Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

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:

April 15, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

The Best Research On Listening To Music When Studying

'Typical Teen' photo (c) 2011, Tyler-Adams - license:

I’ve published a few posts about the question of playing background music in the classroom, along with info on the practice of listening to music when studying.

I thought I’d bring them together in one post, and invite readers to contribute their own ideas and experiences, too.

I’ll be adding this “Best” list to The Best Resources On The Dangers Of Multitasking.

Here goes:

This is a reprint of my first post on the topic. It’s worth looking at the original post because of the comments readers left:

A  study find that listening to music while performing a task can impair cognitive ability.

Researchers divided participants into three groups — one listening to music they liked, one to music they didn’t like, and one with no music:

The most accurate recall occurred when participants performed the task in the quieter, steady-state environments. Thus listening to music, regardless of whether people liked or disliked it, impaired their concurrent performance.

One of the study’s authors concluded:

“Most people listen to music at the same time as, rather than prior to performing a task. To reduce the negative effects of background music when recalling information in order one should either perform the task in quiet or only listen to music prior to performing the task.”

This reflects my experience in the classroom (and my own personal experience). I use music a lot with English Language Learners as parts of lessons, and use music in lessons with our mainstream English classes when studying Bob Marley and, also, New Orleans. But they are always specific parts of lessons. Any time I acquiesce to student pleas to let them listen to those music examples outside of those specific lessons — for example, if they are working on a group project or during silent reading, it becomes an obvious distraction and I usually turn it off relatively quickly.

However, there is an important caveat — I have found that a few students who face particular challenges actually work better if they are listening to their own mp3 player at times, and have made individual agreements to let students sometimes use them.

Several years ago, when I was teaching a particularly challenging class, having students close their eyes for a couple of minutes after lunch and listen to soothing music also worked well as a calming influence. But they did not have to perform any task other than calming down, and the study does point out that music can “very positive effect on our general mental health” in that kind of situation.

Another study has found that working in quiet is the best atmosphere for cognitive work, listening to music you don’t like is next, and listening to music you like creates the worst cognitive atmosphere.

Don’t Listen to Music While Studying is useful post from Edutopia.

Okay, I’m all ears. Please share if your experience agrees, or disagrees, with this research….

April 15, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Research Studies Of The Week

'magnifying glass' photo (c) 2005, Tall Chris - license:

I often write about research studies from various fields and how they can be applied to the classroom. I write individual posts about ones that I think are especially significant, and will continue to do so. However, so many studies are published that it’s hard to keep up. So I’ve started writing a “round-up” of some of them each week or every other week as a regular feature.

By the way, you might also be interested in My Best Posts On New Research Studies In 2013.

Here are some new useful studies (and related resources):

The Education Endowment Foundation has published a useful free Neuroscience and Education Literature Review. They describe it as:

A review of education literature, considering the impact of neuroscience informed approaches or interventions on the attainment of children.

I’m adding it to The Best Resources On “Brain-Based Learning.”

Frequent school moves can harm children’s mental health — study is from The Washington Post, though it’s no surprise to many of us teachers. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

With data from some 6,500 families who were part of a long-term study, the researchers found that students who as children had moved to three or more different schools were 60 percent more likely to experience at least one psychotic symptom when they were 12 years old. They did not find a causal relationship between frequent school changes and an increased risk of psychotic symptoms in preteens but the researchers said that moving often can fuel low self-esteem in children who find themselves socially isolated in new environments, which can affect brain chemistry.

Youth Gang Involvement Is a Public Health Issue Into Adulthood, Study Concludes is from Education Week. Here’s an excerpt:

It probably won’t surprise many educators that a young person’s decision to join a gang will have negative effects that continue well into his or her future. But a new study, published this month in the American Journal of Public Health, paints a clearer picture of how long the effects of that decision echo and how negatively it impacts a broad scope of factors—from the likelihood of later drug abuse and incarceration to poor health in adulthood.

America’s Teens Outscore Adults On Stress is from TIME Magazine. Here’s an excerpt:

Since 2007, the American Psychological Association (APA) has conducted a survey of different aspects of stress in America. This year’s analysis focused on teens, and on a 10-point scale, adolescents ranked their stress at 5.8, compared with a score of 5.1 reported by adults.

