Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

September 23, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
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A Look Back: “Idolizing Just One Person Undermines The Struggle”

Next February, this blog will be celebrating its ten-year anniversary! Leading up to it, I’m re-starting a series I tried to do in the past called “A Look Back.” Each week, I’ll be re-posting a few of my favorite posts from the past ten years.

You might also be interested in A Look Back: Best Posts From 2007 To 2009.

I originally shared this series of posts in 2010. You might also be interested in The Best Sites To Teach About African-American History.

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The New Yorker has an exceptional article about pioneers in the civil rights struggle, accompanied by quite a few images.

I was particularly struck by this passage:

“One thing that I think the history books,and the media, have gotten very wrong is portraying the movement as Martin Luther King’s movement, when in fact it was a people’s movement,” Diane Nash, a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, said. “If people understood that it was ordinary people who did everything that needed to be done in the movement, instead of thinking, I wish we had a Martin Luther King now, they would ask, ‘What can I do?’ Idolizing just one person undermines the struggle.”

In community organizing, we often taught and discussed the long-term dangers to social change brought about by idolizing charismatic leaders.

As a teacher, though, it’s easy to lose sight of that important concept when dealing with trying to help students learn so many other things.

We’re in the middle of teaching a unit on Nelson Mandela now in our mainstream ninth-grade English classes, and this passage is prompting me to think about how I can integrate a bit of discussion on the role of others in that country’s liberation struggle.

How do you avoid just teaching the “cult of personality” or the “cult of the hero” in your class?

September 21, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
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A Look Back: Combining An “Assets” Perspective With An Authentic Audience

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Next February, this blog will be celebrating its ten-year anniversary! Leading up to it, I’m re-starting a series I tried to do in the past called “A Look Back.” Each week, I’ll be re-posting a few of my favorite posts from the past ten years.

You might also be interested in A Look Back: Best Posts From 2007 To 2009.

I originally shared this series of posts in 2010.

In 2010, I posted about A Lesson Highlighting Community Assets — Not Deficits. It has continued to be one of my favorite lessons each year. English Language Learner students first identify the qualities of the kind of neighborhood where they would like to live. We then take a tour of our school’s neighborhood and Sacramento’s wealthiest area. Students next write a persuasive essay about which they think is better – ninety percent typically choose their existing one. Students then end the unit by designing their “ideal” neighborhood.

The lesson always goes well – even the year when a resident of the rich neighborhood – “The Fabulous Forties” – called the police on us when we were walking through those streets. In fact, the conversations that came out of that occurrence may have made it the best lesson ever!

In 2010 we added another follow-up activity to the regular lesson. There were big concerns in many lower-income communities about residents not completing the Census and being under-counted, which would result in fewer public services and less political representation.

So, after our usual neighborhood project, students researched those Census concerns and decided to make posters they would distribute to their family members and neighbors to encourage them to respond to Census questions.

Here are links to two posts I published about that lesson, and I’ve embedded a slideshow sharing some of the posters (we made copies and students distributed them):

Persuasive Essays, Low-Income Communities & The Census Count

More On The U.S. Census & The Classroom

We’ve done other similar community engagement projects, including students creating bilingual flyers providing accurate information during the initial SARS scare and a class one year organizing a job training fair for themselves and their families.

You might also be interested in these related “Best” lists:

The Best Posts On Looking At Our Students Through The Lens Of Assets & Not Deficits

The Best Places Where Students Can Write For An “Authentic Audience”

The Best Resources To Learn About The U.S. Census

The Best Tools For Analyzing Census Data

September 20, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
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A Look Back: Let’s Do Less ‘Fire, Ready, Aim’

Next February, this blog will be celebrating its ten-year anniversary! Leading up to it, I’m re-starting a series I tried to do in the past called “A Look Back.” Each week, I’ll be re-posting a few of my favorite posts from the past ten years.

You might also be interested in A Look Back: Best Posts From 2007 To 2009.

I originally shared this post in 2010.

In 2010, I published Let’s Do Less ‘Fire, Ready, Aim’ in The Huffington Post.

