Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

June 2, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Trulia Adds Visualizations For Neighborhood Info….Everywhere (in the U.S., at least)

I’ve previously posted about Trulia’s visualizations showing information (crime, home prices) for some cities in the United States.

Now, they have dramatically expanded the information they share (flooding and earthquake hazards, schools, etc.) and the number of neighborhoods they cover. In fact, it seems they do it for just about everywhere in the U.S., but perhaps I’m overstating it.

These will be great for one of my favorite lesson of each year, which I describe in A Lesson Highlighting Community Assets — Not Deficits.

June 14, 2009
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Trulia Snapshot

Trulia Snapshot is a very accessible web tool to explore homes for sale throughout the United States. In addition, if you go to Trulia’s Stats and Trends section you can learn more about the the local real estate market.

This is another resource for my students to use when they do their annual project of comparing different neighborhoods.

I’ve placed the link on my website under Student Neighborhood Maps.

February 27, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

The “All-Time” Best Social Studies Sites

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I’ve been posting annual lists of The Best Social Studies Sites for a number of 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 ; The “All-Time” Best Web 2.0 Applications For Education second;  The “All-Time” Best Videos For Educators third; and The “All-Time” Best Online Learning Games was the fourth one.

Look for quite a few more “All-Time” Best lists over the next couple of months.

There are nearly 1,300 Best lists now that are categorized and updated regularly.  You can see them all here.

Here are my choices for  The “All-Time” Best Online Learning Games  (let me know which ones I’m missing — I’ll also be adding to this list after I do a complete review of Social Studies sites I’ve published on this blog. Also, these are not listed in any order of preference):

I’ve previously posted about Trulia’s visualizations showing information (crime, home prices) for some cities in the United States. Now, they have dramatically expanded the information they share (flooding and earthquake hazards, schools, etc.) and the number of neighborhoods they cover. In fact, it seems they do it for just about everywhere in the U.S., but perhaps I’m overstating it.

The Great Divide: Global income inequality and its cost is a project by a group called The Global Post, done in partnership with The Pulitzer Center with support from The Ford Foundation.

Here’s how they introduce the project:

Income inequality is surging, and there are few countries where it is rising faster than the United States. The distance between rich and poor is greater in America than nearly all other developed countries, making the US a leader in a trend that economists warn has dire consequences. GlobalPost sets out on a reporting journey to get at the ‘ground truth’ of inequality through the lenses of education, race, immigration, health care, government, labor and natural resources. The hope is to hold a mirror up to the US to see how it compares to countries around the world.

TIME Magazine has an ongoing series of short TIME Explains videos on current events. Here’s a link to most of them.

Reading Like A Historian is an impressive collection of almost ninety U.S. and World History lessons from The Stanford History Education Group. Here’s how they describe the lessons:

The Reading Like a Historian curriculum engages students in historical inquiry. Each lesson revolves around a central historical question and features sets of primary documents designed for groups of students with diverse reading skills and abilities.

This curriculum teaches students how to investigate historical questions by employing reading strategies such as sourcing, contextualizing, corroborating, and close reading. Instead of memorizing historical facts, students evaluate the trustworthiness of multiple perspectives on historical issues. They learn to make historical claims backed by documentary evidence.

They look good to me. You have to register to gain access to them (though you can get a “quick view” of them without registering), but registering is a pretty painless process. The same organization also sponsors Beyond The Bubble, a history assessment site that I have previously posted about

The Google Cultural Institute has multimedia online exhibits on a variety of historical topics, including apartheid in South Africa and the Holocaust.  It’s really quite an impressive site.

Manifest Destiny – The Story of The US Told in 141 Maps is an impressive interactive that does exactly what the title says….

The Victorians: Learn to work like a historian is a site from The National Archives of the United Kingdom. With a very accessible video guide, you….work like a historian investigating multiple artifacts and take notes in an online notebook. You can then save or print-out your notes.  I was particularly impress by its simple, yet sophisticated, instructional guidelines, which can be easily used away from the site on just about any photo or artifact — historical or not — as a tool for higher-order thinking.  The site uses the acronym “LACE”:

Look

Ask

Conclude

Expand

In other words, it goes something like this:

Look: Describe what you see

Ask: What questions do you need to ask, and answer to make sense of what you have seen?

