Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

August 7, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Pioneers Of Flight” Is A Nice Collection Of Smithsonian Interactives


Pioneers of Flight has several interactives, and comes from the Smithsonian.

The image at the top of this post provides more details on the activities.

I’m adding them to The Best Resources For Learning About Flight, and I took the opportunity to completely revise and update that list.

August 5, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

This Would Be Great For ELLs: Play – Or Create – A “Listening & Speaking” Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Story


As regular readers know, I’m a big fan of both having students create and read (or, in the case of videos, watch-and-play) choose your own adventure stories (see The Best Places To Read & Write “Choose Your Own Adventure” Stories). Many students find them very engaging to read, they can be quite accessible, and even low-Intermediate ELLs can create simple ones.

I’ve been a fan of them for quite awhile, and thought I was aware of all their different permutations.

Once again, however, I was wrong.

You might be aware of Amazon’s popular home voice assistant called Echo, which uses the Alexa voice software. I don’t have it, but do have the Amazon Fire TV plugin, which I like a lot (I used to be a fan of Google Chromecast, but now favor Fire).

Apparently, a few months ago, they created a listening choose-your-own-adventure game connected to the terrible Batman vs. Superman movie. In it, Alexa describes physical surrounds, provides choices, and assists players in making them. The game received a much better critical reception than the film.

Today, Amazon released software to developers so that they could more easily create these kinds of games.

So, one, this means that there will be many more of these kinds of professionally-produced “listening-and-speaking” choose your own adventure games, which would seem to me to offer exceptionally engaging opportunities for English Language Learners to practice listening and speaking. All we’d have to do is bring an Amazon Fire TV plugin to the classroom.

But, more importantly, I think, is the idea of a listening & speaking Choose Your Own Adventure story!

Teacher can create simple or more complex ones by just writing them out and saying it like this (it’s a sample from Amazon’s software instructions):


On top of that, English Language Learner can also create their own. It would seem to me that these versions would need to be more simple than ones that are typically written so that players don’t have to remember as much, which should make them even easier for ELLs.

I have plenty of templates like this one at my previously-mentioned “Best” list.

Do you think this kind of thing could have as much potential as I do?

August 4, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

iCivics Steps Up Its Game Big Time With Free Virtual Classrooms & Primary Source Interactive



I haven’t always been the biggest fan of iCivics, the popular learning games site begun by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

I’ve thought that many (but not all) of their games have been overly-complicated, and they really put their foot in it with a horribly-done one on immigration (see Sandra Day O’Connor’s Site To Change Immigration Game Because Of Your Comments).

But they seem to have really stepped-up their “game” recently.

Now, teachers can easily create free virtual classrooms and monitor student progress on the site.

The part I’m really excited about is a tool called DB Quest (you can go to the link, but it won’t let you access it until you register, which is free and easy). It’s an interactive to access and learn about primary source documents, and I like it a lot. They only have one lesson there now – on the Nashville Civil Rights Sit-Ins – but have just received funding from the Library of Congress to expand it (I just received that info via a LOC email, but there’s no way to link to it).

I hope they develop many more lessons using that DBQuest tool, and I suspect many teachers will agree with me.

I’m adding this info to:

The Best Resources For Using Primary Sources

The Best Sites That Students Can Use Independently And Let Teachers Check On Progress

August 2, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

A Look Back: “Twenty Questions Game”


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. This is from 2007, and I still use it in class:

Many of us have played the old party game of “20 Questions.”  In it, one person thinks of something, and you can ask up to twenty “yes/no” questions in an effort to guess what it is.

There’s an entertaining version of this 20 Questions Game online that Intermediate and Advanced English Language Learners would enjoy.  You think of something, and the computer asks you questions (in addition to “yes/no” you can answer “sometimes/doubtful/unknown”) in an attempt to guess what you’re thinking of.

I thought of “Bangkok” and it took the web application 23 questions to determine it correctly.

After students played the game online, they did it in class.  It was excellent speaking and listening practice then, and the online game was a great warm-up.

July 31, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Adapting “The Match Game” Into A Classroom Language-Learning Activity


I regularly “mine” TV shows for language-learning game ideas – you can read about them at The Best Ideas For Using Games In The ESL/EFL/ELL Classroom.

This summer, a new version of an old TV game show called Match Game has been revived with Alec Baldwin as its host, and I think I might modify its premise and try using it in the classroom.

In the game, contestants are given a sentence with a blank in it (also known as a gap-fill or cloze). They choose a word to fill the blank and they have to see if it matches up with a word chosen by “celebrity” contestants on the other side of the room.

I was going to share video clips from this new version, but the only short ones I could find contained sexual innuendos. You can view longer versions at the ABC site or on it’s YouTube Channel.

The original version is also available, but its YouTube channel only has entire shows — not clips.

Though the game has potential for classroom use, I think it would need to be used with care. When it comes to clozes, I always emphasize that what’s important is if the word makes sense, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be the one word I’m looking for…

I’m thinking that I could divide the class into groups, and each group has a mini-whiteboard. I could give them a sentence like “The door is ________________” or “Mr. Ferlazzo is a __________________________.” We could play the game without a matching component and students could get a point if they just put any word that would work. Or, students could get an extra point if they chose a word that one of the other groups chose. I’m having a hard time figuring out advantages to incorporating the matching element, though – I wonder if that would just motivate students to spend time trying to overhear other groups – more than they would anyway 🙂

I’m all ears if you have other suggestions for how to adapt the game to the language-learning classroom!

July 12, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Guess What!” Is A Great “New” Game – Plus, ELLs Can Create A Video For An Authentic Audience


Guess What! is the name of a “new” game from Cambridge University Press.

I have “new” in parenthesis because it’s a version of a game used with English Language Learners for decades – Taboo – where players have to describe a word without using the word, and others have to guess what is being described.

The great twist in “Guess What!” is that students can create videos of them describing a word, upload it, and then have other classes use them as part of their own game (they provide simple instructions).

Plenty of research shows that students are much more engaged in a learning activity when they have an authentic audience, and “Guess What!” certainly fills the bill.

I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning To Use The Video Apps “Vine” & Instagram just because that’s where I have other examples of ELLs using short videos.

July 5, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Pairprep” Lets Students Compete Against A Friend (Or Themselves) & Lets Teachers Monitor Progress


Pairprep is a free site that has a number of “courses” (a series of multiple choice questions on a particular topic – like “ESL”) where students can compete against a friend, a random opponent, or themselves as they choose answers. Teachers can monitor student progress through a virtual classroom.

Teachers can create that classroom by choosing an existing courses through first clicking on the course name and then clicking the big read “Contribute” button on the upper right of the page. Or teachers can create their own course from scratch.

I’m adding it to The Best Sites That Students Can Use Independently And Let Teachers Check On Progress.

In addition, I’m adding it to The Best Online Games Students Can Play In Private Virtual “Rooms.” Even though the other sites on that list let students compete against all their classmates instead of just one, Pairprep is close enough to fit.

June 24, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

GlassLab Games Could Be Useful To Educators, Especially Now With Adding “Civilization”


GlassLab Games lets educators create virtual classrooms where students can play educational games and have their progress monitored. You can create a free classroom, but only have access to one-or-two of the games, and you can also create a free one with access to all of them for sixty days. For a longer period of time, you need to pay, but the price is not astronomical.

I’m not that impressed with the games they have now. However, the well-known game Civilization is creating a specific education version that will be available on the site in October.

That new feature could make it much more attractive…

I’m adding this info to The Best Sites That Students Can Use Independently And Let Teachers Check On Progress.

Skip to toolbar