Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

June 10, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

I Explain The Picture Word Inductive Model In My Latest British Council Post

I’ve often written about the Picture Word Inductive Model, my favorite teaching strategy for Beginning English Language Learners.

I’ve just published a post at The British Council with a more detailed explanation on how to use it in the classroom.

You might be interested in all my previous posts there, which you can find here.

I’m going to add this particular post to The Best Ways To Use Photos In Lessons.

Here’s an excerpt:


November 7, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

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


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!

September 22, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo

More Info On Why Inductive Learning Is So Effective

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

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

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

So what do you think the purpose of consciousness is?

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

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

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

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

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

July 1, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo

” 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.)

October 24, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo

More Research Showing Why Inductive Learning Works

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

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

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

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

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

August 19, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Picture Word Inductive Model In Science & Social Studies

I’ve written quite a bit about the Picture Word Inductive Model (PWIM) as a wildly effective instructional strategy. You can see some of what I’ve written about it at The Best Ways To Use Photos In Lessons and in my book on teaching English Language Learners. I’ll also be writing even more about it in my upcoming book on ELL’s.

The PWIM is most well-known for being used in teaching English, but it can also be used very effectively in the content areas. I wanted to share an absolutely phenomenal Science lesson and a fairly decent Social Studies one.

If anyone has suggestions of other good content lessons using the PWIM, please let me know.

August 5, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Learning Inductively Works…

I’ve a lot here in this blog and in my books about how much I use teaching and learning inductively and how effectively I think it is — with both language learners (even Google Translate learns inductively!) and non-ELL’s.

Now, researchers have found that thinking inductively is more effective in predicting world events, too.

Jonah Lehrer has written a column for Wired titled Do Political Experts Know What They’re Talking About? In it, he interviews researcher Philip Tetlock about his examining of political pundit predictions. Here is an excerpt:

Tetlock: Some experts displayed a top-down style of reasoning: politics as a deductive art. They started with a big-idea premise about human nature, society, or economics and applied it to the specifics of the case. They tended to reach more confident conclusions about the future. And the positions they reached were easier to classify ideologically: that is the Keynesian prediction and that is the free-market fundamentalist prediction and that is the worst-case environmentalist prediction and that is the best case technology-driven growth prediction etc. Other experts displayed a bottom-up style of reasoning: politics as a much messier inductive art. They reached less confident conclusions and they are more likely to draw on a seemingly contradictory mix of ideas in reaching those conclusions (sometimes from the left, sometimes from the right).

We called the big-idea experts “hedgehogs” (they know one big thing) and the more eclectic experts “foxes” (they know many, not so big things).

Lehrer: Do these different styles correlate with levels of accuracy?

Tetlock: In assessing accuracy, it is crucial to make the “law of large numbers” work for you. Any fool can be lucky a few times. The key is consistency. So, in the first round of our studies, we assessed the accuracy of almost 30,000 predictions from almost 300 experts. We tested a lot of different hypotheses about the correlates of consistency and accuracy. Is ideology the key factor? Having a PhD? Having past access to classified information? And a lot of hypotheses bit the dust. The most consistent predictor of consistently more accurate forecasts was “style of reasoning”: experts with the more eclectic, self-critical, and modest cognitive styles tended to outperform the big-idea people (foxes tended to outperform hedgehogs).

Also in the article, Tetlock talks about an interesting forecasting project for which he is recruiting volunteers. The link in the article to learn more and volunteer is the wrong one, but I’ve found the correct site. It’s called the Good Judgment Team.

August 18, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“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:


June 29, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

June’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 older Best Posts of the Month at Websites Of The Month (more recent lists can be found here).

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):

What Can School Districts (& School Reformers) Learn From Pixar?

Teaching Complex Texts Requires ‘Getting To Know Your Students’

“Interactive Time-Lapse Map Shows How the U.S. Took More Than 1.5 Billion Acres From Native Americans”

John Lewis: “You Must Find A Way To Get In Trouble”

How My Students Evaluated Me This Year

“Response: The Role Of Arts Education In Schools”

What Are You Going To Do Differently Next Year?

More TOK & ELL Student Instagram Videos

My New BAM! Radio Show Is On “How Is Globalization Changing How and What You Teach?”

California Court Rules It’s All The Teachers’ Fault

I Explain The Picture Word Inductive Model In My Latest British Council Post

‘Creating a Culture Where Students Want to Succeed’

My Latest NY Times Post For English Language Learners Is On Pets

New Student Motivation, Engagement & SEL Resources

“Ways To Develop a Culture of Success in Schools”

My New BAM! Show: “How Can Teachers Meet the Common Core Requirement for Complex Reading?”

“slidebean” Looks Like A Good Way For Creating Online Slideshows

Here Are Some Instagram Videos My Theory Of Knowledge Students Created

“Teaching History By Not Giving ‘The Answers’”

My Latest NY Times Post For ELLs Is On Sentence & Paragraph Scrambles — Plus More!

What A Disappointment — Khan History Videos Continue To Be Awful

Videos: Using Art As A Language-Learning Activity

“A Teacher-Counselor Partnership Is ‘Essential’ For Student Success”

Here Are The Eleven Sites I’m Using For My Summer School “Virtual Classroom”

How I Incorporate Reflection Into Semester Summative Assessments

“Teaching History By Encouraging Curiosity”

June 17, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELLs In 2014 – So Far


Another day, another  “The Best…” list…..

