What are the best books for ESL teaching?

There is a very large market for ESL teaching books and all the major publishers have some amount of involvement in their production. These books fall into a number of different categories and here we will look at the three main categories.

  • Book series
  • General teaching theory books
  • Activity resources

Book Series

Every teacher will have come across a few different book series that have been specifically written for the ESL teaching market. This type of resource generally comes in five different levels: starter/beginner, elementary, pre-intermediate, intermediate, and upper-intermediate. Each series will also contain three types of book: the teacher book, the student book, and the resource book (or something similar).

The teacher book is key as it outlines the syllabus covered and it also breaks each subject up into individual lessons. Each of the lessons laid out in the teacher book will be linked to the two other books in the set. In the student book you will find all the grammar and vocabulary points laid out for each lesson, while the resource book contains all the materials the teacher needs.

Commonly used book series of this type which cover CEFR levels A1-C2 include:

  • New Headway Series
  • New English Series
  • Inside Out Series
  • English Unlimited Series
  • Cutting Edge Series
  • New Total English

If you are unfamiliar with this type of resource it is worth doing a bit of online research to see how they are put together and used effectively in the classroom.

General Teaching Theory Books

Theory books can provide a great deal of insight and practical assistance to ESL teachers of all levels of experience. There are many books in this category, the following are some of the most popular with teachers worldwide.

  • Raymond Murphy, English Grammar in Use
  • Michael Swan, Practical English Usage
  • Jeremy Harmer, How to teach English
  • Penny Ur, Grammar Practice Activities
  • Peter Watcyn-Jones, Grammar Games and Activities

Activity Resources

ESL activity resources are big business these days and there are far too many options to list here. However, your first port of call should probably be a simple online search for ‘free ESL teaching resources’ of which you will find many, many results.

Some popular examples highlighted by the above search:

Resources found via these websites will normally be designed for certain language levels, however, you should also check to ensure the content also matches the needs of your students.

You should also make sure that the information used in any third-party resource is suitable for the country and culture where you are located. Some countries have different taboos and therefore some material will not be seen as suitable for the classroom.

It is also worth remembering that any worksheets or other materials you use can usually be further adapted to ensure they are suitable for the purpose of your lesson and personalized to the specific group of students you are working with.

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