Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

November 24, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Write About” May Be The Education Site Of The Year


Write About is a new site co-founded by educator John Spencer (his name may be familiar with readers since I’ve previously shared his work many times here). His co-founder is Brad Wilson.

And they’ve created what might be the Education Site of 2014.

Write About provides many (and I mean many) images with writing prompts. Students can write their response and do an audio recording of it. Teachers can create virtual classrooms and provide individual written feedback to student writing. Student creations can be shared publicly or just with their classmates. Teachers can change prompts or upload their own photos.

There’s a lot more, too.

Plus, you can’t beat the cost (or non-cost):

Teachers can sign up and participate in the Write About community for free. Up to 40 free student accounts can be created with up to 3 posts each. Unlimited posts can be added with a Classroom account for $4.95/month. Teachers with multiple classes can add up to 250 students with unlimited posts for $7.95/month.

I asked John why he created Write About and here’s his response:

“Brad and I met and had a similar vision for what we wanted. I wanted something that would allow my students to share their work more easily with layers of groups and have hundreds of writing ideas. I’ve been doing visual prompts for a long time and Brad had been using visual prompts in his app in order to promote student choice in writing. In short, I wanted to make something that my students would want to use.”

I think Write About is going to be an exceptional site, in particular for English Language Learners. It combines visual imagery, writing, speaking and listening – not to mention an authentic audience.

I’m adding it to The Best Sites That Students Can Use Independently And Let Teachers Check On Progress and to The Best Places Where Students Can Write Online.

Here’s a video introduction to the site:

I should point out that I had some trouble using the recording function on my home computer with a Windows 7 Operating System. I alerted John to the issue, and I’m sure it will fixed very quickly. It’s a minor issue for a brand-new site. It should work fine with other systems.

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November 6, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Video: Here Is How I Used The Shadow Puppet App Today To Teach Verb Tenses

Yesterday, I posted about how excited I was by the iPhone Shadow Puppet app (see Wow! Shadow Puppet Is A Great iPhone & iPad App For English Language Learners).

Today, I used it with my Beginning English Language Learner students to help teach verb tenses.

Originally, I had intended to have use Instagram videos as I’ve used in previous classes (see The Best Resources For Learning To Use The Video Apps “Vine” & Instagram), but decided to try out Shadow Puppet instead.

It worked very well — easy and without the strict time limit present in Instagram.

Here’s an example of one, and you can see more at our class blog.

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November 5, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Wow! Shadow Puppet Is A Great iPhone & iPad App For English Language Learners


I learned about the free Shadow Puppet Edu (what appears to be a premium version of the more commercial Shadow Puppet app) through an article in this month’s ASCD Educational Leadership, and am very, very impressed.

It has a bunch of bells and whistles that I haven’t even explored yet but, at its core, it’s an iPhone/iPad app that lets you pick photos and super-easily (and I do mean easily) lets you add audio narration to each photo and create a slideshow.

Here’s a simple one I made in about thirty seconds:

You can be sure I’ll be using this app on my phone frequently. It’s ease-of-use will make it perfect for English Langauage Learner speaking practice.

I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Beginning iPhone Users Like Me.

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October 18, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Singing, Recording & Authentic Audiences For English Language Learners

All teachers of English Language Learners know that encouraging speaking is always a “tough nut to crack.” I’ve written a lot about how I try to do it in the classroom, and how I’ve used technology to help with it.

Those tech resources and strategies have included using Instagram videos, narrated Fotobabbles to promote speaking and metcognition, iPhone apps for creating audio puppet shows, and videos for sister classes around the world.

Having students sing is a staple for ELL teachers and students, too (see The Best Music Websites For Learning English). I’ve just tried an experiment with music and tech that I think I’ll be making a regular part of my class routine now.

One of my classes is a combined Beginning and Intermediate English Language Learner one. This past week, the Beginners learned “You Are So Beautiful” (the number one song, in my humble opinion, out there for ELLs). It’s part of our unit on description words. They then performed it for the Intermediate ELLs, agreed to let me record it with my iPhone, and I uploaded it to SoundCloud and posted the recording on our class blog.

Here it is for your enjoyment:

My Beginning students developed new vocabulary, had fun, practiced listening, speaking and reading, and performed for an authentic audience. And are very motivated to do it again! What more can I ask from a lesson?

It was easy to record on my iPhone and upload to SoundCloud.

