Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

February 2, 2010
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Interview Of The Month: Marvin Marshall On Positive Classroom Management

Regular readers know that in the fall I began a new feature called “Interview of The Month” where I interviewed various people in the education world about whom I wanted to learn more. You can see read those interviews here.

This month, my guest is Marvin Marshall, author of the influential education book “Discipline Without Stress, Punishment or Rewards” and the newer book “Parenting Without Stress.”

I’ve often quoted Marvin in this blog. His ideas on positive classroom management have been a huge influence on my classroom practice. I’d strongly encourage people to subscribe to his blog, How To Promote Responsiblity & Learning.

Here’s our interview:

You’ve been advocating for a more positive approach towards classroom management for quite awhile. What got you thinking about it originally, and how would you summarize it in a few sentences?

We now know how the brain operates as it relates to emotions. First come the cognition (input from our senses) and is immediately connected to the senses. For example, receive a compliment and you feel good. Be criticized and you feel bad. People do NOT do good when they feel bad. They do what you would like them to do when you communicate in positive terms. It is really quite simple: Let people know what you WOULD LIKE them to do, not want you do not want them to do.

What might be three key guidelines that a teacher could keep in mind, or on a small index card, to help remind him/her to stay more positive in the classroom?

1. Ask yourself, if the person hearing your communication will interpret what you say in positive terms.

2. Ask yourself, “Will the person feel as if I am using coercion in any way?”

3. Ask yourself, “What can I ask so that the person will feel that I am I am giving a choice and that I am prompting the person to reflect?

What are a few ways you think your perspective on positive classroom management distinguishes itself from many of the other “systems” that are out there?

I have a number of them that are listed here.

However, if I were to limit them to two, here they are:

1. I don’t relay on rules. Rules are used to control, not inspire. I use the term “Responsibilities” because I want to promote responsibility and this term raises expectations–something that relying on “rules” lacks.

2. Imposing punishments–especially imposing the same consequence on all parties–is unfair and counterproductive. ELICITING a procedure or a consequence from each participant is more fair, less stressful, and more productive for all.

You’ve done a fair amount of speaking to teachers in other countries. How would you describe the differences — if any — between how teachers in the U.S. tend to look at classroom management compared to those around the world?

Teachers in many other countries have more time to spend with each other in lesson planning. As a result, they focus on motivation and ways to have students WANT to put in effort in learning. Teachers in the U.S. are allowed little if any of their employment time (as are college professors) to plan lessons. They focus on what they (or the government) want to be taught and focus on teaching that curriculum–with hardly any time devoted to motivation. Teachers just expect that it is the students’ responsibility to learn what has been presented to them.

What are a few key mistakes do you think teachers tend to make around classroom management?

1. They ASSUME students know what the teacher wants the students to do WITHOUT first modeling, practicing, and reinforcing the procedure to do what is being taught.

2. They confuse classroom management (teaching procedures to make instruction efficient) and discipline (how students behave.)

3. They assume that discipline is naturally negative. It’s not. The best discipline is the type that the person doesn’t even realize that the person is being disciplined.

What are some of the most useful things you’ve learned recently, and how did you learn them?

1. That coercion in any form is counterproductive.

2. That any one can learn the skill of asking reflective question that inspire self-reflection.

Is there anything else you’d like to share that I haven’t asked you about?

Understand that no one can change another person. People change themselves. And that the least effective way to have a person want to change is by using commonly-used approaches such as relying on rules and using coercion.

You can purchase Marvin’s books here and also learn of how schools can obtain free copies, a resource guide, and a DVD.

April 12, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Options, Options, Options….

I’ve previously posted about Marvin Marshall’s great advice about always providing three options to students in a classroom management situation. As I said then, usually, when teachers only give students two options, it’s often clearly one very bad one and one that the teacher obviously wants done. In that kind of situation, it’s not really giving them a choice they can “own.”

Marvin has now published a bit more on this topic at his blog. Check out Options and Discipline.

I asked him if he could elaborate a bit more on his reasoning, and he sent me this:

When dealing with young people, the advantage of giving three (3) options is that it reduces all coercion. This is especially the case with “passive-aggressive” or “oppositional-defiant” kids. These young people often get their “power” by resisting. When three options are in play, resistance disappears. So often these kids are prompted by “counterwill”–the natural human tendency to resist control of any kind.