In the column, I took issue with a Seth Godin popular blog post where he basically said that if you have an idea you want to try, and it meets some resistance, you should just do it, “cause a ruckus and work things out later.” He ended his post with “I’m going. Come along if you like.”

I countered that with my community organizing experience and ended this way:

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September 18, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
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A Look Back: Academic Research Has Its Place, But It Also Has To Be Kept In Its Place

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Next February, this blog will be celebrating its ten-year anniversary! Leading up to it, I’m re-starting a series I tried to do in the past called “A Look Back.” Each week, I’ll be re-posting a few of my favorite posts from the past ten years.

You might also be interested in A Look Back: Best Posts From 2007 To 2009.

I originally shared this post in 2010. You might also be interested in The Best Resources For Understanding How To Interpret Education Research.

My Teacher Leaders Network colleague Bill Ferriter has written another of his insightful posts over at The Tempered Radical. It’s called Validation and Authority in a Web 2.0 World. The post wonders if teacher research and direct experience might “trump” traditional scholarly investigations.

There’s an excellent discussion going on in the comments section of the post. Here’s my first contribution to it:

Bill,

I really like this post. I think research and data are important and useful, and I do my own in the classroom (though it certainly wouldn’t stand-up to “academic” standards).

But for some in the world of academia, it seems like real-life experience counts for very little, and there also appears to be minimal acknlowledgment that research and data can be easily manipulated.

My book on teaching English Language Learners is coming out in April. There’s tons of research cited in it, but more than one publisher had it reviewed by academics who said it needed even more. I wanted it to be accessible and actually used by teachers, so I pulled it and went to a publisher who “got it.”

I’m not suggesting it has to be an either/or situation — both experience and research have their place. I know there are academics who agree. I just wish there were more of them.

Larry

Coincidentally, another Teacher Leaders Network colleague, Heather Wolpert-Gawron, has written a post that also speaks directly to this issue.

Heather’s post comments on a recent study that supposedly debunks the whole idea of students having different learning styles. Heather’s question is:

Should we care?

I’d strongly encourage you to read her entire post, but wanted to share an excerpt here:

In this case it seems less of an issue of science then it does using common sense in teaching. When I think back at the lessons that I loved as a student, the ones that stayed with me, they were the ones that asked me to solve authentic problems. They were the ones that had me doing something out of my comfort zone. They were the ones that allowed me to strut myself in my comfort zone. In all, they were the lessons that shook up the norm. But not all teachers naturally know to mix it up.

Talking about learning styles or multiple-intelligences or syn-naps or project learning or critical thinking or whatever is being tossed about, is about scaffolding how to teach in an engaging way in order to reach a wide variety of students.

When people get all up at arms about this research or that research being unsupported, I beg them to remember: some teachers must learn how NOT to be boring. They might be brilliant in their knowledge content, but that doesn’t mean they understand how to deliver or communicate that content, especially to kids who may not be their kind ‘o person.

So providing the theory that there are different learning styles, and categorizing those learners, helps those teachers to remember what they are charged to do: teach ALL students.

In the past, I’ve modified an old saying when I’ve talked about the use of technology in the classroom, and I’ll modify again here for the subject of this post:

Academic research has its place, but it also has to be kept in its place.

(Readers might also be interested in a previous post titled “Data-Driven” Versus “Data-Informed”)

September 17, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

A Look Back: Student Metacognition & Instructional Strategies

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Next February, this blog will be celebrating its ten-year anniversary! Leading up to it, I’m re-starting a series I tried to do in the past called “A Look Back.” Each week, I’ll be re-posting a few of my favorite posts from the past ten years.

You might also be interested in A Look Back: Best Posts From 2007 To 2009.

I originally shared this post in 2010. You might also be interested in The Best Posts On Metacognition

I’ve written a lot about Kelly Young, who provides extraordinary training in instructional strategies, plus great curriculum, to schools throughout the United States.

On one of the pages of his Pebble Creeks website, he gives a short overview of the primaryinstructional strategies we use at our school, and at the other ones with whom he works (unfortunately, his website is now off-line).