Unfortunately, its iPhone app eliminated the recording function. However, another app, Audio Copy, is set up to record and provides an easy feature to upload to SoundCloud.

I’m sure plenty of other teachers have done this before, but it was a first — though not the last– for me!

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October 15, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

What Does The Desk Say? — One Of The Stranger ELL Lessons I’m Going To Try

I’ve just heard about a Conservation International series of short videos featuring famous actors giving voice to elements of the environment — Mother Nature, Soil, Redwood Trees, Water, etc.

You can see the entire playlist here, and it’s very impressive line-up.

I’ve embedded two of them below — Edward Norton as The Soil and Julie Roberts as Mother Nature (you can read part of their scripts here).

They’re neat videos, and they got me thinking — one of the reasons ESL teachers like me have students use puppets (see The Best Resources For Using Puppets In Class) is because it makes students more willing to speak in English because it’s the “puppet” speaking not “them.”

Why not, I got to thinking, try having students pick an inanimate object and have them try to articulate what it would say if it could talk? Students could have some fun with it, including videotaping the object (maybe moving) when students are reading what they wrote.

I don’t know — it may be too “out there” but, hey, any short activity that encourages students to develop new vocabulary, speak, and have a little fun can’t hurt, can it?

I’ll bring it up this week, see how it goes, and report back.

And, since I couldn’t resist coming up with a headline for this post by playing off the “What Does The Fox Say?” song, I’ve also embedded a version of it that shows the lyrics as they’re sung.

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May 7, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

I Learn Another Great Game For English Language Learners From Jimmy Fallon


Last year, I wrote about a fun game for English Language Learners that I learned from late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon (see Jimmy Fallon Comes Up With A Great Game For English Language Learners).

Today, I learned another one…

He calls it Word Sneak, and it’s a simple one — two people are given five words that they have to fit into a conversation.

Obviously, it’s very funny the way he uses it in this video clip, but it can also be used a nice interactive exercise for students.

I’m assuming that some other teacher has used this kind of game before so, if you have, and have some good additional suggestions, please leave them in the comments….

I’m adding this idea to The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English, where I’ve also been listing classroom speaking activities.

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January 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

You Can Read About An Excellent ELL Speaking Activity At My New British Council Blog

I’ve just begun publishing a monthly post at the Teaching English site of the British Council, which is the preeminent international organization promoting English-language teaching.

My first post there is about an excellent speaking/listening activity for English Language Learners — check out Using a “Three-Two_one” Speaking Activity.

british council

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January 14, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

TED Talks Unveils TED-Ed Clubs For Students

'TED Talk' photo (c) 2013, urban_data - license:

TED Talks has just unveiled a new program called TED-Ed Clubs.

I’ve embedded a video below about it but, basically, it’s designed to encourage young people to create their own versions of a TED Talk through starting a school club.

Helping students develop better speaking skills is great but, I don’t know about you, but I get tired just thinking of helping start and teach an after-school TED-Ed Club.

Fortunately, though, they seem to be open to teachers using their materials in class (some of which look decent). They published this teacher’s question:

I’m a teacher and want to use some of the TED-Ed Club curriculum to guide student classroom projects. How do I do that?

And here was their answer:

Apply to start a TED-Ed Club and we’ll work with you to figure out how you can incorporate some of the materials into your own curriculum.

So, if you’re interested, you can apply here.

I’m adding this info to The Best Teacher Resources For “TED Talks” (& Similar Presentations).

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November 6, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

English Language Learners Using Screencast-o-matic For Folktale Presentations


This year, our School District loosened our Internet filter, so there are now many more options for tools we can use (though, of course, our antiquated tech does create some barriers).

Because of this new freedom of access without having to battle for individual sites to be unblocked, I’ve been pretty aggressive in experimenting with Web 2.0 tools to determine which ones provide the most benefit with the least “hassle” for all involved, especially with my English Language Learner students.

I’ve previously posted about some of them already this year:

Making Instagram Videos With English Language Learners

Using Freire & Fotobabble With English Language Learners

Terrific New Videos: Using English “Sister Classes” From Throughout The World In Our ELL Geography Class

Literably Is An Excellent Reading Site — If Used With Caution (I tried this out today, and I think it will work well as a formative assessment — check them out here).

The ones I’ve listed above have all gone very well — easy to use, free-of-charge, higher-order thinking, multiple language domains (reading,writing,speaking, listening), authentic audience, high levels of student engagement, minimal time commitment.

And, now, we’ve had another student success with with Screencast-o-matic.

