Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

February 17, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

WRITE Institute Unveils New Website



As I’ve often written in this blog
, and as my co-author Katie Hull and I have written in our ESL book, The WRITE Institute is a great writing curriculum to use with English Language Learners.

They have just unveiled a new website. I might be missing something, but their new site doesn’t seem to have the ability for teachers to purchase their individual units at $20 each (and they are well worth the price). It seems you still have to go to their old site to order them.

I’ll be looking forward to seeing what kind of resources they’ll be adding to their new home on the Web.

December 23, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELLs In 2014 – Part Two

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Another day, another  “The Best…” list…..

You might also be interested in:

The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELLs In 2014 – So Far

The “All-Time” Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of English Language Learners

The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELLs In 2013 – Part Two

The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELLs In 2013 – So Far

The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELL’s In 2012 — Part Two

The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELL’s In 2012 — Part One

The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELL’s In 2011 — Part Two

The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELL’s In 2011 — Part One

The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELL’s — 2010

The Best Sites For Teachers Of English Language Learners — 2009

Here are my choices for The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELL’s In 2014 – Part Two:

All My NY Times Posts For English Language Learners – Linked With Descriptions — there are three year’s worth, and there are many of them!

Language Travel Tips: How to Talk to Someone Who Doesn’t Speak Much English is from Slate, and could be a very helpful piece for ALL teachers to read.

Picture Word Inductive Model with Highschool Newcomers by Wendi Pillars is an exceptional step-by-step description of how to use one of my favorite ELL teaching strategies.

I’ve written A LOT about the advantages of inductive over deductive learning, and how I also use both in my classroom (You can see many posts here). The British Council shared a short post that Paul Kaye wrote six years ago that does a great job explaining the difference between inductive and deductive, and he provides a number of practical examples from the language-learning classroom. Check out his article, Presenting New Language.

Here’s an extensive list of excellent classroom activities from The British Council.

Literacy Through Photography for English-Language Learners is from Edutopia.

Unlocking Language for English-Learners is an excellent article at Education Week by Justin Minkel.

Teaching learning strategies to ELLs: What, why, when, how is an excellent article from Multi Briefs.

Making reading communicative is a very good post from The British Council.

Interview With People Behind The Most Popular English Language Learning & Teaching Sites In The World

Adam Simpson has also written an excellent three-part series on Socratic Circles.

Do you understand? is from TEFL Reflections.

Here’s a useful post from Ana Cristina on flipping an ESL class. I’m adding it to The Best Posts On The “Flipped Classroom” Idea.

Julie Goldman, the Coordinator of the great WRITE Institute that creates curriculum for English Language Learners, has written an excellent article on “Research-Based Writing Practices For English Language Learners,” which you can download for free here. I’m adding it to The Best Posts On Writing Instruction.

Lizzie Pinard – Course books in the language classroom: friend or foe? is from The British Council.

Core and Quirks has some intriguing ways to diagram verb tenses.

One of my Education Week posts brings together all my pieces posted there from the past three years on teaching English Language Learners — in one place!

Katherine Bilsborough – Taking the stress out of homework: 5 tips and 5 tasks is from The British Council.

To Get Fluent in a New Language, Think in Pictures is from The Wall Street Journal. It might be behind the Journal’s paywall. However, if you do an internet search for the headline and click on it from the search results, you’ll gain access to it. It’s a quirk in how The Journal handles its paywall.

The Disabled Access Friendly Site is for teachers of English Language Learners and “provides teachers with free teaching material that can be used in class, for projects or examination practice, but at the same time stimulates students to put themselves in the shoes of someone with a mobility disability, for a better understanding of their needs and feelings.”

Teaching Academic Content and Literacy to English Learners is a website collecting all the resources, including PowerPoints and materials, from a big conference on this topic in July, 2014.

Information gap activities: what does it take to design a successful task? is from A Different Side Of EFL. I’m adding it to The Best Online Resources For “Information Gap” Activities.

The Best Resources For Teaching Common Core Math To English Language Learners

I’ve been posting monthly at Teaching English-British Council on very practical issues related to teaching ELLs.

Getting The Least Motivated Students More Motivated By Working With The Most Motivated is a post about an activity that’s been working quite well in my class this year.

Video: My English Language Learners Did A “One-Sentence Project” explains a lesson I did just before winter break that resulted in this video:

The Best Resources For Teaching The Next Generation Science Standards To English Language Learners

Here’s a video of a simple activity my Beginning ELL students did to learn to tell time in English. They created a poster explaining their daily schedule and then explained to the class and on video. You can see more examples at our class blog.

The Best Fun Videos For English Language Learners In 2014 – Part Two

I learned about the free Shadow Puppet Edu (what appears to be a premium version of the more commercial Shadow Puppet app) through an article in  ASCD Educational Leadership, and am very, very impressed. It has a bunch of bells and whistles that I haven’t even explored yet but, at its core, it’s an iPhone/iPad app that lets you pick photos and super-easily (and I do mean easily) lets you add audio narration to each photo and create a slideshow.

The Best Places To Get The “Same” Text Written For Different “Levels”

Jimmy Fallon from The Tonight Show keeps on playing new games that are perfect for the language-learning classroom, and I’ve posted about quite a few of them.

Oh, Boy, This Is Great! Researcher’s Scans Show Brain Connections Growing When Learning New Language

Quote Of The Day: “Traditional grammar instruction isn’t effective. Period.”

Here’s A New Reading Activity I Tried Out Today That Went Pretty Well…

Video: Here Is How I Used The Shadow Puppet App Today To Teach Verb Tenses

Here Are Forms My Students Are Using To Evaluate Themselves & Me

A Simple Lesson On Climate Change For English Language Learners

My extraordinarily talented teacher colleague at our high school, Dana Dusbiber, along with the extraordinarily talented bilingual aide Alma Avalos, teach a class of adult English Language Learners once-a-week at our school in the evening. With support from the University of California at Davis, their students have published a “must-read” book that I’m sure will be a model for ESL classes around the country and the world. And the University has made it available free! You can download an eBook version here.  The stories in it are so moving and so well-written. You couldn’t ask for more engaging, and better-written, models for student-writing.

Dreamreader is a new reading site for English Language Learners created by Neil Millington, an English teacher in Japan.

Here’s how he describes it:

There are 25 lessons on the site right now and they cover a variety of topics. I’ll be updating with more free lessons on a regular basis, and by the end of the year I intend to have over 50 free readings on the site. Teachers can have their students read the articles online and do the quizzes or, if they want to use them in their class, they can just download the PDFs and print/copy them. There are also downloadable vocabulary worksheet PDFs that students can use for vocabulary study. The lessons are all graded across a wide range of levels (from beginner through to advanced) and I’ve done my best to develop them by using academic-based criteria (JACET 8000, Flesch Kincaid, etc.) and testing them out with EFL learners. I am planning on adding feedback videos to the site too, and hopefully they will be up and ready next month. I hope that students and teachers will find the site useful.

I’m quite impressed with what he’s done, and I suspect you will be, too….

The Atlantic has published some great pictures at “A Visual History of Kids Being Unimpressed with President Obama.” They’d be perfect to use with English Language Learners to have them talk and write about them.

FluencyTutor For Google is a web app only usable with a Chrome browser that provides a large selection of leveled reading passages that students can read, record, and store on Google Drive. Teachers can then listen at their convenience and correct and note students’ reading fluency. The reading passages provide quite a few supportive features that make them particularly accessible to English Language Learners.

Most of the features are free, but teachers have to pay $99 per year for some “dashboard” services like tracking student progress.

If I was teaching an online class of motivated adult English Language Learners, I could see FluencyTutor’s whole package as an excellent tool.

However, I definitely wouldn’t recommend a classroom teacher using it as a way to track a readers’ progress. I have the same concerns about using it for that as I have about Literably, a web tool in the same vein — having students read to us is as much about building the relationship (if not more so) than getting the data.

On the other hand, though, a site like FluencyTutor could be a super tool for students to practice on their own and compare their reading progress during a school year. It’s less about them tracking exactly how many words they read each minute and more about them seeing how their reading prosody — expressiveness, smoothness — improves. Just having the free features should be enough for accomplishing that goal.

Readers might be interested in three class blogs I maintain for English Language Learners:

English and Geography

United States History

World History

October 3, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Around The Web In ESL/EFL/ELL

I’ve started a somewhat regular feature where I share a few posts and resources from around the Web related to ESL/EFL or to language in general that have caught my attention:

Julie Goldman, the Coordinator of the great WRITE Institute that creates curriculum for English Language Learners, has written an excellent article on “Research-Based Writing Practices For English Language Learners,” which you can download for free here. I’m adding it to The Best Posts On Writing Instruction.

Socratic Circles and the Common Core: Part I is from Colorin Colorado. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About Common Core Standards & English Language Learners.

