Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

September 22, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

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
3 Comments

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….

October 20, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Great Infographic, “A Taxonomy of Halloween Monsters,” Provides Idea For Higher-Order Thinking Lesson

I’ve written a lot about inductive learning, and this neat infographic provides an excellent idea for a higher-ordering thinking Halloween lesson.

As my Beginning and Intermediate English Language Learners study Halloween, they can start categorizing the different monsters and Halloween costumes they learn about — including writing/discussing them and providing reasons for their categorization decisions. I’m sure they’ll enjoy it, and there will be plenty of language-learning involved.

I’m adding this info to The Best Websites For Learning About Halloween.

A Taxonomy of Halloween Monsters

Thanks to Big Group for the infographic.

August 18, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

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

As regular readers of this blog and my books know, I’m a big believer in inductive learning (see More Info On Why Inductive Learning Is So Effective and Is This The Most Important Research Study Of The Year? Maybe).

One effective way to use inductive learning is through the use of data sets. You can see examples of these in my ASCD article, Get Organized Around Assets and in a couple of pieces I’ve written for The New York Times.

A key element of inductive learning is having students put the items or passages into categories — that’s a given.

However, a step that many teacher miss is having students provide evidence to support their decision to put something into a particular category. It can be as simple as highlighting a word or phrase, or just writing a sentence explaining a student’s reasoning.

NPR just published a piece this morning on some research that reinforces the importance of this step. The study itself is a bit convoluted so, instead of describing it here, I’m just going to suggest you go over to their site and read Thinking Like A Scientist Can Help Overcome Allure Of Appearances.

Here’s an excerpt:

The-act-of-explaining

June 14, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

How My Students Evaluated Me This Year

'Blue Morphsuit on Canada Day' photo (c) 2011, Doug Hay - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The school year ended this week and, as I do every year, I had students anonymously evaluate me. As regular readers know, I post the results of these surveys each semester — warts and all. In fact, The Washington Post republished one of the less flattering ones a couple of years ago.

You can see reports from all the previous years, as well as links to more reflective pieces on the use of these kinds of surveys, at The Best Posts On Students Evaluating Classes (And Teachers).

In the past, I’ve published separate posts for each class. This year, instead, I’m going to share all the results in one big post:

GEOGRAPHY WITH INTERMEDIATE ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS

I taught one Geography class with Intermediate English Language Learners. Here’s the evaluation form I used with them.

Highlights:

* Ninety percent said they learned “a lot” in the class (as opposed to “some” or “a little.”)

* Working in the computer lab was the most popular activity, closely followed by “making presentations.” “Reading” and “writing essays” were a little further behind. It was a surprise to me that “making presentations” was number one last semester and, as a result, I tried expanding it in different ways, including having students use inductive learning to create PowerPoints and make short presentations. However, I just don’t feel the time involved in making presentations this way, especially with our school’s outdated laptops (they liked the computer lab because those desktops worked a lot better), was a good “bang for the buck.” Instead, providing students with short readings that they could then read as a jigsaw activity (like what we did when studying Rwanda) seemed to work a lot better. Though I didn’t separate it in the evaluation form, I’m confident that students agree.

* There was a four-way tie for the least favorite activity:”reading,” “making presentations,” “writing essays” and “using textbook.” I believe “making presentations” made the list here because of the PowerPoints we did and the frustration with our antiquated laptops. We sporadically use a fairly decent ELL Geography textbook called “World View,” but I didn’t do as good of a job as I usually do using portions strategically — it was more of a “filler.” Writing essays is never popular. The most disappointing part here was, though working with our various sister classes around the world wasn’t the least popular activity, no one marked it as one of their favorites and several listed it as something they didn’t like. My theory is that we did too many, and that, in the future, we should just do a few. I guess you can have too much of a good thing….

* There was another four-way tie for the activities that students felt they learned the most from: “making presentations,” “writing essays,” “computer lab,” and “reading.”

* Ninety percent felt the pace of the class was “just right,”

* I received “A’s” from just about everybody in “organization,” “knowledge,” “caring” and “hardworking.” However, under “patience” I received an A from seventy-five percent of the class, while getting anywhere between a B and an F from the remaining students. This is an accurate reflection of a quality I know I need to work to develop, and am very open to hearing advice from readers.

* Everyone except two said they would like to take a class from me again. That’s good, because they’ll all be with me next year!

* As far as suggestions on how the class could be better, two suggestions were most common — incorporating more games into the class, which I definitely could have done and should have done, and getting better technology. I’m not going to hold my breath on that one.

All in all, I’m satisfied with the results, and I’ve got some good ideas to implement next year.

MAINSTREAM NINTH-GRADE ENGLISH

I taught two English classes of mainstream ninth-graders, always the most challenging classes I have. Here’s a version of the form I used with them (that’s the one I used for the first semester – I made some minor changes but can’t find the most recent version).

Highlights:

* The results are clearly different in some areas for each class. My afternoon class was more challenging than my morning one, which I at least partially attribute to coming right after lunch.

* Everyone in my morning class except for one student said they learned “a lot.” In my afternoon class, it was divided evenly between “a lot” and “some.”

* Sixty-five percent of the students in my morning class said they tried their best either “a lot of the time” or “all the time.” Thirty-five percent said “some of the time.” It was a fifty-fifty split in the afternoon class.

* Everybody in both classes said our unit on Jamaica was their favorite one.

* Ninety percent of my morning class said I was an “excellent” teacher. In the afternoon class, fifty percent said I was “excellent,” twenty-five percent said I was “good,” ten percent said I was “okay” and the rest said I was “bad.”

* Everyone in both classes, except for two in the afternoon one, felt that I “was concerned about what was happening in their lives.”

* In the morning class, eighty percent said I was patient either “a lot of the time” or “all of the time.” The rest chose “some of the time.” In the afternoon class, sixty percent said I was patient either “a lot of the time” or “all of the time.”

* Everyone in the morning class said they liked the class and they’d like to take another one with me. Eighty percent of the afternoon class said the same.

* Students in both classes chose “working in groups” and their independent book clubs as their favorite activities. Our new librarian has been especially cooperative in helping with these clubs, and I hope to expand them next year.

All in all, I’m satisfied with the evaluation results. As I mentioned, I think coming in right after lunch made things challenging in my afternoon class, and I also think just the mix of students also created the more challenging atmosphere.

IB THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE

I taught one International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge class that included a small portion of IB Diploma candidates and a much larger number of students, including English Language Learners, who I specifically recruited for the class and who might not ordinarily take an IB class. Here’s a version of the form I used with them (again, I made some minor changes in the actual form I used, but can’t find the most recent electronic copy).

Here are highlights:

* What are the most important things you have learned in the class?: “there are a lot of different sides of the world we can’t see”; “how to do an outline for an essay and a PowerPoint”; “presentation skills and time management”; “question everything.”

