How to use Our Languages

The website contains a range of resources for the ESOL teacher, including:

  • Accessible sociolinguistic concepts– we have selected aspects of sociolinguistic study which we feel are most relevant for ESOL teachers and have a short introductory paragraph explaining each one.
  • Information about participatory pedagogy, including further reading and training.
  • Classroom materials and resources for teachers to use, download, print and adapt for use in ESOL classrooms. On each resource it will be clear which sociolinguistic concept it relates to and we encourage teachers to read the relevant paragraph before using.
  • Links to more detailed reading related to sociolinguistics for teachers who want more information.

The materials 

We have organised the materials into four sections which explore language in a specific domain. The sections are, Our SelvesOur Homes, Our Classrooms and Our Communities. Each of these sections has two tools, with follow on activities and two or three texts plus activities. 


The tools generate discussion among students on the topic and can also result in student generated texts for future work. These tools are fundamental to participatory ESOL pedagogy as they build learning around students’ experiences and views, as well as encouraging students to critique those experiences and views. Participatory tools are a set of structured, ‘blank pieces of paper’, which can provide a framework for classroom discussion. There are two different types of tool, descriptive and analytical. Descriptive tools allow students to remember and describe their experiences or show their knowledge and express opinions. Analytical tools allow students to think critically about their own and each other’s views in order to strengthen, qualify, gain a deeper understanding, reflect on, explain, or change their ideas about a particular topic.

Multilingual approach

Students will often be working using all their linguistic resources. This means using their other languages alongside English to complete the tool. Multilingual work such as this provides opportunities for students to express themselves in multiple ways and also have ideas explained or translated. Where other languages are used alongside English, students (or teachers) can subsequently explain these ideas in English so that everyone follows and the student has the opportunity to hear their ideas expressed in English. Allowing students to do complex thinking and problem solving in an expert language makes it possible for them to engage beyond their level of English and often stretch their language and communication skills, both in English and their other language(s) (which in turn contributes greatly to English development). We feel there is nothing to be gained by students watering their ideas down in order for them to operate monolingually.


Whilst the tools section relies on the students for ideas, information and knowledge, the texts section uses material from outside the group. We include reading texts, audio texts and video texts. 

The tools and texts in this website are designed to be used together and they complement each other. The tools should generally be used before the texts as ideally students are given the chance to discuss and explore their own experiences before being expected to react to others’ ideas. In this way students’ own lives are central.