Building Content for Private ESL Lessons

How to build content for your private ESL lessons-by Off2Class


Over the past 7 years we (founders of off2class) have been teaching ESL on several continents. Like many teachers working abroad, private English tutoring has often been more lucrative than our day jobs at schools and language institutes. Surprisingly, we found that many of our friends and colleagues abroad would receive requests to take on private students but would refuse the extra income due to an unwillingness to prepare content for their lessons. After a full day of teaching, who has the energy left to prepare for private lessons?

Further compounding this deficit is that the content needed for private lessons is quite different from what is required in the traditional classroom. In a private conversation class, relying on a textbook or classroom focused worksheet doesn’t create the right level of energy required for the one-on-one dynamic of the lesson. What is required is a “conversation guider”. A prompt to direct natural conversation between the teacher and the student that also delivers the target grammar and vocabulary.

We’ve spent the last seven years teaching private students (online and offline) and it is quite difficult to find something (off the shelf) that is ready to use. This need is what inspired us to launch Off2Class: lesson plans designed for private ESL lessons (more on off2class later).


Here is a short guide on how to build your own lesson plan content for your private lessons.


1) Develop a template

We suggest starting off by creating a template in a slide / presentation software such as Microsoft PowerPoint. There are other great presentation software services emerging such as a Prezi. Pick software that you are accustomed to using.

Start by developing one lesson plan on any subject that you currently require for a private lesson. The template should serve to create the look and feel of your lessons going forward (font, color, spacing, shading, title, exercise examples). Once you finish the lesson plan, save it both as a lesson (the subject you were preparing) and a template. Moving forward, it will be much easier to generate new lesson plans by building off an existing template. Your students will also get accustomed to your style and will learn to expect a consistent / professional look. If you are not a PowerPoint expert you can find lots of high quality, free templates online that you can use as a starting point.

2) Pick a grammar source

The goal of your lesson plan content will be to weave grammar (and vocabulary) learning into live conversation. It is helpful to have a grammar source at your side while developing your lessons for easy reference. There are numerous high quality authors; it is important to pick an author that you are comfortable with / have used in the past.

3) Compare with online examples

When developing your first private ESL lesson plans (before you find your own style) it can be extremely helpful to see what else has been produced online. This will help to develop own ideas for exercises, prompts and lesson flow. The issue we’ve faced as private ESL teachers is that most of what is available online is targeted at the traditional classroom. Here is a short list of some helpful sources:

ReadWriteThink is an entirely free service with a mission to provide educators and parents with quality learning materials. The vast majority of the site is dedicated to materials for the traditional classroom, but most materials can be adapted for private lessons. There's a consistent level of quality across most materials and they are organized with a powerful taxonomy.


OneStopEnglish is a great potential source of ESL lesson plans. If you are teaching students with an exam goal in mind, they have categories including IELTS, TOEFL and many others. They also cover topical areas such as Law and HR. Quite a bit of the content is available for free, and a full license costs only $68 per year. Again, most of the content is geared towards the traditional classroom but it can be adapted.

This site was started by and is curated by Jamie Keddie. There are lesson plans covering a large range of topics. Most of the lesson plans are delivered as printables and are intended for the traditional classroom but they are adaptable as private lessons plans. Over the years this site has generated thousands if not hundreds of thousands of downloads and the best part is, it's free. Since one teacher generates most of the content, there is also a consistent style across lesson plans.


Of course, we couldn't finish off this list without mentioning our own site. If you're a teacher running private ESL lessons, we've made a product specifically for you. Ready-to-teach ESL Lesson Plans on a simple to use web platform. Get in touch with us through the contact form on our homepage to get invited to our free private beta.

Test your lesson plans

It is impossible to improve your lesson content without testing it with your students. Teach your lesson plans and be sure to keep notes of what works well and more importantly, what does not work well with your students. After each lesson edit your content while the experience of teaching is still fresh in your mind. This is the only way to improve your plans.

Before you know it, you will have a set of reusable lesson plan content that fits your style of teaching and the student profiles you teach!

About the Authors:

Off2Class is a site dedicated to helping ESL teachers earn independent income. We have released a set of 65 ESL lesson plans covering grammar, vocabulary and phonics and our library grows every week. We are currently in private beta but you can get a free account by requesting one on the contact form on our homepage.

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