* What have you liked about this class or how it was taught?: “how it was organized to work in groups”; “that you have to think deeper than normal classes”; “I liked how we did so many presentations”; “I liked being here everyday”

* How do you think it can be improved?: “the class is great”; “more control over the volume”; “students should be more respectful”

There were several comments about students needing to be more quiet and show more self-control. I tend to be more lax on classroom management in this class but, as the class gets bigger (and it will get even larger next year), I need to start from the beginning and be a little more strict.

* What grade would you give Mr. Ferlazzo as a teacher? What does he do well and what can he improve?: Everyone gave me an A or A+. Here are some comments: “he makes difficult concepts understandable in a fun way”; “he’s nice”; “he can improve how he controls the class”

* Are there ways you think that what you learned in this class can help you in the future?: “It will help me keep my mind open and to accepting new ideas, cultures, traditions, languages and beliefs”; “I’ll be a better writer and presenter”

Theory of Knowledge is a great class and I’m excited that, for the first time, I’ll get to teach two of them next year!

ENGLISH FOR BEGINNING & INTERMEDIATE ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS

I taught English to one combined class of Beginning and Intermediate English Language Learners. Here’s the form I used.

Here are the highlights:

* Everyone except for one student said they learned “a lot” in the class.

* Two activities tied as favorite activities — “writing essays” and “computer lab.” The same two tied as “least favorite.” And the same two led under activities where students learned the most.

* Everyone said the pace was “just right.”

* I received A’s from everybody or organization, knowledge, caring and hardworking. I received A’s from everyone but two students for patience. Everyone said they’d like to take another class with me, which is good since they all have me again next year!

This class went very well, and it was helped greatly by having talented student teachers. I hope I have the same help next year!

So, that’s my round-up for this year. It was a good one, and I’m also ready for summer break!

April 27, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

An Interesting Exchange With Sugata Mitra

'Sugata Mitra' photo (c) 2012, Campus  Party Brasil - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

I’ve published a fair number of posts about the work of Sugatra Mitra (see The Best Posts & Videos About Sugata Mitra & His Education Ideas), and he’s participated in the comment discussions.

He recently left a comment on a post I originally wrote three years ago, titled Is This The Most Important Research Study Of The Year? Maybe.

I think the post itself is worth reading, but here’s how I summarized it at the time:

Here is a very simple summary of his study, which was a “meta-analysis” of hundreds of others: It found that “direct instruction” was a more effective instructional method than “unassisted discovery learning.” And it found that “enhanced discovery learning” trumped them both.

Here was the comment left by Professor Mitra, followed by my response. I’d invited readers to weigh-in, too:

Professor Mitra:

It’s a good study, and you are right to highlight it. However, it assumes that the kind of teacher you need to do the right kind of scaffolding, is available. This (unspoken) assumption is incorrect in most places in the world, including the USA.

If such a teacher is not available, then, clearly, ‘enhanced discovery learning’ is not possible. Under those circumstances we have three choices – use a traditional taught approach if you have that kind of teacher, at least. Or use ‘unassisted discovery learning’ or don’t encourage any kind of learning.

Which one would you choose?

Here’s My Response:

I believe that most teachers, particularly with adequate support and professional development, are fully capable of providing the kind of scaffolding needed to implement “enhanced discovery learning.” I think that’s borne out with the increasing popularly in the U.S. and elsewhere of inductive learning, project-based learning, problem-based learning, and inquiry-driven learning.

In our own comprehensive high school in the inner-city of Sacramento, for example, we have an “enhanced discovery learning” curriculum taught by all of our English and Social Studies teachers.

I agree with the findings of the research discussed in this post. I think the odds of successful learning are much, much higher with guidance from an educator is much, much higher than with a “sink or swim” perspective.

There’s the old story of the father taking his son out to the woods. The father sees a deer first. Instead of pointing it out to his son, he leads his son in the direction so that the son can point the deer out to his father, instead. The excitement and energy the boy generates for himself by this discovery is much more likely to lead to an appetite for learning more than if the father had told him where to look, and the father is there to help the boy discover answers to questions he might have as well as ask the boy questions about what he is seeing (why do you think the deer is here at this time of day?; do you think there are others? why might this deer be alone?). Without his father’s guidance, the boy might, or might not, have seen the deer, and is more likely to be limited to only the questions he can think of himself.

I’m certainly open to continuing this conversation…

By the way, readers might be interested in reading this recent TED Talk interview with a filmmaker making a movie about Professor Mitra’s work.

February 23, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
2 Comments

The “All-Time” Best Ways To Create Online Content Easily & Quickly

best

I’ve been posting annual lists of the Best Ways To Create Online Content Easily & Quickly for seven years.

I thought it would be useful for readers, my students, and me to review them all and identify my choices for the “all-time” best ones. These web tools are excellent ways for English Language Learners, and others who might not be very tech-savvy, to have a good experience working with technology.

In order to make it on this list, web tools must be:

* accessible to English Language Learners.

* able to provide a learning opportunity.

* available at no-cost.

* able to be used to easily create engaging online content within minutes.

* willing to host user-created work indefinitely on the website itself.

* appropriate for classroom use.

* accessible without requiring registration.

Here are my choices for The “All-Time” Ways To Create Online Content Easily & Quickly:

Pinwords allows you to create attractive illustrated quotes and lets you grab images off the web to use. Quozio is a similar site. And you can find others at my recent post, The Best Tools For Creating Visually Attractive Quotations For Online Sharing.

Phrase.it lets you easily add speech bubbles with your text to photos. You can upload your own, or choose a random image from the site. You’re then given a link to your creation.

Google’s Peanut Gallery  lets you create subtitles for a variety of old silent movies. The special twist, though, is that you create the subtitles by speaking into a computer microphone and they will then magically appear. You have to speak very clearly though, so it may, or may not, work well for English Language Learners.  One negative, however, is that it only works in the Chrome Browser.

I Wish You To lets you easily draw and create your own Ecards, which you can post, embed, and/or send to someone — and no registration is required.

Google has a tool called “Story Builder.” Without having to register, you can create a “dialogue” of sorts, add music, and end up with a link to a video-like presentation that you can share.

I Fake Siri lets you create a fake conversation — in text — with the new iPhone voice feature Siri. You can then link to, or embed, your creation. It’s just another fun opportunity for ELL’s to practice writing, reading, and speaking.

QikPad lets you write collaboratively with anyone you want, and you can then link to, or embed, whatever you come up with….

Our Mother Tongues is a very impressive site that’s designed to support and preserve Native American languages. It’s very engaging, and includes a “language map,” videos and more. One of its very neat features is that it allows you choose a virtual audio postcard with a Native American greeting that you can send to someone. You can also write a personalized message on it. You’re given a unique url address, and it can be posted on a student/teacher website or blog.

