The Top 20 Free Online ESOL Resource Websites Refereed review-oriented article

by Ransom Gladwin

Valdosta State University (Valdosta, United States)


Introductory remarks                                                                                                             

There are thousands of ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) resources online.

However, as Krajka noted 13 years ago, “it would be an insurmountable task to try and browse all such search results, evaluate the websites, and decide which of them best suit the user’s expectations” (2002, p. 1). The World Wide Web has grown enormously since Krajka’s comments, and finding high-quality ESOL resources online remains a challenge, especially free ones. ESOL websites truly offering praiseworthy resources for free deserve recognition (Krajka, 2002). However, free ESOL websites continually disappear as some cease functioning, some are bought out, and others shift to a pay model (Ciaffaroni, 2006). Given that websites can positively impact the behaviors of web users (Lee, 2003), this review-oriented article recommends twenty ESOL websites that are current, useful, and free.


Review process                                                                              

The author has taught the online course Methods and Materials for Teaching ESOL every year since 2005. This online graduate course is a required course in the three-course endorsement for certified teachers in the state of Georgia in the United States. The course is one of six required in the TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) certificate at a state university designed for students from multiple disciplines to pursue teaching opportunities within the field of TESOL. The course is offered in the fall, spring, and summer with enrollments of between 10 and 20 graduate students each trimester. A major assignment in the course requires each graduate student to rank two free ESOL websites from a master list. The student evaluates the two sites and writes a comprehensive review for each one. The student has to describe ease of use, purpose, accessibility, cost, and rank each website on a scale of zero to five stars (five being the best). From fall 2006 to summer 2015, 152 graduate students rated ESOL sites. The average scores (of at least four students for each website) calculated from the ratings established the top 20 free online ESOL resource websites presented in this review-oriented article.

The list of websites for the course is compiled by the author. The websites were recommendations (Zainuddin, 2002) and featured websites in multiple back issues of Essential Teacher Magazine, published by Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), Inc. Some were also recommendations from colleagues. The current master list contains forty-two websites and is updated through recommendations from each new class of students. In the past decade, the master list has had over 110 sites on it at one time or another. Sites are removed from the list when they become irrelevant.


The top 20 free online ESOL resource websites

Table 1 shows the current top 20 websites. The table presents the mean scores received over the decade. Table 2 provides a brief description for each site with a focus on the site’s purpose and audience. An additional website worthy of an ‘honorary’ mention is also described in some detail in the discussion section.

S/N Website Mean Score No. of reviewers
1 ReadWriteThink ( 5 4
2 Starfall ( 4.9 10
3 Colorín Colorado ( 4.6 6
4 NCELA ( 4.6 7
5 Make Beliefs Comix ( 4.5 5
6 Quizlet ( 4.4 5
7 ERIC ( 4.43 7
8 TESOL (            4.36 7
9 EnglishClub ( 4.25 4
10 The Speech Accent Archive ( 4.25 8
11 Englishpage ( 4.14 7
12 Scholastic ( 4.14 7
13 Puzzlemaker  ( 4.1 7
14 Dave’s ESL Café ( 4 8
15 Englishforum ( 4 8
16 Internet TESL Journal ( 4 7
17 ISTE (   4 7
18 Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab ( 4 9
19 Suessville Story Maker ( aker.html) 4 9
20 ESL Partyland ( 3.8 5

Table 1: The Top 20 Free Online ESL Resource Websites


S/N Website Description
1 ReadWriteThink Depository for free reading and language arts ESOL materials
2 Starfall Reading and phonic activities for pre-K through 2ndgrade
3 Colorín Colorado Bilingual (English/Spanish) materials for parents and teachers
4 NCELA Clearinghouse for United States ESOL policy
5 Make Beliefs Comix Create a personalized comic strip to use or share
6 Quizlet Create electronic flashcards and access previously made ones
7 ERIC Official U.S. database of articles related to Education
8 TESOL Global TESOL advocacy, networking, and news
9 EnglishClub ESOL lessons and resources separated for teachers or students
10 The Speech Accent Archive Global audio collection of English speech samples
11 Englishpage Listening resources for the advanced English learner
12 Scholastic Supplementary materials and support for teachers and students
13 Puzzlemaker Produces puzzles based on user input
14 Dave’s ESL Café Focus on global TESOL employment opportunities
15 Englishforum ESOL resources with sections on idioms and quotations
16 Internet TESL Journal Web journal for TESOL practitioners
17 ISTE Depository of practitioner oriented TESOL articles
18 Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab Collection of listening quizzes
19 Suessville Story Maker Creates a Dr. Seuss bases story from student input
20 ESL Partyland Resources such as printable materials and quizzes