Conclude: What do the things you have discovered from this source tell about what it was like to be…….

Expand: What more would you like to know? How can you find out?

Google hosts The World Wonders Project. Here’s how they describe it:

The World Wonders Project enables you to discover 132 historic sites from 18 countries, including Stonehenge, the archaeological areas of Pompeii and the ancient Kyoto temples. In addition to man-made sites, you can explore natural places: wander the sandy dunes of Australia’s Shark Bay or gaze up at the rock domes of Yosemite National Park in California.

The Smithsonian, in conjunction with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, created Preparing For The Oath. Not only is it now probably the best site out there for preparing people to take the U.S. Citizenship exam, it’s also just a great site to learn about U.S. History. Audio is available to support all the text, and it includes a practice exam.

Stanford has created what I suspect is one of the coolest things you’re going to see today — a Google Maps-like tool that lets you map the fastest and cheapest ways (by donkey is one option) and routes to travel (including how the time of the year affects it) in the ancient Roman World. You can read a very useful review of the tool, called Orbis, here.  They released a new version just this month.

Mapping America: Every City, Every Block is an amazing interactive from The New York Times that displays U.S. Census data from…everywhere. The New York Times Learning Network also has a simple lesson plan related to it. Connecting the Dots: Interpreting U.S. Census Data is a New York Times Learning Network lesson.

Google has created a gallery where you can visit historic areas around the world using its Street View feature.

A History of Poverty is an animated world map showing where poverty (and prosperity) have been most present over the past two hundred years. You can narrow it down by continent or county, too. It’s from the Christian Aid charity.

ViewChange.Org has some pretty amazing short videos from around the world. This is how it describes itself: Using the power of video to tell stories about real people and progress in global development. Believe me, that doesn’t even begin to tell you what’s there.

Pearson has relatively new U.S. History textbooks and one on Ancient Civilizations. Big deal, right? Well, I don’t really care about the paperbound versions, but they has made the book’s online companion sites freely available. They both have some nice interactives.

Go to the sites and then click on each chapter. There are good interactives for each one:

American: History of our Nation

Ancient Civilizations

I’ve previously highlighted Glencoe’s online videos for social studies, but have now discovered that offer many more free resources to support all their social studies textbooks. They’re useful even if you don’t use their books, though, and they’re freely available. You can start off at their main Social Studies site or at their main site for all their textbooks. From there, it’s easy to navigate to their U.S. History, World History and Geography books. They all have links to videos, “in-motion animations” like this one, interactive maps like this (I especially like these maps because they offer audio support for the text), and different games (I especially like their categorization activities).

“If It Were My Home” is a neat interactive that compares the standard of living in the United States to any other country of your choice. The site also has some other neat features.

SAS Curriculum Pathways has a huge amount of interactives in all subjects. In many of them, students complete the activity online, and then send their work electronically to their teacher (it can also be printed out).  And it’s free.

The teacher signs-up and is give a log-in name for all the students in a school. It doesn’t appear that students need their own individual log-in because they have to type in their name before beginning any activity. Let me tell you, that will make using this site immeasurably easy — students won’t have to remember — or forget — individual passwords!

Numbeo shows the cost-of-living in just about every country in the world, and many cities in the United States.

The Time Map Of World History is a super-cool interactive and accessible way to learn about…world history. Using a map and accessible text, it starts at 3500 BC.

Docs Teach from the U.S. National Archives lets you easily create online activities using primary sources. Plus, you can access the interactives that others have created, too. It’s super-easy to register. Creating the interactives is not as intuitive as I would like, but it’s still pretty easy.

“Timelines: Sources From History” is a nifty interactive from the British Library that lets you explore items from its collection using text, video and images. It’s very engaging. The only negative I see is that you can save favorites, but only to a PDF that you can then print-out. There doesn’t appear to be anyway to save it online. That seems a little strange, but maybe I’m missing something.

The BBC’s “A History Of The World.” is a neat interactive timeline display of historical objects with images and commentary. Not only is it an accessible and engaging way to learn more about world history, but after a quick site registration you can contribute your own historical object choice to the collection and write about it.

Zinn Education Project: Teaching a People’s History is  a collaboration between Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change! It’s an excellent resource for social studies educators.

