Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

April 18, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“The Best Commentaries On The ‘Broken Compass’ Parent Involvement Book”

'Compass Study' photo (c) 2010, Calsidyrose - license:

You might, or might not, be aware of the recent controversy around a new book titled The Broken Compass:Parental Involvement With Children’s Education. Its authors recently had an op-ed in The NY Times reviewing their contention that, basically, all previous research on the value of parent engagement with schools is wrong.

Well, I’ve brought together “The Best Commentaries On The ‘Broken Compass’ Parent Involvement Book” over at my other blog, Engaging Parents In Schools.

April 18, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Guest Post: Commentary On Theory Of Knowledge Oral Presentations

'spring 2012 hackNY student hackathon presentations' photo (c) 2012, - license:

I’ve been publishing guest commentaries on all the changes this year in International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge classes, and you can see them all here.

And here’s another one!

Today’s piece is from Brad Ovenell-Carter. Brad is the director of educational technology and TOK department head at Mulgrave School, an independent, coed K12 IB World School in Vancouver, Canada. Like Mark Twain, he thinks the ancients stole all out good ideas. And he wants them back:

I really like the general move towards more holistic learning and assessment in TOK. The old, analytic approach lead to monolithic interpretations of the areas of knowledge and to so-called “naked ways of knowing.” The essay, in particular, is much improved by the new global impression marking.

The oral presentation guide never had quite the same flaw as its assessment tool was always more global. Still, it too is made better in the new guide and I especially appreciate the renewed emphasis on finding practical applications of TOK.

Nevertheless, I am quite bothered by a thought experiment:

Suppose after working with her teacher and following the new TOK oral presentation guide, a student submits a perfect planning document for her TOK oral presentation. Then suppose at the last minute she ditches her original idea and documentation and on the day of her presentation delivers an inspired and brilliant session on something completely different–without any supporting documents.

Now, would she write her planning document retroactively? Even if that were permissible, why would I ask her to do that? When I hear a great lecture I don’t ask to see the planning document, I just listen. I have Hans Rosling’s planning notes for a lecture he gave to 1600 people and they are literally only a thin sketch of his characteristically compelling presentation. Would I have to fail her on the grounds that she didn’t tell me what she was going to say? That makes no sense for the same reason. Can a TOK presentation be made without a planning document? The guide says no.

I am not at all suggesting there should be no planning. I do question whether the heightened importance of the planning document in the new guide effectively asks us to assess how well the the presentation matched the planning document, not the presentation itself.

April 18, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

April’s Best Tweets — Part Three

'Twitter' photo (c) 2010, West McGowan - license:

Every month I make a few short lists highlighting my choices of the best resources I through (and learned from) Twitter, but didn’t necessarily include them in posts here on my blog.

I’ve already shared in earlier posts several new resources I found on Twitter — and where I gave credit to those from whom I learned about them. Those are not included again in post.

If you don’t use Twitter, you can also check-out all of my “tweets” on Twitter profile page.

You might also be interested in The Best Tweets Of 2013.

I use Storify to “curate” my best tweets:

April 17, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

British Pathé Makes 85,000 Historical Clips Available On YouTube


I’m just going to begin with a quote from Open Culture:

British Pathé was one of the leading producers of newsreels and documentaries during the 20th Century. This week, the company, now an archive, is turning over its entire collection — over 85,000 historical films – to YouTube.

The archive — which spans from 1896 to 1976 – is a goldmine of footage, containing movies of some of the most important moments of the last 100 years.

It’s an amazing collection that will be gold mine to U.S. and World History teachers everywhere. And, in a bonus to teachers of English Language Learners, many appear to be close-captioned (not using YouTube’s error-plagued automatic system).

I’m adding this info to both The Best Websites For Teaching & Learning About World History and to The Best Websites For Teaching & Learning About U.S. History.

Here’s a sampling:

April 17, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Updated Holocaust Resources

'0578 Holocaust Memorial Baltimore Maryland' photo (c) 2009, Bill McChesney - license:

From The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

Congress established the Days of Remembrance as the nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust and created the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as a permanent living memorial to the victims. Holocaust remembrance week is April 27–May 4, 2014.

I have multiple Holocaust-related “Best” lists, and you can find them all at The Best Sites For Learning About The Holocaust.

April 17, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Ideas For Finishing The School Year Strong & Beginning The Summer Even Stronger

A very popular excerpt from one of my books was titled “Finishing The School Year Strong” was published both at Education Week Teacher and at Edutopia.

It’s very practical, and here’s an excerpt:


Okay, so that’s for dealing with these last several weeks of school.

