Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

November 17, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Remembering “Breaking The Plane” Solved My Classroom Problems This Week


On Monday and Tuesday of this week, my English Language Learner classes were going fine, but students in my Theory of Knowledge classes were restless and not very focused.

I initially attributed it to a combination of nervousness over the implications of the Presidential election and eagerness for our week-long Thanksgiving break to begin on Friday. Then, this morning on the way to work, I realized, as I said in the last paragraph, that there didn’t appear to be any issues in my ELL classes and that the problems were taking place in my  afternoon TOK classes. I then began reviewing in my mind if I was doing anything differently in the classes since, really, my instructional moves are generally similar — lots of small group work, movement, fast-pace.

All of sudden, Doug Lemov’s phrase, “Breaking The Plane,” came to me. It’s the catchy term he uses to describe the age-old teacher move of not staying in front of the class and, instead, moving around the room(you can read his piece, What is ‘Breaking the Plane’?, which is on The Best Posts On Classroom Management list).

I’ve been feeling tired this week (I guess I’m ready for the break, too!) and realized I had been lazy in my afternoon TOK classes and not been “breaking the plane” – I’d been hanging out on my stool in the front.

This afternoon, I shook-off my tiredness in the afternoon and went back to “breaking the plane.”

Everything went back to normal.

Even though moving around the room is a common classroom management strategy (and one constantly encouraged Jim Peterson, our principal), I’m not sure if I would have identified the problem and the “fix” so quickly if it wasn’t for Doug’s easily remembered catchy phrase.

Another example that words do matter!

August 12, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

New Study Shows Intervention Has Big Impact On “Achievement Gap” – Also Shows Shortcomings Of Ed Research


I often write about the importance of student/teacher relationships (see The Best Resources On The Importance Of Building Positive Relationships With Students) and plenty of research has documented its importance. One of the many steps I take to build them is having students complete a short-and-simple survey (you can download it at Answers To “What Do You Do On The First Day Of School?”) on the first day of school.

I don’t really pay much attention to what students write in the surveys for awhile since I’m preoccupied just trying to remember all their names in the first week or two of school, but after that I find them useful as excuses to initiate conversations with students who I’m beginning to feel might be experiencing a number of challenges. “Walk-and-Talks” are really my key “go-to” strategy for building relationships, and I learned that strategy from our principal, Jim Peterson (see his guest post, Guest Post: “Walk & Talks” Are Extremely Effective Way To Connect With Students – Here’s A “How-To” Guide).

Now, to the research I refer to in the headline of this post:

There’s been a fair amount of hullabaloo online about a new study from the American Enterprise Institute titled Creating Birds of a Feather: The Potential of Similarity to Connect Teachers and Students (Ed Week has a nice summary headlined Study: Class Getting-to-Know-You Exercise Can Help Close Achievement Gaps).

Basically, the researchers had teachers and students take a survey near the beginning of the school year and told each five items that they had in common with each other. It didn’t have any impact on how students seemed to see their teachers. But it appeared to have a substantial impact on how teachers related to their African-American and Latino students, and that resulted in a reduction in the “achievement gap” (let me know if you think I’m misinterpreting the results). As a result, the researchers created a free online survey tool that teachers could use with their students, and are touting it as low-cost way to reduce educational inequities.

That sounds good, you might say, so what’s the “problem with education research” I refer to in the headline of this post?

Well, according to the study, the teachers that did this  only had an average of 12.6 students each in their class. I don’t know about you, but I’m not that aware of many teachers who have that kind of class-size.

At the beginning of a school year, I, too, would be able to remember who I had what in common with almost immediately. Larger student numbers would make that challenging, and middle-and-high-school numbers would make it impossible.

I’m all for research that reinforces the importance of building student/teacher relationships. I just wish recommended interventions lived in the real world.

For example, it would be very useful to know what kind of impact this kind of intervention would have in the middle of a school year if a teacher was having problems with a particular class (see Have You Ever Taught A Class That Got “Out Of Control”?). Could a survey like this help in that kind of situation?

What do you think – am I being too harsh?

I’m going to add this post to The Best Resources For Understanding How To Interpret Education Research.

June 19, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Articles, Videos & Posts On Education Policy In 2016 – So Far


It’s time for another of my mid-year  “Best” lists (you can see all 1,600 “The Best…” lists here).