Newsy is a site that — in short videos — compares how major news events are covered by media throughout the world. I’m adding it to The Best Tools To Help Develop Global Media Literacy list.  In some ways, it’s similar to Link TV, which is also on the list.  Newsy, though, isn’t quite as interactive, though you can leave comments if you’re registered.  For that reason, I’m also adding it to The Best Places Where Students Can Write For An “Authentic Audience”. The speaking is pretty fast and relatively high-level, so it’s probably only accessible to advanced English Language Learners.

The BBC hosts an exceptional new History site. It targets primary learners, and, to quote their description:

“It covers 6 primary history topics – Ancient Greeks, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Children in Victorian Britain and Children of WW2 – with a photo and video library and an interactive timeline, plus quizzes, activities and games.”

It’s very accessible to English Language Learners, and the games have audio support for the text.  The only disappointment is that the videos aren’t available to watch if you’re in the United States.

Culture Crossing is a unique resource for information about different countries. It provides some basic demographics, but it also shares details about communication style, dress, gestures, etc. It’s unlike any other source of information about countries that’s on the web.

Here’s a companion site to a textbook by Pearson titled World History: Connections To Today. If you go to each chapter, you’ll find what they call a History and Geography Interactive. Most of these short slideshows provide text support for the narration, as well as good graphics.

Here is another companion site to a textbook by Pearson called America: History of Our Nation. If you use the drop-down menu, each chapter has excellent multimedia related to that era. I particularly like the link to “exploring each chapter’s essential question.” When you click on it, you’re taken to a short slideshow that provides audio support for the text.

“History Snapshots”  is a series from Pearson. These short slideshows, which include accessible text, support the study of United States History.

“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.

Here is an extraordinary collection of short online videos offered by the textbook publisher Glencoe.  I personally think their two U.S. History series are the best, but they also have quite a few accessible ones on Government (actually, two groups of them), World History, and Geography.

McDougal Littell’s Class Zone is one of my favorite sites. It has animated maps, online activities, animations — all with text support for audio. Just click on a subject and a state, and you’ll be amazed at what they offer online.

Holt, Rinehart Winston Social Studies Home Page has great free online activities to support their textbooks. Here are two examples. Click on any of the textbooks, then click on any of the chapters, and then go to “Interactive Features” to see the best online exercises. Many of their textbooks also have great multilingual features.

Awesome Stories is a favorite of many teachers, and provides accessible texts for countless topics.

HippoCampus  has great (and complete) online and accessible textbooks for many subjects, including History and Government. Their resources include extraordinary multimedia presentations.  You can read more about it here.

February 18, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

February’s Infographics & Interactives Galore – Part Two

There are just so many good infographics and interactives out there that I’ve begun a new semi-regular feature called “Infographics & Interactives Galore.”

You can see others at A Collection Of “The Best…” Lists On Infographics and by searching “infographics” on this blog.

I’ll still be publishing separate posts to individually highlight especially useful infographics and interactives, but you’ll find others in this regular feature.

Here goes:

Can You Live on the Minimum Wage? is an excellent interactive from The New York Times. I’m adding it to The Best Resources On Why Raising The Minimum Wage Is Important.

I’ve previously posted about how Trulia has created an interactive that provides you just about any piece of information about a local neighborhood that you could need. Well, they seem to have even added more info to it. I’ll add this new information to A Lesson Highlighting Community Assets — Not Deficits.

What We Mean When We Say Hello: The curious geography of American greetings is from The Atlantic. I’m adding it to The Best “Language Maps.”

I’m adding this next infographic to The Best Sites That Show Statistics By Reducing The World & The U.S. To 100 People:

The Miniature Earth
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

I’m adding this infographic to The Best Sites For Learning About The World’s Different Cultures:

A Slice of Knowledge: Pizzas Around the World
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

50 Unbelieveable Facts about Spain
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

June 25, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

The Best Infographics Of 2013 – So Far

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Infographics show data in a visual way, and make the information much more accessible for English Language Learners — and everybody else. Interactive infographics are especially engaging because they allow users to customize the data they see. You’ll find both kinds in this list.

You might also be interested in:

The Best Infographics Of 2012 — So Far

The Best Infographics Of 2011 — So Far

The Best Infographics — 2010

The Best Interactive Infographics — 2009

The Best Sources For Interactive Infographics.

The Best Resources For Creating Infographics

The Best Resources For Learning About “Word Clouds”

Not “The Best,” But “A List” Of Mindmapping, Flow Chart Tools, & Graphic Organizers

The Best Tools To Make Simple Graphs Online

The Best Sites For Learning About Cartograms

The Best Map-Making Sites On The Web

The Best Posts To Help Understand Google’s New “Books Ngram Viewer”

You also might want to check out my Pinterest boards for more infographics.

Here are my choices for The Best Infographics Of 2013 – So Far:

How We Spend Our Time Now, in Three (Really Big) Graphs is from The Atlantic.

13 Reasons Why Your Brain Craves Infographics is a well-done interactive infographic and includes multiple references and links to them.  Much of the cited research can be applied to the effectiveness of any kind of visual support given information, and not just to infographics.

“5 Tools For Creating Your Own Infographics”

The New York Times has published a report on a new study they title The Premium From a College Degree.

Here’s a graph they reproduced:

Source: economix.blogs.nytimes.com

22 Maps That Show How Americans Speak English Totally Differently From Each Other is a fun and informative sampling from an extensive new series of visualizations that have just been published.

I’ve previously posted about Trulia’s visualizations showing information (crime, home prices) for some cities in the United States. Now, they have dramatically expanded the information they share (flooding and earthquake hazards, schools, etc.) and the number of neighborhoods they cover. In fact, it seems they do it for just about everywhere in the U.S., but perhaps I’m overstating it.

I’m adding this infographic to The Best Websites For Students Exploring Jobs & Careers:

Source: theundercoverrecruiter.com

The state of U.S. immigration is a very well-done and informative interactive infographic from The Washington Post.

What Career Should I Choose? is an interactive that lets you pick a career and then shows you how it ranks in “potential salary, competition and market stability.” Obviously, other criteria need to be taken into account, but it still could be useful.

I’m adding it to The Best Websites For Students Exploring Jobs & Careers.

Why Are Students Not Finishing School is an interactive infographic from GOOD Magazine. Even though it doesn’t quite fit, I’m adding this infographic to The Best Online Carbon Calculators:

Seven Steps To A Perfect Story is a very useful infographic.

This infographic provides a pretty decent outline for making good infographics. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Creating Infographics:

How To Create An Awesome Infographic
How To Create An Awesome Infographic

This is a pretty interesting interactive infographic. Because it’s so historical, I’m adding it to a somewhat odd list I’ve posted, The Best Resources To See Connections (or Disconnections) In The World Before & After The Internet:

Here Is Today is a cool interactive infographic.  I learned about it from Information Aesthetics, who described it like this: Ranging from one day to one eon, and framing the time periods different kinds of species emerged on Earth, the timeline ribbon acts like a dynamic stacked bar chart that enables easy comparison. This sure is a very interesting interactive infographic:

How Parents Around the World Describe Their Children, in Charts is a fascinating report of an the results from an international survey.

The info is fascinating, and the charts make the results very accessible to students and teachers alike.

The Atlantic allows the charts to be embedded in blogs and websites, which I’ve done below. But it’s worth reading their post for commentary.

I’m adding this to The Best Sites For Learning About The World’s Different Cultures.

I’m adding this to The Best Sites That Show Statistics By Reducing The World & The U.S. To 100 People:

The World as 100 People

The Poverty Line is a brand new interactive that, as the BBC says:

…calculates how much money people living at the poverty line have to spend on food each day.


Global Slavery, By The Numbers

Disease and death around the world visualised is from The Guardian. I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Learning About The World’s Different Cultures.

Where Americans go to work is from The Washington Post, and shows you the average commuting time and distance for workers in every county in the United States.

Forget international test score comparisons, UNESCO’s “Mind The Gap” interactive compares literacy rates by gender around the world, along with years of schooling. It’s well-done and pretty interesting and, at times, depressing. I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Learning About The World’s Different Cultures.

Mind the gap
The Guardian has just published an interactive infographic that lets you see the temperature change over the past one hundred years in most locations in the world. Just type in your city and country and, voila, you see it graphed for your location.

If you found this post useful, you might want to look at the 1100 other “The Best…” lists and consider subscribing to this blog for free.

