Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

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 21, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

More “Word Of The Year” Features

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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October 24, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Using the “Fun Factor” To Encourage Student Reading at Home”

Using the “Fun Factor” To Encourage Student Reading at Home is the final post in my three-part Education Week series on encouraging students to read at home.

In it, I’m highlighting a guest response from educator/author Nancy Steineke , as well as comments from many readers.


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October 16, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Trust Can Have A Pretty Powerful Impact In The Classroom

'Trust' photo (c) 2011, Artem Popov - license:

I’ll Take 90% Student Engagement Over 100% “Compliance” — Any Day has been my most popular post of the year so far, and was reprinted in The Washington Post as Getting students to engage — not just comply.

In that post, I describe the weekly reading log that I have students complete about their reading at home, and how I specifically do not ask them to have their parents sign it — student signatures are only required. And how students are on an honor system to describe their plan to “catch-up” on their reading time if they don’t read a full two hours a week at home.

As my blog title stated, I’ve determined through a number of ways over the years that 90% of students typically handle it honestly. However, I forgot to mention in that post one other tactic I use to determine that percentage, and I just applied it today in class.

Periodically, I’ll hand out blank pieces of paper to all students and tell them not to put their name on it. I tell them that all I want them to do is write “yes” if they tend to be honest in the reading log or “no” if they are not. I make it very clear that I will not change the procedure no matter what they answer — I want to minimize the odds that students will write “yes” because they’re afraid I might start requiring parent signatures.

I tell them to fold their papers so no one can see what they wrote and have a student collect them. While they’re doing something else later in the class period, I’ll tabulate the sheets (sometimes I’ll have a student do it). Usually, I have two students who write “no” in each class. However, today, in both classes only one student wrote “no.”

As I did today, I’ll announce the results, tell them I’m impressed, though not surprised. As I did today, I will also jokingly announce that I will have the “no” paper analyzed for fingerprints and track that person down.

The purpose behind doing this process, however, is not really for me to check-up on them — there are plenty of other ways I do that (as I mentioned in my previous post). What it does do, though, is reinforce to students that they are in a genuine community of learners who are people of their word. And the one or two students who are not following-through also feel some peer pressure that they, too, need to step up to the plate.

Trust can have a pretty powerful impact in the classroom….

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September 15, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

Another Study Shows The Benefits Of Reading For Pleasure

Thanks to Michelle Gunderson, I’ve learned about yet another study showing the importance of students reading for pleasure.

Here are some excerpts from a report on it appearing at Centre for Longitudinal Studies:


The research was conducted by Dr Alice Sullivan and Matt Brown, who analysed the reading behaviour of approximately 6,000 young people being followed by the 1970 British Cohort Study, which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. They looked at how often the teenagers read during childhood and their test results in maths, vocabulary and spelling at ages 5, 10 and 16….

Perhaps surprisingly, reading for pleasure was found to be more important for children’s cognitive development between ages 10 and 16 than their parents’ level of education. The combined effect on children’s progress of reading books often, going to the library regularly and reading newspapers at 16 was four times greater than the advantage children gained from having a parent with a degree…..

Dr Sullivan notes that reading for pleasure had the strongest effect on children’s vocabulary development, but the impact on spelling and maths was still significant. “It may seem surprising that reading for pleasure would help to improve children’s maths scores,” she said. “But it is likely that strong reading ability will enable children to absorb and understand new information and affect their attainment in all subjects.”

I’m adding this post to The Best Resources Documenting The Effectiveness of Free Voluntary Reading.

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September 13, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

I’ll Take 90% Student Engagement Over 100% “Compliance” — Any Day

'Keep It Up Sign Card Motivation 2012 Girls on the Run Grand Rapids Montessori February 22, 2012 9' photo (c) 2012, Steven Depolo - license:

I have students in my mainstream ninth-grade English and in my ESL classes complete a simple “Reading Log” every Friday. It has five columns — ones for the day, title of the book, the number of minutes read, space for a student signature and one for a parent signature.

Though I leave it on for a reason, the “parent signature” box has remained blank for years.

I tell students at the beginning of the year that I expect that they will read a book of their choice at least two hours each week, and that if they promise to me that they will tell the truth on the log — even if they read less some weeks — that I will eliminate the requirement of a parent signature. Students always agree and make a public commitment, as well as shaking hands on it with me. I think seeing the “parent signature” column is a reminder of that commitment.

Each Friday, they quickly complete the sheet and, if they haven’t read for two hours during the previous four days, they write a few words at the bottom of the sheet with specific plans on when they will read that Friday night or over the weekend (“I’ll read for twenty minutes after we get home from our cousin’s barbeque,” etc.). I check with students on Monday (during the first ten minutes of class, which is always silent reading time) if they followed through and, if not, they tell me how they’re going to make-up the time that week. And we talk about how things do come-up, and that there’s always flexibility.

I’m confident that the vast majority — at least ninety percent — of students are genuinely honest, and determine that by seeing how far they’re getting in the books they read during our silent reading time and by the progress they make during cloze and fluency formative assessments. And, based on my previous experience, I’m also confident in saying that it’s a much higher percentage than years ago when I required parent signatures, which are easily faked.

Yes, I talk with parents about the reading expectation, but between the multiple home languages, regularly changing phone numbers and moves, and other difficulties in making parent contact, there is a large percentage of parents that I just can’t communicate with — despite my obvious commitment to parent engagement.

Of course, this instructional strategy is combined with a strong emphasis on relationship-building and with life-skills lessons focused on helping students develop intrinsic motivation.

So, let’s say ten percent of my students might not be entirely truthful to me.

As this post’s headline says, I’ll take 90% student engagement over 100% “compliance” any day….

(You might also be interested in My Best Posts On Books: Why They’re Important & How To Help Students Select, Read, Write & Discuss Them)

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