Is there anything we can do to set-up our students for continuing their academic success in July and August? When there were funds for summer school, at least sixty percent of our 2,000 students would enroll for those classes — not because of having bad grades, but because they wanted to come.

Those days are long-gone — our District hasn’t had money for summer school for at least the last six years.

I’ve previously posted about how I set-up free virtual classrooms at a variety of sites for my Beginning and Intermediate English Language Learners to use during summers and, typically, at least half of them study fairly consistently. I do the same for my mainstream English students, and about a quarter of them tend to use the sites. I make arrangements with their following year’s teacher (who is often me :) ) to give them extra credit for their summer work, but that is clearly a very minor part of their motivation.

Here are those previous posts on my summer work:

How I’m Helping My Students Try To Avoid The “Summer Slide”

Part Two Of “How I’m Helping My Students Try To Avoid The “Summer Slide””

Since I published those posts, a ton of new additional sites have become available that let teachers set-up virtual classrooms for free. I’ll be adding several of these new tools to my list, but haven’t yet gotten around to determining which ones. You can see them all at The Best Sites That Students Can Use Independently And Let Teachers Check On Progress.

And you can see all sorts of research on the summer slide at The Best Resources On The “Summer Slide.”

What do you do to help your students try to avoid the “summer slide”?

April 17, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Study: Gratitude Increases Self-Control

'PATIENCE' photo (c) 2009, Gemma Bardsley - license:

I’ve written in the past about my use of “Reflection Cards” in the classroom, including the research behind them (you can download a copy of the card and read the research at my post, Giving Students “Reflection Cards.”

Research shows that self-control can be replenished by both self-affirmation exercises and by remembering better times.

So, I created cards that I sometimes give to students when they are having behavior issues in the classroom to complete outside and come back in after they’re done. The cards just take a couple of minutes to complete and include these instructions:

1. Please write at least three sentences about a time (or times) you have felt successful and happy:

2. Please write at least three sentences about something that is important to you (friends, family, sports, etc.) and why it’s important:

They’ve worked pretty effectively.

Now, new research written about in the Harvard Business Reviews suggests that having people write what they are grateful for can also increase patience. You can read about their experiments in the short article, Gratitude Is the New Willpower.

Here’s an excerpt:


I guess it’s time to add another instruction to the card (this is what the researchers had participants do):

Briefly write about an event from your past that made you feel grateful:

I’m adding this post to to lists:

The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control

The Best Resources On “Gratitude”

April 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Book Reviews – & Shakespeare – In Three Panels


I’ve previously posted about Lisa Brown’s “Three Panel Book Reviews” that formerly appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle. They’re great models for student projects.

I recently learned about how another artist uses this “three panel” idea, though Mya Gosling uses it to summarizes Shakespeare’s plays. You can see all of her work here, and they’re more great models for student work.

I’m adding this info to My Best Posts On Books: Why They’re Important & How To Help Students Select, Read, Write & Discuss Them.

April 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Who’s To Blame For The SAT’s Existence? Thanks A Lot, Tom Edison…

'Thomas Edison, 1930s' photo (c) 2011, Playing Futures:  Applied Nomadology - license:

The SAT Test has been in the news a lot, lately.

The College Board is revamping it, and they just released new sample questions.

In addition to those links, here are a few other useful articles:

The New SAT: Less Vocabulary, More Linear Equations is from NPR.

What is the SAT good for? is from The Washington Post.

The key problem the SAT changes won’t fix is also from The Washington Post.

College President: SAT Is Part Hoax, Part Fraud is from TIME.

But the main reason for this post is to reprint one I published a six years ago.

Here it is:

Thanks, Thomas Edison, For The Light Bulb, Phonograph and…the SAT?

Did you know that a test created by Thomas Edison inspired the creation of the not particularly useful SAT?

I didn’t, until I saw a short piece in the Mind Hack blog today. That post led to a much more descriptive article that appeared in the New Scientist magazine titled 163 ways to lose your job.

Edison apparently developed his ‘Brainmeter” test to evaluated the intelligence of job-seekers at his lab, and the test’s administrator went on to help create the SAT.

Both the blog post and article were pretty intriguing, but neither provided a link to the actual test. I found it at the National Park Service Edison National Historic site website, and you can take the test there (scroll down a bit).

How can this information be useful in today’s classroom, you might ask? Well, I have to admit the primary reason I’m writing this post is because I just found it interesting. However, even though the test isn’t accessible to English Language Learners, it might be fascinating to see what students might come-up with if they were asked to develop questions that they think would be effective in evaluating a person’s intelligence, and what criteria that might use to write them.

