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.

This page from Sacramento State University is a good resource on concept attainment.

Guided Discovery in Teaching Essay Writing is from Clare’s ELT Compendium.

How My ELL Students Used Padlet To Create A “Picture Data Set”

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….

August 1, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Resources For Teaching Students The Differences Between A Good & Bad Slide

We’ve all seen lots of student and adult-created very bad slides.

Here are some resources I’ve used to help teach students to improve their quality (You might also be interested in The Best Sources Of Advice For Making Good Presentations):

I’m going to start off with a slideshow that Katie Hull Sypnieski and I use with our classes use the Concept Attainment instructional strategy (see The Best Resources About Inductive Learning & Teaching).  We explain the lesson in detail in our upcoming book on teaching English Language Learners, which will be out next March:

July 10, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Teacher & Student Friendly Resources On Phonemic Awareness – Please Suggest More

When students who have had little formal schooling arrive in our secondary ELL classes, many teachers are caught a little flat-footed for a number of reasons. One of them is that many have not received training in phonics and phonemic awareness instructional strategies.

I was lucky enough to have gone through an credential program that prepared me for all K-12 grades, so I have some background, but I need periodic refreshers because I don’t necessarily have students facing those kinds of challenges every year.

I teach phonics inductively (see The Best Resources About Inductive Learning & Teaching), but I still many traditional follow-up activities to help students develop phonemic awareness.

Here are some good resources that secondary teachers can use to get them up to speed on what those activities might be (I’m adding them to The Best Articles & Sites For Teachers & Students To Learn About Phonics – by the way, you might also find The Best Online Resources For Teachers of Pre-Literate ELL’s & Those Not Literate In Their Home Language useful):

The Florida Center For Reading Research seems like a “mother lode” of sorts for ideas and printable resources. They have a seven-part series of phonemic awareness activities, including a zillion printables:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

The University of Pittsburgh has a nice summary of phonemic awareness activities – if a seven part series is too much for you 🙂

Phonics and Decoding is from ASCD.

How Now Brown Cow: Phoneme Awareness Activities is from Reading Rockets.

I have to admit I don’t do all of activities listed in the above resources, but one I definite do use a lot is onset-rime. Here are some other materials specifically on that topic:

Word families and Onset Rime: early literacy instruction with learners with CCN is from Jane Farrall.

Instructional Activities to Develop Phonological Awareness: Onset-rime and Phoneme is from Reading First in Virginia.

June 17, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

Video(s): My #VirtuEL17 Session On SEL & ELLs (Plus Supporting Links) & Everyone Else’s Session, Too!

The #VirtuEL17 online conference for teachers of English Language Learners took place this morning.

My session was a Q & A one related to my previously posted video on Social Emotional Learning.

Here’s the link to the video of the Q & A session (embedding is not available).

I spoke about many instructional strategies during that brief session. Here are some links to find additional related resources:

How I apply Freire’s ideas in the classroom. Here are additional Freire-connected resources.

Guest Post: What ELLs Taught Our School In A Week-Long Empathy Project

I talked a lot about inductive learning – see The Best Resources About Inductive Learning & Teaching.

I also spoke about helping students develop agency – see The Best Resources On Student Agency & How To Encourage It.

Here’s a link to an article our former principal and I wrote about how schools benefit from having ELL students: The Positive Impact Of English Language Learners At An Urban School.

The Best Posts On Looking At Our Students Through The Lens Of Assets & Not Deficits

Here’s a link to the videos from all the sessions at the conference:

June 15, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Here’s What I Will Do Differently (& The Same) Next School Year – Share Your Own “Resolutions”

Today was the last day of our school year.

And here’s a photo with just a few of the many wonderful students I taught this year:

I thought the last day of school would be a good time for me to take some time and reflect on what I want to do the same – and differently – to make next year an even better one!

Here is what I’ve come up with – please share your own reflections in the comments section:


* One thing I did differently this year was spend a shorter amount of time (a few months instead of most of the school year) using the Picture Word Induction Model (see The Best Resources About Inductive Learning & Teaching) before I moved students into more formal academic writing.   That change seemed to work quite well, and was facilitated by having a bilingual aide work more intensively with newcomers while I was working with the larger numbers of High Beginners/Low Intermediates.

*One effective task our aide did with the newcomers was explicit phonics instruction done inductively (see The Best Articles & Sites For Teachers & Students To Learn About Phonics).  I plan on starting that sooner than I did this year.

* After a fair amount of trial-and-error, I was able to identify some decent resources to support our newcomers who were not literate in their home language (see The Best Online Resources For Teachers of Pre-Literate ELL’s & Those Not Literate In Their Home Language). I’m hoping to spend more time reading Carol Salva’s new book on teaching students with interrupted formal education (see New Book Excerpt: Supporting ELL Students With Interrupted Formal Education) to get some more ideas.   Thirteen years ago, I had a lot of experience teaching pre-literate Hmong refugee students, but it’s a different world today, including different cultures.

* Next year, we’re going to make sure our Beginners take a full period each day just focused on verbal skills taught by a talented colleague (see Here’s A Plan For An Oral Skills Class Next Year – Please Help Make It Better!) and I think that it will make a world of difference.

* I’m happy that I did not repeat my biggest teaching mistake (see I Talk About My Biggest Teaching Mistake In This Radio Interview) and took back a period of my Beginning ELL class from a student teacher when it became very large and diverse (she then took over from me teaching our ELL World History class).

* This summer, Katie Hull and I are writing our third book on teaching ELLs.  We both experimented with a number of new instructional strategies this year, and our writing over the next two months will give us a chance to reflect on them.  As we all know, writing helps us think better, and I’m hoping that this process will help me implement many of these strategies more effectively and systematically next year!


* I made a lot of changes in my IB Theory of Knowlege classes (you can read about many of them, including accessing tons of lesson plans and materials, at The Best Theory Of Knowledge Resources In 2016 – Part Two and  The Best Theory Of Knowledge Resources In 2017 – So Far). I’m happy to say that most, if not all, worked well.

* I have students regularly provide anonymous evaluations of my classes and me (see The Best Posts On Students Evaluating Classes (And Teachers) ). Evaluations are generally very positive, but were even more positive this year. I attribute that result to many of the changes I made to the class.

* In that evaluation, several students did comment on the clutter in my room. That was a well-founded critique, and this week moved many materials into a storage closet across from my room. I can access materials from there when needed instead of keeping them all in my room.

* When I introduce class evaluations, I always request that students take it very seriously and help me become a better teacher. This year, though, I made an addition. I said that they should feel free to make a funny comment if they wanted, but that it had to be accompanied by a serious one. Not only did that admonition, I believe, result in more substantial evaluations, but it also meant I received more and funnier comments than I have received in the past. I hope to compile them in the next week or two. Several were along with lines of “He is a good teacher considering he is an old man.” After reading them, I assured my classes that I would somehow identify who wrote those lines and hunt them down 🙂


* I like the curriculum I’ve developed for my ELL World History, U.S. History and Geography classes (you can see much of it at our class blogs). I pretty much supervised student teachers in all of them. I think I got very lucky this year with some very talented teacher candidates, and know that I can’t count on that happening every year. Future ones (like some others I’ve had in the past) might require far great supervision than I gave this year, and I have to spend some time this summer figuring out how to make that happen.

* One regret I have is not encouraging the student teacher in my Geography class to implement sister class projects (see Links To The Joint Projects My ELL Geography Class Did With Classes Around The World – Want To Join Us This Year?).   I don’t want to make that same mistake next year.


As you can see, I still have a lot to think about.

But it’s a start.

What about you?

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