College Essay Tips for English Language Learners is from U.S. News.

GameLingua has some nice…games for English Language Learners.

Learning language through cookery and technology sounds a little odd, but interesting. It’s from Science Daily.

Take A New Test Aimed At The World’s English-Language Learners is from NPR. This field seems to be getting a bit crowded lately.

Being Bilingual Makes You Better at Non-Linguistic Tasks is from The Harvard Business Review. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning The Advantages To Being Bilingual Or Multilingual.

National Geographic Learning and TED Partner to Inspire English Language Learners is a press release from National Geographic. I’m adding it to The Best Teacher Resources For “TED Talks” (& Similar Presentations).

English-Language Learners: California Districts Beating the Odds is from Education Week.

Making Immigrant Students and English-Learners Feel Welcome in School is from Education Week.

Repeal of Bilingual Education to Go Before California Voters is also from Education Week.

3 great games for verb tense review is by Adam Simpson. I’m adding it to The Best Ideas For Using Games In The ESL/EFL/ELL Classroom.

Here’s an excellent infographic for teaching the progressive tense. And here’s one for perfect tenses. I’m adding them to The Best Web Tools For Teaching Irregular Verbs & Verb Tenses — Contribute Your Suggestions!

Teaching Academic Listening (and transferral to the General English classroom!) is by Lizzie Pinard. I’m adding it to The Best Websites For Developing Academic English Skills & Vocabulary.

June 13, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

The Best Posts On Writing Instruction

'saturated writing' photo (c) 2007, Eduardo - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

I’ve published a number of posts on writing instruction, and thought I’d bring them all together into one “The Best” list.

I’ve previously posted tons of lists sharing sites that are useful in writing instruction, but none collecting posts I’ve written about what to actually do in the classroom.

Before I get to those posts, though, here are the website lists:

The Best Websites For K-12 Writing Instruction/Reinforcement
The Best Places Where Students Can Write Online
The Best Sites For Grammar Practice
Not “The Best,” But “A List” Of Mindmapping, Flow Chart Tools, & Graphic Organizers
The Best Resources For Researching & Writing Biographies
The Best Resources For Learning How To Write Response To Literature Essays
The Best Places Where Students Can Write For An “Authentic Audience”
The Best Places Where Students Can Create Online Learning/Teaching Objects For An “Authentic Audience”
The Best Places To Read & Write “Choose Your Own Adventure” Stories
The Best Sites To Learn About Advertising
The Best Websites For Developing Academic English Skills & Vocabulary
The Best Online Interactive Exercises For Writing That Are Not Related To Literary Analysis
The Best Online Resources To Teach About Plagiarism
The Best Resources For Learning Research & Citation Skills
The Best Sites For Students To Create & Participate In Online Debates
The Best Online Resources For Helping Students Learn To Write Persuasive Essays
The Best Spelling Sites
The Best Sites For Gaining A Basic Understanding Of Adjectives
The “Best” Sites For Helping Students Write Autobiographical Incident Essays
The Best Sites To Learn “Feelings” Words
The Best Sites For ELL’s To Learn About Punctuation
The Best Resources To Help Students Write Research Essays
The Best Sites For Learning To Write A Story
The Best Writing Advice From Famous Authors
The Best Resources On Punctuation
The Best Resources On Getting Student Writers To “Buy-Into” Revision – Help Me Find More

The Best Sites For Collaborative Storytelling

The Best Online Tools That Can Help Students Write An Essay

And, now, here are my writing instruction posts:

I published a four-part series on teaching writing over at my Education Week blog. Here’s a link to the final post in that series — it contains links to the previous three, too.

My Revised Final Exams (And An Important Lesson)

Five ways to get kids to want to read and write

“Instead of seeing students as Far Below Basic or Advanced, we see them as learners” is a guest post written by my colleague Lara Hoekstra.

More Mount Everest Resources, Including Prompt We’re Using As Part Of Our “Final”

Writing Prompts — Feel Free To Contribute Your Own!

Rwanda Lesson & Writing Prompt

Here’s The “Growth Mindset” Article & Prompt We’re Using As Part Of Our Semester Final

“Point, Quote, Connect”

Helping Students Write Essays

Student Writing & Metacognition

My Student Handout For Simple Journal-Writing

New Study Says That Half Of “Evidence-Based Practices” In Writing Instruction Not “Signaled” By Common Core

I’ve posted a collection of all my Education Week Teacher posts on teaching reading and writing. It includes contributions from lots of great educators.