We recently completed a lesson he developed where students describe each strategy after having spent two months using them. We then have students explain if and how it helps them learn, and then they make a poster out of what they’ve written.

This year, I had my ninth-grade students convert their poster into an essay and post it on our class blog. There are twelve or thirteen essays there now. I always find it interesting to see what students have to say — it helps me see if I have done a good job at helping them see how it’s in their self-interest to do what we do in the class. One of my goals this year was to make a priority of helping students see the “why” behind what we do, so these essays are a good indicator on how successful, or unsuccessful, I’ve been. This kind of metacognition on their part should contribute to their becoming better writers and readers.

Of course, students can always write what they think I want to hear instead of what they really think. But I hope I contribute towards a classroom culture where that isn’t the case.

But I don’t think I can ever know for sure…

Either way, I think the essays are worth a look.

September 16, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

A Look Back: “The Office” Teaches Why Extrinsic Motivation Doesn’t Work

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Next February, this blog will be celebrating its ten-year anniversary! Leading up to it, I’m re-starting a series I tried to do in the past called “A Look Back.” Each week, I’ll be re-posting a few of my favorite posts from the past ten years.

You might also be interested in A Look Back: Best Posts From 2007 To 2009.

I originally shared this great video in 2010.

You can learn more on this topic at The Best Posts & Articles On “Motivating” Students.

September 15, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

A Look Back: Emphasizing What Students Can Do, Instead Of What They “Can’t”

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Next February, this blog will be celebrating its ten-year anniversary! Leading up to it, I’m re-starting a series I tried to do in the past called “A Look Back.” Each week, I’ll be re-posting a few of my favorite posts from the past ten years.

You might also be interested in A Look Back: Best Posts From 2007 To 2009.

I wrote this post in 2010…

A couple of years ago, I read a short piece by classroom management author Marvin Marshall about the importance of emphasizing to students what they could do, as opposed to what they couldn’t do.

That perspective has had a strong influence on how I act in a number of classroom situations. For example, if a student asks to go the restroom, but I the timing is not right for our lesson, I’ll respond, “Yes, you can. I just need to have you wait for a few minutes” instead of just saying, “No.” Or I’ll start off field trip instructions by saying what students can do, instead of what they can’t.

I think it communicates a more positive tone.

In addition, some research has claimed that people are more likely to do something you don’t want them to do if you specifically tell them not to do so.

Today, I learned that telling people what they can’t do is called an “avoidant instruction.” A new study found mixed results from giving them, but I think this statement from the researcher saying that people can:

“…minimise their biasing influence by emphasising to participants what is to be achieved while neglecting to specify what should be avoided.”

In other words, he thinks it’s better to emphasize what you want them to do, as opposed to what you don’t want them to do.

Makes sense to me.

What about you?

September 14, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

A Look Back: The Problem With “Bribing Students”

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Next February, this blog will be celebrating its ten-year anniversary! Leading up to it, I’m re-starting a series I tried to do in the past called “A Look Back.” Each week, I’ll be re-posting a few of my favorite posts from the past ten years.

You might also be interested in A Look Back: Best Posts From 2007 To 2009.

I wrote this post in 2010 and, of course, since that time have written three books on helping students motivate themselves.  

The only problem with this post is that the link to the big study I cite is no longer active.  I’m confident that I was referring to one of these studies,  though.

You may have heard about the study that was just released about paying students for increased academic performance (see TIME Magazine’s article Should Kids Be Bribed to Do Well in School? and their slideshow Paying For Kids For Grades: Does It Really Work?)

I found this article to be very disturbing — disturbing enough, in fact, to decide to take the time to begin reading the entire 107 page study itself (it’s hard-going, though, and I haven’t completed it yet. I wanted to share my preliminary thoughts now since it’s being publicized so much). I was particularly disturbed by the study’s assertion that providing these kinds of financial incentives results in the same benefits that participating in a Head Start program or in a class with a smaller number of students does — “at lower cost” (page 7). I can only imagine how that analysis is going to be used by some “school reformers.”