With News Jack, all you have to do is paste the url address of any website and you’re immediately given the tools to easily transform its homepage into looking however you want it to look. Without having to register, you can make the New York Times highlight photos and articles of your great basketball-playing ability; have CNN focus on covering what was happening in 1776, or The Huffington Post reporting on the first Thanksgiving dinner. You can easily grab images off the web or your computer to insert, as well as text. You can then click “publish” and you’re given the url address to your creation so it can be shared with the world.

Croak.it lets you easily record a thirty second message with a computer microphone. You then get a unique url address that you can share. No registration is necessary.

Try out Google Docs new demo that lets you write collaboratively with your favorite dead famous writers. Then you get to save and share your creation. As Next Web explains:

A “famous writer” will start typing and then it’s your turn. Once you’ve typed in the next line, the writer takes over
tildee lets you very easily create a simple step-by-step tutorial for just about anything. You can add text, maps, videos and photos.

Cardkarma is a neat eCard site for many occasions. Without registering, you can search Flickr for any photo and turn it into an eCard you can send and post.

Fakebook is a tool over at the excellent ClassTools site (Russel Tarr is the creative genius behind the site). Teachers and students can use it to:

- chart the career of a historical character
- create a timeline of important events
- outline the main plot of a book, play or film
and so on!

At Isle Of Tune, you create music by creating a city. Yes, that’s right, you “drag-and-drop” different parts of a city — homes, cars, trees, etc. — and each one has a musical tone. Then click “Go” and the car prompts the different elements to do their thing. No registration is required, and you’re given the url address of your creation to share. As a bonus to English Language Learners, the different parts of the city are labeled, so students can pick up vocabulary at the same time. Plus, they can describe their musical creations.

With Picture Book Maker, you can easily create a…picture book (including text). It can be saved online or printed out. It’s super-easy to use, plus no registration is required. The url of your creation can be posted on a student/teacher blog or website.

Bounce lets you virtually annotate webpages. Just type in the url address, make notes on it (perhaps students can demonstrate their use of reading strategies like making a connection or asking questions) and then post the link on a student/teacher blog or website.

Five Card Flickr Story lets you pick five photos from a group of pre-selected images from Flickr and then write a story about them. It saves your selection and story, and provides you with a link to it. No registration is required.

Phreetings lets you search for an image (it appears to use Flickr, but I can’t be sure), drag and drop it on a virtual card, and then write something below it (it looks like you can write a lot there). You’re then given the url to copy and paste. During our study of natural disasters, for example, I can see my students finding an image labeled “Katrina” and writing a short report on what they’ve learned so far about the hurricane.

You can use the Propaganda Film Maker to combine images and audio to try convincing the public to support World War II.

Many ESL Teachers are familiar with Bombay TV, Futebol TV and Classik TV, which let you create subtitles for various clips (you can guess what kind of clips by each of their names).

Szoter doesn’t require registration, you can upload or grab images off the web (just insert its url address), and the final product looks just like an image would look like using the Picture Word Inductive Model (learn more about the PWIM at The Best Online Tools For Using Photos In Lessons).

Bubblr is a super-easy tool to use for adding “speech bubbles” to online photos.

Create a slideshow with Bookr.

The Art of Storytelling is a site from the Delaware Art Museum that allows you pick a painting (they don’t use photos, but the site is so good I decided to include it in this list anyway), write a short story about it, record it with your computer microphone, and email the url address for posting on a student website or blog. It’s extraordinarily simple, and extraordinarily accessible to any level of English Language Learner. No registration is required.

PixiClip is a neat drawing tool that lets you make a drawing and record either audio-only or a video to go along with it. It also lets you upload an image from the web and “mark it up.” The audio-plus-drawing capability could really come in handy for English Language Learners. .

Here’s an example:

TxtBear is great — you can create a document using Word, for example, and upload it to the Web for free. TxtBear create a url address for it.

Testmoz is an app that lets you create an online, self-correcting quiz without having to register.

Jeopardy Labs lets you easily create an online Jeopardy game without having to register. Maybe I’m the only teacher who feels this way, but I’ve always found that playing Jeopardy the way they do on TV — giving players the answer and then they have to come-up with the question — to be overly confusing for students in the classroom. When I’ve played it in class, I’ve just given the questions and had students have to say the answers. Given my feelings about this, even though it’s super simple to use this tool to create the game, I tell my students to ignore the site’s instructions and just write the questions first and the answers second so that the board displays the question.

Padlet (formerly Wallwisher) lets you make a virtual wall of “sticky notes” where you can include images, text, and/or videos. Inductive learning is a key part of our teaching at Burbank, and we use what are called “data sets” as a major component of those lessons.  After students categorize the info in these data sets, they can summarize them and use them to create Padlets, as our students did in our Nelson Mandela unit. You can see many examples of their creations in our class blog.

My students have been completing Internet Scavenger Hunts, which are basically a series of questions along with links where they can find the answers. We’ve just been grabbing ones we find on the Web and putting them on our class blog for students to complete, but there’s no reason why students now can’t start making their own. Their classmates can then complete them. Even though there are relatively simple sites that are solely devoted to the creation of scavenger hunts and more sophisticated Webquests (see The Best Places To Create (And Find) Internet Scavenger Hunts & Webquests), I think, for our purposes, just having students come up with a few questions, then list a url address where they can find the answers, and then list a few more questions, etc. would be sufficient for what we want to do. For that purpose, I don’t there’s anything easier than a site like Copytaste ( Others include Loose Leaves, Dinky Page, Just Paste It, and Page O Rama ). Students just have to make the list of questions and websites and the page is automatically converted into a website whose url address can be pasted on our class blog.

Create an online poster with Tackk. They’ve just announced a special education page with class-related templates and examples.

Use Dvolver Moviemaker to create short animations with text bubble dialogue. You can see many examples of these films on my Examples of Student Work page.

Create a cartoon at MakeBeliefsComix and the Toronto Public Library Tell-A-Story Builder.

Zee Maps lets you create maps, mark places, and add media.

Scribble Maps is a neat application that lets you create maps — with markers and images that can be grabbed off the Internet — and you can draw on it, too. Plus, no registration is required.

Let me know if you think I’m missing ones that should be on the list. I’ve posted about many more, but just included the ones that I thought were the very best….

You can see all 1,200 “The Best” lists here.

January 25, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

The Best Sites For Learning About South Africa

'You are here' photo (c) 2008, Chris Eason - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

As regular readers know, my ELL Geography class has been working with sister classes from throughout the world.

We’re studying Africa now, and will be exchanging videos with classes in that country. Though we’ll be doing other forms of study about that country, one of the simple projects will be having students use “inductive learning” to identify information from this “The Best…” list (probably five pieces of info for each category) that fits into these categories: climate, attractions, economy, culture, history and Nelson Mandela. They will then turn each category into a paragraph, add an introduction and conclusion, and have an essay. In addition, they will be identifying questions in each category that they will be asking our sister classes there. Depending on our time, students might also create online posters, either using Tackk or doing it in Word and uploading it to TxtBear.