You might also be interested in:

The “All-Time” Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of English Language Learners

The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELLs In 2013 – Part Two

The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELLs In 2013 – So Far

The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELL’s In 2012 — Part Two

The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELL’s In 2012 — Part One

The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELL’s In 2011 — Part Two

The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELL’s In 2011 — Part One

The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELL’s — 2010

The Best Sites For Teachers Of English Language Learners — 2009

Here are my choices for The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELL’s In 2014 – So Far:

Helping language learners visualise their linguistic development: growing learning is by Lizzie Pinard. I’m adding it to The Best Posts On Metacognition. She wrote another great post on metacognition and language-learning, and you can find that link within that post. She also shared My top ten learner autonomy and metacognition resources..

I’ve often written about the Picture Word Inductive Model, my favorite teaching strategy for Beginning English Language Learners. I’ve published a post at The British Council with a more detailed explanation on how to use it in the classroom. You might be interested in all my previous posts there, which you can find here.

I’ve written over forty posts for The New York Times
that each include a student interactive and teaching ideas for English Language Learners.

Flashcards in the Classroom: Ten Lesson Ideas is from ELT Experiences. I’m adding it to The Best Tools To Make Online Flashcards.

Videos: Using Art As A Language-Learning Activity

Here Are The Eleven Sites I’m Using For My Summer School “Virtual Classroom”

Geography Instagram Videos By English Language Learners

Stanford University has released a treasure trove of resources about teaching ELLs.

The Image Bank is from The British Council. I’m adding it to The Best Ways To Use Photos In Lessons.

Six ways teachers can stay energized is another one of my monthly posts at Teaching English at the British Council.

Here’s an excerpt:


Last year, I wrote about a fun game for English Language Learners that I learned from late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon (see Jimmy Fallon Comes Up With A Great Game For English Language Learners).

Today, I learned another one…

He calls it Word Sneak, and it’s a simple one — two people are given five words that they have to fit into a conversation.

Obviously, it’s very funny the way he uses it in this video clip, but it can also be used a nice interactive exercise for students.

I’m assuming that some other teacher has used this kind of game before so, if you have, and have some good additional suggestions, please leave them in the comments….

I’m adding this idea to The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English, where I’ve also been listing classroom speaking activities.

Good language teachers, as seen through the eyes of teachers and learners is by Adam Simpson. There’s a lot of substance there, and I would label it as a “must-read.”

Drawing Dictations is by Sandy Millin. I’ve started adding all dictation resources to The Best Resources For Learning How To Use The Dictogloss Strategy With English Language Learners.

Teaching mixed ability – some tips is from TEFL Reflections. I’m adding it to The Best Resources On Teaching Multilevel ESL/EFL Classes.

Experimenting with English (Part 2) – Activities for learners to do outside the classroom [26 and counting!] is another excellent post by Lizzie Pinard. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About Homework Issues.

McGraw Hill has a ton of online videos showing ELL teachers in action. I’m adding it to The Best Online Videos Showing ESL/EFL Teachers In The Classroom. Thanks to Judie Haynes for the tip.


ESL/EFL teachers who have been around awhile know of Jason Renshaw, who at one point had what I thought (and continue to think) was the best resource on the Web for ESL teachers — English Raven. Unfortunately, he took it off-line a few years ago, and now describes himself as a “former Tesol teacher, textbook author and web resources developer, now learning designer and elearning developer in higher ed (Open Universities Australia).”

Jason has continued his blog — with a somewhat different focus — and he has fortunately kept his huge archive there on TESOL available. His Open Source English resources, accompanied with his screencasts on how to use them, are a treasure trove.

One of my favorite inventions of his is called a “Sentence Navigator.” A screenshot of one small example is at the top of this post. It’s sort of a complex multiple choice exercise — I use some of the ones Jason produced, I create originals, and also have students make them for their classmates.

Jason explained them in an older article as:

a sentence navigation grid: five slots each containing three words. It will be up to the student to “navigate” this grid in order to build an appropriate answer to the question. The student will do this by circling the correct word in each slot and then referring to the teacher for feedback. Once all of the correct words have been circled, the student will be permitted to write the full answer in the space beneath.

Jason was kind enough to let me upload up two full units of Sentence Navigators to this blog so that any teachers can download them to use in class:

Sentence Navigator One

Sentence Navigator 2

Plus, he sent over a Screencast he had made explaining how to use them:

If you’re not using these already in your classroom, I hope you can start and see how useful they can be…

Thanks, Jason!

Play It Again And Again, Sam is from NPR and, I think, may help explain why jazz chants are effective in language instruction.

MusiXmatch is a free Chrome extension that will provide karaoke-style lyrics to most YouTube music videos. It can be used very easily on desktop and mobile devices.

Using songs, and using lyrics karaoke-style, is a longstanding and effective language-learning strategy, and you can read about many of them at The Best Music Websites For Learning English.

You can read more about it at TechCrunch.

The Best Posts & Videos About Sugata Mitra & His Education Ideas

The What Works Clearinghouse at the U.S. Department of Education has released an updated Guide for Teaching Academic Content and Literacy to English Learners in Elementary and Middle School.

The recommendations are good ones, and it’s always nice to be able to tell one’s administrator that you’re following the recommendations of the U.S. Department of Education .

Even though they say it’s for elementary and middle school, I think it’s safe to say the ideas make sense in high school, too.

I’m adding it to The Best Websites For Developing Academic English Skills & Vocabulary.

Creating The Conditions For Self-Motivated Students is another of my posts at the British Council Teaching English website. It includes specific suggestions for teaching English Language Learners, but most of what I write there is applicable to all students.

Here’s an interview with Ann Foreman and Paul Braddock, the key people behind the extraordinarily popular and helpful Learning English British Council Facebook page for teachers.

“The Image Story” Is A Nice Site & Provides An Even Better Classroom Idea

My colleague Katie Hull-Sypnieski and I wrote wrote a lengthy and, if I say so myself , excellent article that has been published by ASCD Educational Leadership.

It’s titled Teaching Argument Writing to ELLs, and it discusses very practical ways to teach writing to Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced English Language Learners — especially in light of the new Common Core Standards. But I think it offers helpful advice even if you’re teaching in a country not using CCSS.

I’m adding it to The Best Online Resources For Helping Students Learn To Write Persuasive Essays and to My Best Posts On Writing Instruction.

Origami & The Language Experience Approach

English Language Learners Design Their Own “Ideal” Neighborhoods

Our Latest Response From A Sister Class — This Time From South Africa!

We’re In The Middle Of My Favorite Unit Of The Year — Comparing Neighborhoods

Getting to grips with project based learning and I’m interested in project based learning but I don’t know where to begin! are two good posts by Adam Simpson discussing PBL and English Language Learners. I’m adding them to The Best Sites For Cooperative Learning Ideas.

Four questions to ask before using an Ed Tech tool is yet another one of my posts over at Teaching English-British Council.

Borrowed Words is a net interactive that shows from which languages English has borrowed the most words from during which periods of time.

Activate – Games for Learning American English is from the American English site of the U.S. Department of State. It’s a useful and free downloadable book. I’m adding it to The Best Ideas For Using Games In The ESL/EFL/ELL Classroom. Thanks to Barbara Sakamoto for the tip.

My colleague and co-author, Katie Hull Sypnieski, and I published a post over at Edutopia titled English-Language Learners and Academic Language.

Using “Dvolver Moviemaker” With English Language Learners

How My ELL Students Evaluated Me At The End Of First Semester

“Thinglink” Announces Free Virtual Classrooms

Creating Instagram Video “Book Trailers” With English Language Learners

Assessing English language learners is yet another of my posts at The British Council’s TeachingEnglish site.

Hot Spot Interview — Report From Venezuela

The Best Mobile Apps For English Language Learners




June 14, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

How My Students Evaluated Me This Year

'Blue Morphsuit on Canada Day' photo (c) 2011, Doug Hay - license:

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:


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


* 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.


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).


* 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.


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!


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

An Interesting Exchange With Sugata Mitra

'Sugata Mitra' photo (c) 2012, Campus  Party Brasil - license:

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 24, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

The “All-Time” Best Web 2.0 Applications For Education


I’ve been posting annual lists of the Best Web 2.0 Applications For Education 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.

I’ve begun creating a number of these “All-Time” Best list, with The “All-Time” Best Ways To Create Online Content Easily & Quickly being the first one. Some of the sites there could easily be on this list, too. However, I’ve put all sites that don’t require registration over there.

Look for quite a few more “All-Time” Best lists over the next couple of months.  I think readers might find these lists helpful, but I’m primarily creating them for my students to experiment and help me decide if all these tools should stay on this list or not.

There are over 1,200 Best lists now that are categorized and updated regularly.  You can see them all here.

In order to make this “All-Time” list and, in fact, to make any of my annual Web 2.0 lists, a site has to be:

* accessible to English Language Learners and non-tech savvy users.

* free-of-charge.

* appropriate for classroom use.

* completely browser-based with no download required.

These sites are not listed any any order of preference.  These are also ones for students to use — I’m not necessarily including ones I that I use regularly — those are for another list.

Let me know if you think I’m missing some…I know I am. Even though I’ve reviewed many of my previous lists, I didn’t do an exhaustive search, so I’ll be adding more tools to this list in the coming weeks (and years!).

Here are my choices for The “All-Time” Best Web 2.0 Applications For Education:

I use Pinterest daily. However, in the vast majority of schools, it is never going to make it past Internet content filters for students. eduClipper is basically a Pinterest for schools. It has the potential of sort of being an “all in one” tool for the classroom, serving the same purposes as sites on The Best Social Bookmarking Applications For English Language Learners & Other Students list and on The Best Online Virtual “Corkboards” (or “Bulletin Boards”) list, as well as serving other functions.

Haiku Deck, an iPad app which now has a Web version, may very well be the best tool for creating online slideshows that are out there. It’s  on The Best Ways To Create Online Slideshows list.  Richard Byrne has made a tutorial explaining how to use the web version.

I’m a big proponent of the Picture Word Inductive Model as a strategy for English Language Learners to develop reading and writing skills (I describe it in detail  in my article in ASCD Educational Leadership, Get Organized Around Assets). It begins with the teacher labeling items in thematic photos with the help of students. The webtool Thinglink could be a great deal to help ELL’s maximize the advantages of this instructional strategy. Thinglink lets you upload or grab an image or video off the web and annotate items with the image or video super-easily. It basically looks like a photo in the Picture Word Inductive Model, just online.  Thinglink recently unveiled the ability for teachers to create virtual classrooms.