June 16, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

The Best Social Studies Sites Of 2013 – So Far

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Here’s the latest mid-year “Best” list….

You might also be interested in:

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 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 — So Far:

We open up each school year in our ninth-grade English classes by doing a unit on natural disasters.  The History Channel has a new site called “Perfect Storms” that not only lets you “see” famous disasters in history, but also lets you create one at an address of your choosing. Nothing like typing in the address of your school and seeing what happens through a computer projector to get students’ attention!

I’ve previously posted about Trulia’s visualizations showing information (crime, home prices) for some cities in the United States. Now, they have dramatically expanded the information they share (flooding and earthquake hazards, schools, etc.) and the number of neighborhoods they cover. In fact, it seems they do it for just about everywhere in the U.S., but perhaps I’m overstating it.

The state of U.S. immigration is a very well-done and informative interactive infographic from The Washington Post. Plus, there are links on its page to several other useful Post immigration resources.

The Poverty Line is a brand new interactive that, as the BBC says:

…calculates how much money people living at the poverty line have to spend on food each day.

It’s very interactive and visual.

The Knotted Line is a pretty cool interactive on the struggle for freedom in the United States over the years. It also provides opportunities for people to leave comments in answering questions.

TIME Magazine has an ongoing series of short TIME Explains videos on current events. Here’s a link to most of them.

If you’re ever in a position where you need to teach about Lincoln’s assassination, the new Lincoln Killing interactive from National Geographic is going to be one of your “go to” resources.

The Great Divide: Global income inequality and its cost is a project by a group called The Global Post, done in partnership with The Pulitzer Center with support from The Ford Foundation.

Here’s how they introduce the project:

Income inequality is surging, and there are few countries where it is rising faster than the United States. The distance between rich and poor is greater in America than nearly all other developed countries, making the US a leader in a trend that economists warn has dire consequences. GlobalPost sets out on a reporting journey to get at the ‘ground truth’ of inequality through the lenses of education, race, immigration, health care, government, labor and natural resources. The hope is to hold a mirror up to the US to see how it compares to countries around the world.

I’m embedding the interactive below, but there’s much, much more to the site. I’m adding it to The Best Resources About Wealth & Income Inequality.

It’s a little hard to describe From Cave Paintings to the Internet.  Here’s what Google Maps Mania has to say about it:

an amazing online project to document the history of information and media. The project has a huge scope, starting with entries from 2,500,000 BCE right up to the modern day.

The project also provides a great Google Maps based interface to explore the records geographically and thematically. The map allows the user to select from a large number of themes, from archaeology to writing and palaeography. The entries can also be explored by historical era and by regions.

Just check it out…

Reading Like A Historian is an impressive collection of almost ninety U.S. and World History lessons from The Stanford History Education Group. Here’s how they describe the lessons:

The Reading Like a Historian curriculum engages students in historical inquiry. Each lesson revolves around a central historical question and features sets of primary documents designed for groups of students with diverse reading skills and abilities.

This curriculum teaches students how to investigate historical questions by employing reading strategies such as sourcing, contextualizing, corroborating, and close reading. Instead of memorizing historical facts, students evaluate the trustworthiness of multiple perspectives on historical issues. They learn to make historical claims backed by documentary evidence.

They look good to me. You have to register to gain access to them (though you can get a “quick view” of them without registering), but registering is a pretty painless process. The same organization also sponsors Beyond The Bubble, a history assessment site that I have previously posted about

Rich Blocks, Poor Blocks is a simple tool that lets you determine the median income for every census tract in the United States just by typing in an address.

Feedback is welcome.

If you found this post useful, you might want to look at the 1100 other “The Best…” lists and consider subscribing to this blog for free.

May 18, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

A Few Nice Infographics

I’m adding this infographic to The Best Sites For Learning About Nuclear Weapons:

This infographic “outlines different hand gestures of peace and where in the world the gesture may have originated.” I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Learning About The World’s Different Cultures:

Here’s a link to a nice interactive infographic from GOOD on the “opportunity gap.” I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About The “Achievement Gap.”

American Homes Through the Decades is another pretty interesting interactive infographic. It’s from Trulia.

When does crime happen?
is one more interactive infographic, also from Trulia.