I’m also adding this post to The Best Geography Sites For Beginning & Intermediate English Language Learners.

Here is what I have so far — suggestions are welcome:

The Best Sites For Learning About Nelson Mandela (there is a ton of resources there that I won’t duplicate here, which is why you won’t find many specific apartheid resources on this list)

Around The World: South Africa from TIME for Kids.

The 11 Languages of South Africa (thanks to Michelle Henry for the tip)

South Africa under apartheid in the 1970s is an audio slideshow from the BBC with some excellent photos.

National Geographic For Kids: South Africa

Our Africa: South Africa

South Africa For Kids

Fact Monster South Africa

A Fighter With a Camera in Apartheid-Era South Africa is a New York Times slideshow.

Here’s a short, touching NY Times video on the life of a child going to school in South Africa:

November 7, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

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

FerlazzoInductionModelLN-blog480

As regular readers know, I’m a huge fan of using the Picture Word Inductive Model (PWIM) as a primary instructional strategy for Beginning English Language Learners.

I’ve described it in my books as an:

“inductive learning process where students first brainstorm twenty words related to a picture, then put those words into categories and add new ones that fit those categories. Next they complete a “cloze” (or fill-in-the-blank) activity with sentences about the picture which are then put into categories of their own. They convert those sentence categories into paragraphs, and, finally, arrange the paragraphs into essays.”

The image illustrating this post is an example of what one might look like using the PWIM.

I’ve also written more extensively about it at The Best Ways To Use Photos In Lessons.

Even though it’s a great strategy, it’s also possible to have too much of a good thing. In other words, if you use the same strategy week-in-week-out, with no variation, it’s eventually going to feel stale to teacher and students alike.

I think it’s important, however, to follow the process I laid-out earlier in this post pretty religiously for a couple of months so that students really “get” it. After that time — in fact, just about at this time of the school year — it’s time to change it up a bit while still sticking to the general outline.

I thought it would be useful to share some of the modifications I’ve made in the past and also invite readers to contribute their own.

Here goes (though they are numbered, these modifications are not listed in any order of preference):

1. After the first stage of labeling the image (which is always tied to a theme — home, food, etc.), ask students to find a similar thematic image online and use one of the numerous new online tools that let you mark-up images so that they look just like a PWIM photo. Students can use the same words and identify new ones, too. My favorite tool for this purpose is Szoter Online because no registration is required, but Thinglink is another viable option. Students can post and share their images on a class blog like ours.

2. Have students come up with questions they have about the image — both literal and interpretative (the teacher should provide some question “stems” like the ones on page two and four in this document). Students could share all their questions and then categorize them — perhaps into “literal” and “interpretative” — and develop more questions that would fit into them. As a follow-up speaking activity, students could take turns asking each other some of those questions and coming up with potential answers.

The teacher could also use slightly different version of this modification by creating a series of questions with sentence stem answers (like this one) that students could complete for one image and then use as a model for future ones.

3. Instead of providing students with a series of one sentence “clozes” about the image that students have to complete and then categorize, have students use the words to create their own one sentence clozes that they share with their classmates. Then students categorize those sentences.

4. Instead of just having students add new words to categories, have them create a picture data set — either online or with images from old magazines. In Picture Data Sets, students add new words, along with words that describe them. One way to do this online is with the many virtual corkboard tools available, with Padlet being the most well-known.

I have to say, though, that I’ve been finding all them rather clunky these days, and think the easiest way for students to create them is to copy and paste images onto a Word document and then create a webpage out of them using Txtbear — it really doesn’t get much more simple than that… Students can then post the link on a class blog and share them.

5. For newcomers, I just have them string together the sentences they write about each category into a paragraph — I want them to begin to gain an understand of basic writing structures and the fact that a paragraph focuses on one main idea. As they began to gain more language fluency, instead of individual sentence clozes, students can be given teacher-created whole paragraph clozes (Wendi Pillars has a good example on her blog. Her same post includes other good ideas for modifying PWIM lessons).

Along with that idea, teachers can make similar clozes for introductions and conclusions as models that students can eventually write entirely on their own.

6. As an “add-on” step, teachers can find a comparable photo to the main one, have students label those words, and then create Venn Diagram and ultimately a compare/contrast essay. I’ve given an example here. Also, read Finding Similar Images To Use For Compare/Contrast Prompts.

7. An idea that one of my student teachers tried out and seemed to work well was having students develop a conversation that people in the picture might have — using the vocabulary words they were learning from the picture.

8. A bilingual aide in my classroom came up with the idea of showing two pictures on the same topic (inside a grocery story and at a fruit and vegetable market); have students create a Venn Diagram comparing the two, and then have them categorize words and sentences based on the Venn Diagram.

I’m sure there are a zillion other potential modifications, so I’m all ears!

July 10, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

“Qwant” Search Engine Has Unique Useful Feature

Qwant is a search engine that offers a unique useful feature: With a click of your mouse, it lets you save, tag, and organize sites into public or private lists.

This can be useful for students who are researching information on the Web (I’m particularly thinking of my IB Theory of Knowledge students). It can also be useful for any of my students who are creating “picture data sets.” That’s an inductive learning activity where they have to collect and write about images, which they then organize into categories. Virtual corkboard sites are ideal for that activity, but Qwant could be another option.

I’m adding it to The Best Social Bookmarking Applications For English Language Learners & Other Students.

Thanks to Robin Good for the tip.

May 28, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Study Says Ability To Identify Patterns Key To Second Language Learning

A new study has just been published identifying the ability to distinguish patterns as a key to learning a second language:

Some research suggests that learning a second language draws on capacities that are language-specific, while other research suggests that it reflects a more general capacity for learning patterns. According to psychological scientist and lead researcher Ram Frost of Hebrew University, the data from the new study clearly point to the latter.

In my books and articles, I’ve written a lot about how we use inductive learning — which is specifically designed to help learners identify patterns, in our ESL classes.

There’s plenty of research out there supporting that instructional strategy, but it’s always nice to get more.

Here are two articles where I describe the use of pattern-seeking in teaching English Language Learners:

Get Organized Around Assets

Ideas for English Language Learners | Celebrate the Holidays

April 2, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

The Advantages Of Helping Students Feel Powerful

In the first book I wrote about teaching English Language Learners, English Language Learners: Teaching Strategies That Work, I shared an inductive learning lesson plan I use titled “I Feel Powerful When…”

Putting it concisely, students complete the sentence frame “I feel powerful when….” Then, we put all the sentences together into a data set and students divide the sentences into categories (“learning something new,” “teaching others,” etc.). In addition to language-learning, the point of the lesson is that we can all feel powerful in different ways — not everyone has to have all those qualities. Students learn the advantages of people who have those different qualities coming to together as allies to achieve a common goal.

It’s a pretty engaging and…powerful lesson.