Table 2: Brief Description of Websites



The stated mission of the ReadWriteThink (ReadWriteThink) (#1) is to provide practice in both reading and language arts instruction through the provision of free materials ( The website is easy to navigate and reviewers described the site’s resources as high quality, useful, and beneficial to students, teachers, and parents. Furthermore, student reviewers specifically noted the clear instructions and the categorization of materials by grade and subject. The site has many materials relevant to current state standards. This site did not receive any negative review from my students. The positive reviews typically generated extended and meaningful discussions with students. There were also positive reviews posted on the website. One reviewer commented that ReadWriteThink is one of her favorite sites and that she had used it many times before (R. Santiago, October 21, 2013). Reviewers also noted that its mission is absolutely accomplished.

Starfall (Starfall) (#2) generates excitement among elementary school educators. Online reviewers, in general, were not aware of the site, so it was a pleasant surprise for many to discover such a resource. The web site received good reviews for its excellent download center and relevance multiple audiences, specifically those involved with elementary education, ESOL, homeschooling, and special education. The site targets students from pre-K to 2nd grade, with a focus on reading and phonic awareness. The site is based on a systematic program designed to teach or support reading through phonics. Online reviewers noted the ease in which ELs or struggling readers would be able to use the site and its attractive visuals and well-done voice recordings. Starfall does not have advertisements, but it does have a store, and access to some materials requires subscription.

A bilingual (English-Spanish) site for teachers and the families of ELs, ‘Colorin colorado’ (¡Colorín colorado!) (#3), focuses on reading. The colorful site offers bilingual (English and Spanish) materials and advice for teachers and parents of ELs. The website could be read English or Spanish. They are not direct translations of each other, but two well-designed websites filled with reading activities and links to reading exercises and resources. The site is an outstanding resource, funded by the two largest teachers’ associations in the United States, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA), targeted at people involved in bilingual education with Spanish speakers. In general, reviewers have loved the site and praised its resources as fun, engaging, and cutting-edge. The site is well-organized with sections clearly labelled for users (including librarians and administrators). The site is free, but reviewers did note solicitations for funds and multiple links to other organizations and sites. A few reviewers commented that navigation was difficult and that they were overwhelmed in places by the sheer amount of information. However, one reviewer commented that the site tutorial explaining how to use the site was intuitive and made her more comfortable with using the website’s many features (J. Salter, June 13, 2014).

The United States Department of Education funds the NCELA (NCELA National Clearninghouse for English Language Acquisition) (#4) website. The site houses an extensive collection of resources designed to support all aspects of English language education. The site is easy to navigate. There are sections on national policy with links to important government organizations and reports. Reviewers consistently have rated the site excellent and cited varied sections as their personal favorite. The webinars were positively reviewed, as were the demographic maps of national EL populations. One reviewer stated that “the AccELLerate quarterly newsletter is one of the best parts of the site” (K. Gonzalez, July 5, 2012). Reviews were consistently positive in noting the website serves as a useful resource of national data and policies that are of interest to learners in the USA.

MakesBeliefsComix (MakesBeliefsComix) (#5) engages learners by letting them make their own comic strips. The activity is fun and several reviewers noted that they got hooked on making strips for friends and family; one reviewer even recommended the site to her son (T. Leavell, October 20, 2011). The site’s central function is allow users to create their own comic strip, be it autobiographical, linked to a school activity, or just completely made-up, but it also allows users to create alternative story ending. A few reviewers noted that beginners may have trouble with the instructions and humorous aspects of comics. Thus, the key audience for the website is intermediate to advanced learners. Most reviewers loved the free site and how it enabled students to let their imagination and expressiveness take over, while expanding their vocabulary and creating fun. The website also has sections for children with special needs.

Quizlet (Quizlet) (#6) allows users to create electronic flashcards in multiple languages in order to facilitate memorization of words. When the site was new, reviewers liked it and wanted to tell others about the site. Users may create vocabulary lists on flashcards, access thousands of other lists, or create and use other games linked to the flashcards. The process of creating and accessing lists is simple, and today the site has millions of users. ‘Sharing’, a function of the site, allows teachers to create course or exercise-specific lists and then share them with others (or borrow from others to make the lists in the first place). Reviewers still like the site, but many already know about it, so excited posts tend to come from reviewers unaware of the site. It is noted that Quizlet is not ESOL-specific. Users ranging from beginners to graduate students create flashcards in a myriad of subjects and for all types of standardized tests. However, ESOL teachers reported using the site with success, but one reviewer commented that ESOL teachers would need to help beginners use the site (B. Smith, July 3, 2012). The site is easy to use and has an excellent FAQ, but beginners may need help signing up and using the site. Seven years ago Quizlet was a unique site that provided an amazing study aid for free. Today there are other similar sites and applications, but it should still be recognized and commended for its sheer number of available lists and use of online flashcards.

