Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

April 23, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Apparently, Today Is Both “World Book Night” & “UN English Language Day” – Here Are The Best Resources For Both


It’s a little confusing to me, but UNESCO says today is apparently both “World Book Night” and “UN English Language Day.”

I use the word “confusing” because UNESCO has also declared March 6th as World Book Day (see The Best Resources For World Book Day). My sense is that UNESCO’s strategy is March 6th is for celebration reading in general, and today, April 23rd, emphasizes book-giving.

I’d be happy, though, to be told by someone that there’s a more clear difference between the two.

And, as far as being UN English Language Day. Here’s an explanation from My English Club:

English, along with French, is one of the two working languages of the United Nations, and one of the Organization’s six official languages.

Because it is so widely spoken, English is often referred to as a “world language”, or the lingua franca of the modern era.

English Language Day at the UN is celebrated on 23 April, the date traditionally observed as the birthday of William Shakespeare. The Day is the result of a 2010 initiative by the Department of Public Information, establishing language days for each of the Organization’s six official languages. The purpose of the UN’s language days is to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity as well as to promote equal use of all six official languages throughout the Organization.

Under the initiative, UN duty stations around the world celebrate six separate days, each dedicated to one of the Organization’s six official languages.

The days are as follows:

Arabic (18 December)
Chinese (20 April)
French (20 March)
Russian (6 June)
Spanish (12 October)

Here are some resources on both of these days:

World Book Night: Leading authors line up for ‘sacred’ celebration is from The Guardian, which also has a whole collection of resources.

Southern Californians ready for latest chapter of World Book Night is from The LA Times.

What Is World Book Night?

World Book Night – United States

UN English Language Day

Here’s the UN’s official announcement of language days.

Additional suggestions are welcome.

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April 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Book Reviews – & Shakespeare – In Three Panels


I’ve previously posted about Lisa Brown’s “Three Panel Book Reviews” that formerly appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle. They’re great models for student projects.

I recently learned about how another artist uses this “three panel” idea, though Mya Gosling uses it to summarizes Shakespeare’s plays. You can see all of her work here, and they’re more great models for student work.

I’m adding this info to My Best Posts On Books: Why They’re Important & How To Help Students Select, Read, Write & Discuss Them.

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March 13, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Interviewly” Makes Great Reddit Interviews Legible


The Reddit website has great “Ask Me Anything (AMA)” interviews with well-known people, and I’ve posted about some of them. The content is fascinating. However, it’s almost like they had a contest for who could create the most unattractive and difficult-to-read format, and used the winner’s idea to use as the lay-out for the interviews themselves.

Now, though, Inteviewly has taken some of the best AMA’s and reformatted them into very attractive and accessible designs. They’ve categorized them, too, including a section on authors. These include ones with R.L. Stine and Judy Blume. Those could be read by students in their entirety, or teachers can excerpt parts as Read Alouds.

I’m assuming the people behind Interviewly have negotiated copyright issues with Reddit. If not, the site might not be up for long…

Thanks to TechCrunch for the tip.

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February 3, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Newsmart Looks Like A Great Site For High-Intermediate & Advanced ELLs


Newsmart uses articles from the Wall Street Journal to promote learning English as a second language. It’s a slick site, and it’s free.

Users pick an article, and then there are color-coded portions in it for vocabulary and grammar. Click on it, and you are given a question about the in-context grammar or vocabulary issue. You then accumulate points and badges.

I’m adding it to The Best Websites For Intermediate Readers.

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January 28, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Creating Instagram Video “Book Trailers” With English Language Learners

'Books behind the bed' photo (c) 2006, rjp - license:

I’ve written a lot in the past, and shared student work, about using Instagram and Vine videos with English Language Learners to learn academic vocabulary.

Last week, I shared how I was going to try to do a similar project with my English Language Learners — this time, having them create fifteen second video “book trailers” — in other words, mini-book reviews. In that same post, I shared a number of resources about this idea of “book trailers.”

We tried it out today, and it went very well. In fact, our class is teaching other classes how to create them on Friday. I showed my model video (the one at the bottom of this post), and asked students to create a storyboard with five components:

1. The book itself, with students saying the title and the author

2. A drawing of an illustration representing what the book is about, along with one sentence that they would say as a summary

3. Their favorite quote from the book

4. How many “stars” they would give it, with three as the highest rating.

5. Some kind of “action”

You can see them all at our class blog. Here are three student examples, plus my model:

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January 24, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Here’s My Teacher Model For Instagram Video “Book Trailers” Students Will Be Making

I’ve previously posted about having students create video “Book Trailers” (basically book reviews) about the books they’ve been reading.

Here are links to those specific posts, though you can see all of them — and more — at My Best Posts On Books: Why They’re Important & How To Help Students Select, Read, Write & Discuss Them:

Making Book Trailers With Fotobabble

Book Trailers From My Class

Students Making Video “Book Trailers”

Book Trailers

I’ve also shared the videos my ELL students have made with both Instagram and Vine on academic vocabulary.

Prompted by a discussion we had among ninth-grade English teachers earlier this week, I’ve decided to bring the two concepts together and have students try creating “book trailers” using Instagram videos.

Here’s the model (made in five minutes) I’ll be using:

Ideas on how to make it all go better are welcome!

