Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

July 20, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo

Interview Of The Month — Bill Ferriter

As regular readers know, each month I interview people in the education world about whom I want to learn more. You can see read those past interviews here.

Today, I’m publishing August’s “Interview Of The Month” a few days early. Bill Ferriter, teacher, blogger, author, and a member of the Teacher Leaders Network has agreed to answer a few questions.

Why did you choose to be a teacher?

Choosing to be a teacher, I think, was easy.  I knew that I wanted to make a difference and no profession provides change agents with more opportunities to be influential than education.

I mean, we have the chance to change lives.

That’s powerful stuff, isn’t it?

Knowing that each morning brings new chances to have a positive impact on the students in my classroom is pretty awesome—and while I don’t always get things right, I’m doing my best to matter.

What has motivated you to do so much writing on education issues?

I’m a firm believer, Larry, that the closer one is to the classroom, the more they understand about what works in schools.

The sad reality, though, is that the closer one is to the classroom, the less influence they have over the policies that govern our buildings.

That’s a function of our traditional educational structures.  Teachers, in our thinking, are only working when they are in front of a room of students.

When you’re in front of students every day, though, there is little time to play any kind of role in important conversations about what should be happening in our classrooms.

We’re left with groups of people who know little about the reality of teaching and learning making the most important decisions about the direction our schools should take.

How sick is that?

Writing—particularly blogging—became a tool for me to elbow my way into those important conversations.

I don’t need anyone’s permission to share what I know about teaching and learning anymore.  More importantly, I don’t need any release time from the classroom to get involved.

Every time I sit down behind the keyboard, I can be influential.  I can shape thinking.  I can be heard—and as long as I can hook a few regular readers, I might just be making a difference.

Need proof?

I bumped into a member of our state board of education a few years back.  She sought me out at a function and said, “I’m reading your blog, Bill.  The name scares me, but I’m listening.”

How cool is that?

Can you give a brief overview of each of your three books?

My books are extensions of each of my personal passions—professional learning communities, teaching with technology, and using social media to communicate and connect.

Building a Professional Learning Community at Work is designed to be a practical guide that schools can use to structure their first steps with PLCs.

It includes dozens of handouts that can be used by learning teams to overcome the most common barriers to effective collaboration—and it was recognized as Learning Forward’s 2010 Staff Development Book of the Year.

Teaching the iGeneration is essentially my efforts to document everything I know about good teaching in the 21st Century.

I start by introducing readers to the changing nature of today’s learners.  Then, I try to show readers how to build bridges between what we know about good teaching and what our students know about new digital tools.

Each chapter focuses on an essential skill—managing information, collaborating, communicating, persuading—that teachers will be comfortable with already.  Then, I give practical examples of how I use digital tools to make those skills more effective and efficient for today’s learners.

It’s chock-a-block full of handouts too!

My third book—Communicating and Connecting with Social Media—is an attempt to show school leaders several positive ways that social media tools like Facebook and Twitter can be used to improve their work.

Specifically, we try to show principals how to use social media tools to reach out to their communities, to improve their own learning and to improve the learning of their faculties.

We intentionally avoid introducing strategies for teaching with social media simply because teaching with social media is still a controversial practice in most communities.

We believe, however, that as educators begin to embrace social media spaces as sources for personal learning, they’ll naturally look for safe ways to introduce those same spaces and practices into their classrooms.

What do you think are three key questions teachers should consider asking their principal and/or tech staff person to get them thinking about using ed tech more effectively?

Great question, Larry—and I love that there is an assumption that we should be asking questions about our ed tech choices at all!

Sadly, that lack of systematic thinking often ends up in schools that spend thousands of dollars on tools that do little to change learning in a meaningful way.

Need proof?  Check out this piece about a principal that dropped $18,000 on 6 Interactive Whiteboards.


The most effective schools think about quality instruction first and then work to find the tools—and make the purchases—that advance quality instruction.

These three questions can help to keep an instruction-first perspective at the forefront of any school’s ed tech thinking:

1. What does our community value the most?  What role do creativity, collaboration, and collective inquiry play in our beliefs about learning?

2. What does an engaged classroom look like in action?  What is it that we most want to see happening in our classrooms?

3. How are our technology purchases helping us to move closer to both our mission and our vision of an engaged classroom?

What are three key things you think it would be helpful for many non-educators who are making decisions about education to hear?

Only three, huh?  This won’t be easy, but I’ll give it a try.

Given that current conversations in most edu-circles seem to be centered around canning crappy teachers, let’s focus on what accomplished individuals expect from a profession:

Accomplished individuals expect workplaces that are professionally flexible: Talented teachers are like any talented professional—they thrive in workplaces that allow them to experiment and to explore their practice.

Current policies that increasingly control the work of classroom teachers are simply not professionally satisfying for the best and the brightest.

If we are really serious about improving teacher quality by attracting the best and the brightest to our classrooms, we’ve got to create educational policies that encourage—rather than stifle—innovation.

Accomplished individuals are not afraid of accountability, but they expect to be evaluated fairly: Our education system is currently being broken to pieces by policymakers who are hell-bent on “holding teachers accountable” for performance.

The hitch is that “holding teachers accountable” means nothing more than measuring student performance on poorly structured end-of-grade exams that:

  1. Aren’t given in every class.
  2. Don’t cover the entire curriculum.
  3. Measure low-level skills.
  4. Fail to take into account the impact of out-of-school factors on students.

That’s why we push back when policymakers craft half-baked plans built around testing as a tool for accountability.

We’re not opposed to being held accountable for our performance, but we are smart enough to know when the accountability programs are unfair at best and irresponsible at worst.

Systematically demonizing teachers is driving accomplished people away from our profession: I’m exhausted, Larry, by the never-ending attacks on teachers that have become so common.

Hearing the same vitriol spewed over-and-over again—teachers are lazy, teachers are brainwashing children, teachers are overpaid, teachers are bankrupting states—is making it less and less likely that we’ll ever be able to attract enough accomplished individuals to our classrooms to be successful.

Who wants to be a punching bag for the public for their entire career?

You’ve made a switch this year to teaching Science.  Why did you make that change, how has it gone, and what have you learned?

Are you ready for this, Larry:  I made the switch to teaching science because it is currently an untested subject in my state.

Now, if people want to “hold me accountable,” they need to actually come into my classroom and watch me teach for a while.

They’ve got to see my kids in action and start asking questions.  The only evidence they have to judge me is what they can see with their own two eyes.

When I was teaching language arts, standardized test results became the only indicator that anyone ever used to determine whether or not I was an accomplished teacher.

It was like an evaluation cop-out.  Why bother doing the hard work of observing and evaluating teachers when you’re going to get a set of test scores back each spring, right?

Moving to science guarantees that I’ll be assessed on something more than a test—and I’ve loved it.

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

Sure—you never asked whether I thought I’d still be teaching in 5 years.

The answer is I’m just not sure anymore.

My goal has been to be a full-time practitioner for my entire career.  There’s just something noble about spending my whole life as a full-time classroom teacher.

And honestly, there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.

But I really can’t justify a 10-month position that requires me to work about a dozen part time jobs just to pay my bills AND that subjects me to constant criticism and insult anymore.

I get paid really well as an educational consultant—and my writing has earned me a ton of opportunities to move into that work on a full-time basis.

I’ve fought to resist the temptation to leave the classroom for probably the past 5 years.

But I’m so hacked off by the way teachers are being treated—and so pessimistic about our chances of seeing sanity return to conversations about schools—that I’m probably closer to leaving than at any point in my professional career.


Thanks, Bill….Hang in there….

September 25, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Around The Web In ESL/EFL/ELL

Two years ago I began this 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.

You might also be interested in The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELLs In 2016 – So Far.

Here are this week’s choices:

Teachers Should Have Say on When Students Exit ELL Status, Guidance Argues is an Education Week article about a new report from the Council of Chief State School Officers. If offers good, common sense advice, which means (according to my cynical side) that many districts won’t follow it.  I’m adding it The Best Resources For Learning About The Ins & Outs Of Reclassifying ELLs.

Ed. Dept. Releases ESSA Guidance for English-Language Learners is from Ed Week. It’s about these guidelines just released by the Dept. of Ed. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning How The Every Student Succeeds Act Affects English Language Learners.