April 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Around The Web In ESL/EFL/ELL

'student teacher' photo (c) 2006, Rex Pe - license:

I’ve started a somewhat regular feature where I share a few posts and resources from around the Web related to ESL/EFL or to language in general that have caught my attention:

Innovation in education: looking for learning is by Lizzie Pinard. I’m adding it to The Best Sources For Ideas On How To Use Technology With English Language Learners.

“Red Light! Green Light!” Teaching Students How to Give Peer-Feedback During Speaking Activities is from Evan Simpson.

Play It Again And Again, Sam is from NPR and, I think, may help explain why jazz chants are effective in language instruction. I’m adding it to The Best Sites (& Videos) For Learning About Jazz Chants.

Aeon Magazine has a similar piece on that research. I’m adding it to the same list.

American English from the U.S. Department of State seems like a good resource of materials for teachers of English Language Learners.

The Future of ELT is by Gaven Dudeney.

10 Dictation Activites for EFL classes is from Online TEFL Training. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning How To Use The Dictogloss Strategy With English Language Learners.

April 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Surprise, Surprise — Study Finds Shouting At Children “creates further discipline problems”


To few teachers surprise, a new study has found that shouting at children is counter-productive. You can read all about it at Shouting at children ‘increases their behaviour problems’ in the British newspaper, The Telegraph.

There have been plenty of studies (and years of countless teachers experience) that have found the same thing (you can find out more at The Best Posts On Classroom Management).

Do I sometimes raise my voice at my class? Of course, we’re all human. But, fortunately, I seldom do so.

I just don’t understand why some continue to use shouting as a part of their classroom management strategy.

April 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

This Week’s “Round-Up” Of Useful Posts & Articles On Education Policy

''Wisconsin is Open For Business Closed for Schools'' photo (c) 2011, rochelle hartman - license:

Here are some relatively recent articles and blog posts on educational policy issues that are worth reading:

All schools should have good teachers is from The Los Angeles Times. I’m adding it to The Best Articles For Helping To Understand Both Why Teacher Tenure Is Important & The Reasons Behind Seniority-Based Layoffs.

How Seniority Reform Backfired In Minneapolis is by John Thompson. I’m adding it to the same list.

Evidence Based Education Policy and Practice: A Conversation is from Larry Cuban’s blog.

Evaluation: A Revolt Against The “Randomistas”? is by Alexander Russo. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Understanding How To Interpret Education Research.

What Is A Standard Deviation? is from The Shanker Blog. I’m adding it to the same list.

A Brilliant Management Insight Helps Chipotle Retain Its Best Employees is an interesting article from Business Insider that I think has applications for the development of teacher leadership. I’m adding it to The Best Posts, Articles & Videos On “Teacher Leadership.”

Big data: are we making a big mistake? is from The Financial Times. I’m adding it to The Best Resources Showing Why We Need To Be “Data-Informed” & Not “Data-Driven.”

Ainge: Analytics Sometimes Leads To Shortcuts is from RealGM Basketball. I’m adding it to the same list.

New Common Core exams will test whether a robo-grader is as accurate as a human is from The Hechinger Report. I’m adding it to The Best Posts On Computer-Graded Essays.

The Classroom of the Future: Student-Centered or Device-Centered? is by Anthony Cody at Education Week Teacher.

A Teacher Offers Sound Advice to Tom Friedman is from Diane Ravitch’s blog.

Teaching as a Second Act, or Maybe Even a Third is from The New York Times.

One of many nails in the VAM coffin…. is from Better Living Through Mathematics. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About The “Value-Added” Approach Towards Teacher Evaluation. Thanks to Alice Mercer for the tip.

Here is a VAM mathematical formula from Florida. I’m adding it to the same list.

I’m adding this tweet to The Best Resources On “Race To The Top” (& On “Personalized Learning”):

How Does PISA Put the World at Risk (Part 5): Racing to the Past is by Yong Zhao. I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles On 2012 PISA Test Results.

The Great Lakes Center has done an important review of infamous Raj Chetty, John Friedman, & Jonah Rockoff study on teacher’s value-added. I’m adding it to the list where many critiques of that study can be found, The Best Posts On The NY Times-Featured Teacher Effectiveness Study.

Classes of Donkeys is by David Truss, and offers some thoughtful commentary on the popular Class Dojo behavior management tech tool. I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles On “Motivating” Students.

On Using And Not Using ClassDojo*: Ideological Differences? is by Larry Cuban. Motivating is from ELT Reflections, and is also on Class Dojo. I’m adding both to the same “Best” list.

I’ll end this post with this tweet: