Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

June 19, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Study: Inductive Learning Promotes “Transfer Of Knowledge” Better Than Direct Instruction

I’ve written a lot in this blog and in my books about using inductive learning with students (see The Best Resources About Inductive Learning & Teaching). It’s one of my favorite instructional strategies.

And, I’ve written an equal amount about the importance of transfer of learning — in other words, facilitating student “transfer” of something they learned in one lesson to another situation (see The Best Resources For Learning About The Concept Of “Transfer” — Help Me Find More).

Now Education Week has highlighted a study that used that inductive concept – though, surprisingly, they called it “sorting” instead of “inductive learning” – in teaching science. And they found that it was more effective in promoting transfer than direct instruction.

One common way to use the inductive method is through “text data sets,” which a short piece of text that students categorize. You can read more about this particular method and see links to examples in “Thinking Like A Scientist Can Help Overcome Allure Of Appearances.”

In the study covered by Ed Week, though, the scientists just used cards sharing different scientific concepts instead of a typical few sheets of paper with the examples.

One thing I found particularly intriguing and I hadn’t really read about in other studies of the inductive method was that it was its effect on transfer:

…the students who had sorted the cards were significantly better at applying the concept to new situations.

You might also be interested in The Best Posts Questioning If Direct Instruction Is “Clearly Superior.”

January 16, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Resources About Inductive Learning & Teaching

In the inductive process, students seek patterns and use them to identify their broader meanings and significance. In the deductive process, meanings or rules are given, and students have to then apply them.

I’m a huge fan of using inductive learning, and plenty of research (which you’ll find in the resources on this list) document its effectiveness.

I’ve written many posts about it, and thought it would be useful to bring together a few of my best ones, along with resources developed by others, that explain the inductive process and how to apply it in mainstream and English Language Learner classrooms (feel free to make suggestions of ones I’ve missed):

The Best Ways To Modify The Picture Word Inductive Model For ELLs

The British Council has 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 are two British Council posts where I wrote about it:

What Does Enhanced Discovery Learning Look Like In The ELL Classroom?

The picture word inductive model

I’ve written several posts at The New York Times explaining the concept:

Ideas for English Language Learners | Labeling Photos, Sequencing Passages and More

Learn About President Kennedy Using the Inductive Model

Learning About New Year’s Inductively

Get Organized Around Assets is an article I wrote for ASCD Educational Leadership. It includes a section on teaching inductively.

The Best Ways To Modify The Picture Word Inductive Model For ELLs

More Info On Why Inductive Learning Is So Effective

”How Google is teaching computers to see” — Inductively

More Research Showing Why Inductive Learning Works

The Picture Word Inductive Model In Science & Social Studies

How to Teach an Inductive Learning Lesson is by Jennifer Gonzalez.

Learning Inductively Works…

Web 2.0 Tools For Beginning English Language Learners – “Padlet”

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

“Thinking Like A Scientist Can Help Overcome Allure Of Appearances”

Study Says Ability To Identify Patterns Key To Second Language Learning

“Szoter” Will Become A Key Tool For ELL Students & Teachers

“Thinglink” Could Be A Great Tool For ELL’s

What Can Teachers Learn From Target?

“We Should Celebrate Mistakes”

This Is The Best Lesson Plan On Punctuation I’ve Ever Read

Is This The Most Important Research Study Of The Year? Maybe

How to Help Our Learners Discover English is from Gallery Languages.

Inductive and deductive grammar teaching: what is it, and does it work? is from the English Language Teaching Global Blog.

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

Study: Inductive Learning Promotes “Transfer Of Knowledge” Better Than Direct Instruction

Statistic Of The Day: Employers Want People Who Can “Recognize Patterns”

Surprise, Surprise – New Research Finds Lectures Aren’t The Best Way To Teach

How To Teach With The Concept Attainment Model is from Teach Thought.

Examples Of Student Work From My ELL History Classes

Here’s A New Phonics Activity I Did Today

Teachers Might Find My “Concept Attainment – Plus” Instructional Strategy Useful

I Did A Short Presentation Today On The Concept Attainment Instructional Strategy – Here Are My Materials

Pattern learning key to children’s language development is the headline of a report on a new study. It just reinforces the value of inductive teaching with ELLs.

Here’s good background on the Concept Attainment Model.

More good info on concept attainment.

Two Quick Examples Of Concept Attainment

Why I Love This Strategy to Introduce Concepts is from Middleweb.

September 22, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo

More Info On Why Inductive Learning Is So Effective

I have written tons in my books and in this blog about the effectiveness of inductive learning.

It’s the idea of pushing students, and ourselves, to see patterns and concepts in a list of examples, as opposed to telling students the concepts and then giving the examples that fit in them.

TIME Magazine has just published Q&A with Consciousness Researcher Daniel Bor, and he talks about why our minds learn so much from this kind of pattern-seeking. Here’s an excerpt:

So what do you think the purpose of consciousness is?

I think the purpose of it is to draw all the relevant information together in a larger space. It’s almost as if we can’t spot it because we are doing it all the time. Why do we love crossword puzzles and why are people addicted to sudoku? That’s what a huge bit of the cortex is primed to do — to spot [patterns] — and once we spot them we can assimilate them into our pyramid of knowledge and build more layers of strategy, and knowing how to do that makes us incredibly successful at controlling the world.

And that’s why solving puzzles or finding a useful bit of information feels so good?

We get streams of pleasure when we find something that can really help us understand some deep pattern. Sudoku isn’t the most [fun activity], but it sure feels good when you put in that last number. It’s why scientists love doing research. The way I approach my job, it’s like trying to solve a really big fuzzy crossword puzzle and when you do put in that new clue and see the deeper pattern, that’s incredibly pleasurable.

If our brains are hungry for information, then why do we tend to see learning as a chore and fail to recognize it as a huge source of pleasure?

I don’t know. Obviously, more intelligent people get more pleasure from spotting these patterns, but I think almost every normal person does this. I think it’s a pretty pervasive thing but it’s almost as if we can’t notice it because it’s so pervasive.

October 24, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo

More Research Showing Why Inductive Learning Works

The Mind Hacks blog revisits an older study that restates why inductive learning, student autonomy, and choice works in the classroom.

The blog also has a useful chart. It’s worth checking-out but, in summary, it discusses findings that students will remember things far better if they bring their own meaning to in a way they choose:

What this research suggests is that, merely in terms of remembering, it would be more effective for students to come up with their own organisation for course material…..You’ll remember better (and understand much better) if you try and re-organise the material you’ve been given in your own way.

If you are a teacher, like me, then this research raises some distrurbing questions. At a University the main form of teaching we do is the lecture, which puts the student in a passive role and, essentially, asks them to “remember this” – an instruction we know to be ineffective. Instead, we should be thinking hard, always, about how to create teaching experiences in which students are more active, and about creating courses in which students are permitted and encouraged to come up with their own organisation of material, rather than just forced to regurgitate ours.

It’s nothing particularly new, but any research that backs up that kind of perspective certainly can’t hurt….

February 11, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

Video: “Immigrants In Our Community Are A Gift”

Gail Desler – with the support of educators and students – has organized the fabulous Time Of Remembrance website documenting Japanese-American internment in World War Two, along with the Vietnam War.

Because of my work with Hmong refugees, I was honored to received an invitation to be interviewed as part of the project.

The full video is thirty-six minutes along. ELL teachers might find it useful, since I discuss a wide-ranging list of issues, including the importance of looking at our students through the eyes of assets and not deficits, inductive learning, concept attainment, parent engagement, professional development and many other items of possible interest.

If you go to the video at the Time of Remembrance website, it has an outline and summary of what’s covered in different sections of the video.

I’ve embedded the full video below. In addition, I’ve also embedded a short clip that Time Of Remembrance has created from the original full-length video:

February 2, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

A Look Back: “Ways A Mainstream Teacher Can Support An ELL Newcomer In Class”

Later this month, this blog will be celebrating its ten-year anniversary! Last August, I re-started a series I tried to do in the past called “A Look Back.” Each week, I’ve been posting a few of my favorite posts from the past ten years.

Here are some compilations from past years:

 A Look Back: Best Posts From 2007 To 2009 

 A Look Back: 2010’s Best Posts From This Blog

A Look Back: 2011’s Best Posts From This Blog

A Look Back: 2012’s Best Posts From This Blog

A Look Back: 2013’s Best Posts From This Blog

A Look Back: 2014’s Best Posts From This Blog

A Look Back: 2015’s Best Posts From This Blog

This post originally appeared in 2016:



In addition to teaching full-time in high school during the day, I’m on the adjunct faculty in the teacher education programs at California State University, Sacramento and the University of California, Davis.  I’m finding an important question keeps on cropping up:

How do I teach a newcomer, with next-to-zero English proficiency, who is placed in my mainstream classroom without any additional outside support being provided?

Unfortunately, I suspect that this is a very common issue for teachers across the United States – a newcomer is “parachuted” into their classes and they’re just told to “integrate” the student into their instruction.

