Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

March 19, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

My New Podcast: “How Can We Get All Students in Our Classes Thinking & Learning All the Time?


How Can We Get All Students in Our Classes Thinking and Learning All the Time? is the topic of my latest nine-minute BAM! Radio podcast (it will also be a topic next month in my Education Week Teacher column).

My guests are Bill and Pérsida Himmele, and Jim Peterson.

April 17, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo

Visualization Update

Regular readers know that I’m a big believer in helping students use visualization techniques in the classroom (see My Best Posts On Helping Students “Visualize Success”).

I’ve continued to do it this year, and a good portion of my students seem to be taking it seriously (during the one minute time we do it each day students have the option of doing it or just being quiet). Though I haven’t taken the time to compare English assessment results this year as I have in the past (those who do it have typically had bigger increases), it’s clear that just taking the one minute of calmness helps the classroom atmosphere in general. It’s pretty obvious that on the days we forget to do it, things can often be a bit crazier.

About half of my mainstream ninth-grade students visualize; about two-thirds of my advanced English ninth-grade class do it; and about three-fourths of my Intermediate English students do so. As part of their regular Friday reflections, I periodically ask students if they are visualizing and, if they are, ask them to write what they see. Students know there is no negative consequence if they are not.

One change I’ve done the year based on the suggestion of our great assistant principal Jim Peterson is to have students take a few seconds before they visualize to look at their “goal sheets” that they have completed and decide which one they want to focus on that day. Also, at his recommendation I encourage students to not only see themselves working towards their goals, but also notice how they’re feeling when they are seeing themselves be successful.

Here are recent comments students have written as part of the Friday reflection in response to my question about what they are visualizing:

I see I’m reading really well and speaking English really well.

I see myself can speak a lot of English.

I visualize that I reading the book.

When I’m doing my visualizing I see myself doing a conversation in English with my friend.

I do not visualize — I just stay calm and breath.

Yes, I visualize. When I visualize I see me succeeding in the things I want to accomplish such as winning the breakdance tournament.

Yes, when I visualize I see myself doing work and talking.

When I visualize, I see myself reading, doing all my classwork and cleaning my binder.

I see myself reading a lot of books.

April 2, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo

How We Can Help Our Students Deal With Stress

Last week, I wrote a fairly popular post titled How Stress Affects Our Students (& Their Parents) — Plus, How We’re Trying To Help. In it, I shared the results of new research studies, and explained what I was doing in the classroom.

As a follow-up, I asked one of our vice-principals, Jim Peterson, to offer some additional suggestions on how teachers can help students (and anyone else) deal with stress. Jim, who also happens to be a behavioral therapist and a clinical hypnotherapist (check-out his site, Alpha Mind Coaching) is very talented, and I’ve written about him several times in this blog. I also share some of his helpful classroom management ideas (especially with challenging classes) in one of the chapters in my upcoming book. You can read about how I have applied his advice in Have You Ever Taught A Class That Got “Out Of Control”?

Here are some of his additional suggestions how how we can help students better cope with stress:

“Breathwork” is one of the most universal forms of stress reduction, especially in eastern cultures. One technique that’s good for kids, because it’s visual, is to have them visualize breathing in light, positive energy and breathing out negative energy. “In with the good, out with the bad.” Talk with the student to find out what image or idea (It’s good to include the word “idea” since some people are less visual, and you don’t want them getting caught up in trying to get an image if one isn’t coming to them.) resonates best with him or her. A common one is a bright sparkling cloud for the inhalation and a dark stormy cloud for the exhalation. They can even inhale smiley faces and exhale angry, sad or frustrated faces.

I start out by having them inhale deeply and hold it for ten seconds before they exhale After doing this five times, I have them continue with this visual or idea as they continue breathing normally. At this point, they are not trying to control their breathing like they did during the first five cycles, but rather, are now observing it. This is basically a visual meditation.

The second note I’ll make on lowering stress is the power of writing things down. When I train clients, some of whom are teenagers, how to write things down, their stress drops and their productivity increases. The vast majority of people who are stressed out have less to do than they realize. The mere act of writing a list of everything that you have to do, then reading over it, will lower your anxiety as is takes each one of those items out of that parade through the city that we discusses. The steps of prioritizing those items and attaching due dates to each will lead to a dramatic increase in productivity, which could be an article unto itself.

I think these are great ideas that I’ll certainly be applying.  Jim also thinks that meditation can also be a good stress-reduction tool.  What have you found that has helped your students handle stress better?  And, have any of your schools taught meditation techniques?

December 22, 2010
by Larry Ferlazzo

Being Present

Most of us realize the importance of making eye contact and focusing entirely on the person with whom we’re speaking….and the impact it can have on that person. And, probably, many of us often forget to do it, or, when you’re a teacher and having to supervise an entire classroom of students, are not able to do it.

At the recommendation of Jim Peterson, a talented vice-principal at our school about whom I’ve previously written, I (and other teachers) try to take a few minutes now and then from our free period and pull students out of their regular classes to try to have these kinds of conversations (after making pre-arrangements with their teacher, of course), and it has worked out quite well.

Michael Ellsberg has written a good post offering advice and techniques to help people remember to make that kind of eye contact and to “be present” with whom you’re speaking. It’s definitely worth a visit.

He uses a short clip of a town hall meeting during the 1992 Presidential campaign as a model, contrasting the styles of George Bush and Bill Clinton. I’m embedding it here, but Ellsberg has a good analysis of it in his post that I’d encourage you to read.

January 27, 2010
by Larry Ferlazzo

Results From Having ELL Students “Visualize Success”

I’ve been having students in both my mainstream ninth-grade English class and my Intermediate English class visualize being great readers, writers, and speakers (and imagine people praising them for it) twice-a-day for thirty or so seconds each. It’s voluntary, though everyone has to be silent and motionless during that time. About forty percent of the students in my ninth-grade class say they’re doing it, while seventy percent in my Intermediate English class say they are. You can read more about it here.

I had given my ELL students a cloze (fill-in-the-blank) a couple of months ago when we first started, and just scored the results of a new cloze they took yesterday. I’ll have the results from my mainstream ninth-grade class tomorrow.

The first cloze was fairly easy for students, so I made this one a little harder. Even with that increased difficulty, the students who had been visualizing English success daily had an average score of exactly the same both times — 78%.

The four students who say they had not been doing the visualizing scored 70% the first time around. They only scored an average of 43% in this second one — a drop of 27 percentage points.

Of course, this drop might very well just be a correlation, and not have anything to do with not doing visualization. The students doing the visualization might be harder workers in general than those who are not, or some of the students not doing visualization might have been feeling ill yesterday — there could be many factors at play.

Better research than mine, though, has documented that this kind of exercise can provide a positive benefit to English Language Learners in particular.

I’m certainly going to continue doing it in my Intermediate English class — it can’t hurt. And, visualization or no visualization, I need to pay more attention to those students whose scores dropped.

By the way, here’s a video of the arm exercise Jim Peterson did in my class that is described in my book, Self-Driven Learning. You can also visit Jim’s website, Alpha Mind Coaching: