Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

September 30, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
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A Look Back: What Is The “Zeigarnik Effect” & How Did I Apply It In The Classroom Today?

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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. and A Look Back: 2010’s Best Posts From This Blog.

I originally shared this post in 2011. You might also be interested in another post I wrote about the same topic: More On The “Zeigarnik Effect”

Bluma Zeigarnik was a Russian psychologist who identified what came to be called the “Zeigarnik Effect.” You can read more about it here, but, basically, it means that once we start doing something, we’re going to tend to want to finish it.

I’m sure many teachers have never heard of the Zeigarnik Effect, but often apply it. We might have students who just tend to procrastinate when doing an assignment, or are afraid of getting something wrong and are reluctant to start, or have a hard time getting going for other reasons . So we encourage students to get started by just answering the first question, or writing the first paragraph, or give reading the first page a try.

I’ve certainly done that often in the past, but recently learning that the strategy actually has a name and scientific evidence to back it up now makes me more conscious of it as another component of my “toolbox.”

One of my students does have a strong tendency toward procrastination. Today, we were completing a short “book talk” form (see My Best Posts On Books: Why They’re Important & How To Help Students Select, Read, Write & Discuss Them for more information on the idea), and everybody was working away on it except for “John” (not his real name). He said he didn’t know what to write. The article I read about the Zeigarnik Effect immediately came to mind, and I asked him to complete the first question, which just asked for the title of the book and the author’s name. I pointed out that all he had to do was copy it from the cover of his book.

He immediately did so, and then went on to complete the entire form. Would I have made that same suggestion if I hadn’t read about Zeigarnik yesterday? Maybe, maybe not. But it has now made me more conscious of thinking about what might be easy tasks or questions that would be good ways to start challenging assignments (or to use to get students who face a variety of challenges starting on doing any assignments)….

September 28, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
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A Look Back: What Can We Learn About Classroom Management From Abraham Lincoln?

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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. and A Look Back: 2010’s Best Posts From This Blog.

I originally shared this post in 2011. You might also find Best Posts On Classroom Management useful.

The New York Times has a fascinating article about Lincoln and The Mormons. It explains that he basically made a deal to leave them alone and they left him alone. This is what he told a Mormon leader:

When I was a boy on the farm in Illinois there was a great deal of timber on the farm which we had to clear away. Occasionally we would come to a log which had fallen down. It was too hard to split, too wet to burn, and too heavy to move, so we plowed around it.

In other words, there are some battles not worth fighting, which also happens to be a community organizing axiom.

I also think it’s also a good classroom management guide. We need to “keep on our eyes on the prize” and not get sucked into distracting conflicts.

If a student just keeps on forgetting to bring a pencil to class, I just give him one from a big box of golf pencils I buy at the beginning of each school year. If they don’t have paper, I have stack. I’ve got bigger fish to fry, like helping them developing intrinsic motivation to read the first book in their lives and develop an appetite for learning.

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
0 comments

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.

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