ERIC (ERIC Institute of Education Sciences) (#7), sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, indexes articles related to education. As noted by many reviewers, it is free and easy to use. The long-running site is a no-frills depository of education-related academic articles. However, some reviewers have thought that the articles lack practicality and would not use them (R. Davis, November 19, 2009). Also, while there are many ESOL-related articles available, reviewers have noted that the quality of the articles available varies, with peer-reviewed sources labeled as such. Some articles are available as complete PDFs, others are links to journals, and some are abstracts only. ERIC an excellent source to begin research, but access to other journals would be needed for a comprehensive literature search. However, for over 50 years, ERIC has allowed easy access to quality research related to all aspects of education. Today the straightforward, easy to use, completely free site continues as an outstanding entry point to research based ESOL articles.

TESOL International Association (TESOL International Association) (#8) is an important hub for ESOL professionals interested in national and global TESOL news. The site advertises its own resources, conference, and membership. Many reviewers have praised the work of the organization and its affiliates, and wanted to become a member. One reviewer noted that she planned to become a member as soon as she had secured an ESOL job (Davis, July 18, 2011). Reviewers also noted that the resources are high-quality, and always up-todate. However, some reviewers noted that membership is required to access some parts of the site (e.g. the part for networking). Nevertheless, the site has enough free resources to make it a recommended site, and students interested in overseas teaching tended to rate the site more favorably.

For almost two decades, EnglishClub’s (EnglishClub) (#9) website has served ESOL learners and teachers. Members have access to a special forum and can share and display one’s own web presence, and most of the site is free. The website has resources for both teachers and students. Reviewers have liked the site but were not overly excited about it, and the site seldom generated much discussion. However, it was noted for its accessibility and links. Reviewers who explored the site noted several useful features, such as “an excellent chat feature, historical videos, and resources on slang” (M. Sexton, July 19, 2001). The site provides teaching materials and information covering all aspects of ESOL (learning, teaching, job seeking, etc.).

The Speech Accent Archive (The Speech Accent Archive) (#10), established by the linguistics program at George Mason University, is an audio collection of speech samples of both native and non-native speakers of English from around the world. Each speech sample is a recording of one speaker reading the same paragraph in English. The site has been reviewed for years and it continues to grow, as new speech samples are added to the collection. Currently, users have nearly 1500 speech samples and transcriptions to listen to and cite for research purposes. Several reviewers have noted that one needed a QuickTime plug-in to listen to the samples. Reviewers with interests in linguistics tended to rate the site positively, while others thought that it was limited as a teaching or learning resource.

A website most reviewers have liked once they took the time to investigate all the materials available, EnglishPage ( (#11), positions itself as a place for ESL/EFL resources. The site has an excellent collection of listening and reading resources. The target users are advanced learner. There are tutorials and links to resources. Reviewers noted that the site has links to dictionaries, grammar lessons, and other resources. Several reviewers commented on the ease of use of tutorials.

Scholastic (Scholastic) (#12) is the website of major American book publisher Scholastic. Reviewers have praised the website for its useful materials and links to useful resources. Users need to register to get the most out of the site. Parts of the site are fee-based and one can buy books from the site. Reviewers noted the clear separation of activities for teachers and students, and thought that the materials were of top quality. The site is not ESOL-specific, but reviewers considered it an excellent ESOL resource. One reviewer noted that the site is media-intensive and requires a broadband connection (M. Thomas, June 12, 2014).

Puzzlemaker (Puzzlemaker) (#13) is part of the larger Discovery Education website, but the site is easily and freely accessible without needing to log-in or register at the main site. Puzzlemaker is not specifically targeted at ESOL, but reviewers considered it a useful ESOL resource. Teachers may create puzzles for students and there are many types of puzzles students may create themselves, even ones designed specifically for math. The only negatives mentioned pertaining to the site was the singular focus of the site and a limited number of puzzles.

One of the oldest ESL sites on the web, Dave’s ESL Café (Dave’s ESL Café) (#14) continues to be a recommended site for teachers interested in working in EFL overseas. Highlights of the website include an international job board, an idea center for teachers, and a resource on slangs for students. Reviewers have praised the site for the Asian-specific job advertisements. Typical complaints involve clicking on the advertisements by mistake. One reviewer noted how this is particularly easy to do at the bottom of the website (L. Whittaker, November 26,

2006). Nevertheless, Dave’s ESL Café is worth visiting for anyone interested in teaching overseas. They can see job advertisements, resumes of others seeking jobs, and find out about challenges and other employment matters in specific countries.