Teaching English – The British Council is having what looks like a great week-long (free!) online professional development conference starting October 5th. You can sign-up here. I’ll be writing up a separate post about it as soon as they respond to some questions I sent them.

TOOL REVIEW: GOOGLE’S TRANSLATE FEATURE RULES. is by Bill Ferriter. I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Learning About Google Translate.

‘Quizzifying’ feedback on error – four ways to spice up the correction of your students’ writing is from The Language Gym. I’m adding it to The Best Resources On ESL/EFL/ELL Error Correction.

Advocates Applaud HUD Guidance on Housing Discrimination Over English Proficiency is from NBC News.

25 ideas for using audio scripts in the ELT classroom is from The English Language Teaching Global Blog. I’m adding it to The Best Ideas To Help Students Become Better Listeners — Contribute More.

Helping teens to listen is from The British Council. I’m adding it to the same list.

Immigrant Kindergartners in the United States is an infographic from the Education Policy Center.

A New York School Where Students Learn to Read by Sculpting Words is from The New York Times.

Haitians, After Perilous Journey, Find Door to U.S. Abruptly Shut is from The New York Times.

Every year, nearly a thousand refugees from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East journey to Idaho to make a new life in America. is from The New Republic.

September 18, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

A Look Back: Academic Research Has Its Place, But It Also Has To Be Kept In Its Place



Next February, this blog will be celebrating its ten-year anniversary! Leading up to it, I’m re-starting a series I tried to do in the past called “A Look Back.” Each week, I’ll be re-posting a few of my favorite posts from the past ten years.

You might also be interested in A Look Back: Best Posts From 2007 To 2009.

I originally shared this post in 2010. You might also be interested in The Best Resources For Understanding How To Interpret Education Research.

My Teacher Leaders Network colleague Bill Ferriter has written another of his insightful posts over at The Tempered Radical. It’s called Validation and Authority in a Web 2.0 World. The post wonders if teacher research and direct experience might “trump” traditional scholarly investigations.

There’s an excellent discussion going on in the comments section of the post. Here’s my first contribution to it:


I really like this post. I think research and data are important and useful, and I do my own in the classroom (though it certainly wouldn’t stand-up to “academic” standards).

But for some in the world of academia, it seems like real-life experience counts for very little, and there also appears to be minimal acknlowledgment that research and data can be easily manipulated.

My book on teaching English Language Learners is coming out in April. There’s tons of research cited in it, but more than one publisher had it reviewed by academics who said it needed even more. I wanted it to be accessible and actually used by teachers, so I pulled it and went to a publisher who “got it.”

I’m not suggesting it has to be an either/or situation — both experience and research have their place. I know there are academics who agree. I just wish there were more of them.


Coincidentally, another Teacher Leaders Network colleague, Heather Wolpert-Gawron, has written a post that also speaks directly to this issue.

Heather’s post comments on a recent study that supposedly debunks the whole idea of students having different learning styles. Heather’s question is:

Should we care?

I’d strongly encourage you to read her entire post, but wanted to share an excerpt here:

In this case it seems less of an issue of science then it does using common sense in teaching. When I think back at the lessons that I loved as a student, the ones that stayed with me, they were the ones that asked me to solve authentic problems. They were the ones that had me doing something out of my comfort zone. They were the ones that allowed me to strut myself in my comfort zone. In all, they were the lessons that shook up the norm. But not all teachers naturally know to mix it up.

Talking about learning styles or multiple-intelligences or syn-naps or project learning or critical thinking or whatever is being tossed about, is about scaffolding how to teach in an engaging way in order to reach a wide variety of students.

When people get all up at arms about this research or that research being unsupported, I beg them to remember: some teachers must learn how NOT to be boring. They might be brilliant in their knowledge content, but that doesn’t mean they understand how to deliver or communicate that content, especially to kids who may not be their kind ‘o person.

So providing the theory that there are different learning styles, and categorizing those learners, helps those teachers to remember what they are charged to do: teach ALL students.

In the past, I’ve modified an old saying when I’ve talked about the use of technology in the classroom, and I’ll modify again here for the subject of this post:

Academic research has its place, but it also has to be kept in its place.