Now, though, I’m learning about other benefits of this lesson — and others — that help students feel powerful. The Scientific American just published an interesting related article:

people who feel empowered pay more attention to rewarding information, express themselves more freely when interacting with others, and experience more positive emotion. They also tend to be more persuasive, less susceptible to the influence of others, and more confident. Power breeds optimism, higher self-esteem, and action in pursuit of goals.

The article focuses on experiments that have demonstrated that people who were asked to write about a prior experience when they felt powerful were much more successful in job interviews than others.

It got me thinking about my lesson, as well as different activities I have students do prior to taking standardized tests.

I don’t see any reason why something like this shouldn’t work in that situation, too. Another alternative is to time my lesson to right before standardized test-taking time.

You can find out more of my thoughts on test-taking at The Best Posts On How To Prepare For Standardized Tests (And Why They’re Bad).

January 29, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
5 Comments

How My Ninth-Grade English Class Evaluated Me This Semester

Last week was the end of our first semester and, as always, I had my students evaluate the class and me. I’ve previously posted about the results from my ESL class and from my IB Theory of Knowledge class (you might also be interested in The Best Posts On Students Evaluating Classes (And Teachers)).

Here’s the evaluation form I use.

This double-block class is always my most challenging, and always the one where I improve the most as a teacher year and after year.

I list each question, followed by the results, ending with a short commentary:

1. In this class, I learned…. some a lot a little

I always consider this the most important question, and was pleased to see that ninety percent circled “a lot.”

We have a great curriculum, I do a lot of the life skills lessons found in my books, and I work very, very hard. I’m glad to see that it seems to be paying-off.

2. I tried my best in this class….a lot of the time all the time some of the time

One half said “all the time,” a little more than one-quarter said “a lot of the time,” and a little less than one-quarter said “some of the time.”

I wish it was more than one-half saying “all of the time” but, to tell the truth, I’m okay with this percentage by the end of the first semester. The second semester is when I do the life-skills lessons in my upcoming book, and I think that this percentage should go up considerably sooner. I will not be happy if I get these same results in June.

3. My favorite unit was…. New Orleans Natural Disasters Latin Studies

Three-fourths chose Natural Disasters and one-fourth picked New Orleans.

This is a typical result, even though my classes always have a large percentage of Latino students.

4. My least favorite unit was …. New Orleans Natural Disasters Latin Studies

Three-fourths chose Latin Studies and one-fourth chose New Orleans — again, a typical result.

5. As a teacher, I think Mr. Ferlazzo is… okay good excellent bad

One-half said I was good, one-fourth said I was excellent, one-eighth said I was okay, and one-eighth said I was bad.

I’m okay with those results.

6. Did you feel that Mr. Ferlazzo was concerned about what was happening in your life? yes no

Three-fourths said yes and one-fourth said no.

Here again, I’m okay with those results.

7. Mr. Ferlazzo is patient…. some of the time a lot of the time all of the time

Half said “some of the time” and half said “a lot of the time.”

It’s a challenging class — I’ll take it.

8. Did you like this class? Yes No

Half said yes and half said no.

This is typical at the end of the first semester when we’re just finishing the unit that is typically the least popular of the entire year — Latin Studies. By the end of the year I’m confident it will be a 70% yes and 30% no — we have some pretty interesting units coming up.

9. Would you want to take another class taught by Mr. Ferlazzo? Yes No

Fifty percent said yes and fifty percent said no.

This was the biggest surprise for me. Even at this point in the year, the yes percentage is usually higher and grows to June. I’ve got a fair number of students who are not generally positive about anything related to school, so that might have some influence here. However, I don’t want to dismiss it either. It’s a little puzzling — Ninety percent said they learned a lot, and two-thirds said I was either a good or excellent teacher, yet half would not want to have me as a teacher again. Do readers have any thoughts on this difference?

10. What was your favorite activity in this class?
Practice Reading Data Sets Make-and-Breaks Read Alouds Clozes
Writing essays Working in groups

It was a three way tie between working in groups, data sets (inductive learning, which is typically done in groups), and clozes.

No big surprises here, except that “practice reading” (reading for pleasure) usually is near the top, but not this year so far.

11. What could you have done to make this class a better learning experience?

Talk less

Get a different teacher

Help others

Not get mad at Mr. Ferlazzo sometimes.

Pay attention

Do what Mr. Ferlazzo tells me to do.

Be more patient.

12. What could Mr. Ferlazzo have done to make this class a better learning experience

Give less work.

Help more.

Make it more fun.

Let us listen to music

I think they have something with the “make it more fun” comment. There are easy ways for me to add a little more of that into the class. Sometimes I get so focused on covering the material and on classroom management issues that I miss some opportunities for fun.

Your comments are welcome….

September 29, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

September’s Best Posts From This Blog

I regularly highlight my picks for the most useful posts for each month — not including “The Best…” lists. I also use some of them in a more extensive monthly newsletter I send-out. You can see my previous Best Posts of the Month at Websites Of The Month.

These posts are different from the ones I list under the monthly“Most Popular Blog Posts.” Those are the posts the largest numbers of readers “clicked-on” to read. I have to admit, I’ve been a bit lax about writing those posts, though.

Here are some of the posts I personally think are the best, and most helpful, ones I’ve written during this past month (not in any order of preference):

Participate In A Free Online Chat With Us About Our New ELL Book

“Eight Things Skilled Teachers Think, Say, and Do”

“Ideas for English Language Learners | Election 2012″

“Using Games in the ELL Classroom, Part II”

Teaching Science By “Becoming A Learner”

Series Of Good Dan Pink Videos To Use With Students

More Info On Why Inductive Learning Is So Effective

Using “Gangnam Style” As A Language Acquisition Activity

“Using Games in the ELL Classroom, Part I”

Arrogance, The Gates Foundation & The “Remembering Self”

“This Is Your Brain On Reading”

“A Nobel Laureate Writes About Becoming A ‘Science Coach’”

Everyone Should Hear This Speech From Karen Lewis

This Is The Best Piece I’ve Read So Far On The Chicago Teachers’ Strike

New Organizational Tool I’m Using This Year: Double – Sided Notebooks

“Sacramento City Teachers Association declines to participate in Race to the Top “

Evaluating Student Athletes

“Mural.ly” Opens To The Public

More Free Online Resources From Our ELL Book

The “Who Am I?” Poster I Use As A Model For Students

My Student Handout For Simple Journal-Writing

We’ve Decided On A Title For My Upcoming Book!

” An Interview With Paul Tough On Character & Schools”

Eight Ways To Build An Audience For Your Blog

July 1, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

” How Google is teaching computers to see” — Inductively

How Google is teaching computers to see is an article from Gigaom about Google’s effort to get computers to “see”:

Google is attempting to teach computers to recognize human faces without telling the computing algorithms which faces are human.

It’s using zillions of still images from Google to have computers learn through categorizing what they “see.”  Here’s an excerpt from a Google research paper on what they’re doing, followed by an observation about it in Gigaom article:

this would suggest that it is at least in principle possible that a baby learns to group faces into one class because it has seen many of them and not because it is guided by supervision or rewards.