Student-Created Prompts As A Differentiation Strategy

Here’s What I’m Having My ELL Geography Students Do As Their Semester “Final”

Here’s What I’m Having My ELL U.S. History Students Do As Their Semester “Final”

Here’s What My IB Theory Of Knowledge Students Are Doing For Their Semester “Final”

Writing Prompt For “The Long March”

Quote Of The Day: “We Must Always Take Sides”

Helping Students Respond To Writing Prompts

Video (& Writing Prompt): “A failure isn’t a failure if it prepares you for success tomorrow”

Excellent (& I Mean EXCELLENT!) Post On Asking Questions

This Is Exactly What I Mean By Connecting Social Emotional Learning & Literacy Instruction….

Another Good Writing Prompt: Reconciliation

Here’s The Writing Prompt I’m Using For My Geography Class

New Writing Prompt For My U.S. History Class

Here’s The Writing Prompt I’m Using As Part Of My Final For Ninth-Grade English

John Lewis: “You Must Find A Way To Get In Trouble”

Two Good Videos On How We Learn & How I Plan To Use Them In Class

“Personal Writing Based on The Times’s Sunday Routine Series” Is A Nice Idea From The Learning Network

Our School’s Writing Assessment For Some Students With Special Needs

Julie Goldman, the Coordinator of the great WRITE Institute that creates curriculum for English Language Learners, has written an excellent article on “Research-Based Writing Practices For English Language Learners,” which you can download for free here.

Quote Of The Day: “Traditional grammar instruction isn’t effective. Period.”

Quote Of The Day: “When Will I Ever Use This?” (& How I’ll Use It In Class)

500 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing is from The New York Times Learning Network.

Two New Good Writing Prompts For My Students

How to celebrate students’ writing is from Ray Salazar.

Simple Writing Prompt On California Gold Rush

With The Appropriate Background Knowledge, This Could Be A Good MLK Writing Prompt

Micro Writing: Writing to learn in ESL is from ELT Connect.

Here’s The Writing Prompt I’m Using With “Smartphones Don’t Make Us Dumb”

The Teacher Tip: Don’t Fix the Story. Just Listen. is by Barry Lane.

Rachael Roberts – Motivating students to write is from The British Council.

Learning to Write Like a Reader: Teaching Students How to Edit and Do Peer-Review is from Teaching Learning/Learning Teacher.

301 Prompts for Argumentative Writing is from The New York Times Learning Network.

Great Article On “Being The Best At Anything” & How I’m Using It In Class

Excellent Review Of Writing Instruction Research

Constructive Peer Editing: Free Handout Included! is by Emily Guthrie. She shares such an obvious and easy improvement on typical peer-editing, you might feel as dumb as I did for not thinking about it before (that is, if you haven’t).

Supporting Good Writing Instruction is from The National Writing Project.

Is “Draftback” A Cool Toy You’ll Use Once Or Potentially An Effective Tool For Teaching Writing?

“Writing Challenge For Kids” Could Be A Nice Change-Of-Pace For Students

Quote Of The Day: “Teaching Doubt” (& How I’m Going To Use It In Class)

Mindshift, the popular KQED blog, has published an excerpt from one of my books they’ve titled What Motivates A Student’s Interest in Reading and Writing.

Important Video & Article On Double-Standard Of Making “government beneficiaries prove themselves worthy”

Simple ELL Writing Assignment On Imperialism

Two Good Pieces Of Simple Writing Advice For Students – Share Your Own

Here Are Some Examples Of Using “Concept Attainment” In Writing Instruction

Concise and Precise Micro-writing is from Alex Quigley, and offers some very good suggestions.

This Is The Geography “Final” For My ELL Students

Adventures with gallery critique is by Andy Tharby.

Modelling Writing and Rich Tea or Hob Nob? from Class Teaching both make great points and offer suggestions about the role of teacher modeling in writing instruction.

Quote Of The Day: Junot Díaz Explains What Often Happens When We Confront Our Fears Getting Student Writers To “Buy-Into” Revision Nine Ways to Help Students Embrace the Revision Process is by John Spencer. “They Say, I Say” Is A Great Writing Resource

Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High Schools is a very useful report suggested to me by reader Marie.

Feel free to offer links to your best posts (or pieces that others have written) on teaching writing….

December 11, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

New Common Core Unit Plan On Persuasive Writing

Stanford’s Understanding Language has produced a free five-lesson unit plan for English Language Learners on persuasive writing called Persuasion Across Time and Space: Analyzing and Producing Persuasive Texts.