Here are some suggestions – from readers and from me:

MY NUMBER ONE PIECE OF ADVICE: Remember, your newcomer student is as intelligent as any native-English speaker you have in your classroom.  He/she is just new to the English language.  Start off by reading this piece that Katie Hull and I have written: Do’s & Don’ts for Teaching English-Language Learners.  And, please, don’t make the mistakes of speaking loudly in English to them or giving them a seat at the very back of the room.



* Learn their story – why their family came here, what their interests are, goals they might have for their life.  If you cannot speak their home language and/or can’t find another staffperson or student who can, using Google Translate is a very viable option.   Using the audio translation mode, it will automatically provide verbal interpretation.   It’s not perfect by any means, but you should be able to have a basic conversation. Just last month, Google announced a breakthrough in improving their Translate tool for some languages and expects to apply a similar tech upgrade to all of them.



* Provide access to a computer or tablet (I often will let a student use my “teacher” computer).  If a student has zero or next-to-zero English, the best help any teacher – no matter what subject they are teaching – can provide is support to students in developing basic English communication skills.  Duolingo, LingoHut, USA Learns and English Central are the four best online tools for that kind of support (here are other language-learning sites, too).  Doing this – for a short time, at least – can help them begin to develop self-confidence, get them familiar with online tools they can also use at home (if they have Internet access there) and give you some time to develop a longer-term plan on how you are going to teach them your content matter and pull together needed resources.

* If the newcomer is literate in his/her home language, you can also provide access to online materials in their language that are comparable to what you are teaching in English to the rest of your students.   Many such resources can be found at The Best Multilingual & Bilingual Sites For Math, Social Studies, & Science.

*If you are fortunate enough to speak your newcomer’s language, using the Preview, View and Review method is an option (preview the lesson in the home language, then the main lesson in English, and then review it in the home language).  I’ve also used the bilingual resources listed in the previous suggestion in the same way – previewing and reviewing with those materials.

*There are many sites that provide similar high-quality materials on multiple subjects using different “levels” of text.  For example, an article on the Electoral College might be edited for three or four different reading levels.   Using a high English level version of one for most of your students and a simplified version for your newcomer is a fairly easy way to make content accessible.  In fact, there are tools that let you do the same for any text you copy and paste into them.  You can find links to all these options at The Best Places To Get The “Same” Text Written For Different “Levels.”

*There are a number of content-specific books that are designed to be particularly accessible to ELLs – you can see a list of a few of them at The Best Books For Teaching & Learning ESL/EFL. I use some of the books listed in my history and English classes (note that, though the book titles are all accurate, the links where to purchase them might be out-of-date).  You can find other content-specific books at The Best Places To Buy ESL/EFL Books. Software & Multimedia.  Providing these textbook alternatives, which likely cover similar subjects to the ones you use with the majority of your students, could be a useful scaffold.

*At the very least, make sure you have a bilingual dictionary in your newcomer’s student language.

*At our high school, seniors often get a class period when they are T.A.’s (teaching assistants) or “Peer Tutors.”  With support and minimal training from me, a student who doesn’t even speak the newcomer’s home language can provide invaluable support to them.  In addition, having the title “peer tutor” can look better on a senior’s transcript when applying to college.

*Inductive teaching emphasizes pattern-seeking, which is a skill found to be particularly important to those learning a new language (and it’s important for everybody else, too!).  If you presently employ inductive methods in your instruction, creating more simple versions for your newcomer should be fairly easy, though would take a little extra time.  If you are not using them now, I’d encourage you to consider experimenting with it.  You can learn more at The Best Resources About Inductive Learning & Teaching.  In particular, you might want to read how I use it: Get Organized Around Assets and The Picture Word Inductive Model.

*If your newcomer does not have Internet access at home (or even if he/she does), providing him/her with accessible books they can read at home can be a big help – plenty of research documents the importance of home libraries.  Our local Friends of the Library has provided hundreds of free books for our newcomer students, and you can also print out many online (see The Best Sources For Free & Accessible Printable Books).

*If your school has a specialized class where the newcomer is learning English, regularly talk with their teacher to learn more about the student and to both listen to – and offer – ideas how you can both support the student in their classes.

Karen MacKenzie:

Prioritize – choose two or three concepts from the unit you are teacher and work hard to get those across to your newcomers. Trying to ensure the student understands every little last thing will be overwhelming for you both.



*Provide a peer mentor to your newcomer – ideally, someone who speaks their home language.  At our school, peer mentors leave one of their classes for fifteen minutes each week and chats with their “mentee.”  You can read more about what we do at Here Are The Instructions I Give Mentors To Our ELLs – Help Me Make Them Better.

* Talk privately to individual students who have demonstrated empathy in the past about their reaching out to your newcomer.  Perhaps share with them this story:


What do you think is missing from this list?


