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The Top Visual Aids for Teaching ESL Online

By VIPKid  |  January 19, 2021

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Teaching English online to students presents a variety of unique challenges, even more so when you’re teaching English as a second language. ESL (English as a Second Language) instructors can help alleviate some of these challenges by incorporating visual aids into their curriculum which is why we’ll be covering the importance of visuals for ESL students and sharing our favorite types of visuals to help students learn English online. 

What’s the importance of visual aids for teaching ESL online?

Visual aids serve as an important tool in any educational space and especially in online instruction when keeping students focused can be challenging. Certain educational concepts are especially difficult to understand without a visual aid — imagine trying to learn the difference between “their, there, and they’re” without being able to see the different spelling. Teachers may use visual aids to show students the full scope of their lessons which can help students remain engaged during a particularly long lesson.

When teaching online to a global classroom cultural divides can emerge. Visual aids can then help connect teachers and students with something that they both see, experience and understand; bringing students and teachers together. Plus, visual aids make learning more fun!

Best visual aids for teaching English online

Photos of the item being taught

By showing a student the object, the teacher can communicate the object to the learner even before the English word has been taught. 


When teaching the progression of time, i.e. past, present, and future, a timeline can help visualize the different concepts of time. Using the concept of a plant growing as an example, you can write the words “plant seed” in the past, “blooming” in the present, and “withering” in the future positions to help students visualize how different words are used to refer to different time periods. You can even draw your student on the timeline to get them extra excited. 


Learning the concepts used to understand a calendar can be particularly tricky; you have months, weeks, 7 days with different names, as well as a ton of numbers. By labeling a calendar with these names students can build a clearer understanding through the use of a visual aid. 

Quantity or size

Another one of the best uses for visual aids is during lessons on quantity or size. For quantity, you can use two images of the same object, showing the student a scenario with multiple apples and another with one apple or none. For size, you can show someone standing next to a large car and in another image show them standing next to a small car.

Contextual sentence visuals

Visual aids help communicate contextual sentences as well. For instance: “my house is the yellow house” A visual aid could be an aerial view of a neighborhood with a large arrow pointing at the yellow house to reinforce the context.

Real Life Items

Teachers aren’t the only ones that can bring visual aids to a lesson. Once an instructor has taught an English word, you can recruit your student to go find the item in real life or even take a photo. This helps connect lessons to the world outside the classroom, and can be more memorable and exciting for students since they have a task to accomplish.

Visual aids are an effective tool for instructors teaching English online, and we hope that you’ll try using some of these in your future lessons. Have a visual aid that you love using? We’d love to hear about it! Share with us by reaching out to us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

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