I only quickly reviewed it, and it seems to have some nice materials and activities. They say it’s for an intermediate ELL level middle school class. It seems fairly high level in terms of the language and intellectual requirements, so I’d suggest it would work well if you had a class composed entirely of high intermediates. If you had a wide range of language levels, though, I’d question how realistic it would be to realistically differentiate the lesson elements language-wise.

That’s one of the reasons our school uses, as do many others, units from The Write Institute — they’re engaging and easier to differentiate in the kind of ELL classes that I think you’ll find in many schools, ones that have a wide-range of language levels.

That said, though, I’ll still certainly including and adapting part of the Understanding Language unit into my lessons.

Thanks to Common Core and ELLs, the blog sponsored by Colorin Colorado, for the information.

I’m adding this info to The Best Resources For Learning About Common Core Standards & English Language Learners.

July 8, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

This Week’s “Links I Should Have Posted About, But Didn’t”

I have a huge backlog of resources that I’ve been planning to post about in this blog but, just because of time constraints, have not gotten around to doing. Instead of letting that backlog grow bigger, I regularly grab a few and list them here with a minimal description. It forces me to look through these older links, and help me organize them for my own use. I hope others will find them helpful, too. These are resources that I didn’t include in my “Best Tweets” feature because I had planned to post about them, or because I didn’t even get around to sending a tweet sharing them.

Here are This Week’s “Links I Should Have Posted About, But Didn’t”:

5 Things to Consider Before Self-Publishing Your Book is from Mashable. I’m adding it to So, You Want To Write A Book? Here’s The Best Advice…

The WRITE Institute has a great free unit on Cesar Chavez. I’m adding it to
The Best Sites For Learning About Cesar Chavez.

The 30 Most Popular Passwords Stolen From LinkedIn [INFOGRAPHIC] is from Mashable. I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Learning Online Safety.

I’m adding this video to The Best Sites For Learning About Mount Everest:

A Sherpa’s View of the Mount Everest Traffic Jam is from The New York Times. I’m adding it to the same list.

How to Identify Mysterious Images Online is from MindShift. I’m adding it to both The Best Resources To Learn About Copyright Issues and to The Best Online Sources For Images.

The American TESOL Institute has free Friday Webinars. I’m adding it to The Best Places For ESL/EFL/ELL Teachers To Get Online Professional Development.

The 10 Things Economics Can Tell Us About Happiness is from The Atlantic. I’m adding it to The Best Sites To Learn About…Happiness?

Are We in the Midst Of a Sixth Mass Extinction? is a New York Times graphic. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For World Biodiversity Day (& Endangered Species Day).

More Young Americans Out of High School Are Also Out of Work
is from The New York Times. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Showing Students Why They Should Continue Their Academic Career.

Interactive: World nuclear club is from Al Jazeera. I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Learning About Nuclear Weapons.

The Cool School Game is a quasi-“Choose Your Own Adventure” series of games designed to help children learn social emotional skills. I”m adding it to The Best Places To Read & Write “Choose Your Own Adventure” Stories.

Here are some other regular features I post in this blog:

“The Best…” series (which now number over 900)

Best Tweets of The Month

The most popular posts on this blog each month

My monthly choices for the best posts on this blog each month

Each month I do an “Interview Of The Month” with a leader in education

Periodically, I post “A Look Back” highlighting older posts that I think are particularly useful

The ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival

Resources that share various “most popular” lists useful to teachers

Interviews with ESL/EFL teachers in “hot spots” around the world.

Articles I’ve written for other publications.

Photo Galleries Of The Week

Research Studies Of The Week

Regular “round-ups” of good posts and articles about school reform

This Week In Web 2.0

Around the Web In ESL/EFL/ELL

September 21, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Research Studies Of The Week

I often write about research studies from various field and how they can be applied to the classroom. I write individual posts about ones that I think are especially significant, and will continue to do so. However, so many studies are published that it’s hard to keep up. So I’ve started writing a “round-up” of some of them each week or every other week as a regular feature:

Stephen Krashen writes in Language Magazine about new research on the importance of reading aloud to students. Check out his article, Reach Out and Read (Aloud).

The WRITE Institute has a collection of useful research teaching English Language Learners. I’m adding it to The Best Ways To Keep-Up With Current ELL/ESL/EFL News & Research.

Judy Willis shares some great research on learning and the brain in hand-outs from her recent ASCD Webinar.

