Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

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.

June 20, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

“The Fiscal Ship” May Be A Useful Learning Game


The Fiscal Ship was just named of one the top games at the Serious Play Conference.

It’s a surprisingly accessible and engaging interactive about (yawn) fiscal policy and the federal budget.

Though the majority of its backers appear to be conservative groups, the sponsoring group includes a few others, too. I didn’t play the game all the way through; however, what I did get through seemed to be relatively even-handed without pushing a particular agenda.

If you go through the whole thing, I’d be interested in hearing if the game maintains that fair perspective.

Here’s a video introduction:

June 18, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Online Learning Games Of 2016 – So Far


Time for another mid-year ”The Best…” list.

As usual, In order to make it on this list, games had to:

* be accessible to English Language Learners.

* provide exceptionally engaging content.

* not provide access to other non-educational games on their site, though there is one on this list that doesn’t quite meet this particular criteria.

* be seen by me during 2016. So they might have been around prior to this time, but I’m still counting them in this year’s list.

You might also be interested in:

The Best Online Learning Games Of 2015 – So Far

The Best Online Learning Games Of 2014

The “All-Time” Best Online Learning Games

The Best Online Learning Games Of 2013 – Part Two

The Best Online Learning Games Of 2013 — So Far

The Best Online Learning Games Of 2012 — So Far

The Best Online Learning Games — 2011

The Best Online Learning Games — 2010

The Best Online Learning Games — 2009

The Best Online Learning Games — 2008

The Best Online Learning Games — 2007

Here are my choices for The Best Online Learning Games Of 2016- So Far:

Disaster Detector is an online interactive game from the Smithsonian that looks like it would be an excellent game for students to play who are learning about natural disasters, and it seems surprisingly accessible to English Language Learners. Players have to plan what they think would be the most effective defenses for a community facing various natural disasters and then see how effective they are when the hurricane, earthquake, etc. hits.

Google Feud and PhotoBomber would be fun games to play with English Language Learners.  In the first one, you’re given a phrase and have to guess the ten most likely words to complete it in a Google search.  The downside, however, is that it’s possible you might end up with something inappropriate.  The second one is a sister site.  It would work for advanced ELLs – you’re given a combination of pictures and words and have to guess the common expression it represents.

Earth-Picker is a new online geography game that works similar to a number of other games on The Best Online Geography Games.

Saints and Sinners is a new National Geographic game where players role-play being a Pilgrim. It’s has some elements of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” game, along with other “role-playing” features.

Triventy is an online learning quiz-game site I recently learned about through Teacher’s Tech Toolbox. It’s very similar to several other games on The “All-Time” Best Online Learning Games list (especially Quizalize and Quizizz ) — students play an online quiz together, and a “leaderboard” is shown after each question is answered (I talk about the benefits and challenges of this kind of feature at the “Best” post).  As with those other sites, you can create your own quiz or use one that has already been made.

Fantasy GeoPolitics has potential has an online game for Social Studies classes.

Mission US has created several “choose your own adventure” games related to U.S. History. I thought its first one, about the American Revolutionary War, was quite good. However, they seemed to lose their way with subsequent insensitive ones on slavery and Native Americans (seeThoughtful & Important Critique Of Slave Simulation Game).

This year, they unveiled their latest one, called City Of Immigrants. It seems, at least to me, that they might have taken some of the criticism they received to heart and it seems okay (let me know if you disagree).

Here’s how one reviewer describes it:

It is 1907. You are Lena Brodsky, a 14-year-old Jewish Immigrant from Russia. In your hometown of Minsk, the forces of the Tsar have pushed your family off their lands, and the violence of the pogroms looms large. Your brother Issac was the first to cross the Atlantic to seek a new life in the land of America, and you have followed in turn: a fourteen day trip across the entire world. You hope that you will prove yourself worthy of entering America. You hope that you can earn enough to send for your mother and father. You hope for a better future. There will be many obstacles in America, and many choices to be made. But it is, they say, the land of opportunity…

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