June 5, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

This Week’s “Links I Should Have Posted About, But Didn’t”

I have a huge backlog of resources that I’ve been planning to post about in this blog but, just because of time constraints, have not gotten around to doing. Instead of letting that backlog grow bigger, I regularly grab a few and list them here with a minimal description. It forces me to look through these older links, and help me organize them for my own use. I hope others will find them helpful, too. These are resources that I didn’t include in my “Best Tweets” feature because I had planned to post about them, or because I didn’t even get around to sending a tweet sharing them.

Here are This Week’s “Links I Should Have Posted About, But Didn’t”:

18 Charts Reveal All You Need to Know About Facebook is from The Atlantic. I’m adding it to A Beginning List Of The Best Resources For Learning About Facebook.

Global food crisis – interactive is from The Guardian. I’m adding it to The Best Sites To Learn About World Food Day.

LinkCloud is a new tool to create homepages. It’s got a lot of excellent features, but it might be a little too complicated for some. I’m tentatively adding it to The Best Personal Home Page Creators.

Trulia has created an impressive interactive crime map showing neighborhoods in different cities around the United States. Unfortunately, Sacramento isn’t one of the cities included in their list yet. It could be helpful to our annual Lesson Highlighting Community Assets — Not Deficits activity — if and when they add our city. You can read more about the tool at Read Write Web.

19 Pencils is a beta site that offers the promise of being able to easily create quizzes, share online content, create class websites, and track student content. However, many of the features are not yet activated. It’s certainly worth a look, but I’m not ready to place it on any “The Best…” lists yet. Maybe soon, though. I learned about the site from David Kapuler and Kelly Tenkely.

Freedom Riders remember is a slideshow from The Washington Post. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About The “Freedom Riders.”

Here are some other regular features I post in this blog:

“The Best…” series (which now number 691)

Best Tweets of The Month

The most popular posts on this blog each month

My monthly choices for the best posts on this blog each month

Each month I do an “Interview Of The Month” with a leader in education

Periodically, I post “A Look Back” highlighting older posts that I think are particularly useful

The ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival

Resources that share various “most popular” lists useful to teachers

Interviews with ESL/EFL teachers in “hot spots” around the world.

Articles I’ve written for other publications.

Photo Galleries Of The Week

Research Studies Of The Week

Regular “round-ups” of good posts and articles about school reform

February 25, 2010
by Larry Ferlazzo
2 Comments

A Lesson Highlighting Community Assets — Not Deficits

'San Francisco neighborhood map (1960)' photo (c) 2013, Eric Fischer - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

One of the guiding principles of my nineteen year community organizing career was to look at, and think about, the communities where we organize and their residents in terms of their assets and not their deficits.

That viewpoint has continued to be the cornerstone of my teaching career, as well. I am always trying to look at my students through the lens of their assets and not their deficits.

That perspective is also the theme of my upcoming book, English Language Learners: Teaching Strategies That Work and of an article I co-wrote with our principal last year titled The Positive Impact Of English Language Learners At An Urban School.

One of the lessons I describe in the book uses this theme to help students identify the assets in their own neighborhoods, too. Since some hand-outs I use in the lesson are reproduced in the book, I don’t believe I can legally upload them here without their permission. I can, however, describe it and share a bunch of other useful materials. You can easily create your own lesson with the information in this post whether you buy the book or not.

In a nutshell, our Intermediate English students compare their neighborhood (which is where our inner-city school is located) with the wealthiest neighborhood in Sacramento (called The Fabulous Forties). They write a persuasive essay about which is better and, ninety-five percent of the time they choose….their neighborhood. I’ll share a link to many of those essays at the end of this post.

How do they reach that conclusion?

First, we do a “Word Splash” pre-teaching about ten vocabulary words, like “affordable” and “demographics.”

Next, students identify and rate the qualities they value in a neighborhood they want to live in. This is one of the hand-outs in the book, and includes ethnic diversity, people who share their own ethnicity, affordable housing, etc. They also add their own. They then combine these items into categories (I also discuss — at length — in my book about this kind of “inductive” teaching). Typically, the categories fall into money, people, or services.

Then, they research demographic data about their neighborhood (in our case, it’s the 95823 zip code) in the computer lab. You can find the downloadable research sheet and links students used at our Intermediate English blog post titled Neighborhood Research.