Understanding the origins of language and how people learn to classify objects is something people are still trying to work out, so Google may be onto something…

It appears that Google using “inductive learning” in this process, a process which I use extensively in my classes and which I’ve written about a lot in my books. Teaching “inductively” generally means providing students with a number of examples from which they can create a pattern and form a concept or rule. Teaching “deductively” is first providing the rule or concept and then having students practice applying it.

In a recent article I wrote for ASCD Educational Leadership, you can read about one example, including how I use a “data set” (an example of one in that article, too).

Google has also shown in a video how Google Translate also uses inductive learning — see The Best Sites For Learning About Google Translate.

This kind of learning has also received a great deal of support from researchers.

You can read more about inductive learning and teaching from past posts in this blog and my books are full of inductive lesson plans.

(Coincidentally, minutes after I published this post I found another new article about inductive learning and language.)

June 4, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

The Best Sites For Learning About Google Translate & Other Forms Of Machine Translation

'Screenshot-Google Translate - Google Chrome' photo (c) 2011, Augie Schwer - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Google Translate is the most popular site and app in the world for translation, and I thought it would be useful — both for readers and for my Theory of Knowledge students — to bring together some resources to learn how it works.

Here are my picks for The Best Sites For Learning About Google Translate:

How Google Translate works
is from The Independent.

How Google Translate Works Its Magic
is from Read Write Web.

Worlds Unknown: The Regions Ignored by Google Translate is from The Atlantic.

I have written a lot in my blog and in my book on teaching English Language Learners on how I use inductive learning in the classroom. Teaching “inductively” generally means providing students with a number of examples from which they can create a pattern and form a concept or rule. Teaching “deductively” is first providing the rule or concept and then having students practice applying it. This two-and-one-half minute video below explains that this is how Google Translate learns, too. It’s definitely worth watching.

Introducing Translate for Animals (beta): Bridging the gap between animals and humans was a funny April Fool’s Day prank Google pulled one year.

The Cold War Origins Of Google Translate is from the BBC and is pretty interesting.

I list my preferences for online translators in The Best Reference Websites For English Language Learners, along with sharing research from The New York Times on which ones do a better job. I list Google as the best. Ethan Shen has done a research project comparing Google Translate, Babelfish and Bing Translator. Here are his conclusions:

The final data reveals that while Google Translate is widely preferred when translating long passages, Microsoft Bing Translator and Yahoo Babelfish often produce better translations for phrases below 140 characters.

The New York Times  published a chart titled “Putting Google to the Test in Translation.” In it, they compare several pieces of text using Google Translate, Yahoo’s Babel Fish, and Microsoft’s Bing translation system.  Google seemed to come out on top.

Doc Translator says it “Instantly translates and preserves the layout of Office documents using the Google Translate.”It could be a useful tool for times like when my ESL students wrote informational fliers for their neighborhoods when the H1N1 flu first hit. They can put their energy into writing a document in English, make it into a nice flier, use Doc Translator to translate it (and maybe tidy it up a bit), and then upload it to the web.

Google Translate Adds Example Sentences To Put Words Into Context is from TechCrunch.

Microsoft’s Chief Research Officer gave a pretty amazing demonstration of computer translation advancement. In this video (I’ve used TubeChop to embed the most interesting part, so you will have to click through to see it. Or you can watch the entire video here). He speaks English and, just seconds later, what he says is translated into Mandarin in his own voice.

You can read more about this advance, including a history of machine translation, at his post.

Lost in Translation? Try a Google App is from The New York Times.

“Never Forget a Useful Phrase Again – Introducing Phrasebook for Google Translate”

Star Trek “Universal Translator,” Here We Come?

Google Wants To Improve Its Translations Through Crowdsourcing is from TechCrunch.

Let me know if you have other suggestions.

If you found this post useful, you might want to look at the 900 other “The Best…” lists and consider subscribing to this blog for free.

April 27, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo
3 Comments

The Value Of Student “Ownership”

Source: pinaquote.com via Larry on Pinterest   

Most teachers understand the value of students feeling “ownership” of their learning, and I’ve written a lot about how inductive learning, student autonomy and choice contribute to that happening. Of course, many others have contributed much more to that understanding, including John Dewey and William Glasser.

Dan Ariely has written about something similar that he calls The Ikea Effect.

Today, Scott Keller wrote a post at the Harvard Business Review blog site that reinforces this perspective. He describes a study reported in a book by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman (I’ve previously written about his work).

Keller’s post is worth reading in full, but I just wanted to quote from its beginning:

In a famous experiment, researchers ran a lottery with a twist. Half the participants were randomly assigned a lottery number. The remaining half were given a blank piece of paper and a pen and asked to write down any number they would like as their lottery number. Just before drawing the winning number, the researchers offered to buy back the tickets. The question researchers wanted to answer is, “How much more do you have to pay someone who ‘wrote their own number’ versus someone who was handed a number randomly?” The rational answer would be that there is no difference (given that a lottery is pure chance and therefore every ticket number, chosen or assigned, should have the same value). A more savvy answer would be that you would have to pay less for the tickets where the participant chose the number, given the possibility of duplicate numbers in the population who wrote their own number. The real answer? No matter what location or demographic the experiment has taken place in, researchers have always found that they have to pay at least five times more to those who wrote their own number.

This result reveals an inconvenient truth about human nature: When we choose for ourselves, we are far more committed to the outcome — by a factor of five to one.

Something we should probably all keep in mind when we’re teaching…

February 18, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo
2 Comments

What Can Teachers Learn From Target?

Today’s New York Times Magazine has a pretty scary article about how the retail giant Target tracks what’s going on in the lives of customers and uses that information to get us to buy more stuff from them.  It’s definitely worth reading the whole piece.

As I mentioned, it’s scary — in addition to being creepy. Nevertheless, the article does highlight some strategies that can be used for good in the classroom and not only for not-so-good things in the quest for corporate profit.

Here are three points that struck me in the article:

The Effectiveness of Inductive Learning: Target uses inductive learning to analyse information, look for information, and apply and extend what it learns — the typical steps in the inductive learning process:

For companies like Target, the exhaustive rendering of our conscious and unconscious patterns into data sets and algorithms has revolutionized what they know about us and, therefore, how precisely they can sell.

Inductive learning is an extremely effective teaching and learning process that’s used by other companies as well, including Google Translate. Last year, a major study written about by Robert Marzano found inductive learning to be far more effective than direct instruction in the classroom.

The Importance Of Automaticity & Chunking: The article discusses Target’s efforts to shape shopping habits, and discusses automaticity and chunking. It includes a good story that I will be using with my students when we discuss why I ask them to use explicit reading strategies (asking a question, visualizing, etc.) often when we’re reading texts:

Take backing your car out of the driveway. When you first learned to drive, that act required a major dose of concentration, and for good reason: it involves peering into the rearview and side mirrors and checking for obstacles, putting your foot on the brake, moving the gearshift into reverse, removing your foot from the brake, estimating the distance between the garage and the street while keeping the wheels aligned, calculating how images in the mirrors translate into actual distances, all while applying differing amounts of pressure to the gas pedal and brake.