It examined programs in three communities, and had very decidedly mixed results — my take, at least, is that in most places it didn’t work the way the study sponsors had hoped. In fact, in my reading of the study, it didn’t seem to me to work at all (I’ll elaborate on that perspective later in the post). I’d be interested in hearing what some trained social scientists might think after looking carefully at the study. I don’t pretend to have the academic background to fully understand the language of the entire study. However, I’d like to share some of my thoughts and I’d love to hear what others think, too.

WHAT DO THESE KINDS OF INCENTIVES DO?

As Daniel Pink and others have described and demonstrated much more ably than I can do here (see A Few Reflections On Daniel Pink’s New Book, “Drive”; On Rewards & Classroom Management; and New Study Shows That Paying Students For Higher Test Scores Doesn’t Work) extrinsic rewards do work — for mechanical work that doesn’t require much higher-order thinking. But it doesn’t work for anything that requires higher-order thinking skills and creativity. And, in fact, these incentives reduce intrinsic motivation over the long-term.

The study seems to reinforce that view. Paying students resulted in higher attendance and an increased number of days when they wore their school uniforms. Students passed more tests in the Accelerated Reader program (even though the study says students read more books in order to do so, I, and I’m sure others, know how easy it is for students to “game” those tests without completing the books). In addition, I think there are very few who would suggest that the AR program promotes any kind of higher-order thinking. In some locations, students who received payments increased their scores in state standardized reading comprehension tests. I’ve got to wonder, though, how accurate even those assessments are. In our school, we find that having students complete clozes (fill-in-the-blank) three times a year, along with timed reading with a teacher to measure fluency, are more accurate assessments of reading ability than standardized multiple choice tests.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CONTROL GROUPS?

One concern I have with this study is that it appears to me that it’s comparing apples and oranges.  This may be how these kinds of studies are supposed to be run, but it certain raises a caution flag about its results.  They provided $6 million for incentives to one group, and the control groups received….nothing. It’s similar to the critique made of studies funded by Accelerated Reading — they compare students using AR with students who are not doing any kind of expanded reading effort.

What could teachers and schools in that control group have done with that money?

How about some of the ways my colleagues and I spend our own money on students — and would love to use more money in the same way:

* Have students go on Amazon to choose books of their own which I then purchase for them.

* Purchase trail mix, graham crackers and peanut butter for students to help replenish their self-control (see “Self-Control As A Limited Energy Resource” In The Classroom)

* Buy multiple copies of books students want to use in a student-lead independent discussion group.

How about some of the ways our inner-city school prioritizes its resources — and would love to use more money in the same way:

* Stock all classrooms with their own library of high-interest books.

* Have a well-stocked school library and flexible librarian who is willing to host student-initiated book discussion groups

* Training teachers in effective, engaging literacy strategies, including free voluntary reading.

* Having counselors spend enormous amounts of time tracking down ways students can get needed eyeglasses, medical check-ups, and dental work done.

* Providing computers and home internet access to immigrant families to use for language development.

* Go on field trips to neighborhood libraries and other enriching places.

None of these efforts come with any of the dangers the extrinsic motivators do…

I wonder what effect those kinds of expanded efforts would have on student achievement, intrinsic motivation, and the development of students as life-long learners.

WHAT ABOUT AN EXIT STRATEGY?

The study doesn’t give any thought to an exit strategy.

I can see, in an extreme situation, where incentives might be an effective intervention. In fact, I’ve written a lot about how I used it in a class that got out of control last year (seeHave You Ever Taught A Class That Got “Out Of Control”?).

The difference, though, was that I used incentives to get students focused and, after six weeks, created an atmosphere where things became reversed — they wanted off the incentive program so they could demonstrate that they didn’t need it any more.

One would think that this kind of outcome would be desired by any kind of school-based incentive program.

I’m not pretending that the criticisms I’m making here would pass the muster of a peer-reviewed journal. They are my initial reactions — no more.

But, as I mentioned, the study was disturbing enough to me that I felt I needed to get something out there. I’ll be writing more about it once I can bring myself to finish reading the entire study, and I’m eager to hear other people’s reflections, too.

 

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