A new study reinforces the strategy that many of use in the classroom to help students develop self-control: “partition the quantity of resources to be consumed into smaller units.” In other words, asking a student, for example, to see if he/she could focus on class work for the next ten minutes and then, the next day, try for twenty, etc. I’m adding this information to My Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control.

High Self-Control Predicts Good Adjustment, Less Pathology, Better Grades, and Interpersonal Success
is another study I’m adding to that list.

August 24, 2010
by Larry Ferlazzo
3 Comments

I’m In A Great Training This Week — Here Are Some Things I’m Learning….

As I’ve mentioned before, our school has been working very closely with Jayne Marlink from the California Writing Project over the past two years. She has been working with all of our English teachers to help us become better teachers of writing.

This week, Jayne, along with other teachers from our school, has been leading a training for all of our English teachers, and it’s been going quite well. Since over half of our student body are English Language Learners, we’ve been spending a lot of the time discussing working with ELL’s.

Yesterday, we reviewed a recent report titled Reparable Harm: Fulfilling The Unkept Promise Of Educational Opportunity For California’s Long Term English Learners. This is a major issue across the country, in California, and in our school. By “long-term” ELL’s, the report means students who have been in U.S. schools for more than six years without reaching English proficiency. In California, 59% of secondary ELL’s are in this category.

It’s an interesting report, well-worth reading. There are a lot of instructional “take-aways” in it, but out of our discussion I had one major realization that got me kicking myself big-time.

I spend a lot of emphasis on students setting goals (see My Best Posts On Students Setting Goals). In that context, we talk a little about career goals, but primarily the focus is on more immediate ones during the course of the school year. In that context, I’m kicking myself for not sitting down with the long-term ELL’s in both my Intermediate English and mainstream classes and having individual frank discussions with them about their hopes and dreams for the future, how those might be negatively impacted by being labeled a long-term ELL (including, but not limited to, restricting the kinds of classes they can take, which in turn will limit their college options, which in turn will limit their career options), and then helping them develop a clear plan on what they can do about it individually and what we can do about it together.

I know if I had done that, the vast majority of them — if not all of them — would have responded very positively. I think many of my colleagues came to similar realizations, and I’m confident things are going to be different in the future.

Today, we talked a lot about teaching writing to ELL’s. A great source of material — not only for ELL’s but for mainstream students, as well — are free Writing Assessment Handbooks that can be downloaded at The California Writing Project website. It’s a great resource for all sorts of writing resources. I particularly like them for their examples of student writing.

I’m going to add that link to The Best Websites For K-12 Writing Instruction/Reinforcement.

We also discussed Robert B. Kaplan’s “Cultural Thought Patterns In Intercultural Education” (go to second page) and how they can be applied to teaching writing to ELL’s. Many readers of this blog might be familiar with his research, but I’m embarrassed to say that very few of us at the training were. Based on his teaching and his research, he identified several “rhetorical and syntactic features that occur” in different cultures. By knowing them (and he developed some fairly well-known simple diagrams that you can see in that link), it can provide us another kind of lens through which to see ELL writing.

I know there are lot of critiques of Kaplan’s categories. I figure it’s just another “diagnostic” tool we can use as we review our student writing. For me, because of what I learned today, I’ll have more patience as it helps me more clearly see that some of my student’s writing isn’t “bad” or “wrong.” Instead, it might just be reflective of their cultural orientation. I can acknowledge it and respect it, and I can also tell them that often within the academic culture and style of the United States, it may not get them to where they want to go, and then help them see what they need to do differently.

In many ways, it reminds me of the on-going discussion in community organizing groups about the use of language in meetings and negotiations. Yes, we want to respect and value native languages, and provide some translation. But the bottom line is that in the U.S. English is the language of power, and if people want to get their fair share of power — in the context of practical U.S. political life — they will need to learn English.

Once they get that power, then they can be less concerned about what language they want to speak. The same goes for ELL writing — for now, rightly or wrongly, students  need to write more in the expected U.S. academic style (though, just as we provide some translation in organizing, we can provide a little space for writing flexibility). But afterwards, they can join writers like Sandra Cisneros and others in writing in whatever style they want.

I’d love to hear other people’s perspectives on all this. Feel free to leave a comment.

I’ll probably write another post later in the week to recap the next few days. We’ll be spending a lot of time on the WRITE Institute next.

This kind of quality professional development is so important.  Teachers said they wanted it, helped plan it, the agenda is flexible according to our needs, and we’re getting paid to attend it.   It’s unfortunate that, based on what I hear, many teachers can’t say the same about the PD activities offered in their districts and schools.