Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

December 31, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Want To Write A Guest Post For The “In Practice” Blog?

In Practice is a group blog written by several of us who teach in low-income communities around the country (and world).  It was begun by Alice Mercer.

If you are coming from a similar experience, and would be interested in writing a guest post on a topic of your choosing (somehow related to schools and low-income communities), let me know by either leaving a comment on this post or by contacting me directly.

We’d be interested in hearing what topic you might write about, and either a sample of your writing or a link to your own blog — if you have one. Please take a look at “In Practice” if you haven’t seen it before, too.

December 31, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo

Peace Research Institute In The Middle East

The Peace Research Institute In The Middle East (PRIME) is an organization comprised of Israelis and Palestinians who have developed high school materials on the Middle East that are used in both communities.

As a Newsweek article explains, each page is divided into three: the Palestinian and Israeli narratives and a third section left blank for the pupil to fill in. “The idea is not to legitimize or accept the other’s narrative but to recognize it..”

I had heard about this project a couple of years ago, and thought the instructional strategy was one that would be useful in teaching about any conflict. I just have never gotten around to doing it, though I’m planning to finally give it a try in my U.S. History class this coming semester.

All the PRIME materials can be freely downloaded from their site. They are far too advanced for English Language Learners, but the idea can used with modified materials about the Middle East conflict.  In fact, I think it would be fairly easy to do so with some of the resources already on The “Best” Resources For Learning About The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict list.

I’d be interested in hearing if anyone has tried something like this in their classroom and how it went..

December 31, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo

Votes Are In For Best ELL Sites

Here are the results of a readers poll on The Best Internet Sites For English Language Learners — 2008:

1. Mingoville

2. Listen and Write and iCue (tied)

3. English Trailers

4. Beat The Clock, Into The Book, and Spelling Bee (tied)

5. Embedded Learning Portal, Chuala, CloZure and  J@M (tied)

You can read detailed descriptions at my original post, as well as see how I ranked twenty-seven new websites.

Voting for The Best Web 2.0 Applications For Education — 2008 ends on January 31st.

December 31, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo

Capitol Words

Richard Byrne wrote about a neat site today called Capitol Words.

It uses the Congressional Record to develop ongoing “word clouds” for each member of Congress, and can show clouds representing each state,too.

Richard shares some excellent ideas on how to use a nifty tool like this in the classroom, so it’s worth visiting his blog post. For English Language Learners, it would be a great real-world exercise in vocabulary development combined with civics.

I’ve placed the link on my website under Citizenship.

December 30, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo

More Posts To Get Me Thinking

Thanks to Alice Mercer, now I have even more than the ones I listed in The Best Posts From Other Blogs That Made Me “Think” In 2008.

Alice just wrote her own Best Of 2008 Blog Posts And What I Learned From Them...

It’s a list definitely worth reading (and I’m not just saying that because she included a nod to me in her post!)

December 30, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo

Even More On The Middle East

Here are a few more additions to The “Best” Resources For Learning About The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict:

The Denver Post has a regularly updated series of photos on what’s happening in Israel and Gaza.

USA Today’s interactive graphic/map about the history of the Middle East conflict ends at the beginning of 2002, but it’s an exceptionally accessible piece of work.

The Guardian (UK) has an interactive following the conflict day-by-day.

December 30, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Education-Related Books Visitors To This Blog Read In 2008

I put out a request to readers to share the best education-related books that they had read over the past year.  The books could have been published earlier and the only requirement was that you had read them sometime this year.

Here is what people shared:

Kevin Hodgson:

Digital Storytelling in the Classroom by Jason Ohler

I am in the midst of designing a grad class around digital storytelling, as well as doing it in my classroom, and this book is such a great mix practical ideas, pedagogy and some great thinking around the development of student digital stories.

I thank my friend, Bonnie, for the recommendation.


‘Brain Rules’ by John Medina. This book has given me new insights into not only how my mind and the minds of my students work, but it has also provided me with strategies I can apply in the classroom.

Clif Mims:

I’ve really enjoyed Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody.

Missie Stugart:

The best education book I have read this year is an oldie but a goodie. I re-read James Moffett’s classic Teaching the Universe of Discourse. This text is a classic but is not yet outdated…I am in the midst of revamping some of my own practices now because of it…If you haven’t read it, please do!

Paul Hamilton:

Best education-related book of the year for me: The Drool Room by Ira David Socol. An unusual work of fiction described as “a novel in stories”. It’s a series of narratives offering first person perspectives of an individual with “special needs”. The Drool Room relates many painful school experiences, so this is an especially worthwhile read for anyone involved in education.

Ronaldo Lima, Jr.:

I have just finished my master’s in Applied Linguistics (two weeks ago, actually), so I read a lot of technical books, and the three books that were of greatest benefit to me were the following:
ELLIS, R. (2008) The study of second language acquisition. 2 ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

GASS, S. M.; SELINKER, L. (2008) Second language acquisition: an introductory course. 3 ed. New York: Routledge.

DOUGHTY, C. J.; LONG, M. H. (Eds.) (2003) The handbook of second language acquisition. Oxford, Massachusetts e Victoria: Blackwell Publishing.

The two first ones are the latest versions of two renowned books which aim at putting together the many theories that make up the filed of Second Language Acquisition. The third one is an organizational book with 24 chapters written by authorities in Second Language Acquisition.

Anne Fox:

I’d like to nominate ‘The Creative Teaching and Learning Toolkit’ by Brin Best and Will Thomas published by Continuum in 2007. I explained why it inspired me here.  I think it is the only book I have blogged about this year so it must be the best!