Since I originally published this post, I realized I forgot to include a few other strategies:

Though I discus Google Translate, I forgot to mention its relatively new ability to “read” text, including print textbooks and PowerPoint slides, by using its camera function (see Video: “How Google Translate Makes Signs Instantly Readable”).

In fact, Google just published this video that highlights that feature and the features I mentioned in the earlier post:

In addition, I neglected to mention the obvious strategy of showing English subtitled with any videos you show.

Finally, this was an idea suggested by one of the credential candidates at my California State University, Sacramento, course: if you are teaching whole novels in your class, why not get a version of it in your ELL’s home language, if available?

January 16, 2017
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 (& Blog Posts) Offering Practical Advice & Resources To Teachers In 2016 – Part Two and The Best Resources On Class Instruction In 2016 – Part Two.

Here are this week’s picks:

Why I Love This Strategy to Introduce Concepts is from Middleweb. I’m adding it to The Best Resources About Inductive Learning & Teaching.

How to Have Better Student Discussions is by Pernille Ripp. I’m adding it to The Best Resources Sharing The Best Practices For Fruitful Classroom Discussions.

Justice and Equality are Topics for Every Course is from Pear Deck. I’m adding it to The Best Teacher Resource Sites For Social Justice Issues.

How to give writing feedback to students efficiently is by Ray Salazar. I’m adding it to The Best Posts On Writing Instruction.

Under Pressure is from The Until I Know Better blog, and has lots of good student engagement ideas. I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles On Student Engagement.

From Brexit to Trump: should teachers talk politics in the classroom? is from The Guardian. I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles On How To Teach “Controversial” Topics.

January 16, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

A Look Back: “I Did A Presentation Today On The Concept Attainment Instructional Strategy – Here Are My Materials”

In 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 

 A Look Back: 2010’s Best Posts From This Blog

A Look Back: 2011’s Best Posts From This Blog

A Look Back: 2012’s Best Posts From This Blog

A Look Back: 2013’s Best Posts From This Blog

A Look Back: 2014’s Best Posts From This Blog

A Look Back: 2015’s Best Posts From This Blog

This post was originally published in 2016:


I’m a big fan of using Concept Attainment in teaching grammar and writing, and have shared many examples in blog posts and in my books. You can see previous posts at The Best Resources About Inductive Learning & Teaching.

I gave a short presentation about it to some of my school colleagues this afternoon. I thought readers might find it useful to see the materials I prepared.

First off, though, here’s a quick description of the strategy that comes from our forthcoming book, Navigating The Common Core With English Language Learners:

Another form of inductive learning we use with ELLs to improve their writing is the use of examples and non-examples, known as Concept Attainment. This strategy, originally developed by Jerome Bruner and his colleagues, involves the teacher identifying both “good” or “Yes” and “bad” or “No” examples of the intended learning objective. As the teacher shares the “Yes” and “No” examples with students, they are encouraged to develop the reasoning which supports why an example is a “Yes” or a “No.” This inductive learning strategy is a great way to teach multiple elements of writing including sentence structure, grammar, development, and organization.

This first example, which includes all examples of student writing (that’s one of the keys to success of this strategy) is focused on teaching when to use “is” and when to use “are.” The paper is put on the overhead, with all sentences except for the first one under “yes” covered. The teacher then uncovers the first “no” example, asks students to think for a minute, talk to a partner, and see if students can figure out why one is under “Yes” and the other under “No.” We can continue this process until students have come to a conclusion. They then re-write the “no” examples correctly and formulate a “rule.”

is and are

The next sheet I shared was the one at the top of this post and is designed to teach when to use “have” and when to use “has.” The same process is used.

Those first two are model for how to use concept attainment to teach simple grammatical concepts.

The next example I used shows how to use it to teach more sophistical grammar and writing strategies, and I previously published those examples in an insanely popular post titled Teachers Might Find My “Concept Attainment – Plus” Instructional Strategy Useful.

That post describes in detail the process I developed and which I call “Concept Attainment – Plus.” Here are sheets I used in the three-step process that is designed to teach the even more sophisticated “I Say, They Say” essay framework, as well as verb tense agreement.




Lastly, I shared even more sophisticated examples of using Concept Attainment to teach the “PQC” – Point, Quote, Comment and “ABC”- Answer the Question, Back it up, make a Connection. You can find those examples at my post, Here Are Some Examples Of Using “Concept Attainment” In Writing Instruction. My talented colleague, Lara Hoekstra, prepared those examples.

I remain convinced that there are no more effective and engaging instructional strategies to teach grammar, and few others that are equally successful in developing successful writers.

Let me know experiences you’ve had using this strategy in your classroom in the past or in the future….

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