We then go on a field trip in the neighborhood where students take notes (and photos using digital cameras) of specific things they see. The note-taking form is also in the book. They also have a Google Maps print-out of the neighborhood where they draw what they see. Our trip got rained out this year, but it worked fine using Street View on Google Maps in the classroom.

Next, students use their observations and research data to review their list of important neighborhood qualities, and put a check mark with a colored pencil on the ones their neighborhood has.

Then it’s time for the Fabulous Forties. We revisit the computer lab again, and students use the same Neighborhood Research form to get data for that zip code (95819). They write it next to their home neighborhood data in a different color pencil.

We take a field trip to that neighborhood and repeat the same touring process we need in our school neighborhood. Occasionally, we’ve gotten nervous looks and questions from residents there, so we model the best ways to respond.

Back at school, we have students again review their list of neighborhood qualities, and put check marks in a different color next to the ones they feel are represented well in the Fabulous Forties.

Students then take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. They label one side “95823″ and the other “95819.” Using the check marks they made, they then list the neighborhood qualities that each zip code has. The school neighborhood typically has a huge list, while the Fabulous Forties usually has one or two.

Using a Persuasive Essay outline from The Write Institute (which they have used previously), students then write an essay saying which neighborhood they think is better.

You can see all the essays students wrote this year at our Intermediate English blog. Students also commented on other students’ essays, and you can read and hear those, too. Here are a couple of examples from this year.

Students are now designing and writing about their ideal neighborhood, and will finish-up this unit by creating posters to encourage local families to cooperate with the U.S. Census to help make their community even better (see Persuasive Essays, Low-Income Communities & The Census Count). We’re considered a “hard-to-count” area by the Census.

It’s a pretty neat unit that teaches some pretty big lessons — and the most important ones are not necessarily related to language development (though it’s great for that, too).

Coincidentally, GOOD Magazine is now holding a contest for people to create infographics that are somehow related to their neighborhood. I’ll be looking forward to seeing what they come-up with, and perhaps use them as a model for our students to create their own infographic next year. GOOD just made all the submissions public. I’m not sure if any of them are really suitable as models, but they are interesting.

GOOD Magazine has now developed an infographic titled Poorest and Richest Neighborhoods of The USA. It’s really not one of their better ones, but is still usable as a model.

GOOD Magazine just published an issue on the topic of “neighborhoods.” Though its not really accessible to English Language Learners, some of their articles gave me some great ideas to use next year.

One piece they wrote highlighted fictional neighborhoods in literature. Accessible examples would be a great addition to the unit plan.

They also wrote about songs that featured neighborhoods. Playing, and singing, some examples, followed by students writing their own song of their neighborhood would be a lot of fun and an excellent language-learning opportunity.

GOOD also shared their criteria for a perfect neighborhood. That would be interesting to compare with what students come-up with when they create their own.

I first posted about City-Data nearly two years ago. It’s an extraordinary research tool. Type in a name of pretty much any good-sized city in the United States and you’ll get a huge amount of….data about that city. It will be displayed in a variety of forms.

I was prompted to take another look at City-Data based on a post in Google Maps Mania. If anything, it even gives you more data now, including by zip code.

Because the availability of information by zip code, I’m adding it to this post. As I noted in my original post, it has so much data it can be confusing to English Language Learners. Because of that, the data resources I share in our classroom blog should be sufficient. However, if you want to do a more thorough analysis of communities, City-Data is the way to go.

I’m thinking of adding a couple of additional components to this lesson:

* The Gallup Poll recently did a project called Soul of the Community. It worked in twenty-six communities in different parts of the United States to identify what residents felt most positive about in their neighborhoods. I’m thinking that it might be interesting for students to compare what that poll identified as important with what the student concluded, and then discuss any differences.

* Along those same lines, I’m thinking of having students review what urban planners typically consider as qualities of a “good” neighborhood, and have them compare again. Two sources for this information are an article titled My Former Life As An Urban Planner and a book titled Good Neighborhoods: A Study of In-Town and Suburban Residential Environments. I’ve ordered a copy of the book, and plan to develop a simple read aloud from it. You can also read parts of it here.