Aardvark’s English Forum (Aardvark’s (#15) is a user-friendly resource site. There are customized sections for students and teachers. The Students Section includes

Today’s English Idiom and Today’s Famous Quotation, links to online dictionaries, and a student-specific forum. The Teachers’ Section has many links to resources for teaching ESL/EFL, lists of recommended books, and a teacher-focused forum. The site has received generally favorable comments from reviewers, although some reviewers noted the number of advertisements, which could be intrusive.

The Internet TESL Journal (The Internet TESL Journal) (#16) is designed specifically for practitioners. It is best described as a depository of articles, although the articles are not peerreviewed. Also, the site stopped accepting submissions in 2010 (resources are available from 1995-2010). Nevertheless, reviewers continue to give the site good reviews because the site provides lesson plans, handouts, games, teaching ideas, and research studies from practitioners and researchers all over the world. Because they are not peer-reviewed, the articles here are not good for literature review. However, some of them present useful ideas for teachers.

Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab (Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab, 1998) (#17) is a long established site for students seeking listening materials. The site focuses on listening with samples from native speakers, which are categorized as easy, medium, or difficult. The site is a popular location for students to practice listening. There is good, relevant content beyond the general listening quizzes, such as games, a blog, even training for one’s accent. Reviewers, however, have not liked the advertisements that could be found throughout the site.

Suessville Storymaker (Suessville Storymaker, 1995) (#18) is part of the larger official website by Random House. has many games, activities and biographical information about Mr. Theodor Seuss Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss). The website has a activity in which a complete story is manufactured by the participant. Participants create a story based on the book Horton Hears a Who. Participants choose a background, characters, music, and text. The site is user-friendly and especially appealing to young children. One reviewer has noted that her four-year old enjoyed it, but she would not recommend it to younger children (S. Williams, June 29, 2012). For learners the strength of the site is the focus on and use of user-generated story dialogue. The website’s average score was 3.8. Some reviewers commented that the website has only one activity, but many reviewers loved it.

La Mansion del Ingles (La Mansión del Inglés) (#19) provides an English course in Spanish and users complete the course with a diploma. The site has sections for listening, video tutorials, and access to free books in English. Reviewers praised the amount of materials and the user-friendly set-up geared for Spanish-speaking older students or adults studying English. The fact that the site is completely in Spanish has bothered several monolingual English reviewers. Users can view the site in English, and the site asks users if they wish to do so. However, reviewers noted that this option was not always available. Furthermore, those that did view the site in English reported that some parts were badly translated. One reviewer even noted that whole sections remain untranslated (C. Jones, June 13, 2104). Nevertheless, recent reviews have been excellent (4s or 5s). The site for years was in the low 3 range, but upgrades in the general look and feel of the site (coupled with better accessibility to materials) have brought it into the top twenty. It is a recommended site for users that read and understand Spanish.

ESL Partyland (ESL Partyland) (#20) received an average score of 3.2 from nine reviewers. Reviewers have liked the materials, specifically those that are printable, and the site’s fun nature. One reviewer noted that even the quizzes project a sense of encouragement and positive attitude (J. Wildes, October 21, 2013).



This study presents a list of websites available now to ESOL teachers and learners. The list is a mix of sites, constructed by professionals and amateurs, directed at a variety of audiences. The websites on the list are current, free, and have been designated as exemplary by multiple reviewers over many years.

There is a wealth of materials available in these twenty sites, with many dedicated individuals investing time, energy, and personal resources to keeping the sites functioning and freely available to all. Using the Internet in and outside the classroom has been a routine part of the ESOL experience for many years now (Rekrut, 1999; Son, 2008). With access to the Internet now a global phenomenon, the sites are an important part of the world ESOL community benefiting ESOL learners, teachers, and anyone interested in TESOL.

Over the years, this author has noted that an ESOL website often starts as a free and independent website. However, the site later charges, adopts advertisements, or is bought by another entity (and is no longer free). The reader is thus encouraged to exploit these resources while they are still free.



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About the author

Ransom F. Gladwin, IV is Full Professor of Spanish and Coordinator of the English as a Second Language (ESOL) and Foreign Language Education (FLED) programs at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia, USA. He holds a Ph.D. in Spanish with a concentration in Second Language Acquisition (SLA) from Florida State University and a M.A. and B.A. from Furman University. He has taught ESOL, EFL, FLED, and Spanish. Published research interests include Second Language Reading and Second Language Maintenance.

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