Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

May 17, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo
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“TweenTribune” Provides The Same Text At Different Levels AND A Virtual Classroom – For Free!

teentribune

Thanks to reader Vincy Murgillo for letting me know about the Smithsonian’s Tween Tribune.

It provides daily news stories, with the same one edited several times for different reading levels. The stories also have self-scoring quizzes and provide decent “critical thinking” questions that students can respond to in the comments. On top of that, teachers can create virtual classrooms to monitor it all, as well as moderating student comments.

And it’s all available for free!

I’m adding it to:

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

The Best Places To Get The “Same” Text Written For Different “Levels”

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May 15, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Reading Strategies, Student Engagement, & The Question Of “Why?”

I’ve never been entirely happy with my understanding of “reading strategies,” how they’re supposed to work, and which are the best ones.

I don’t think I’ve ever done a great job helping students understand how and why “reading strategies” (which, in my experience, have been ones like asking questions, visualizing, prediction, connecting, summarizing, evaluating, etc.) work, and, in fact, I’ve primarily used them as less a “reading strategy” and more of an “engagement strategy.” Even though our ninth-grade English curriculum is composed of very high-interest nonfiction texts, I can’t imagine how I’d get a good number of our students to really read them if I didn’t have those sort of “strategies” as assignments to apply either alone or with a partner.

Of course, the best way to become a better reader is to read, so, along with reading for pleasure, having students read these texts helps them become a better reader, including through developing additional background knowledge.

There has been a fair amount of criticism of spending a lot of time teaching reading strategies, particularly from Dan Willingham and Robert Pondiscio – two thinkers whom I highly respect. How Reading Strategies Can Increase Student Engagement is a post I wrote a couple of years ago on this issue, which including a useful dialogue in the comments section.

Dan Willingham elaborated on some of those criticisms recently in a Washington Post excerpt from his recent book and Grant Wiggins has written a post critical of the piece. The post is worth reading, though he bills it as “Part One” and I think his next one is going to be a “must-read.” (it is — you can find it here). I suspect that post, as have many of his other recent ones, will end up on The Best Posts On Reading Strategies & Comprehension – Help Me Find More!

My big “takeaway” today, though, is an older post that Grant linked to and which led me to one by Kristen Swanson titled Are You Addicted to Teaching Reading Strategies?

She shares a useful list of signs that show if you are addicted to reading strategies in your classroom. Here, as far as I’m concerned, is the “money quote” from it that really prompted this somewhat “stream of consciousness” post:

Sign 3: Students can’t explain why a certain strategy should be used in a certain situation.
Students use strategies so that they can meet the expectations in the classroom and get a good grade. They aren’t sure WHY they actually use these strategies, and they can’t explain WHY when you ask them.

It seems to me that, in addition to needing to spend more time becoming more familiar with the research on reading comprehension, one simple thing I could do — after students become familiar with the “reading strategies” I do use in the classroom — is to ask them which ones they are finding helpful, how and why and in what situations.

Though we do a similar exercise with the instructional strategies (asking students to describe, for each one, what it is, why we do it, how they think it helps them, etc.) we use in class, I can’t believe that I’ve never done it with the reading ones. Perhaps some of my colleagues have, but I haven’t heard them talk about it, and I’ll certainly be asking around.

Have you had this kind of discussion with your students around reading strategies?  If so, please share how it went in the comments section.

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May 6, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo
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“Reading Teacher” Now Lets You Create Free Virtual Classrooms

I’ve previously posted about Reading Teacher, a great site for beginning readers that’s been around for awhile, but just stopped charging for its use (see “Reading Teacher” Is A Good Site For Very Beginners). At that time, though it was free for individual use, you still had to pay if you wanted to create a virtual classroom.

They just announced today that it’s now free to create a virtual classroom of 30 students to track their progress. The site says that if you have more students, you can just create another free account using a different email address to create a second virtual classroom.

Sounds like a great deal to me!

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April 22, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo
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April 23rd Is World Book Day (In Most Countries) – Here Are Related Resources

April 23rd has been declared World Book Day by UNESCO, though it’s celebrated on March 5th in the United Kingdom (TIME explains the reasons for the difference).

You might be interested in The Best Resources For World Book Day — April 23rd or March 5th (Depending Where You Live).

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April 20, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo
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“Reading Teacher” Is A Good Site For Very Beginners

readinteacher

Reading Teacher is a site that’s been around for awhile. There used to be a cost involved, but just last week they made it free-of-charge.

It has one or two hundred online books for very beginning readers — sort of an expanded version of Starfall. Many of the books have short quizzes after them.

It’s free to individual users, and it’s free to create a virtual classroom of 30 students to track their progress. The site says that if you have more students, you can just create another free account using a different email address to create a second virtual classroom.

I am using it, and will in the future, as another option for Beginning ELLs, particularly ones who have been out of school for a long time.

I’m adding this info to The Best Sites That Students Can Use Independently And Let Teachers Check On Progress and to The Best Websites To Help Beginning Readers.

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April 1, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

I Like “ThinkCERCA” For ELL Reading Practice In Free Virtual Classrooms

cerca

ThinkCERCA lets you set-up free virtual classrooms for monitoring student practice and assign a large variety of short, engaging, articles along with comprehension questions. Even better for English Language Learners, audio support is provided for the text. The reading passages are assigned a range of grades that they are supposedly appropriate for but those grade levels don’t show-up in the student view. This is a particularly important feature for ELLs who are often reading far below grade level, but don’t need to be reminded of it all the time.

Think Cerca’s premium version provides what looks like some intriguing supported writing extensions for their reading passages, but it doesn’t indicate the cost for those features. Fairly or unfairly, I’m always suspicious when sites don’t clearly state their prices and instead ask you register for a “demo.”

I’ll certainly be having my ELL students try the site out after we return from break — it’s simple for teachers to create multiple classrooms and even easier for students to register for them.

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

I learned about the site through a post at the Gates Foundation, which you can read if you’d like to learn more about their premium features.

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March 19, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo
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The Best Posts On Reading Strategies & Comprehension – Help Me Find More!

Grant Wiggins recently wrote what is clearly the best piece out there on reading comprehension research: On reading, Part 2: what the research REALLY reveals.

He’s promised to write a Part Two soon, also, which I — and I’m sure, many other educators — are looking forward to seeing (he just has – On reading, Part 4: research on the comprehension strategies – a closer look).

On literacy and strategy, part 6: my first cut at recommendations is another great post by Grant Wiggins.

I figured that his post would make a “Best” list like this timely.

In addition to his first post and his soon-to-be-published next one, here are a few others that I think belong on this list. I hope that readers will share more in the comments:

I’ll being with other related “Best” lists I’ve published:

My Best Posts On Books: Why They’re Important & How To Help Students Select, Read, Write & Discuss Them

The Best Posts & Articles About Why Book “Leveling” Is A Bad Idea

The Best Resources Documenting The Effectiveness of Free Voluntary Reading

The Best Resources On “Close Reading” — Help Me Find More

My Best Posts On Metacognition

Here are two other related posts I’ve published:

How Reading Strategies Can Increase Student Engagement

Great Website “Into The Book” Updated

How to help English learners read more quickly is from The British Council.

Reading Strategies, Student Engagement, & The Question Of “Why?”

Educator Cornelius Minor has graciously shared some helpful sheets for teaching reading comprehension.

I’ll be updating this list with other resources I find and others that people suggest…

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