I think adding something like this will provide even more opportunities for higher-order thinking in the lessons.

I’ve written about another tool that I think can be used in this lesson — “Connecting the Dots: Interpreting U.S. Census Data.”

And here’s yet another tool: “This Tract” Is An Amazing Way To Access U.S. Census Data.

One more tool: Do Your Students Live In A “Food Desert”?

The Seven Wonders….Of The Neighborhood?

Poisoned Places is an NPR site that lets you identify toxic sites in your neighborhood.

Focusing On Neighborhood Assets — One Of My Favorite Lessons! is my newest post on teaching this unit.

Videos Of My Students’ “Ideal Neighborhoods”

Trulia has created an impressive interactive crime map showing neighborhoods in different cities around the United States. Unfortunately, Sacramento isn’t one of the cities included in their list yet. It could be helpful to this activity — if and when they add our city. You can read more about the tool at Read Write Web. (NOTE: They have dramatically expanded the information they share (flooding and earthquake hazards, schools, etc.) and the number of neighborhoods they cover. In fact, it seems they do it for just about everywhere in the U.S., but perhaps I’m overstating it.) Well, they seem to have even added more info to it.

BlockAvenue gives every neighborhood in the United States a “grade” and lets users review businesses in each area, too. It could be an excellent place for students to do some authentic writing, which is why I’m adding it to The Best Places Where Students Can Write For An “Authentic Audience.” It could also be an excellent addition to this lesson. BlockAvenue could be a great place for students to post their final neighborhood essays.

“Google Maps Streetview Player” Is Just What I’ve Been Looking For!

Rich Blocks, Poor Blocks is a simple tool that lets you determine them median income for every census tract in the United States just by typing in an address.

Student Neighborhood Asset Essays (& Bonus Slideshow)

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

English Language Learners Design Their Own “Ideal” Neighorhoods

County Health Rankings Interactive Application is from The Robert Woods Johnson Foundation. Type in any zipcode and you sure get a lot of info on that community.

The State Of California released an environmental and health risk map for every zip code in the state. You can access the map here, and read about it here.

June 30, 2009
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Post Rank’s Top Posts For June

I regularly share my picks for the most useful posts of each month. I also publish a list of the month’s most popular posts, based on the number of times they are “clicked-on.”

I also share a list of Post Rank’s analysis of each month’s top posts. Post Rank uses a variety of ways to measure level of “engagement” that readers have with specific blog posts.  I have a constantly updated “widget” on my blog’s sidebar that lists these posts, but I thought a monthly post would be helpful/interesting to subscribers who don’t regularly visit the blog itself.

Here are their rankings for the month of June (actually, all of these posts tied for the highest rank — once a post reaches a “10″ in Post Rank, it can’t go any higher.  There are a lot of “10′s” this month.):

1. The Best Sites For Learning About The Protests In Iran

2. Learning Clip For Math

3. Room Escape Game

4. “Interesting Ways” Series On Using Web 2.0 Apps In Schools

5. Trulia Snapshot

6. Great American Flag Graphic

7. Unemployment & Education Level Graph

8. PhotoPeach Gets Even Better

9. Flowgram Is Ending On June 30th

10. The Best ESL/EFL Blogs

11. Interactive Stories

12. Reflections On The School Year (Part Two)

13. Results From Student Evaluation Of My Class And Me (Part Two)

14. The 200 Most Popular Museum Websites

15. Wordnik

16. K12 Online Conference 2009

17. “Welcome To The Web” Is An Exceptional Site

18. The Best Teacher Resources For “Foldables”

19. The Best Sources For Advice On Using Flip Video Cameras

20. The Best Teacher Resources For “TED Talks”

21. Ophan Is An Engaging Way To Read The News

22. Hypercities

23. The Best Sources Of Advice For Teachers (And Others!) On How To Be Better Bloggers

24. This Year’s ThinkQuest Winners Just Announced

25. A Beginning List Of The Best Resources For Learning About Facebook

26. What Do You Do On The Last Day Of Class? (Part Two)

27. The Best Sources Of Ideas For Simple Classroom Science Experiments

28. Colorin Colorado Interview

29. The Best Ways To Find Other Classes For Joint Online Projects

30. Part Thirty-Six Of The Best Ways To Create Online Content Easily & Quickly