MarQueed is like a Thinglink  on steroids and allows collaborative annotation.  You can read more about it here.

Meograph is a cool web tool that lets you create an audio-narrated digital story with an integrated map.  You can also grab images off the web.  is hands-down the easiest tool I’ve seen on the Web to create infographics. You just “drag-and-drop” a variety of themes, type in your data, and you’ve got a great infographic.

Lesson Paths (formerly MentorMob) lets you very easily create a slideshow. Webpages, videos and photos can be grabbed from the web and added, along with notes. It’s easy to use, very intuitively designed so just about anyone can figure it out, and attractive.

The free web tool Inklewriter is, without a doubt, the easiest way to write a choose your own adventure story. I’m tentatively putting it on this “All-Time” list, thought I’m not sure if I’m going to keep it here.  I’m going to have my students experiment with it a little more this year.

Magisto is an Animoto-like service that lets you upload several short videos and it then somehow “recognizes” the most important parts and turns it into a magically-produced one minute video.

Popplet is an app that is like Wallwisher on steroids. You can make an online “bulletin-board” with virtual “post-its” (called “popplets), just like in Wallwisher. And, except for the fact you have to register to use it, Popplet is just as easy and, in some ways, easier to use with a lot more functionality. With Popplet, you search for images and videos on the Web directly within the “popplet” instead of copying and pasting the url address (as you need to do in Wallwisher). You can draw within the “popplet” and it doesn’t appear to have an limit on the number of characters you can use. You can connect the “popplets.” You can also embed the whole thing.

educaplay is a great free tool where you can easily create a ton of different kinds of educational interactives that you can link to or embed in your site. These include Riddles, Crosswords, Wordsearch Puzzle, Fill in the texts, Dialogues, Dictations, Jumbled Word, Jumbled Sentence, Matching, Quizzes, and Maps. For at least some of the them, including dictation, it provides the ability to record audio. lets you “scoop it” into your own personalized newspaper (that’s what I’m calling it, not them) which you can then share. It’s an ongoing process.

Fotobabble, is a neat application where people can post photos along with an audio description.

Sitehoover is an application that lets you create a personal homepage showing thumbnail images of your favorite websites. You can also organize them into separate “folders. It can be very useful to students doing research, or identifying their favorite language-learning site.

Tripline is a great map-making application. You just list the various places you want to go in a journey, or a famous trip that has happened in history or literature, or a class field trip itinerary, and a embeddable map is created showing the trip where you can add written descriptions and photos. You can use your own photos or just through Flickr. Plus, you can pick a soundtrack to go with it as it automatically plays through the travels.

Quizlet is  on The Best Tools To Make Online Flashcards list.  In addition to letting you create and study flashcards, it also lets you study the words in “game” forms.  Plus, it allows voice recording for some features.

Zunal is an easy way for teachers (and students) to create webquests. I know there are some specific parameters involved in using the term “webquest,” so you can also use Zunal to create much simpler “online scavenger hunts.” At their most basic, it can be a series of questions students have to answer, along with links to websites where the information can be found. Zunal also acts as the host for the webquest or scavenger hunt after its been created.

“The Digital Vaults”  is an entry into the vast resources of the National Archives, and allows you to use those resources to create your own movies, posters, and what it calls “Pathway Challenges” to… challenge others to find connections between a series of images, documents, and other resources you put together.

ESL Video is a super-easy to take pretty much any video off-the-net and create a quiz to it. It’s designed for ESL/EFL students, but it can also be used by and for mainstream students.

VoiceThread lets you upload pictures and create an audio narrative to go along with them. In addition, audio comments can be left by visitors.

Animoto lets you easily create musical slideshows.

Screencast-o-Matic lets you easily upload PowerPoints and provide audio narration.

Stay is a great tool for students to plan virtual trips. I use it a lot in my Geography classes.

Since Slideshare is blocked for students in my District, I favor Authorstream as the preferred tool that students use to upload and then post PowerPoints on our class blogs.

And, speaking of class blogs, of course, Edublogs needs to be on this list!

Scrawlar lets teachers create virtual classrooms, lets students write and use a “whiteboard,” doesn’t require student email registration (just a classroom password and a student-created sign-in code, and is free. It’s also usable on laptops, desktops, tablets and phones.

February 23, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

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


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. 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. 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.

February 13, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Thinglink” Announces Free Virtual Classrooms

I’ve previously posted about Thinglink, the online photo annotation tool that is sort of like a Picture Word Inductive Model for the Web (I describe the PWIM in detail in an ASCD Educational Leadership article, Get Organized Around Assets.

Thinglink basically allows you to label any image you choose. I’ve embedded an example at the bottom of this post.  It’s already on The Best Ways To Use Photos In Lessons list.

They’ve just announced a free education program that lets teachers create virtual classrooms where students can enroll and teachers can see their work. You can read more about it here.

It looks good, and I’m adding it to The Best Sites That Students Can Use Independently And Let Teachers Check On Progress.

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:

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:

December 20, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

My Favorite Posts In 2013 — Part Two


I regularly publish a list of my personal favorites posts during the year, and it’s usually my last annual “Best” list of the year.