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December 13, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

Great Website “Into The Book” Updated


I’ve ranked the great website Into the Book as the number one site for Intermediate readers.

Here is how I describe it at The Best Websites For Intermediate Readers:

This is an absolutely incredible resource designed to help students learn reading strategies — visualize, predict, summarize, etc. For the past couple of years it had only been partially completed. In the course of examining sites for inclusion in this list, though, I found that all its exercises were finished. Users are led through the process of learning each reading strategy with interactive exercises.

It was a great site, and now it’s even better! They just announced a big update:

we’ve rebuilt all the Flash interactives in HTML, losing scarcely any interactivity in the process. Now students can use the website on iPads and other tablets as well as on traditional computers. We also developed new games and interactives to give students even more ways to explore and practice these strategies

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November 19, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

Infographic: “Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year for 2013″

Oxford Dictionaries has just named “Selfie” as their word of the year, and published this infographic.

I’ll certainly be including it in my annual end-of-the-year “Words of the Year” Best list. Here are previous lists:

The Best “Words Of The Year” Features For 2010

The Best “Words Of The Year” Features For 2011

The Best “Words Of The Year” Features For 2012

And here’s an article from The Atlantic about this year’s Oxford’s decision:

Great Job, Narcissists: ‘Selfie’ Beat Out ‘Twerk’ for the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year

2013: The year of the Selfie!
by infogr8.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

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November 10, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

A Post That’s A Little Different From Most — Accessible Franz Kafka Resources

'Franz Kafka' photo (c) 2006, CHRISTIAAN TONNIS - license:

Much to my surprise, two students in my ninth-grade English class have decided they want to read Franz Kafka’s “The Trial” as part of an independent book discussion group (a copy was in a few bags of free books I distributed from The Friends of the Davis Library, who are very generous in helping students create their own personal libraries). They read the first chapter together outside during our daily reading practice to check it out, and they’ve decided to stick with it.

I’ve gathered a few accessible Kafka resources that I’ve told them they can try out at our library once or twice a week as a supplemental activity, and thought I’d share them here just in case you might have students who want to explore some of Kafka’s works (Please let me know if you have additional suggestions):

Kafkamesto is an online video game based on his life and writings. Here is its walkthrough.

Before The Law is another online video game based on a parable from The Trial.

Here are some related videos:

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November 6, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

Literably Is An Excellent Reading Site — If Used With Caution


Reader Erika Chapman tipped me off to an excellent site called Literably. It allows students to read a text and have it automatically assessed for accuracy and words-per-minute speed. Plus, and this is what was most surprising to me, it also provides a fairly accurate indentification of student errors — in other words, what word they said instead of the word in the text. You’re able to provide the student or parent a link to the recording. And it’s free.

It’s extraordinarily easy to use. Teachers register and add names of students. Then they choose which reading and which level they want to assign to the student. The student signs in, records (and can choose to re-record) and the teacher can access it through a dashboard.

As I have already mentioned, the site seems remarkably accurate based on my testing, and I’ll have my students try it out later today. We use a similar system to assess student fluency levels periodically now, though the present readings available seem presently only suitable to students reading at an elementary school level (which makes them great for English Language Learners). I hope they add high school level texts soon.

I’ve previously posted about how I have had students record their reading of the same text several times during the year as a self-assessment, using tools from The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English list. Literably, though, is superior for this purpose since it provides the detailed feedback (though the trade-off is a much more limited selection of texts).

And, now, for my cautions….

A words per minute number can be dangerous if students are just racing through the words. By having students read individually to us, we can reinforce the concept of prosody (reading with feeling, etc.). Software is not able to recognize or support this incredibly important element of fluency. If you have students use Literably, it will be important to say and often repeat that they shouldn’t fixate on that number.

The second danger is that having students use the site, it eliminates an opportunity for the teacher/student to connect on an individual level. Having students to me three times each year is an excellent way to also make time to check in with them about how they are doing in their lives and in other classes. Of course, those should not be the only times for this interaction. However, when we use Literably, we just want to make sure we’re creating those other times, too.

I’m adding Literably to several “The Best” lists, including:

The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English

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

The Best Websites To Help Beginning Readers

The Best Websites For Beginning Older Readers

The Best Websites For Intermediate Readers

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November 3, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

Quote Of The Day: “Close Reading and Far-Reaching Classroom Discussion”

Close Reading and Far-Reaching Classroom Discussion: Fostering a Vital Connection is a paper written by Catherine Snow and Catherine O’Connor for the International Reading Association.

It offers some important warnings for all educators. Here’s an excerpt:


Thanks to my colleague Lara Hoekstra for passing the article along.

I’m adding it to The Best Resources On “Close Reading”

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November 3, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

This Month’s ASCD’s “Educational Leadership” Is Now Online — Here Are My Recommendations

Tackling Informational Text is the theme of this month’s ASCD Educational Leadership, and it’s now online.

Here are the articles there I’d particularly recommend:

One to Grow On / Invitations to Read is by Carol Ann Tomlinson. Here’s how she ends it:


You Want Me to Read What?! is by Timothy Shanahan.

Points of Entry is a typically excellent piece by Nancy Frey and Douglas Fisher.

I’m adding these articles to The Most Useful Resources For Implementing Common Core.

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