Now, you perform that series of actions every time you pull into the street without thinking very much. Your brain has chunked large parts of it.

Reflecting On Cues & Rewards: The author’s discussion of cues and rewards, and how to use them to create habits, was particularly intriguing to me:

The process within our brains that creates habits is a three-step loop. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future. Over time, this loop — cue, routine, reward; cue, routine, reward — becomes more and more automatic…..

Luckily, simply understanding how habits work makes them easier to control. Take, for instance, a series of studies conducted a few years ago at Columbia University and the University of Alberta. Researchers wanted to understand how exercise habits emerge. In one project, 256 members of a health-insurance plan were invited to classes stressing the importance of exercise. Half the participants received an extra lesson on the theories of habit formation (the structure of the habit loop) and were asked to identify cues and rewards that might help them develop exercise routines.

The results were dramatic. Over the next four months, those participants who deliberately identified cues and rewards spent twice as much time exercising as their peers. Other studies have yielded similar results. According to another recent paper, if you want to start running in the morning, it’s essential that you choose a simple cue (like always putting on your sneakers before breakfast or leaving your running clothes next to your bed) and a clear reward (like a midday treat or even the sense of accomplishment that comes from ritually recording your miles in a log book). After a while, your brain will start anticipating that reward — craving the treat or the feeling of accomplishment — and there will be a measurable neurological impulse to lace up your jogging shoes each morning.

Charles Duhigg, the article’s author (who also is publishing a book on the topic) made this personal:

I wanted to lose weight.

I had got into a bad habit of going to the cafeteria every afternoon and eating a chocolate-chip cookie, which contributed to my gaining a few pounds. Eight, to be precise. I put a Post-it note on my computer reading “NO MORE COOKIES.” But every afternoon, I managed to ignore that note, wander to the cafeteria, buy a cookie and eat it while chatting with colleagues. Tomorrow, I always promised myself, I’ll muster the willpower to resist.

Tomorrow, I ate another cookie.

When I started interviewing experts in habit formation, I concluded each interview by asking what I should do. The first step, they said, was to figure out my habit loop. The routine was simple: every afternoon, I walked to the cafeteria, bought a cookie and ate it while chatting with friends.

Next came some less obvious questions: What was the cue? Hunger? Boredom? Low blood sugar? And what was the reward? The taste of the cookie itself? The temporary distraction from my work? The chance to socialize with colleagues?

Rewards are powerful because they satisfy cravings, but we’re often not conscious of the urges driving our habits in the first place. So one day, when I felt a cookie impulse, I went outside and took a walk instead. The next day, I went to the cafeteria and bought a coffee. The next, I bought an apple and ate it while chatting with friends. You get the idea. I wanted to test different theories regarding what reward I was really craving. Was it hunger? (In which case the apple should have worked.) Was it the desire for a quick burst of energy? (If so, the coffee should suffice.) Or, as turned out to be the answer, was it that after several hours spent focused on work, I wanted to socialize, to make sure I was up to speed on office gossip, and the cookie was just a convenient excuse? When I walked to a colleague’s desk and chatted for a few minutes, it turned out, my cookie urge was gone.

All that was left was identifying the cue.

Deciphering cues is hard, however. Our lives often contain too much information to figure out what is triggering a particular behavior. Do you eat breakfast at a certain time because you’re hungry? Or because the morning news is on? Or because your kids have started eating? Experiments have shown that most cues fit into one of five categories: location, time, emotional state, other people or the immediately preceding action. So to figure out the cue for my cookie habit, I wrote down five things the moment the urge hit:

Where are you? (Sitting at my desk.)

What time is it? (3:36 p.m.)

What’s your emotional state? (Bored.)

Who else is around? (No one.)

What action preceded the urge? (Answered an e-mail.)

The next day I did the same thing. And the next. Pretty soon, the cue was clear: I always felt an urge to snack around 3:30.

Once I figured out all the parts of the loop, it seemed fairly easy to change my habit. But the psychologists and neuroscientists warned me that, for my new behavior to stick, I needed to abide by the same principle that guided Procter & Gamble in selling Febreze: To shift the routine — to socialize, rather than eat a cookie — I needed to piggyback on an existing habit. So now, every day around 3:30, I stand up, look around the newsroom for someone to talk to, spend 10 minutes gossiping, then go back to my desk. The cue and reward have stayed the same. Only the routine has shifted. It doesn’t feel like a decision, any more than the M.I.T. rats made a decision to run through the maze. It’s now a habit. I’ve lost 21 pounds since then (12 of them from changing my cookie ritual).

I think this point can be very, very helpful in the classroom with students who want to break habits they have identified as ones they want to change (not to mention with us teachers who might have a few, too).

I’m going to put some thought into it and develop a lesson plan, which I’ll share here at a later date.  If you have some ideas of what I should considering including, please leave a comment.

I guess many things can be applied for ill… or for good…..

November 27, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

The Best Articles (And Blog Posts) Offering Practical Advice To Teachers In 2011

The title of this “The Best…” list is pretty self-explanatory. What you’ll find here are blog posts and articles this year (some written by me, some by others) that were, in my opinion, the ones that offered the best practical advice to teachers this year — suggestions that can help teachers become more effective in the classroom today or tomorrow. Some, however, might not appear on the surface to fit that criteria, but those, I think, might offer insights that could (should?) inform our teaching practice everyday.

For some, the headlines provide enough of an idea of the topic and I haven’t included any further description.

You might also be interested in:

The Best Articles (And Blog Posts) Offering Practical Advice To Teachers — 2010

The Best Articles (And Blog Posts) Offering Practical Advice To Teachers — 2009

Here are my choices for The Best Articles (And Blog Posts) Offering Practical Advice To Teachers In 2011:

The New York Times has a fascinating article about Lincoln and The Mormons. It explains that he basically made a deal to leave them alone and they left him alone. This is what he told a Mormon leader:

When I was a boy on the farm in Illinois there was a great deal of timber on the farm which we had to clear away. Occasionally we would come to a log which had fallen down. It was too hard to split, too wet to burn, and too heavy to move, so we plowed around it.

In other words, there are some battles not worth fighting, which also happens to be a community organizing axiom. I also think it’s also a good classroom management guide. We need to “keep on our eyes on the prize” and not get sucked into distracting conflicts. If a student just keeps on forgetting to bring a pencil to class, I just give him one from a big box of golf pencils I buy at the beginning of each school year. If they don’t have paper, I have stack. I’ve got bigger fish to fry, like helping them developing intrinsic motivation to read the first book in their lives and develop an appetite for learning.

Patterns and Punctuation by Elizabeth Schlessman appears in the most recent issue of Rethinking Schools. It is clearly the best lesson plan I’ve ever heard about for teaching punctuation. I’m not going to go into depth on it since the article is available for now and is not behind a paywall. In summary, it Elizabeth used inductive teaching and learning to have students identify punctuation in what they were reading, identify patterns, and then apply what they learned to their own writing. In many ways, it’s similar to the inductive learning strategies I’ve often discussed in this blog and in my books. I’ve constantly used “data sets” — a list of 10-30 examples of writing — that students categorize and then expand. I’ve just never thought before about using them to teach punctuation, but it makes perfect sense.

An Effective Five-Minute Lesson On Metacognition is a post I wrote about a very effective classroom activity I did recently. I think it’s pretty good, if I say so myself :)

This Is My Simple Three-Day Lesson On 9/11 might be helpful for next year.

Simple, Great Chart To Show To All Students

Excellent New Edutopia Resource On Brain-Based Learning provides excellent practical advice.

The Seven Wonders….Of The Neighborhood? could be a useful lesson plan.

This next one doesn’t fall into the category of “advice,” but it’s an extremely practical resource:

I learned about APPitic, which describes itself as:

…an directory of apps for education by Apple Distinguished Educators (ADEs) to help you transform teaching and learning.

It has over 1,300 categorized apps, including a ton organized by Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Here’s another resource that isn’t “advice,” but is eminently practical: Most Big Cable Companies Agree To Provide Low-Cost Internet To Low-Income Students

Whenever You’re Tempted To Use Punishment As A Classroom Management Tool, Remember This Comic Strip

I’ve previously posted about the Bloom’s Taxonomy of Reflection that Peter Pappas developed. I just discovered that he developed this excellent Prezi about it. I’d also strongly encourage you to read his post that explains it further, as well as one by Langwitches giving an example of how to apply it in the classroom.

What Do Teachers Do On Twitter? is a nice slideshow presentation. Thanks to Joe Dale for the tip.

Asking if people are available and have time to talk with you instead of just immediately talking with them dramatically increases the rates of compliance, according to a study.. In the classroom, when a student is acting inappropriately, I generally try to begin with a “Can I talk with you, please?” before intervening. Just framing it as a request, even though the student knows it really isn’t, seems to help de-polarize the situation. And there have been a few times when a student has responded something like “Can you not talk to me right now — give me some time and let’s talk later” and that has also ended up working well.

I’ve written quite a bit about Daniel Pink’s book, Drive, here on this blog (see My Best Posts On “Motivating” Students) and in my new book. I recently saw what I think is the best short description and summary of the book’s key points. Check-out the post “What really motivates us?” at the Barking Up the Wrong Tree blog.

Extraordinary “What If?” Student Project

What A Great Way To Get Comments On Student Blogs!

“Write About A Success That One Of Your Ancestors Had”

Bloomin’ Mathematics is a great post sharing ways to incorporate Bloom’s Taxonomy into teaching math.

The Best Posts About The Power Of Light Touches In The Classroom

I had a fun online chat with over 450 educators at Ed Week. It was on my book, Helping Students Motivate Themselves. The transcript of the chat is now available.

Eye On Education, the publisher of my book, Helping Students Motivate Themselves: Practical Answers To Classroom Challenges, has placed the entire first chapter on “How To Motivate Students” online. It includes several lesson plans and hand-outs. In addition, you can access all the web resources for the whole book on a special publisher’s page. Just to to my book’s webpage. Right below the image of the cover is a link that says “Click for PDF sample chapters.” That will take you to the sample chapter. On my book’s webpage, if you scroll down a few inches, you’ll also see a link to “Online Resources.” That link will take you a listing of all the recommended links for each chapter of the book.

Asking “Why Not?” & “What If?” As Well As “Why?”

This Would Be A Nice Geography Assessment

How We Can Help Our Students Deal With Stress

These Three Slideshows On “How To Create Sustainable Behavior” Will Keep You Occupied For A Long Time

Top Ten Tips for Assessing Project-Based Learning is a new great — and free — classroom guide from Edutopia.

Students Annotating Text — Part Two

You can read an article I wrote for Teacher Magazine, What ‘Star Wars’ Can Teach Educators About Parent Engagement, without having to register first at this link. It’s a cute headline, but it provides very practical suggestions for teacher/parent meetings.

Ronnie Burt at Edublogs has published what might be the very best guide for helping teachers begin to blog (and for helping veterans get even better) — The ultimate guide to getting started with blogging!

Individualized Computer Support For Students Facing Challenges

Why Teachers Shouldn’t Blog….And Why I Do

What Are Good Inexpensive (& Simple!) Classroom Technology Tools?

Feedback is welcome.

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November 26, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

My Best Posts On New Research Studies In 2011

I write many posts about recent research studies and how they can relate practically to the classroom. In fact, I post a regular feature called Research Studies of the Week. In addition, I write individual posts about studies I feel are particularly relevant to my work as a teacher.

Here are my choices for My Best Posts On New Research Studies In 2011:

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

The Best Articles On The New Study Showing That Intelligence Is Not “Fixed”

Is A Noun More Powerful Than A Verb?

Uh Oh, Harvard Goal Study Is An “Urban Legend”

More Research Showing Why Inductive Learning Works

“Reading fiction can strengthen your social ties & even change your personality”

“Words Speak Louder Than Money”

“When Students Focus On Tests, They Are Not Taking The Time To Think About Why They Are Learning”

The Best Posts & Articles On Recent Study About Student Anxiety

Everything In Moderation, Including Self-Control

Maybe This Is Why Attacking Teachers Is So Popular…And Why It’s So Important To Speak Positively About Our Students

Boy, There Are So Many Problems With This Times’ Article, Or The Study It’s About, Or Both…

“Brief Diversions Vastly Improve Focus, Researchers Find”

“Making Kids Work on Goals (And Not Just In Soccer)”

A “Must-Read” Article On Increasing Intelligence

Houseplants “boosts one’s ability to maintain attention” — Glad I Have Them In My Classroom!

New Marzano Study On “Effort & Recognition”

Study: Reading Books Is Only Out-Of-School Activity That Helps Students Get Better Job Later

Students & Visualization

Very Useful Articles On Motivation

Um, I Think These Studies Are Missing Something….

“A curious connection between altitude and goodness”

Really Interesting Perspective On Study Claiming Third Grade is Pivotal for Readers

New Study Says Homework Has No Impact…Except In Math

Surprise, Surprise! Study Says Cooperative Learning Is More Effective Than Lectures

Wow, This Is A “Must-Read” Article On The Brain & Learning!

What Does Learning From Mistakes Do To Your Brain?

Fascinating Interview On Happiness

Learning Inductively Works…

Feedback is welcome.

If you found this post useful, you might want to consider subscribing to this blog for free.

You might also want to explore the 800 other “The Best…” lists I’ve compiled.