You might also be interested in:

My Best Posts Over The Years — Volume One, focused on the year 2007 and includes a fair amount of still-useful material (at least in my opinion).

I’d say the same thing about my review of posts from 2008, which you can find in My Best Posts Over The Years — Volume Two.

Volume Three covered 2009.

Volume Four reviewed 2010.

Volume Five looked at 2011.

My Favorite Posts In 2013 — So Far

So, here are my favorites from over the past six months:

I’ve got to start off with my latest book, which was published by Education Week: Classroom Management Q&As: Expert Strategies for Teaching

In addition to my teacher advice column at Ed Week (by the way, tomorrow I record the first of what will be weekly radio shows with the BAM! Network interviewing people who contribute guest pieces to that Ed Week blog), I’ve really enjoyed writing weekly posts for The New York Times on teaching English Language Learners (previously, they just appeared monthly).

There are almost 1,250 “The Best…” lists, and here are a few of my favorite ones from over the past six months:

A Collection Of The Best Fun, Yet True, “Said No Teacher Ever” Resources

The Best Resources On Why Improving Education Is Not THE Answer To Poverty & Inequality

The Best Web 2.0 Applications For Education In 2013

In addition to my Ed Week and NY Times posts, I’ve published a number of other articles elsewhere. Here are a few of my favorites:

Here are some on classroom management that I particularly like:

“Flowchart For When A Day Goes Bad In Classroom Management”

Getting A Special Wristband Is Not The Best Road To Greater Student Motivation

Choice Equals Power: How to Motivate Students to Learn is a nice article over at KQED’s MindShift blog about an online conversation I had during Connected Educators Month.  It’s been quite popular, and I think offers helpful ideas.

As far as education policy goes,  Why we can’t all get along over school reform is a post I wrote for The Washington Post that I like a lot and has received a fair amount of positive feedback.

Here are a few other posts I’ve published on teaching English Language Learners that are also among my favorites:

English Language Learners Using Screencast-o-matic For Folktale Presentations

And here are three favorites on classroom instruction:

This Is Exactly What I Mean By Connecting Social Emotional Learning & Literacy Instruction….

Here are some audio interviews I did:

Dana Goldstein had me as a guest, along with Matthew Chingos from the Brookings Institution, on a Slate podcast of Schooled: Does Class Size Matter?

School Leadership Briefing posted a fifteen minute audio interview they did with me over the summer.

The BAM Radio Network interviewed several guests, including Daniel Pink and me, for a program on student motivation. You can listen to it here.

I hope you find these links helpful!

December 8, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELLs In 2013 – Part Two


Another day, another  “The Best…” list…..

You might also be interested in:

The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELLs In 2013 – So Far

The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELL’s In 2012 — Part Two

The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELL’s In 2012 — Part One

The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELL’s In 2011 — Part Two

The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELL’s In 2011 — Part One

The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELL’s — 2010

The Best Sites For Teachers Of English Language Learners — 2009

Here are my choices for The Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of ELL’s In 2013 – Part Two:

I’m obviously biased, but I think the weekly posts I write for the New York Times Learning Network on teaching ELLs are one of the best resources on the Web for both students and teachers.

There are tons of ways to use photos in lessons with English Language Learners (see The Best Ways To Use Photos In Lessons) and the Awkward Family Photos site is a great source for them.  Some are inappropriate for classroom use or just too mean-spirited to use, but there are tons of excellent ones, and the site has an index to easily search by topic, especially by specific holiday.

Eva Buyuksimkesyan has published the 36th ELT Blog Carnival(formerly known as the ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival) and it’s a great one on holiday lessons. Teachers from around the world have contributed posts.

The Best Fun Videos For English Language Learners In 2013 – Part Two

9 great reasons to use posters in your language classroom is a very good post from Adam Simpson.

Dictations Are Fun! is from TEFL Reflections. It doesn’t exactly fit, but I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning How To Use The Dictogloss Strategy With English Language Learners.

James Keddie has a site called Lessonstream that contains many lessons for English Language Learners.

Larissa’s Languages some good ideas in Homework is..Fun! I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About Homework Issues.

Getting the whole class talking offers some good ideas. It’s from The British Council. Again, it’s not an exact fit, but I’m adding it to The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English.

Here’s another good resource from The British Council — activities to do when you’ve got ten minutes to prepare and few materials to use.

Geography Students Use “” To Create Virtual Trips

Supporting English Language Learners In Content Classes

Having English Language Learners Use Cellphones To Identify High-Interest Vocabulary

Readers of our book, The ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide, know that there’s a lesson plan in it helping students learn the qualities of a successful language learner and that they do a self-assessment as part of it. Part of that lesson includes use of The Best Videos Illustrating Qualities Of A Successful Language Learner.

Now, Marisa Constantinides has created a quiz called Are You A Good Language Learner (completely separate from our lesson), which would be great to give to students. And the EFL Smart Blog has turned Marisa’s quiz into an interactive one that could be taken online. It’s an excellent activity to use on its own or as part of our lesson plan.

Kate Kinsella has a collection of hand-outs to assist in academic language instruction. I’m adding it to The Best Websites For Developing Academic English Skills & Vocabulary.

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

English Language Learners Using Screencast-o-matic For Folktale Presentations

Literably Is An Excellent Reading Site — If Used With Caution

Vicki Hollett published the 35th ELT Blog Carnival (formerly known as the ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival) and it’s a great one focusing on Teaching and Learning with Video. Teachers from around the world have contributed posts.

English Agenda is a site from the British Council which offers a wealth of language-teaching research and online professional development. I’m adding it to The Best Ways To Keep-Up With Current ELL/ESL/EFL News & Research and to The Best Places For ESL/EFL/ELL Teachers To Get Online Professional Development.

Skills Practice | Using Storyboards to Inspire Close Reading is from The New York Times Learning Network, and shares a reading strategy that I think would be particularly useful to ELLs. I’m adding it to The Best Resources On “Close Reading.”

Teaching English at the British Council features a “blog post of the month” from English teachers throughout the world. It’s a great collection.

Focus on portfolios: 4 advantages of alternative assessment is by Adam Simpson. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About Effective Student & Teacher Assessments.

Maximising Learning in Large Classes and Teaching Large Classes are both from The British Council. I’m adding them to The Best Resources On Teaching Multilevel ESL/EFL Classes.

Using Freire & Fotobabble With English Language Learners

The Best Ideas For Using Games In The ESL/EFL/ELL Classroom

Terrific New Videos: Using English “Sister Classes” From Throughout The World In Our ELL Geography Class

Making Instagram Videos With English Language Learners

Writing bingo is a very creative lesson plan from Sandy Millin. I’m adding it to The Best Websites For K-12 Writing Instruction/Reinforcement.

I must have my head stuck in the sand, because I had never heard of “A General Service List: the most important words for second language learners of English” until Wendi Pillars sent a tweet about anew version of it. It looks pretty useful, particularly the interactive exercises on Quizlet.

The 21 Luckiest People In The Entire World is a pretty amazing GIF collection from BuzzFeed. Show these to English Language Learners and have them describe what they are watching, perhaps alternating with the Back-To-The-Screen exercise I use with videos (read about it here).

Tellagami is neat iPhone/iPad app that lets users quickly create virtual characters that can speak audio that’s been recorded or use text-to-speech. I’m adding it to The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English and to The Best Sites For Beginning iPhone Users Like Me.

The Benefits Of Learning Languages is an excellent lesson plan from Film-English. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning The Advantages To Being Bilingual.

David Deubelbeiss at EFL Classroom 2.0 published the 34th ELT Blog Carnival (also known as the ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival).  It’s theme is “Best Lessons,” and teachers from around the work have contributed posts.

Jimmy Fallon Comes Up With A Great Game For English Language Learners

“Lyrics Videos” On YouTube & English Language Learners

The Teaching English – British Council Facebook page. This site is relatively new to me, but it’s certainly not new to many others since it has well over 1,000,000 “Likes”! Ann Foreman does an extraordinary job inviting and sharing resources from teachers throughout the world.

The Best Three Sites On The Web For ESL/EFL/ELL/ELT Teachers

Alex Case has put together a list of his most popular blog posts/shared resources from the TEFLtastic blog.

ESL Teacher Interviews: Larry Ferlazzo comes from Kaplan International, and you might find it interesting. Even more interesting, though, is the interview they did with my friend, colleague, and co-author Katie Hull Sypnieski a few months ago.

David Deubelbeiss has what I think is a great idea on how to make multiple choice questions more learner-friendly and effective.

The Best Infographics About Teaching & Learning English As A Second (or Third!) Language

Carissa Peck published the 34th ELT Blog Carnival (also know as the ESL/ELL/EFL Blog Carnival) and its focus is on teaching/learning pronunciation. It’s so good that I’m adding it toThe Best Websites For Learning English Pronunciation.

“Rewordify” Is One Of The Most Unique Sites Out There For English Language Learners & Others

Using Tech to Teach English is the title of a new guest post I’ve written over at the International Reading Association’s blog, Engage.

Adam Simpson posted about The BBC Motion Gallery, which has zillions of short clips. It’s particularly useful to teachers outside of Great Britain, since they are viewable in the United States and elsewhere. Most other BBC video clips for education are blocked for viewing outside that country.

Place Pulse is a site from MIT that shows you two Google Street View images from around the world, and then asks you to “vote” on which one looks “livelier”; “safer” or any number of other comparative adjectives (you can switch them by clicking on the question mark).

It’s an intriguing way to teach comparative adjectives to English Language Learners, as well as having IB Theory of Knowledge students explore perception.

I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Gaining A Basic Understanding Of Adjectives.

Using Music and Songs in EFL Classes is the theme of the 33rd ELT Blog Carnival, and it’s a good one!  Eva Buyuksimkesyan has gathered contributions from English teachers throughout the world on the topic, and it’s so good that I’m adding it to The Best Music Websites For Learning English.

Chaplin & Keaton Silent Movies For English Language Learners

Yet Another Good Piece For Students On Learning & The Brain

I think it’s pretty clear that English Language Learners are a pretty low priority as far as implementation of the Common Core Standards are concerns, and Californian’s Together have put together a prettygood toolkit explaining those problems.

Of course, one potential benefit of being a low-priority is that we teachers of ELLs, and our students, might be left alone, but I’m not counting on that.

By the way, look for what — if I say so myself — is an excellent article on ELLs and the Common Core that my colleague Katie Hull and I wrote for ASCD Educational Leadership.  It will be appearing there in a few months.

50 Ways To Use Images In The ELT Classroom is from David Deubelbeiss. I’m adding it to The Best Ways To Use Photos In Lessons.

Breaking News English, the popular site used by thousands of English teachers around the world, has now begun providing each lesson in multiple levels – from beginners to advanced.  And I thought Sean Banville, the site’s creator, was busy before! I wonder how much sleep he’s getting now?

Perhaps this has been available for quite awhile, but I just noticed that Jossey-Bass makes the first chapter of our ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide available for free.

Just go to this link and on the right of the page it lists three excerpts. Excerpt 1 is the entire first chapter. Excerpts 2 and 3 show the index.

Of course, you can find tons of other free resources from the book here, too.

You might also be interested in my other over 1,200 “The Best…” lists and, particularly, this year’s end-of-year favorites.

December 1, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

The Best Videos For Educators In 2013 – Part Two


Here’s the latest in annual The Best…” posts….

This post includes my choices for videos since I posted The Best Videos For Educators In 2013 – So Far six months ago.

You might also be interested in:

The Best Videos For Educators In 2012 — Part Two

The Best Videos For Educators In 2012 — Part One

The Best Videos For Educators In 2011

Part Two Of The Best Videos For Educators — 2010

The Ten Best Videos For Educators — 2010

And you might also want to see The Best Funny Videos Showing The Importance Of Being Bilingual — Part OneThe Best Videos Illustrating Qualities Of A Successful Language LearnerThe Best Video Clips Demonstrating “Grit”; and The Best Fun Videos About Books & Reading.

You might also want to check out The Best Video Collections For Educators and The Best Video Clips On Goal-Setting — Help Me Find More.

Here are my choices for The Best Videos For Educators In 2013 – Part Two:

Perseverance (grit) is one of the key qualities researchers have found to be essential in a successful language learner, as well as other learners.

Here’s a video demonstrating that quality that I’m adding to The Best Videos Illustrating Qualities Of A Successful Language Learner:

As I constantly tell my students, the ability to identify patterns is a key to higher-order thinking and to language-learning.

This would be a great video to play — at first, without sound — and have students try to identify the pattern in the images they see…

This is from Yahoo News and is a great illustration of “thinking outside the box”:

Here’s another “thinking outside the box video:

I’ve written in my New York Times column about how I use optical illusions with English Language Learners, and I certainly use them when teaching perception in my Theory of Knowledge class. You can many that I’ve previously posted here.

Here’s a new neat one created by Honda and puts many different illusions into one short video:

Here’s the newest Hans Rosling video:

I’ve written extensively in my books and in this blog about the lessons I use with students to help them want to develop more self-control.

And I’ve also shared new videos from Sesame Street highlighting their emphasis on teaching self-control, grit, and respect this season.

My high school students love the Sesame Street videos, which I use as a short “refresher” during the year after we do our initial lesson on self-control.

This one on “The Waiting Game,” though, is the best one yet. In it, Cookie Monster demonstrates each of the strategies that Dr. Walter Mischel recommends that people use (and that he saw children apply in the marshmallow test) to enhance their self-control.

I’ll be showing the video to students and having them identify each of those strategies:

I’m adding this great video from The Center For Teaching Quality to The Best Resources On Being A Teacherpreneur:

I Wonder How Many Of Our Students Hear This When We Go Over Classroom Rules?:

I’ve previously shared a thirteen minute version of Bloom’s Taxonomy According to Andy Griffith, which you can find at The Best Resources For Helping Teachers Use Bloom’s Taxonomy In The Classroom.

The video’s creator has now edited its length down considerably. Here’s the new version:

Last year, John T. Spencer began a great Twitter hashtag called #saidnoteacherever.

I brought together a collection of them at A Sampling Of The Best Tweets With The #SaidNoTeacherEver Hashtag.

Now, some teachers have done a short video person — unfortunately, without giving credit to John and the original source. But it is pretty funny. And if you go to watch it on YouTube, people have made some pretty nice additions in the comments.

This next video is the best one I’ve Seen On Perseverance & Resilience.

This video is part of a new TED-Ed Lesson titled There’s no dishonor in having a disability. You can see the entire lesson here.

All I can say is…Wow.

I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About The Importance Of “Grit.”

Tom Whitford was kind enough to share this fun video on Twitter. It’s the first in a series (you can see the rest by going directly to YouTube).

Everybody will enjoy it, but especially ESL teachers:

I’m adding this next video to The Best Resources On Helping Our Students Develop A “Growth Mindset”:

I’ve previously posted about George Saunders’ recent commencement speech. Here’s a video of his address:

I’m adding this video to A Collection Of “The Best…” Lists On Infographics:

You can read more about NASA’s latest video on climate change showing what happens to the United States.

I’m adding it to The Best Sites To Learn About Climate Change.

This is a short video on scaffolding from Beyond The Bubble, a history site about which I’ve previously posted.

Thought it talks about history, its scaffolding recommendations can be helpful in any subject.

I’m adding it to The Best Resources On Differentiating Instruction.

“I shall either find a way or make one” has been attributed to Hannibal, though he probably didn’t say it.

This goat seems to exemplify that expression — no matter who said it.

I’m adding it to The Best Video Clips On Goal-Setting.

Edublogs has created this video on “What Is A Blog?”