I’m adding this info to The Best Resources For Learning About Teens & Stress.

I’m adding this video report from The Brookings Institution to The Best Resources For Learning About Homework Issues:

April 15, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Spacehopper” Is One Of The Best Geography Games I’ve Seen


There are quite a few online geography games out there, and you can see them at The Best Online Geography Games. Many of them are pretty hard, and can be frustrating to students.

Spacehopper is a new online game that isn’t easy but, after showing you a Google Street View image of a location, provides clues that make it less difficult. You’re shown a map with various dots on it, as well as the map outline of the country. After three guesses, you’re given the answer along with information on the location.

Thanks to Google Maps Mania for the tip.

April 15, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

ELL Teachers & Students Will Love MusiXmatch – It Provides Karaoke-Style Lyrics To Most YouTube Music Videos


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.

I think MusiXmatch is a great tool. However, they’re advertising it with a video that pretty much tells you nothing about it, and may be one of the dumbest videos put out by at tech company. Because it’s so weird, I couldn’t resist embedding it below, but don’t plan on learning anything about how it works by watching it:

April 15, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

National Teacher Day Is Coming-Up & Here Are Two Great Ways To Celebrate It On Social Media!


National Teacher Day in the United States is always celebrated on the Tuesday in the first full week of May. World Teachers’ Dayis held annually on October 5th since 1994, celebrates teachers worldwide, and was started by UNESCO. You can find lots of related resources for both days at The Best Resources To Learn About World Teachers Day.

This year, two great groups are sponsoring ways to celebrate National Teacher Day on social media.

The National Education Association is encouraging people to “use the #ThankaTeacher hashtag and join thousands showing their support for our nation’s teachers. Show some love on Facebook and Twitter or get creative and create your own six-second video thank you on Vine.”

Here’s a sample Vine:

And here’s a project being sponsored by The Center For Teaching Quality:

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week (May 5-9), CTQ is launching #TeachingIs, a social media effort to challenge stereotypes and recognize teaching as the complex work it is. Set the record straight. Join us!

Here’s how you can participate:

  • Show your support by donating a Facebook post or tweet and encourage your friends, colleagues, and followers to do the same.
  • Tell the world what #TeachingIs. Share your definitions, stories, small (and big!) wins, and manifestos via tweet, blog post, Vine, Instagram, YouTube, shareable graphic, Six Word Memoir, you name it! Just be sure to use the hashtag #TeachingIs.

From small details to spectacular achievements, let’s tell the world what #TeachingIs.

Looking for resources? Read some social media how-tos and explore our partner packet with sample tweets, logos, and avatars.

April 14, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Yay! The Education Writers Association Now Lists Their Award Winners In A Way That’s Accessible!

'trophy 1 | the both and | shorts and longs | julie rybarczyk' photo (c) 2010, Julie Rybarczyk - license:

I’ve previously posted about the 2013 Education Writers Association National Awards For Education Reporting.

There were many of them, including many “must-reads.” However, their design made it very difficult to access links to them all — many clicks were required to find them.

Happily, I saw on Twitter today that they have now listed them in an easily scrollable, downloadable and clickable PDF.


April 14, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Fun Video Useful To ELLs: “One Man Does 30 Animal Sounds”

This is a great video of a voice actor making 30 animal sounds. Even better, the name of the animal is displayed after each sound.

One way I reinforce new vocabulary is by playing sound effects games where I play sounds representing words we have recently learned (water dripping from a faucet, door opening, etc) and have students use small whiteboards to get points (that are just for fun) for the correct word. I use it when we learn animals, too. It’s easy to find these sound effects online, but playing a video like this and stopping it prior to the name showing up on the screen could be a lot more fun.

I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Learning About Animals.

April 14, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

April’s Infographics & Interactives Galore – Part Four

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:

MH370: see how deep in the ocean the black box could be is from The Guardian. I’m adding it to The Best Resources On The Missing Malaysia Airlines Plane.

A World Map of Youth also comes from The Guardian.

