Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

October 13, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Great Explanation Of The Difference Between Inductive & Deductive Teaching & Learning

I’ve written A LOT about the advantages of inductive over deductive learning, and how I also use both in my classroom (You can see many posts here).

The British Council just shared a short post that Paul Kaye wrote six years ago that does a great job explaining the difference between inductive and deductive, and he provides a number of practical examples from the language-learning classroom.

Check out his article, Presenting New Language.

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.

October 20, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

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

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

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

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

A Taxonomy of Halloween Monsters

Thanks to Big Group for the infographic.

October 19, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

All My NY Times Posts For English Language Learners – Linked With Descriptions


I’ve been writing posts for The New York Times Learning Network for three years on teaching English Language Learners, and that adds-up to a lot of posts! Many include online student interactives and all include multiple teaching ideas.

I thought readers would find it helpful if I put links to them all together, along with short descriptions.

And, as I post new ones, I’ll add them here, too…

Teach academic writing through civics and citizenship lessons around the legal voting age.  In addition, use surveys and polls to provoke listening and speaking practice.

Students put “scrambled” sentences in order to correctly re-create a paragraph from a story about schools, and are encouraged to create their own sequencing activities.    Another teaching activity is having students identify their visions for their own school and write an argumentative essay about it, as well as meeting with their principal.

Students complete a cloze (fill-in-the-gap) activity in an article about the World Cup, and use the same passage and other teaching ideas to learn about synonyms.

Learn about “articles” in the English language through a cloze activity about Mexico City and additional exercises.   In addition, a teaching idea provides suggestions on how to have students create their own itineraries for trips around the world.

This Mother’s Day interactive and supplemental activities focus on conjunctions and having students do writing about their mothers or other key family members.

Students separate run-on sentences in this interactive about International Dance Day, and use it as a model for creating their own.  In addition, they can view a variety of dance videos and write a compare/contrast essay.

Learn about punctuation in this interactive on body language and supplemental exercises, and then have students do some fun listening activities with different videos to see if people are being truthful or not.

Have students learn about nouns in this interactive on the popularity of soccer in China.  Then, have students complete (and then create their own) “scrambled” exercise where they have to place answers with the correct questions in re-creating interviews.

Students learn to categorize words in this interactive on eating insects, and then broaden their categories further.  In addition, they can watch engaging insect videos and describe — verbally and in writing — what they see.

Fill-in-the-blanks in this story about “chewing gum art” and have students create their own artwork online, which they then describe both verbally and in writing.

Complete a cloze about how animals can impact children’s heath, and then students can draw, write or even create a video about pets that are or have been in their lives.

Use a passage about fossils and dinosaurs to learn new vocabulary, practice pronunciation with tongue twisters, and practice a simple paragraph-writing framework.

Learn about comparatives and superlatives while learning about skyscrapers, as well as having students building their own as part of the Language Experience Approach.  In addition, students can use “close reading” techniques as they watch a documentary about the history of tall buildings.

Practice prediction with students as they reading about Valentine’s Day and learn about idioms at the same time.  Plus, have students create Valentine’s cards and share about romantic traditions in their home countries.

Fill-in-the-blanks in this passage about preparation for the Sochi Olympic Games, and use the event as an opportunity to practice writing and listening with a Picture Dictation activity.

Students learn about the progressive tense in this passage about the changing nature of families, and use the article as a stepping-stone to a lesson of creating family trees — with a twist!

Use this fun activity to learn about prepositions through reading incorrectly translated passages and street signs.

Learn about holiday food traditions from different cultures though a fill-in-the-blank passage and different lesson ideas.

Have students watch videos about current events and craft higher-order thinking questions about them.

Students practice the reading strategy of summarization while, at the same time, practice using humor as a language-development activity.

Students watch a short video and have to list the scenes in the correct sequence.  They can then create their own similar “quiz” for classmates and even create their own videos.

Choose the most accurate description of a picture taken at a United Farmworkers Union demonstration  and have students reflect on protest movements in their home countries and in the United States.  Use the lesson to expand to other historical photos and use them for language-development activities.

Teach and learn the past tense through a passage about John F. Kennedy, and use a text data set for an inductive lesson about his life.

Watch a video about the Mexican wrestling style called “lucha libre” and use it in a sequencing lesson.  Then have students create their own wrestling personas.

Watch a clip from West Side Story and use it for a musical sequencing activity.  Then, have students research and write about gangs today.

Learn about The Day of The Dead and Halloween, and use it as a lesson in developing  literal and interpretative questions.

Learn pronouns and the importance of learning from failures and mistakes through this interactive on J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series.

Watch a video and read a passage about a girls soccer team in Mexico to learn about punctuation, and have students create punctuation games and practice reading strategies, too.

Teach the vocabulary of colors by a fill-in-the-blank passage, a discussion of their cultural significance, and the use of a Times’ “grid” of different photos that students have to describe in a game-like activity.

Learn about magic in a sequencing activity and develop academic vocabulary while exploring different illusions.

Study the use of “articles” and learn about the concept of “grit” (perseverance) through online interactive exercises.

Study the 9/11 terrorist attacks through a K-W-L chart and Venn Diagrams that lead to writing a compare and contrast essay.

Learn about mariachis and use them to kick-off an exploration of the different aspects of students’ home cultures.

Use a passage about soccer star Lionel Messi  to encourage students to create their own fill-in-the-blank exercises for classmates to complete.

Encourage students to reflect back on their class year, and provide them with suggestions on how to continue their study during the coming months.

Teaching and learning strategies about the environment and Earth Day.

Using videos, photographs and music for language-development activities, including ones to practice descriptive language and make a connection between art and activism.

Lessons that explore citizenship, including considering if there is a difference between “citizenship” and “active citizenship.”

Learn about the Picture Word Inductive Model as a teaching/learning strategy, as well as sequencing activities with videos and a fun language-learning game.

Multiple lessons focused on different holidays and holiday traditions.

Using video clips for language-development, learning about Malala Yousafsai, discussing the length of the school year and more!

Many lesson ideas about politics and elections.

A mixture of activities, including ones on idioms, recipes,  developing neighborhood tours and writing a compare/contrast essay.

Ideas on using students’ personal stories to maximize the effectiveness English-language development lessons.


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!