The conversation goes like, “Would you rather complete the form by yourself, with someone to help you, or what would you suggest?” Usually, I would give two options and then say, “Or what would you suggest?”

The point is that with so many people, offering two (2) choices is still coercive. Offering three choices–especially if it is elicited from the student–significantly reduces the feeling of being coerced or controlled.

By the way, Marvin, who’s one of the best thinkers about positive classroom management strategies out there, has created an online course on his system. It’s a low-cost way to learn a lot, and he’s offering half-price until April 30th.

March 31, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Second Quote Of The Day: Competition vs. Collaboration

I’ve written a lot about Marvin Marshall and his work on positive classroom management strategies.

His post this morning, Using Perks as Motivators, is another good one and worth reading.

Here’s an excerpt:


I think his point is connected to “Learning Goals” versus “Performance Goals.”

I’m adding this post to The Best Posts & Articles On “Motivating” Students.

March 14, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Classroom Instruction Resources Of The Week

Each week, I publish a post containing three or four particularly useful resources on classroom instruction, and you can see them all here.

You might also be interested in The Best Articles (And Blog Posts) Offering Practical Advice & Resources To Teachers In 2014 – Part Two.

Here are this week’s picks:

Marvin Marshall offers good advice on handling interruptions in the classroom. I’m adding it to The Best Posts On Classroom Management.

I don’t agree with Doug Lemov on all things, but this lengthy Guardian feature on his work, The revolution that could change the way your child is taught, is worth a read by all teachers. He’s collected the videos referenced in the article here.

I’m adding this tweet to The Best Resources On “Close Reading” — Help Me Find More:

March 12, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Here’s A New Strategy I’m Trying To Help Students Develop Intrinsic Motivation


Image by Marilyn Judson, modified from Rex Norton’s tweet here, which came from Zero Dean

It’s that time of the year — standardized tests,  students are tired, teachers are tired.

At the same time,  relationships are solidified and teachers probably have a pretty good idea of student potential compared/contrasted with actual student performance.

I figured it was time to do something different in my Intermediate English Language Learner class.

I recently read a blog post by Doug Lemov where he suggests posting a Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 rubric (of a sort) on a classroom wall — with examples — for students to use when looking for evidence in a text.   In some ways, it reminded me of Marvin Marshall’s Raise Responsibility discipline system.

Both ideas, though good (I’ve learned a lot from Marvin Marshall, in particular), didn’t completely resonate with me —  they seemed either too teacher-driven or too complicated for my taste.

So, here’s what I’ve done over the past couple of days — and it seems to be working well (but we’ll see how it works as time progresses).

I wanted something very simple, more student-driven, and built on intrinsic motivation.

I first decided on Two levels — level one, which is getting by with what students are doing now; level two, stretching themselves to a higher level.   It’s a good class, with bright and relatively-engaged students.  However, except for a couple of exceptions, most lean towards Level One — in other words, they will generally do a decent job at most things, but will seldom go beyond that without extreme encouragement.

I wrote the number “1” on a piece of paper, and “2” on another, and then proceeded to have a series of individual or small group meetings (mainly individual) with all the students.

These short conversations — and they were genuine two-way conversations – – typically followed this agenda:

  1. I revisited what they had told me in the past about their hopes for their future (advanced high school classes, college, career, stay in the U.S., etc. )to see if there had been any changes.
  1. We discussed their age, how many more years they could stay in high school, the challenges of learning another language and, particular, academic English, and how long that could take. And how important it will be for them to acquire the language in order to realize their dreams.
  1. I told each student they were very intelligent and gave specific examples of things they had done that made me believe it.  I told each of them they would obviously get a very good grade in the class if they continued to do what they had been doing.  However,  they’ve got a lot of ground to cover in a short period of time here in high school, and I wasn’t sure if just doing what they had been doing was really going to get them where they wanted to be ( one big challenge is that California has an unfair high school exit exam, which is being administered next week and is very difficult for ELLs to pass).
  1. I introduced the idea of Level One and Level Two, holding up each sheet. I explained that Level One was what they had been doing, and re-emphasized that they were doing fine. I then explained that Level Two would be stretching themselves —  not necessarily having to spend more time doing classwork, but working harder and thinking harder during the same amount of time.  For example,  showing more self-control;  not just picking easy books to read; if they got done early with an assignment, asking for more work and/or helping others.   I then asked each student to share other ideas of what they thought might be “Level Two” for them, and each came up with great ideas that were particularly relevant to challenges they specifically faced.
  1. I then told them it was up to them about what Level they wanted to choose – they should think about it and let me know. I said that I would not hold it against them if they wanted to stay on Level One most of the time. I did say that I planned to begin to regularly ask students to reflect on what Level they had been exhibiting, how, and why.