(Readers might also be interested in a previous post titled “Data-Driven” Versus “Data-Informed”)

April 10, 2016
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 2015 – So Far and The Best Resources On Class Instruction – 2015.

Here are this week’s picks:

Teaching Poetry of the Immigrant Experience is from Edutopia. I’m adding it to The Best World Poetry Day Resources – Help Me Find More.

New Feedback Activity: Not Yet/You Bet Lists is from Bill Ferriter and includes a downloadable form.

Doug Lemov: Three fresh approaches to teaching reading is from TES.

Six Guidelines for Teaching About Religion is from Education Week. I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles On How To Teach “Controversial” Topics.

Prizes as Curriculum: How my school gets students to “behave” is from Rethinking Schools. I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles On “Motivating” Students.

March 26, 2016
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 2015 – So Far and The Best Resources On Class Instruction – 2015.

Here are this week’s picks:

Is homework a necessary evil? is a useful summary of research on…homework. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About Homework Issues.

Activity – Where Am I Going Reflection Sheet is from Bill Ferriter, who provides useful downloadable materials.

The University of New Hampshire has a lot of good Writing Hand-outs, particularly around grammar issues and writing particular types of essays. I’m adding it to The Best Posts On Writing Instruction.

Jim Bentley share an excellent hand-out on context clues. I’m adding it to The Best Resources On “Close Reading” — Help Me Find More.

Demography Is Destiny? Teaching About Cause and Effect With Global Population Trends is from The New York Times Learning Network. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About Our World’s Population Of 7 Billion.

Saying What You Mean Without Being Mean is from ASCD Educational Leadership is about talking with your colleagues, but has value in every situation.

Skype Connects Classrooms With Field Trips Around the World is from Ed Tech Magazine. I’m adding it to The Best Ways To Find Other Classes For Joint Online Projects.

February 15, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Week In Web 2.0

'Web 2.0 paljastaa' photo (c) 2011, Janne Ansaharju - license:

In yet another attempt to get at the enormous backlog I have of sites worth blogging about, I’ve recently begin a regular feature called “The Week In Web 2.0.” (you might also be interested in The Best Web 2.0 Applications For Education In 2015). I also sometimes include tech tools that might not exactly fit the definition of Web 2.0:

HoloKlip lets you…clip sections of YouTube videos. I’m adding it to The Best Tools For Cutting-Out & Saving Portions Of Online Videos. I’ve just revised and updated that list.

Synap is a new easy tool for creating online quizzes. It will really be useful when there’s a large bank of user-created quizzes for teachers to draw upon. I’m adding it to The Best Ways To Create Online Tests.

I’ve been hearing a lot of “buzz” about Versal, which lets teachers create online interactive resources. Even though you can do more than video with it, I’m going to add it to A Potpourri Of The Best & Most Useful Video Sites. I just completely revised and updated that list.

Screencastify looks like a great tool for making screencasts, though it only works in Chrome. Read more about it at Bill Ferriter’s blog. I’m adding it to The Best Tools For Making Screencasts, which I’ve also revised and updated.

The Complete Guide to Snapchat for Teachers and Parents is a useful post by AJ Juliani.

NoteBookCast is a simple online virtual whiteboard that can be used by many people at the same time. You can read a post at Richard Byrne’s blog to see a “how-to-use-it” video. I’m adding it to The Best Online Tools For Real-Time Collaboration. I recently updated and revised that entire list.

Speaking of Richard Byrne, he recently posted 7 Tools for Creating Multimedia Quizzes Compared in One Chart. I’m adding it to The Best Ways To Create Online Tests, which I also recently revised and updated.

Microsoft To Launch “Minecraft Education Edition” For Classrooms This Summer, Following Acquisition Of Learning Game is from TechCrunch.

June 21, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

More Good Sources Of Images To Use

Here are some new additions to The Best Online Sources For Images:

Free Stock Photos: 74 Best Sites To Find Awesome Free Images is from Canva.

Unsplash sends you ten free photos every ten days that can be used without restriction.

Download images from Photos For Class and it will automatically include proper attribution.

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