Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

August 26, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

So Many Textbooks, So Many Useless Ones

For new teachers, textbooks can provide a hugely helpful source of support. But, as many of us know, a huge number of them are next-to-useless.

Here’s a new excerpt from a summary of recent research on the topic (Do Textbooks Matter?):


I wish we could instead spend the millions wasted on textbooks towards more useful materials like high-interest books. Unfortunately, here in California, this unfortunate laser-like focus on textbooks has led to the well-intentioned but flawed Williams Act, which requires every student to have an up-to-date textbook but which doesn’t allow those funds to be spent on more useful materials. In fact, apart from our Theory of Knowledge textbook, all the useful texts I’ve in my classes have come out of our school’s funds. Fortunately, our school’s leaders understand what our students need.

To be fair, however, there’s no guarantee that districts and schools would spend the money saved on textbooks towards better materials or effective professional development (see The Best Resources On Professional Development For Teachers — Help Me Find More).

You might also be interested in The Best Resources For Adapting Your Textbook So It Doesn’t Bore Students To Death.

August 25, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Study Reinforces That Prior Knowledge Is Important – As Well As Critical Thinking Skills

As all teachers understand, it’s critical for students to have – and be able to access – prior knowledge in order to learn something new (see The Best Resources For Learning About The Importance Of Prior Knowledge (& How To Activate It) ).

We’re all also supposed to know how important it is for our students to develop critical thinking skills (see The Best Resources On Teaching & Learning Critical Thinking In The Classroom).

A new study has been released today that I suspect most IB Theory of Knowledge classes around the world will be incorporating in their discussions of memory’s role in acquiring knowledge.  It found that, as the headline of an article about the study says, The more we know, the easier we are to deceive.

Here’s an excerpt:


This is one reason we spend a fair amount of time on the concept of false memories in TOK classes. It sounds like it might be worth discussing in other classes, too.

August 22, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Researchers Find – Once Again – That Extrinsic Motivation Doesn’t Work


A new study has found that a “rewards for attendance” scheme initially improved school attendance, but after it was removed both attendance and motivation was reduced among the original target population.


How many times do researchers need to find the same conclusion before they stop studying it? Just about every study on motivation has found the same thing already – see Study Finds That Rewards For School Attendance Make Things Worse, The Best Posts & Articles On “Motivating” Students and Won’t Researcher Roland Fryer Ever Give Up On Trying To Prove Extrinsic Motivation Works Better Than The Intrinsic Kind?

Here’s an excerpt from the study’s abstract:



I’m adding the info to The Best Resources On Student Absenteeism.

Thanks to Paul Tough for the tip.

August 21, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

If You Read Today’s NY Times Column On Supporting College Freshmen, You’ll Also Want To Read This

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Conquering the Freshman Fear of Failure is the headline of a column by David Kirp in today’s New York Times about a recent study.

It’s a good piece, though I think it’s missing a point that may be less important to the general public, but very important to educators.

I wrote about it in my original post when the study came out, Hopeful Study On Academic Success, But I Have A Question.

David Yeager, one of the study’s authors, was gracious enough to answer that question in Guest Post: Response From David Yeager To My Question About SEL, Race & Class.

August 15, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Importance Of Teacher & Student Autonomy

I’ve written a lot about the importance of student autonomy to help encourage intrinsic motivation (see The Best Posts & Articles On “Motivating” Students).

Of course, the same holds true for us teachers – for example, I’ve certainly heard enough stories from elementary teachers about the “Open Court Police” who ensure that all teachers are on the same page of that reading program each day.

Daniel Pink tweeted out a good article today from The World Economic Forum titled Autonomy could be the key to workplace happiness. It provides a good overview of research on the importance of worker autonomy, and it’s easy to replace “worker” with “student.”

Here’s an excerpt:


The article highlights the roles of goal-setting and choices in providing autonomy. So you might also be interested in:

The Best Posts & Articles About Providing Students With Choices

My Best Posts On Students Setting Goals

August 12, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

New Study Shows Intervention Has Big Impact On “Achievement Gap” – Also Shows Shortcomings Of Ed Research


I often write about the importance of student/teacher relationships (see The Best Resources On The Importance Of Building Positive Relationships With Students) and plenty of research has documented its importance. One of the many steps I take to build them is having students complete a short-and-simple survey (you can download it at Answers To “What Do You Do On The First Day Of School?”) on the first day of school.

I don’t really pay much attention to what students write in the surveys for awhile since I’m preoccupied just trying to remember all their names in the first week or two of school, but after that I find them useful as excuses to initiate conversations with students who I’m beginning to feel might be experiencing a number of challenges. “Walk-and-Talks” are really my key “go-to” strategy for building relationships, and I learned that strategy from our principal, Jim Peterson (see his guest post, Guest Post: “Walk & Talks” Are Extremely Effective Way To Connect With Students – Here’s A “How-To” Guide).

Now, to the research I refer to in the headline of this post:

There’s been a fair amount of hullabaloo online about a new study from the American Enterprise Institute titled Creating Birds of a Feather: The Potential of Similarity to Connect Teachers and Students (Ed Week has a nice summary headlined Study: Class Getting-to-Know-You Exercise Can Help Close Achievement Gaps).

Basically, the researchers had teachers and students take a survey near the beginning of the school year and told each five items that they had in common with each other. It didn’t have any impact on how students seemed to see their teachers. But it appeared to have a substantial impact on how teachers related to their African-American and Latino students, and that resulted in a reduction in the “achievement gap” (let me know if you think I’m misinterpreting the results). As a result, the researchers created a free online survey tool that teachers could use with their students, and are touting it as low-cost way to reduce educational inequities.

That sounds good, you might say, so what’s the “problem with education research” I refer to in the headline of this post?

Well, according to the study, the teachers that did this  only had an average of 12.6 students each in their class. I don’t know about you, but I’m not that aware of many teachers who have that kind of class-size.

At the beginning of a school year, I, too, would be able to remember who I had what in common with almost immediately. Larger student numbers would make that challenging, and middle-and-high-school numbers would make it impossible.

I’m all for research that reinforces the importance of building student/teacher relationships. I just wish recommended interventions lived in the real world.

For example, it would be very useful to know what kind of impact this kind of intervention would have in the middle of a school year if a teacher was having problems with a particular class (see Have You Ever Taught A Class That Got “Out Of Control”?). Could a survey like this help in that kind of situation?

What do you think – am I being too harsh?

I’m going to add this post to The Best Resources For Understanding How To Interpret Education Research.

August 11, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Deliberate Practice, The Olympics & Red Herrings


The Washington Post has tried to rain on everybody’s parade by discouraging people from believing that they can become Olympians through deliberate practice (see Why all the practice in the world can’t turn you into an Olympian).

It reviews an older study I’ve previously shared (see my post, Deliberate Practice & Red Herrings, for a more in-depth analysis) finding that genetics plays a key, if not the key, role in becoming an expert.

I do think you might find that previous post of mine useful, but here is what I think is the “money quote” from it:

It seems to me that deliberate practice debunkers often raise a red herring saying that advocates say that anybody can become an expert through deliberate practice.

I haven’t heard that…

What I have read and learned in research on the topic is that deliberate practice is the most important element in developing expertise that is within a person’s control.

So, please, if you are going to write or talk about deliberate practice, don’t do it in the context of debunking something that no one is saying…

I’m adding this info to The Best Resources For Learning About The 10,000 Hour Rule & Deliberate Practice.

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