I’m adding the next infographic to The Best Sites To Learn About…Happiness?:

The Happiest Countries 2014
Explore more visuals like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

I’m adding this infographic to The Best Places For Students To Write Their Resumes:

Write a Rockin
Explore more visuals like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

April 13, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Guest Post: More On Theory Of Knowledge Oral Presentations

'MSc REM geomodelling course, Tomsk 2014' photo (c) 2014, HWUPetroleum - license:

Regular readers know that I teach many different classes, including an International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge class, and share many TOK resources here.

IB has made many changes this year to the Theory of Knowledge course and, along with writing my own thoughts on them, I’ve invited others to write guest posts, too.

Here are some of them:

The Best Commentaries On The New IB Theory Of Knowledge Teaching Guide

The Best Posts On Teaching TOK “Knowledge Questions”

“The Times They Are a-Changin’”…For IB Theory Of Knowledge Oral Presentations

Here Is The Simple Outline I’m Having My TOK Students Use For Their Oral Presentation

Recently, I’ve invited guests to write about the changes to the TOK Oral Presentation. Prof. Crow is writing on behalf of TOK Tutor. He’s a retired teacher specialising in TOK writing & presentation skills:

New TOK Curriculum – First exam 2015

The TOK Presentation

The presentation has always been a highlight of the TOK calendar, allowing students to show off the ideas that inspire them and about which they feel passionate.  The new Guide doesn’t change any of that; it just highlights the key phases that students must consciously adopt in preparing and presenting those ideas.

Here they are:

  1. ‘Extraction’ of the KQ from a real life situation
  2. ‘Progression’ of the exploration that is made
  3. ‘Application’ of the analysis to other real life situations

What does all this mean?

As for extracting your KI, see previous posts on Larry’s blog about the new ‘Knowledge Questions’.

‘Progression’ implies addressing your KQ through a series of arguments and counter arguments.  Students often turn a presentation into a for/against debate.  This is NOT the meaning of ‘progression’.  While you must employ this argument structure in the presentation, you must do so by a) incorporating TOK terminology to build your arguments and c) ground your arguments from a variety of perspectives (eg. individual vs shared perspectives within specific AOKs).

Here’s a snapshot of an example (the underlined expressions highlight specific vocabulary that links to your KQ):

Presentation Title: ‘Miracles’

RLS: The weeping and bleeding Statue of Christ in Bolivia – during Holy Week of 1995

KQ: To what extent is the evidence presented to justify miracles reliable?

Perspective: H Science (Psychology)

Argument: Up to 30,000 people at Traberhof outside Rosenheim near Munich in September 1949, where many mass and distant healings occurred through influence of Bruno Groening.

The frequency of reported spiritual healings by non-believers or atheists suggests that at least some of them MUST be real.

Counter claim: Mysterious disappearances around the ‘Bermuda Triangle’.

Given what we know about human beings and their tendency to experience weird and wacky things, we should expect such miracle healing experiences anyway, so the fact people do have them doesn’t give us much grounds for supposing there is a miracle happening.

You should now be able to see how ‘application’ works: as part of building arguments you can also integrate other real examples, even other KQs that emerge as you analyse them.

Always remember: the presentation must advance your arguments from the first real life situation that inspired you personally to the wider world through the guiding frame of your KQ.

April 13, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Resources For Learning About The Blood Moon

'Blood Moon' photo (c) 2010, Hanzlers Warped Visions - license:

A “Blood Moon” will be occurring tomorrow night, and I thought readers might find this list helpful.

You might also be interested in:

The Best Sites For Learning About A Lunar Eclipse

The Best Images Of The Ring Of Fire Eclipse

The Best Resources About The “Supermoon”

The Best Resources For “Moon Day”

Here are my choices for The Best Resources For Learning About The Blood Moon:

Total lunar eclipse, ‘blood moon’ to be showstoppers in sky is an infographic from the San Francisco Chronicle.

8 incredible images of lunar eclipses is from The Mother Nature Network.

‘Blood Moons’ Explained: What Causes a Lunar Eclipse Tetrad? (Infographic) is from

Here’s a video from

Here’s why you’ll be able to see a “blood moon” tonight is from Vox.