I’m adding this one to All Mid-Year 2016 “Best” Lists In One Place.

You might also be interested in:

The Best Articles, Videos & Posts On Education Policy In 2015 – Part Two

The Best Articles & Posts On Education Policy In 2015 – So Far

The Best Articles, Posts & Videos On Education Policy In 2014 – Part Two

The Best Articles & Posts On Education Policy In 2014 – So Far

The Best Articles, Videos & Posts On Education Policy In 2013 — Part Two

All My 2013 “The Best…” Lists (So Far) On Education Policy In One Place

All My 2012 “The Best…” Lists On Education Policy In One Place

The Best Articles, Videos & Posts On Education Policy In 2012 — Part Two

The Best Articles, Videos & Posts On Education Policy In 2012 — Part One

The Best Articles & Posts On Education Policy In 2011 — Part Two

The Best Articles & Posts On Education Polcy In 2011 — Part One

The Best Articles & Posts On Education Policy — 2010

The “Best” Articles (And Blog Posts) About Education Policy — 2009

The “Best” Articles About Education — 2008

The “Best” Articles About Education — 2007

Here are my choices for The Best Articles, Videos & Posts On Education Policy In 2016 – So Far (let me know what you think I’m missing) – these are not listed in any order of preference (I’m starting off with links to “Best” lists I’ve posted over the past few months that relate to ed policy):

The Best Resources For Understanding The Every Student Succeeds Act

The Best Resources On Student Absenteeism

The Best Resources For Learning About The Multilingual Education Act Ballot Initiative In California

The Best Resources For Learning About The Ins & Outs Of Reclassifying ELLs

The Best Resources For Learning About “Deeper Learning”

The Best Resources On Student Agency & How To Encourage It

The “Best” Lists Of Recommendations About What “Effective” Teachers Do

The Best Resources For Learning How The Every Student Succeeds Act Affects English Language Learners

The Best Education “Year-In-Review” Round-Ups For 2015

The Best Education Predictions For 2016

The Best Articles For Beginning To Understand Zuckerberg’s Announced $45 Billion “Charitable” Gift

The Best “Fair Isn’t Equal” Visualizations

Slate is published an impressive series of twelve long articles on race and schools – all in one week – and called Tomorrow’s Test. You can access all of them at the bottom of that introductory article.

Does Teaching Experience Increase Teacher Effectiveness? A Review of the Research is from The Learning Policy Institute. I’m adding it to The Best Articles For Helping To Understand Both Why Teacher Tenure Is Important & The Reasons Behind Seniority-Based Layoffs.

Why so many people are worried about teacher diversity, in two charts is from The Washington Post. I’m adding it to A Collection Of Useful Posts, Articles & Videos On Race & Racism.

Competing Strands Of Educational Reform Policy: Can Collaborative School Reform and Teacher Evaluation Reform Be Reconciled? is a new and important paper from The Shanker Institute. It raises more questions than provides answers, but they’re very important questions.

School Funding Maps:  Hot on the heels of NPR publishing an impressive interactive on school funding across the United States, The New York Times unveiled one that looks even more impressive. Go to their Money, Race and Success: How Your School District Compares page, pop in the name of your school district, and it will vividly demonstrate how students in that district compare with others in academic achievement, school funding, and ethnic make-up of the student population.

Advancing Deeper Learning Under ESSA: Seven Priorities is from Stanford. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About “Deeper Learning.”

When School Districts Get Deliberate About Desegregation is from The Atlantic. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About School Desegregation (& Segregation) – Help Me Find More.

Another Flaw In Using Value-Added Measurement For Teacher Evaluation is a post I wrote about an important recent study.  My blog post itself is not really worthy of inclusion in this list, but the study combined with the little context I give is important.

The Harvard Business Review – of all places – has published what I think is the most thorough and devastating critique that I’ve seen of performance pay – see Stop Paying Executives for Performance. It’s targeting executive pay but, with a few minor changes in wording, the article can be applied to teacher pay and evaluation, as well as student assessment. It’s short, and definitely worth the read.

“Throwing money at the problem” may actually work in education is from The Washington Center For Equitable Growth. I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Learning That Money Does Matter For Schools.

A Community Organizer’s Definition Of Leadership – How Can It Be Applied To Education? (Part One) is a post I wrote that people might find useful.

Stop Humiliating Teachers is a great new essay at The New Yorker. I’m definitely adding it to The Best Articles Providing An “Overall” Perspective On Education Policy.

Comparing Paper-Pencil and Computer Test Scores: 7 Key Research Studies is an important article over at Education Week (Report: Kids who took Common Core test online scored lower than those who used paper is a similar one at The Washington Post).

Stop repeating nonsense about ‘bad’ teachers. Just. Stop it. is from Icing On The Cake. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About Effective Student & Teacher Assessments.

Chicago Public Schools teachers and students need more than loveis by Ray Salazar.

Help wanted: California school districts scramble to hire teachers is a nice article by reporter Diana Lambert appearing in The Sacramento Bee today. It features how our school supports student teachers (created by Jim Peterson and Ted Appel), and you can read more about it at thethree-part series at my Education Week Teacher column on…how to support student teachers.

Ranking Is Not Measuring is by Peter Greene. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About Effective Student & Teacher Assessments.

New Study Suggests That Teacher Observations Should Focus More On Teacher Inputs, Less On Student Outcomes is a post I wrote that is on this “Best” list primarily because of some of the context it provides to links in it.

New Report: Does Money Matter in Education? Second Edition is from The Shanker Institute. I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Learning That Money Does Matter For Schools.

New Study Finds Big Results From Ethnic Studies Classes

Statistic Of The Day: How Much Do Teachers Spend Out Of Their Own Pockets For Supplies?

Video: Jonathan Kozol On Savage Inequalities

The Myth of Unions’ Overprotection of Bad Teachers: Evidence from the District-Teacher Matched Panel Data on Teacher Turnover is a new research paper I learned about through The Shanker Institute. Here’s an excerpt:

The data confirms that, compared to districts with weak unionism, districts with strong unionism dismiss more low-quality teachers and retain more high-quality teachers. The empirical analysis shows that this dynamic of teacher turnover in highly unionized districts raises average teacher quality and improves student achievement.

Study Finds Teachers Whose Students Achieve High Test Scores Often Don’t Do As Well With SEL Skills

March 13, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Guest Post: “Walk & Talks” Are Extremely Effective Way To Connect With Students – Here’s A “How-To” Guide

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Over the years, I’ve written a lot about the work of Jim Peterson, our school’s principal. You can see a video the Association of California School Administrators recently did about him here, and access the many posts where I’ve described his work here. In addition, he’s contributed to some of my most popular Education Week Teacher columns – Several Ways to Connect With Disengaged Students and Ways to Cultivate ‘Whole-Class Engagement.’

He’s recently revised a guide for teachers on how to do “walk and talks” with students, and has given me permission to share it here. I, and many other teachers, have found it to be an incredibly effective strategy for connecting with students and helping them to move forward:

The Power of the Walk-and-Talk Technique

Jim Peterson

Why Walk and Talk with a Student?

Many recent studies have found that the teacher-student relationship outweighs most other factors that influence student achievement and that are within the teacher’s control.

Psychological Benefits to the Walk and Talk

There are multiple psychological benefits to “walking and talking”:

“Body mirroring” is a technique that builds rapport between two individuals. The intent of body mirroring is to have your posture (i.e. leaning forward or backward in a chair, legs crossed or not crossed, etc.) subtly reflect that of the person with whom you’re communicating. This congruence between two individuals facilitates rapport building. Mirroring the body language of a student while sitting with her, can feel unnatural, contrived and distracting to a teacher who is not accustomed to using this technique. Walking next to a student keeps the teacher and the student in very similar postures with no conscious effort on the teacher’s part, which contributes to the rapport-building process. Therefore, the teacher doesn’t need to be conscious of the body mirroring technique but reaps the benefits of it nonetheless.

When you do not yet have a positive relationship with a student, she does not necessarily feel comfortable with looking you in the eyes. In some cultures it is a sign of disrespect for the student to look you, the teacher, in the eye. Walking with a student takes the question of whether to make eye contact out of the equation. It feels perfectly natural to have a conversation with someone and not make eye contact if you are walking alongside each other.

Students who are angry or frustrated will feel better if they are given a chance to walk. Sometime, when you find yourself feeling angry or frustrated, try walking one hundred yards. At the end of that distance, note how you feel compared to when you began the walk. You will not be gleefully jumping up and clicking your heels together, but you will have progressed from feeling bad toward feeling better. And, if you walk one hundred yards more, this sensation of relief will progress. This is why students who arrive to the vice-principal’s office angry often ask if they can remain standing, and if granted permission, will often pace.

When you walk with a student who is frustrated or upset, the student experiences a progression towards a better-feeling state. On a subconscious level, the student associates this positive feeling with your presence and contribution to it, the same way the person you delivered the bad news to made an association between you and the bad news. In the case of the walk-and-talk, however, this positive association is yet another element in the process that builds a positive relationship.

Doing walk-and-talk’s with your students, will, over time, change their behavior, improve their performance in your class and transform your experience as a teacher.



Walk and Talk Steps (shortened version):

1. Find out what class the student has during your prep and contact the student’s teacher to let her know that you’ll be stopping by to go for a walk with him. By doing this first, you can make sure that you’re not pulling the student from an exam or a lab he can’t make up, and when you come to take the student from class, it will be less disruptive.

2. Print the student’s grade and whatever data you have that explains the grade. If you use a spread sheet, simply print that student’s line. Make sure that it is simple data and not a narrative; the student is going to be walking while he looks at this. Take the sheet that the data is printed on and put it in a manila folder. You are going to give this to the student to keep. This is a simple step but there are multiple psychological corollaries behind it. Carry the folder on a clipboard along with a pen and a sheet of lined paper.

3. When you show up at the student’s class, ask the teacher, “May I see __________ for a moment?” When the student steps outside, say (in your own way), “Hey ______ walk with me for a second.” Immediately show him the folder and say, “Here’s your current grade. Go ahead and take a look at what you have so far. I have a plan that’s going to help you get it up to a ____. “Then hand the student the folder saying, “That’s for you to keep” and keep moving. Make sure that there is a clear path in front of your student. He’s already a little thrown off by your unexpected visit and is now looking down at a sheet of paper. It would be un-cool to do this ten feet before a pole or the top of the stairs, unless your walk-and-talk goal is to get revenge for any misery he may have caused you.

By holding the folder up and mentioning his grade, you’re not only capturing the student’s attention, but you’re also distracting him from the awkwardness of your showing up out of the blue. It also takes his attention away from any negative associations he may have with you. If he has a behavior issue in your class and you’re giving him an “F” (Yes, I know he’s earning the grade, but he likely doesn’t see it that way.), you may not be his favorite person in the world.

You’re ten seconds into the walk at this point, and here’s what you’ve done so far: By saying to the teacher “for a second” or “for a moment” you announced to the student, “Don’t worry; this is no big deal.” You immediately got the student moving, which relieves tension and awkwardness. You captured the student’s attention and distracted him with the folder that you said had his grade. (Have you ever noticed that even if you ask a student who has been absent from your class forty five out of fifty days if he wants to see his grade, he’ll say yes?) When you told your student that he could keep the folder, it was like saying, “Here’s a gift for you.” And, let’s not forget that you’ve shown yourself to be going out of your way by showing up at the student’s class. You are a rapport-building machine my friend, and you haven’t even gone twenty feet yet!

4. When the student is done looking at his grade, and you have answered any questions he may have, it’s time to discuss with the student your plan for helping him improve his grade. If the student wants to argue any part of his grade, redirect his energy by letting him know that he’s going to be able to move towards the grade he wants by following your plan.

5. Acknowledge what the student does well in your class. If you honestly can’t think of a single thing he does well in your class, find something positive about his personality that you can tie into helping him be successful. (i.e. “I noticed that you think quickly on your feet. That skill is going to help you a lot, once we get on track following our plan.”) Not only does this compliment go toward building rapport, but it gives the student something to feel competent about in your class.

6. Ask the student to share ideas of what he/she thinks you can do to help him be successful. Then, ask him/her what he/she thinks they can do to help themselves be more successful. You can help him along by making “I’ve noticed” statements, such as, “I’ve noticed that when you focus and do your work without talking to anyone, you don’t get confused and end up finishing your assignment.




Student Interests

Students not only appreciate when you get to know their circumstances, but their interests as well. Take the opportunity, during your walk and talks, to get to know your students’ interests outside of the classroom. If you have a student who is on the bike team, for example, you can ask him a question during one walk about his last race. During another walk you can ask him about his bike or how many miles he rides a week. This interaction may only take a minute or two (or five in some cases) and contributes greatly to the relationship-building process.


