Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

Let’s Write A Book Together!


Now that my second book, English Language Learners: Teaching Strategies That Work, has just been published, it’s time to get moving on my third book.

And I’d like you to help me write it.

This book doesn’t have a title yet, but here is how I’m describing it:

It’s focused on instructional and classroom management strategies geared towards developing student autonomy and personal responsibility (as opposed to student obedience or student rebellion); and on professional development strategies focused on a consistent ethic of improving one’s craft and maintaining one’s sanity.

It will also relate to all types of students and teachers — and all grade levels — and will not be limited to English Language Learners.

It will share a variety of strategies to deal with what seems to me to be fifty common challenges facing teachers in the classroom. Assuming I meet the manuscript deadline :), Eye On Education will publish it in mid-2011.

As regular readers know, I try-out lots of different instructional, classroom management, and professional development strategies with those positive goals in mind. And I’ve only begun to share my experiments here in this blog.

I also know that readers of this blog have an enormous amount of experience. And I’ve appreciated and learned from many of you, especially through the What Do You Do? series of posts I’ve written off-and-on. Those posts actually gave me the idea for this third book.

So, this is what I’d like to try:

Each week, I’d like to write a post sharing two or three of the challenges I’ll be writing about in the book and ask for your ideas (based on your experiences in all grade levels — especially younger than high school) on how to respond to them in a way that, as I mentioned earlier, develops student autonomy and personal responsibility (as opposed to student obedience or student rebellion); and utilizes professional development strategies focusing on a consistent ethic of improving one’s craft and maintaining one’s sanity.

If your idea/experience/story isn’t already on my “list” via my own experience or from what someone else has already shared with me, and if I decide to include it in the book, you’ll receive written credit for it in the book and will get one free book — either this one, or you can choose from a selection of other titles from Eye On Education.  Of course, I’ll also recognize you in this blog!

Alice Mercer has already begun developing lessons appropriate for elementary school that connect to some of the themes of self-control and goal-setting that I’ve written about in this blog. I’m hopeful that the thousands of other teachers who read this blog can contribute a ton more.

I think this should be a fun experiment. And, even if it doesn’t work out as well as I hope, everybody will get to read a lot of great ideas people leave in the comments section of the posts.

For many of these challenges, I’m looking for ideas on both responding “in the moment” and for lesson plan ideas on how to preempt the problems before they start…

So, now for the first two questions:

How Do You Deal With A Student Who Is Being Disruptive In Class?

How Do You Regain Control Of An Out-Of-Control Class?

I’ve written many posts on both of these topics. If you’re not familiar with my thoughts on these types of challenges, you might want to read Have You Ever Taught A Class That Got Out Of Control? and “I Like This Lesson Because It Make Me Have a Longer Temper” (Part One). Those two posts will give you an idea of what I mean by “in the moment” tactics and setting the stage to help prevent the problems from happening to begin with.

Let’s get started!  Please leave your response to these two questions in the comments section of this post.

Thanks in advance for what I’m sure will be thoughtful contributions.

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. Have I ever taught a lesson that got out of control?

    I’m an EFL teacher in Brazil. I usually have many young learners. I have to use strategies if I don’t want to have kids climbing the walls – literally I’m afraid.

    This semester I got a very hyper group, Tom ( not his real name) came to me on the very first day and told me “I’ll be your worst nightmare”. To my despair he is in the group I’m carrying a piloting project as part of my professional development program!
    I came up with the traffic light managment system, and it has been working well. This is how it works:

    children are given a green sign in the beggining of the lesson, if a student is disruptive, or insists on speaking Portuguese, I give him or her a yellow sign.
    If the attitude changes, I give him or her the green sign back, I always verbalize or ellicit why.
    “I’m giving you your green sign back, because you helped your classmate.”
    If the whole group has green signs when we finish class, I bring an extra fun activity they enjoy in the following lesson.

    Tom has been at his best, He loves the web2.oproject we have been carrying out.
    Thank you for this opportunity,

  2. Larry,
    I always enjoy your blog and the insights you share. Your book collaboration idea is brilliant You have asked 2 key questions here and though I have lots of ideas brewing, I will focus on the disruptive student question. One of the key disruptions I have had this year is with a student who likes to be the “class clown” He has a very difficult time not impulsively shouting out a comment that is often quite funny, but quite disruptive. I do love to have fun and laughter in my classroom, but often that one comments leads to a domino effect of off-task talking. With this student, and others like him who like to have the full attention of the class, I have been able to make a “deal”. If they can catch themselves and decrease the disruption, they can have a minute at the end of the day ( or just before lunch if that is too long for them to wait) to tell the class a quick joke. This strategy worked very well when I taught an after school homework club and had a kid who loved to do “stand-up” comedy. If he could focus on his work and not disrupt others he could earn his minute or two in the limelight at the end of our session. All the kids found him hilarious and loved it! I think it’s key that the strategies we use truly address the motivation and root of the disruptive behavior while utilizing student strengths in a positive way whenever possible.

  3. Wow…those are two big topics to start with. I too am going to focus on the disruptive student for now. To give some background, I am a middle school special education teacher who has survived the paperwork for 20+ years.

    My belief system is that, despite what they may say, students do not come to school with the intention of making my life miserable. if it is easy for them, and I build a relationship of mutual respect, students will do anything I ask. Building a sense of respect with disruptive students is HARD. They have a history of teachers not treating them with respect (and often times that history extends to the community and the home) and it takes some time to realize that any adult will actually treat them with respect. I find that it is especially important to be aware of this when the student is at their most difficult. Right when I want to rip out my hair, scream at the student, and send them to the office, is usually when that student needs my respect and understanding the most. Some tactics I have developed for myself over the years include: diffusing with a good sense of non-sarcastic humor, just stopping and counting to 10 or 20 in my head (and really, my classroom doesn’t explode while I do this…often just the opposite because it totally throws the students off), doing a quick sensory scan of the room to see if there is something visual or auditory that is increasing student behavior (buzzing/flickering flourescent lights are a big one for my students), if I am doing a group/up and out of your seat activity I may switch to a 10 min. calm in your seat simple worksheet and then go back to the whole group activity, give the student a balance pad to sit on/put under their feet if they are very physically active, approach the student to talk quietly to them all the while being very careful that I don’t literally back them into a corner while doing this, and if the student is being extremely defiant about a certain task I will stop and do a reality check with myself–is this task that important or am I initiating a power struggle over something minor.

    I always try to remember that sometimes I ask things that are really hard for the students to do and that is when I see disruptive behavior. The hard part is, the hardest part of the task for the student may not be the academics. For whatever reason (including mental illness, rough homelife, clutural background, or disability) even following simple directions or sitting in a seat may be REALLY hard for a child on any given day.

    This is one of my favorite topics and I could go on forever. I am much more of a behaviorist than you appear to be in your posts, but it works for me for several reasons. One, it helps me separate the student from the behavior and thus takes emotion out of the picture (usually We all have our days!). I am also constantly checking to see if the reinforcement that I am giving, wether positive or negative, is actually changing the behavior and if it is not than I change what I am doing. This is something I can control where as I can not control the student’s behavior. And when the behavior starts to increase (positive behaviors) or decrease (negative behaviors) I switch to more internal motivators as quickly as possible.

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