Later that day, all the students told me they wanted to be more on Level Two and, at least for the first two days, they all have demonstrated seriousness in doing just that.  At the end of today, I asked them to write if they had been more of a Level Two or a Level One and, if it was Level Two, give at least one supporting example.  Students shared, and I’m going to start keeping a public list of those examples (I’m thinking that we’ll do that kind of reflection a couple of times each week).

My mother-in-law has modified a saying that I recently saw on Twitter and made a sign (see the top of this post) that I’ll be putting up tomorrow that should reinforce these changes.  I’ve also begun calling their families to let them know that their child/ward has decided he/she wants to go beyond what they had been doing (so far, that has generated a very positive response from student and family alike)

We’ll see how it goes.   I figure this can’t hurt, should be sustainable for a while, at least, and might have some long-term positive results.

I’ll keep readers posted.  Reactions and suggestions to improve it to increase student reflection and intrinsic motivation are appreciated….

I’m adding this post to The Best Posts & Articles On “Motivating” Students.

And, if you’re interested in other ideas on how to help students motivate themselves, the third book in my student motivation series will be published later this month, with excerpts appearing in various publications next week. I’ll also be sharing quotations from it on Twitter over the next few days.

February 5, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Quote Of The Day: “Self-Reflection & Effectiveness”

I’ve quoted positive classroom management educator and author Marvin Marshall a lot over the years.

Here’s a quote from his latest post, titled Self-Reflection and Effectiveness:


I’m adding this post to The Best Resources On Student & Teacher Reflection.

September 29, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Excellent List Of Eleven “Classroom Discipline Mistakes”

Marvin Marshall, a great writer on positive classroom management, has published an excellent list of eleven “Classroom Discipline Mistakes.”

You definitely want to read them all, but here are his first three:


Teachers become stressed by reacting to inappropriate behavior. It is far more effective to employ a proactive approach to inspire students to want to behave responsibly and then use a non-adversarial response when they don’t.


Rules are meant to control—not inspire. Rules are necessary in games; however, when used between people, rules create adversarial relationships. Relying on rules is a major contributor to the punishment culture in many schools today. The reason simple: If a student violates a rule, the teacher automatically moves into an enforcement mode. A mindset of rules leads to a punishment mindset, whereas a mindset of procedures promotes a coaching approach that inspires responsible behavior through expectations and reflection. View the effect of relying on rules


Obedience does not create desire. A more effective approach is to promote responsibility; obedience then follows as a natural by-product.

I’m adding his post to The Best Posts On Classroom Management.

August 7, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Good Classroom Management Advice: “The Person Who Asks The Questions Controls The Conversation”

If a student an I are having a bad day — a fortunately rare coincidence, but one that nevertheless still happens — sometimes our conversation can denigrate into one that is not helpful to anyone.

Marvin Marshall, who writes a lot about positive classroom management techniques, offers some good advice in that situation:

The Person Who Asks The Questions Controls The Conversation

In other words, if the conversation is going south, asking a question could be one way to get it on track again — “What do you think we should do about this situation?”; “What do you think would help fix this problem?”; “How is what is happening now contributing to any goal you have for the future?”; “How could we deal with this situation in a way that would help you achieve a goal you want for the future?”

Obviously, students can offer retorts that are not constructive to any of those questions, too, but the strategy is worth keeping in mind.

As is other advice Marvin has offered, which I think is the best classroom management guidance I’ve ever heard:

Will what I am about to do or say bring me closer or will it push me away farther from the person with whom I am communicating?

Do you have any good one-sentence classroom management advice that’s good and easy for teachers to remember?

I’m adding this post to The Best Posts On Classroom Management.