I’m adding it to The Best Sources Of Advice For Teachers (And Others!) On How To Be Better Bloggers and to My Best Posts For Tech Novices (Plus A Few From Other People).

You might also be interested in the other 1,200 “The Best…” lists I’ve posted.

November 29, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

The Best Social Studies Sites Of 2013 – Part Two


The annual “Best…” lists continue….

You can see my picks for the first six months of the year at what functions as Part One of this list: The Best Social Studies Sites Of 2013 – So Far.

You might also be interested in:

All My 2013 “The Best…” Lists (So Far) Related To Social Studies In One Place

The Best Social Studies Sites Of 2012 — Part Two

The Best Social Studies Sites Of 2012 — Part One

The Best Social Studies Sites Of 2011

The Best “The Best…” Lists Related To Social Studies — 2010

The Best Social Studies Websites — 2010

The Best Social Studies Websites — 2009

The Best Social Studies Websites — 2008

The Best Social Studies Websites — 2007

Here are my choices for The Best Social Studies Sites Of 2013 – Part Two:

The Guardian has published an excellent, though sad, interactive titled Why are we building new walls to divide us?

The PBS News Hour collaborated with the U.N. World Food Programme to create some terrific resources for World Food Day on October 16th.

I’ve previously posted about how I use the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, and other resources, in a lesson on the Bill of Rights.

Zen Pencils has just created this excellent infographic of the Declaration — with simplified language — which is a great resources for that kind of lesson:

The right way to teach history i the title of a new post at Valerie Strauss’ post at The Washington Post. It’s by Marion Brady, and I plan on using the post itself in my IB Theory of Knowledge class — he shares an insightful perspective on the purposes of studying history.

Here’s an excerpt:


In addition, at the end of his post, he shares a link to his American History Handbook, which is a free book he’s written with pretty decent lessons, including all student hand-outs, in United States history.

Constitute has been created by the University of Texas at Austin and funded by Google, and provides an easily searchable database of the constitutions from 160 countries. The really extraordinary feature is the ability to search for common themes (click “browse topics”). I’ve embedded a screenshot of what that page looks like below, just to give you a taste of the site’s possibilities:


If you, like many other teachers, have used a version of the well-known Rethinking Schools lesson on the constitution and the Bill of Rights (I provide students excerpts of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the South African Bill of Rights, have students compare them our own, and then students develop one for their own imaginary country — with justifications), then you can see how valuable a site like Constitute could be. It’s ability to easily search can enhance that lesson, as well as others, by letting students do a much more in-depth comparison to multiple nations.

Here’s a video on Constitute:


Income Upshot comes from Marketplace, the group that produces a number of financial-related programs for public radio.

You input your income and area code, and then it feeds back a lot of interesting information about what people with your income — both locally and nationally — do.

This is one impressive video, and I’m adding it to The Best Websites For Teaching & Learning About World History:

The Guardian has published an excellent infographic titled What happened to history’s refugees? It charts some of the largest “human movements” in history, starting at 740 BC and ending at today.

Poverty and Race in America, Then and Now lets you look at any metropolitan area in the United States and compare poverty in it in 1980, 190, 2000 or 2010. You can view the comparison on a “sliding” map, though I wish it just showed you the same locations in two screens — that would make it a little easier to compare to the two views (you’ll see what I mean when you visit the site).

Here are two new interactives I’m adding to The Best Resources About Wealth & Income Inequality: is an extremely impressive interactive.

Growing Apart: A Political History of American Inequality
includes many interactive charts.

Wonderground is a game from General Electric where you visit various cities in The United States and are given “missions” to explore them and make discoveries related to science and history. It would be accessible to high Intermediate English Language Learners and others, and it’s very engaging.

The Best Resources For Learning About The Birmingham Church Bombing

The Best Sites For Learning About The Battle Of Gettysburg

The Best Resources For Understanding The Debt Ceiling

The Best Sites For Learning About Brazil

The Best Sites For Learning About Italy

The Best Resources For Learning About The Fire Near Yosemite Valley

The Best Resources On Malala Yousafzai

The Best Resources About The March On Washington

The Best Resources To Help Understand The Federal Government Shutdown

The Best Online Resources About President John F. Kennedy

The Best Online Resources For Learning About The Gettysburg Address

The Best Resources For Learning About Typhoon Haiyan

The Best Resources For Learning About The Fires In Australia

The Best Resources For Learning About Teens In The News

“Wide Angle: Window Into Global History” is a project of Channel Thirteen in New York. It has a collection of multimedia social studies lessons and a “video bank,” which I think is particularly impressive. The videos are divided by themes (power, conflict, migrations, etc.) and each video has suggested guiding classroom questions, a transcript and more.  I’m finding that the page they have listing the videos “by location” particularly useful for my Geography class.

Q & A Collections: Teaching Social Studies is my newest post at Education Week Teacher. It brings all my social studies-related Ed Week posts together in one place.

I wrote a New York Times post for English Language Learners is on protest movements and using historical photos for language development. It includes a student interactive.

Learn about John F. Kennedy, the past tense, and how to use inductive text data sets with English Language Learners in my NY Times post for ELLs. A student interactive is included.

Here’s my New York Times post includes 9/11 teaching ideas and a student interactive quiz for English Language Learners.

You can also see all my past Times’ posts here.

You might also be interested in seeing all 1,200 of my “The Best…” lists.