I’m adding this post to The Best Posts On Classroom Management.

February 1, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Sacramento Bee Story On Teacher Shortage Features Our School’s Student Teacher Support Program


Help wanted: California school districts scramble to hire teachers is a nice article by reporter Diana Lambert appearing in The Sacramento Bee today.

It features how our school supports student teachers (created by Jim Peterson and Ted Appel), and you can read more about it at the three-part series at my Education Week Teacher column on…how to support student teachers.

If you go to the article’s link, you’ll also see a two-minute video the Bee asked me to do offering tips to new teachers, as well as seeing two photos of me, one of which was ridiculously outsized above the fold in today’s front page. It must have been a very slow news day…

I’m adding the article to The Best Articles & Posts About The “Teacher Shortage.”

October 17, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Lots Of “Experts” Quoted In Article, But Our Principal Is Only One Who Knows What He’s Talking About…


Large share of grads from some high schools require remediation at Sacramento State is an article in today’s Sacramento Bee that highlights the large percentages of high school graduates who are required to take remediation classes at Sacramento State University.

Our school, Luther Burbank High School, is targeted for having a higher percentage of graduates being required to take these courses than another other local school.

Various “experts” claim the reasons behind this including lack of collaboration between colleges and high schools and inadequate information about the expectations of college, and suggest that the Common Core Standards will somehow help this problem.

Fortunately, our principal is able to inject the one piece of common sense and accuracy into the over-simplified analyses offered by others quoted in the article:

The problem often starts well before high school, said Principal Jim Peterson. Burbank faces additional challenges, as 72 percent of its 1,776 students are considered low-income, and about a quarter were English learners last year.

“In the case of our school, demographically, a lot of our students … come to us below grade level,” Peterson said. “We work diligently as a team to get them thinking about college and get them moving in that direction. We push rigor in the classroom; nevertheless, we have kids that need some catching up.”

August 19, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Articles & Posts About The “Teacher Shortage”

There has been a lot of media about what has been called a “teacher shortage.” Here are some of the best articles I’ve seen about it:

Teacher Shortages Spur a Nationwide Hiring Scramble (Credentials Optional) is from The New York Times. Peter Greene has a related post that worth’s a read, too.

Teacher Shortage? Or Teacher Pipeline Problem? is from NPR.

The Hidden Costs Of Teacher Turnover is a  report from NPR.

You might also be interested in a three-part series I published on this topic at Education Week Teacher last year.

Is There a Teacher Shortage? That Depends How You Frame It is from Ed Week.

Some Districts Battle Shortage of Teachers as School Begins is from ABC News. Thanks to Alexander Russo for the tip.

Quote Of The Day: Sacramento Bee Realizes “Teaching Bashing” Affects Shortage

Why so many teachers quit, and how to fix that is from The L.A. Times.

As Students Go Back to School, Shortage of Teachers Causes Concern is from NBC News.

The real reasons behind the U.S. teacher shortage is from The Washington Post.

Want to Reduce the Teacher Shortage? Treat Teachers Like Professionals is from NEA Today.

Teachers Wanted: Passion a Must, Patience Required, Pay Negligible is from The Atlantic.

America’s Teaching Force, by the Numbers is from The Atlantic.

School districts see teacher shortages after years of cuts is from The Associated Press.

CA State finds teacher shortage in more subject areas is from Ed Source.

Addressing California’s Emerging Teacher Shortage is a new report from the Learning Policy Institute.


Help wanted: California school districts scramble to hire teachers is a nice article by reporter Diana Lambert appearing in The Sacramento Bee. It features how our school supports student teachers (created by Jim Peterson and Ted Appel), and you can read more about it at the three-part series at my Education Week Teacher column on…how to support student teachers. If you go to the article’s link, you’ll also see a two-minute video the Bee asked me to do offering tips to new teachers, as well as seeing two photos of me, one of which was ridiculously outsized above the fold in today’s front page. It must have been a very slow news day…

Second Statistic Of The Day: Students Entering College Not Planning To Be Teachers

Creating Coherence in the Teacher Shortage Debate: What Policymakers Should Know and Do is from The American Institutes For Research.

How 37 States Are Handling Teacher Shortages is by Dan Meyer.

Frustration. Burnout. Attrition. It’s Time To Address The National Teacher Shortage is from NPR.

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