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Wondering about options for online teaching? Consider going it alone – be a Solopreneur! Keep reading to learn about 10 free TEFL resources for the solopreneur, discovered by our very own resident insider. If you missed our insider tips from last week about teaching with VIPKid, click here to get caught up!
Tired of working for an online company with lots of rules? Looking to supplement your current teaching income? As an online teacher, don’t forget, you’re an independent contractor. That means you aren’t beholden to one single company. You can be a freelancer or, dare I say, a solopreneur. (I’ve been waiting to use that word!) Companies like PalFish, Preply, and iTalki let you set your own rates and create your own schedule. But since there’s no set curriculum on these sites, it’s really important to have some free TEFL resources for the solopreneur at your fingertips!
Read on to learn about some of our favorites:
The first resource I’m sharing was highly recommended by my friend and long time EFL Teacher. She works for a company called Cambly. She teaches adults and uses Engoo Daily News Stories almost exclusively, and loves it! The way it works is she (or her student) selects a news story and simply shares the link. Each article has a list of vocabulary terms complete with the definition, the word used in a sentence and pronunciation. Plus, there’s comprehension questions and discussion questions. You can go with a Topic of the Day article or choose one by category, such as Culture & Entertainment or Economy & Business.
One of our latest finds is California Accent TEFL. By the way, the phrase “California accent” refers to speech spoken with a neutral American accent. The company’s mission is to inspire all Thai children to love to read English. They even give away materials to disadvantaged, rural schools. Check it out for vocabulary and reading materials for kids. It’s especially handy for teaching kids from Thailand and China because many of the worksheets have translations. It has free, downloadable short texts that start with vocabulary, followed by Q&A, and conversations. There are video and word games too.
I discovered a fun game in their beginner level lessons called Secret Word. Basically, the teacher (or another student) thinks of a specific word from the lesson and the student asks questions to try to guess it. Like, if the lesson is on food, the secret word could be ice cream. Advanced young readers will enjoy cool articles about things like the SpaceX Rocket Engine. Students can label the parts of a liquid fuel rocket.
Arguably the most common reason students sign up with an online teacher is to practice their speaking. I found Teacher Little Mary on youtube. Mary’s had tons of experience teaching kids, teens and adults online and has come up with some truly unique and fun ways to get even the shyest student talking.
My favorite is The Secret Door, a free website. Here, you and your student open a door onto an unknown location. It’s great for getting the student to describe something and to increase their vocabulary. You can move around within the image- I think it’s based on google maps. You can also open the door as many times as you like. When I tried it, the first time I opened the door onto a river in the Amazon. The second time, I was in a handbag shop! Talk about variety!
Going hand in hand with the need to improve their speaking skills, is students’ need to improve their listening skills. English is full of things like phrasal verbs, idioms, and colloquialisms that drive a nonnative speaker to the brink. You can support them by playing snippets of podcasts from the BBC Learning English App. It’s excellent for short summaries and there’s quizzes to boot (no, not the trunk of a car 😉 ).
Another common problem EFL students face is the need to get to a higher level on one of those exams that determines their level of English. The most common ones are the TOEIC and the IELTS. It’s really important for a student to score well on the exam so that he or she can get into the university of their dreams! Teaching these specialized courses is a great way to earn more as an EFL teacher. To familiarize yourself with the format of the exams so you can help students, IELTS Test Prep has a free app. It gives the nitty-gritty of how the test is laid out, tips, strategies, explanations of common grammar rules, speaking samples, assessment criteria and quizzes.
If you’re looking for a way to increase your student’s reading comprehension, Lingua.com offers a range of reading materials and text types at varied difficulty levels- everything from novice, to intermediate, to advanced. You can choose from articles, short stories, and engaging dialogues. They’re free to download or print. Here’s an example of a higher level article about Yellowstone National Park.
A lot of students on these platforms are looking for help with their writing. You might get a college student trying to write their first research paper or a business person trying to compose a professional sounding cover letter. Even if you’re a great speller, it’s best to have the ole dictionary handy for tricky words.The Merriam-Webster Dictionary is now online (of course) and it’s free. Using it will keep you from using the incorrect form of a word. Is it who’s or whose? Plus, with the online set-up you see how the word is used in a sentence, its synonyms and antonyms and learn a little about its history.
If you find yourself really getting into the thick of it with an advanced writer, take a look at The Chicago Manual of Style. It’s a time tested indispensable reference for pesky grammar and punctuation no matter the medium. They have a 30-day free trial.
If you get a student that’s struggling with their grammar, Learn English Team’s Free Grammar Books to Improve Your English can help. I especially like the free pdf, Grammar Through Stories. Each story focuses on a grammar target, such as the Simple Present Tense. There’s an explanation of how the grammar target is used before each story. You can use it as a “teachable moment”.
And last but not least, the tenth free resource for the solopreneur is, yes, our very own TEFLPros Activity Book! I know it’s a plug, but honestly, this book is chock full of 72 activities and the pdf version is included free with the purchase of the course. Take it from a seasoned EFL teacher, it will save you countless hours looking for just the right activity. It has everything from First Day Lesson activities to Warm Ups to more meatier activities for Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking. The great thing about this book is that most of the activities can easily be tweaked to fit any online format. (I double checked.)
Keep in mind, the best way to find online work as a TEFL teacher is with a reputable 120 hour TEFL certification. I highly recommend taking TEFLPros’ Free: 2-Day Online TEFL Taster. It’s a full module of the course that you can work through to get a feel for who we are and how our course operates.
As always, Happy Teaching!