Greg Anthony:

The best book I read this year is Classroom Assessment & Grading That Work. It gave me plenty of ideas on how to use assessment to help my students grow. Here is an overview of the book.

Tom Welch:

Let me add two more to the list — Disrupting Class by Christensen, Johnson and Horn, and Grown Up Digital by Don Tapscott. Both help make sense of the notion that we are in transition from the age of schooling to the age of learning!


The best book I have read is Born Digital by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser. It has changed the way I have thought about the entire world. I can now better understand why social networking sites have changed the way students (and people in general) think and identify with the world.

James Rolle:

Alfie Kohn’s The Schools our Children Deserve and Punished by Rewards.

Chris Haddad:

The best book I read this year was Kelly Gallagher’s Teaching Adolescent Writers. The man has a great philosophy on teaching writing and, more importantly, gives practical applications on how ALL teachers, regardless of subject, can help to improve writing skills. This book is a must-read for any English teacher.

Chris Haddad is a middle school English teacher from Michigan.

Nancy Bosch:

I read Rafe Esquith’s Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire. Not rocket science but an easy read.

Last year I read all of Torey Hayden’s books. She taught severely disabled kids in a self contained classroom. They were written in the early 80s so they are somewhat dated—but she is an amazing teacher.

Lee Chan:

The best book I have read this year is Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. Although the book is not overtly about a learning theory or best classroom practices, it is connected with education in that it exemplifies the principle that a general education of a marginalized people is the best way to turn them away from poverty and extremism. This has implications for our work of teaching language literacy and basic skills to migrant workers and needy residents in our community. Besides, the book also touches on how Greg motivates the students at the beginning of a school year.

Lee Chan is a full-time ESL instructor at Palomar College and currently serves as chair of the ESL Department.

Fran Lo:

I’m going to nominate this book: Plagiarism: Why It Happens and How to Prevent It by Barry Gilmore.  As an English teacher who discovers plagiarism far too often, it gave me a lot to think about.

Elise Mueller:

Hands down, Brain Rules by John Medina. Read about it on the Presentation Zen Blog and watch a clip of the author presenting for Authors@Google. It changed the way I think about learning in so many ways!

Wayne Basinger

Every break I re-read Leo Buscaglia’s “Living, Loving and Learning”. It gets me inspired to teach again by reminding me of my purpose and mission as a teacher.

My Pick:

Re-reading Community Organizing For Urban School Reform by Dennis Shirley was very helpful to me as I wrote my first book — on how schools can more effectively connect with parents — that will be published this spring.  Shirley writes about the great community organizing work of the Industrial Areas Foundation that has taken place in Texas.

Thanks to everybody who contributed!

Feel free to leave additional recommendations in the comments section of this post…

December 30, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo

Time Space: World

Time Space: World is from the Washington Post. It shows a world map, along with multiple “push-pins” in areas where news events are occurring. Clicking on them will bring you videos and images from that location. It’s pretty engaging, but, at least the times I’ve tried using it, the application loads quite slowly.

I’m adding it to The Best Visually Engaging News Sites.

December 30, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo

More On The Middle East

Here are a few more additions to The “Best” Resources For Learning About The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict:

Why Israel Attacked Gaza is an article from TIME magazine that is accessible to high Intermediate ELL’s.

Arte TV has two video portraits — one of a Palestinian living in Gaza and the other of an Israeli living in a town in danger of rocket attacks. It’s all subtitled in English, and it puts a human portrait on what their lives are like. It was made ten days before the truce’s end this week.

MSNBC has what appears to me to be an excellent Q & A: The History Behind Israel’s Gaza Strikes.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation
gives a good overview of the conflict, including useful comparative data.

December 30, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo

Whose Game

Whose Game lets you easily create an online video game.

I’m adding it to The Best Websites For Creating Online Learning Games list. Like a few other sites on that list, Whose Game might not have an overt learning purpose. However, these kinds of Web 2.0 applications can be excellent opportunities for English Language Learners to develop their English — by following the instructions on the screen, by writing directions for their game, and by writing and talking about their reactions to playing games made by their peers.

Whose Games allows users to do all of these things.

December 29, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo

Holiday Stories

Christina Niven from EL Civics (which I ranked number one The Best Websites For Learning About Civic Participation & Citizenship list — her site is also on number other of my “The Best…” lists) just wrote about a site called American Folklore.

It has many great short stories that would be accessible to English Language Learners.

I’m adding one section, Holiday Stories and Winter Tales, to The Best Places To Learn About Christmas, Hanukkah, & Kwanzaa.

But it has a lot more than that, including separate sections on Canadian, Mexican, Latin American, and Native American Folklore.  I’ve used these kinds of stories very effectively in my Geography classes.

December 29, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo

Explain The 2008 Financial Crisis

How To Explain The 2008 Financial Crisis To Your Kids (And Most Adults) is a short video from “Say It Visually.” A closed-caption version, which the link in this post leads to, is available on

It’s the newest addition to The Best Sites To Learn About The U.S. Financial Crisis.

December 29, 2008
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

California School Finance In Plain English

Many of you are probably familiar with the excellent Common Craft videos that explain complex topics in simple videos (of course, they’re great now, and they’d be extraordinary if they had closed-captioning someday).

(Thanks to a comment left by Richard Byrne from the excellent Free Tech 4 Teachers blog, I learned that many of the Common Craft videos are available with closed captioning at

I just learned today from the Read Write Web blog that Common Craft has a new video on California School Finance In Plain English.

It’s probably too fast for anyone but advanced English Language Learners, but I think it could be very helpful to teachers, parents and anyone else in our state who wants to understand our screwy school finance system.

By the way, Common Craft has a blog I’d encourage you to subscribe to so you can learn about their new productions.