Here’s an “Explainer” video from TIME Magazine:

Goodnight, Moon: Why the Lunar Lights Will Go Out Tonight is from TIME.

‘Blood Moon’ Lunar Eclipse Distilled into a Nine-Second Animated GIF

April 12, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Grit, Failure & Stuff Like That

'The four capital mistakes of open source' photo (c) 2011, - license:

Hype around “character-building” has escalated to the point that some see building perseverance and pushing students to make mistakes as sort of a silver bullet to cure all learning ills (I’ve written about that problem in my Washington Post piece, The manipulation of Social Emotional Learning).

Of course, every action results in an opposite and equal reaction, in this debate is no exception to the rule. Some attack the whole idea of grit and encouraging failure. I tend to thing parts of this reaction are over-blown, but I can understand it.

I come down in the middle — I believe that many of our students can benefit by developing more grit, and learn that making mistakes while trying their best is okay and, more importantly, learn how to deal with them effectively after they’re made. However, I don’t think we have to put failure on a pedestal.

Here are some recent posts and articles that make some good critical points about the the grit and failure narrative, though I don’t necessarily agree with all of them. They’re all excerpts from Alfie Kohn’s new book (except for the last post):

Ten concerns about the ‘let’s teach them grit’ fad is by Alfie Kohn.

The Downside of “Grit” is also by Alfie Kohn.

Sometimes it’s better to quit than to prove grit is by Alfie Kohn.

Protect Your Kids From Failure appeared in The Atlantic.

Taking a different tack, Grit – motivating students is a good classroom lesson at TEFL Reflections.

I’m adding this post to The Best Resources For Learning About “Grit” and to The Best Posts, Articles & Videos About Learning From Mistakes & Failures.


April 12, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Around The Web In ESL/EFL/ELL

'English Club led by Merrilyn Andersen, Dover Library' photo (c) 2010, RTLibrary - 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: ESL Teachers in Common-Core Era Need Different Prep, Paper Argues is from Education Week.

Here is a more in depth discussion of the same paper from Colorin Colorado. Marisa Constantinides has collected a number of posts about Sugata Mitra’s recent address to ESL teachers.

I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Videos About Sugata Mitra & His Education Ideas. IATEFL 2014 – Graham Hall: How to get published in an academic journal like ELTJ is from Lizzie Pinard. Picturing U.S. History is a good resource for using photos in lessons.

Thanks to Michelle Henry for the tip. I’m adding it to The Best Ways To Use Photos In Lessons. TESOL 2014 HIGHLIGHTS: Vocabulary Learning and Instruction is from English With Jennifer.

I’m adding it to The Best Sites Where ELL’s Can Learn Vocabulary. My 10 favourite websites of the month is by Adam Simpson. Comparatives and superlatives in English is from Engames. 33 ways to speak better English – without taking classes is from British English Coach.

I’m adding it to The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English. Life Beyond Gap-fill? is from Richmond Share.

I’m adding it to The Best Tools For Creating Clozes (Gap-Fills). Correcting writing: 8 practical ideas is from TEFL Reflections. I’m adding it to The Best Resources On ESL/EFL/ELL Error Correction. How ICT Can Connect Children Around The World is from The British Council.

I’m adding it to The Best Ways To Find Other Classes For Joint Online Projects.

April 12, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Financial Aid Resources For Students Planning To Go To College — Help Me Find More

'College Fund' photo (c) 2012, Tax Credits - license:

I’ve previously posted three “Best” lists related to students attending college:

The Best Sites For Encouraging ELL’s To Attend College

The Best Posts About Getting Our Students To Attend College

The Best Resources For Showing Students Why They Should Continue Their Academic Career

They all have a slightly different “take” on the topic. However, I’ve realized that, though some accessible financial aid related-resources are including in some of them, there is a lot more out there.

I hope readers will contribute many more.

Here goes:

Questions About Financial Aid? is from The New York Times.

What You Don’t Know About Financial Aid (but Should) is also from The Times.

Avoiding the most common financial aid application errors is from The Washington Post.

Applying to College With The New York Times

Comparing College Costs: A Primer is from The Washington Post.