ESOL Nexus – meeting ESOL learners’ needs online

I’m no neutral, but….

I’d like to share something with you that I think is quite good, though you will have to have a look and judge for yourself. I’ve been involved with it so I’m not exactly unbiased and I don’t want to be accused of ‘astroturfing‘. Anyway, This post is about ESOL Nexus, which is a portal for ESOL teachers and learners in the UK from the British Council – you can access it here:
http://esol.britishcouncil.org/

What is it

ESOL Nexus has come out of a European Integration Fund-backed project to support third country nationals (ie. Non UK & Non EU nationals) learning English – there’s more information on their site here: http://esol.britishcouncil.org/about-esol-nexus.

The site does this by providing self-access materials for learners alongside resources to help ESOL teachers.

It’s quite an ambitious project and has around 40 ESOL practitioners working together to keep producing materials – so there’s plenty more to come!

What’s there at the moment?

There are a number of resources and lesson plans which have been specifically written for ESOL learners in the UK as well as relevant content from the British Council’s other websites.

E1 Beginner resources

  • The Town – a set of lessons for beginner E1 reader & writers to help them talk about their local area.

Language at Work

  • Being Self-Employed – Here learners can listen to an ex-ESOL learner who has set up their own business in the UK. This recordings used are authentic and unscripted and are accompanied by language practice exercises. The level is around E2-E3.
  • Voluntary Work – more authentic listening exercises, this time we hear about volunteering in an Oxfam shop. This resource helps develop listening skills and knowledge of lexis commonly used in shops, especially when talking to customers.

UK Life (Citizenship)

  • Driving – this helps learners understand about the documents they need to drive. (Driving Licence, MOT, insurance etc.), how they can learn to drive, and, completing the citizenship aspect, an exercise on court reports for people who drive without documents. The activities are aimed at different levels from E1-E3. This is an area that is relevant to many learners and is fairly ‘document heavy’, there’s a real need for literacy skills to be able to understand the different rules and regulations.
  • Fire Safety – These resources help learners to understand advice on how to stay safe at home. There are vocabulary exercises on smoke alarms and general fire safety advice. The resources are aimed at different levels from E1-E3.
  • Parents’ Evenings – These resources help support learners discussing their children’s progress at school and are aimed at E1 learners . Many ESOL learners are often frustrated by not being able to communicate with their children’s teachers, these resources should support them with this.
  • Politics – these exercises explains the UK political system from the voters’ perspective, explaining how governments are elected etc. This could obviously be very useful in citizenship lessons.

These resources were written specifically for the UK ESOL context and all resources provide interactive online activities as well as printable PDF versions of the resources so they can be used in different contexts.

As well as the content which has been specially written for a UK ESOL context, there are a number of resources from other British Council websites. The project originally started by because there were a huge number of resources on British Council websites, such as Teaching English and Learn English. ESOL Nexus started out by assessing the suitability of existing British Council resources, which among other things led to the presentation below… That was the first thing I did as part of it all (along with Mike Harrison, Amanda Wilson and Callie Wilkinson).

What does it bring?

As mentioned above, I’m not the most neutral commentator, but I think this site is a useful addition to those available for ESOL tutors. There are some great websites for teacher-contributed resources – Talent and Skills Workshop are probably the best examples of these, but there is very little commissioned content available specifically for ESOL tutors (ALO Scotland might fit this criteria). Hopefully this will act as a complement to the resources already available. The interactive self-access resources and audio based materials are something different to that already available. If you haven’t seen Talent or Skills Workshop, go and check them out – there are loads of fantastic resources there.

Previously, there haven’t been many self-access sites designed specifically for ESOL learners in the UK – I can only of Esol courses ,London online, and ESOL UK – (digibooks, ESOL Leeds, Citizenship videos and English for Food Hygiene) . Though, of course BBC Skillswise can be useful (even if it is aimed more at Adult literacy groups). There’s a list of resource sites on this page.

This seminar from Dot Powell, the project director, discusses some aspects of review and development of teaching and learning materials.

I’d love to know what you think about them – do you think this site is on the right track, or is it just more of the same? How could it improve?

Also, what websites do you use with ESOL learners? Are there any that I should add to the list?

5 thoughts on “ESOL Nexus – meeting ESOL learners’ needs online

  1. Hi Phil,

    lovely resources and I’ve forwarded them onto my colleagues. I find that apart from the sites you’ve includes, I tend to adapt ELT resources or develop my own authentic materials. I believe this skill is essential in teaching and learning and makes ESOL teachers more creative.

    1. Yes, I think that’s a really important skill – material evaluation and creation. As there are not many ‘commercial’ resources for ESOL around, we have to be good at evaluating whether a particular resource is relevant or not for our learners, as well as being able to turn authentic materials into effective lessons (I’m trying to keep a list of possible sources for authentic materials here: – which probably needs updating).

      I think this does save ESOL a bit from the dominance of coursebooks (often to the detriment of learners’ needs/interests) that can affect other areas of ELT – there’s a great series of posts – The ‘Teach-Off’ on Chia Suan Chong’s blog (http://chiasuanchong.wordpress.com/) at the moment. Others might disagree, maybe in some providers people have to plough through ‘Skills for Life’ in the same way… In terms of ESOL vs EFL etc, this seminar (another part of the British Council’s ESOL effort) explores some of the complexities:

      1. I totally agree. Your blog and resources are extremely helpful. Thanks for the link and support.

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