com/.

Coghlan, Neil. esl-lounge.com. 2001. Oct. 2002 http://esl-lounge.com/siteguidetop.html.

Colvin, Ruth J. I Speak English. New York : Literacy Volunteer of America, Inc., 1997.

Dave's ESL Cafe
. 1995. Oct. 2002 http://www.eslcafe.com/.

English as a Second Foreign Language
. New York: Regents Company, INC., 1986. ?

. 1998. Oct. 2002 http://www.everythingesl.net/.

Finocchiaro , Mary. Teaching English as a Second Language. New York, Evanston, and London: Harper & Row, 1969.

Franklin, Harry B., Herbert G. Meikle , and Jeris E. Strain. Vocabulary in Context. 7th ed. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan P, 1969. ?

Frey, Betty J. Basic Help for Teaching English as a Second Language. Tucson, Arizona: Palo Verde Company, INC., 1970.

Graham, C G., and Mark M. Walsh. Adult Education ESL Teacher?s Guide. June 1996. Adult Education Center Texas A&I University. Oct. 2002 http://humanities.byu.edu/elc/Teacher/teacherguidemain.html.

Hall, Michael L. Teaching with Technology. 1996. Oct. 2002

Hartman, Karen M. English Grammar Links for ESL Students. 7 Sept. 1996 . University of Maryland , Baltimore County . Oct. 2002

Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy
. Penn State University . Oct. 2002

Internet TESL Journal
. 1995. The Internet TESL Journal. Oct. 2002

Learner-Directed Assessment In ESL
. Ed. Glayol Ekbatani , and Herbert Pierson. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000. ?

Levine, Marty. ESL Lesson Plans and Resources. 1996. California State University Northridge. Oct. 2002

Center on Adult Literacy . 2002. Literacy Research Centers , National Center on Adult Literacy, International Literacy Institute. Nov. 2002

National Institute for Literacy
. National Institute for Literacy. Oct. 2002

PBS LiteracyLink Resources
. 1998. University of Pennsylvania . Oct. 2002

Reid, Joy M. Teaching ESL Writing. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Regents/ Prentice Hall, 1993.

Royalty-Free Clip Art Collection for Foreign/Second Language Instruction
. Purdue U. Oct. 2002

Teach English Zone
. 1997. Nov. 2002

Teaching English as a Second Language
. New York, Evanston, and London: Harper & Row, 1969.

TESL: Handouts for Classroom Use . 1995. The Internet TESL Journal. Oct. 2002

TESL: Internet: Teaching with the Web.
1995. The Internet TESL Journal. Oct. 2002

The Virtual
English Language Center . 2001. The Comenius Group. Oct. 2002

    April 21, 2003

Bay Area Literacy Program
The Bay Area Literacy Program website is designed to help tutors find opportunities for literacy work at several libraries. The site includes a tutor tip feature that shares insights and practical suggestions.

Project Read: Utah County
Project Read's website include a newsletter and many links for tutors, some of them (e.g., on the use of tape recorders in sessions) very detailed.

Thanks to Emily Marion (intern, Spring 2003) for her reports on these websites.

Additional sites with links to ESL materials

Online Degrees:  ESL Reference Materials


Thanks to Sarah Washington and her assistants at valleybookclub.com for the above reference.

[1] For more information on determining the level of your learner refer to pages 45-53 of Colvin's I Speak English.

[2] Activities on Boggle's World can also be printed by tutors and used in lesson plans that do not involve a computer.

[3] In English as a Second/Foreign Language, Mary Finocchiaro describes cloze tests as exercises where students are to restore words which have been systematically omitted (183).


Loyola Community Literacy Center
Lake Shore Campus · Loyola Hall, 1110 W Loyola Ave, 1st floor, Chicago, IL 60626 · 773.508.2330; https://www.facebook.com/loyolaliteracy; literacy@luc.edu
Supported by the College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of English, and the Paul Glassco Endowment.

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