I had previously posted about it, but hadn’t visited the site in quite awhile. Jose Rodriguez, one of the coordinators of the impressive K-12 Online Conference, recommended I try using it for the keynote address I gave for the conference in October on teacher leadership (you can see it here). I was quite impressed at the changes they had made since I had last tried it out.

All you do is register for the site, show a slideshow, and record audio — you don’t even have to upload your slides prior to recording. You only upload your entire slideshow and audio narration at the time it’s finished. You can publish it to the site and/or to YouTube, and you’re provided with an embed code.

I thought this would be perfect to my students — some knew PowerPoint and they could teach the rest quickly, so there wouldn’t really be much new to learn — I suspect, and I ended up being correct, that it would take less than a minute for students to learn how to use Screencast-o-matic.

We had just finished our Latin American unit in Geography by reading a Mexican folktale, so I thought it would be a good time to experiment. I had students create a simple storyboard (just a piece of paper divided into ten or so boxes) and asked them to tell a folktale from their own culture. They needed to end it with the “lesson” of the story. It took one class period for them to create the storyboard, about two periods to make the PowerPoint, and then they recorded on Screencast-o-matic today. We’ll watch them in class tomorrow.

Here are a few of them:

It’s been a positive experience, and we’ll definitely be using Screencast-o-matic again.

Have you had your students try it out?

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September 1, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

New ESL/ELL/EFL Blog Carnival On Pronunciation Just Published!

'dave sconda teaching pronunciation - /w/' photo (c) 2010, englishmeeting - license:

Carissa Peck has just published the 34th ELT Blog Carnival (also know as the ESL/ELL/EFL Blog Carnival) and its focus is on teaching/learning pronunciation. It’s so good that I’m adding it to The Best Websites For Learning English Pronunciation.

You can see all the previous Blog Carnivals here.

And you can express your interest in hosting a future edition of one here.

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May 5, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

This Week’s “Links I Should Have Posted About, But Didn’t”

I have a huge backlog of resources that I’ve been planning to post about in this blog but, just because of time constraints, have not gotten around to doing. Instead of letting that backlog grow bigger, I regularly grab a few and list them here with a minimal description. It forces me to look through these older links, and help me organize them for my own use. I hope others will find them helpful, too. These are resources that I didn’t include in my “Best Tweets” feature because I had planned to post about them, or because I didn’t even get around to sending a tweet sharing them.

Here are This Week’s “Links I Should Have Posted About, But Didn’t”:

Killer Waves: How Tsunamis Changed History is an article from Live Science that could be very useful in my “What If?” history projects. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Teaching “What If?” History Lessons.

Nicer Tube lets you show YouTube videos without the usual screen clutter or comments. I’m adding it to A Potpourri Of The Best & Most Useful Video Sites.

14 Brilliant Bloom’s Taxonomy Posters For Teachers is from Teach Thought. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Helping Teachers Use Bloom’s Taxonomy In The Classroom.

Creating Infographics With Your Students is by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Creating Infographics.

Dying languages: scientists fret as one disappears every 14 days is from The Star. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For International Mother Language Day.

Dispelling misunderstandings about PBL is by Andrew Miller. I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Cooperative Learning Ideas.

iWitness is a pretty amazing multimedia resource on The Holocaust. I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Learning About The Holocaust.

Brazilian Police Evict Indigenous Squatters from 2014 Stadium Site is a photo gallery from The Atlantic. I’m adding it to The Best Sites For International Day Of The World’s Indigenous People.

Flood Tools shows you, historically, how likely a particular address is to be flooded. Because Sacramento is now the most likely U.S. city to be hit by a catastrophic flood, and we teach about it in class, I’m adding it to
The Best Sites For Showing Sacramento Destroyed By Floods.

The 1040 Form Turns 100: Resources To Explain Income Taxes is from The ASIDE blog. I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Learning About Taxes.

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March 23, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

“Edcanvas” Has Just Leaped To The Top Of My List Of Useful Web 2.0 Tools

I’ve previously posted several times about Edcanvass, and it’s already on a number of “The Best…” lists.

This week they added another great feature — the ability to easily record up to five minutes of audio on any image or text you pin to a canvass, and you can pin many items on one canvass.

I’m now adding it to yet another “The Best…” list — The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English.

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February 5, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

Video: “The Chinese New Year: From Fear to Festivity”

The Chinese New Year: From Fear to Festivity is the title of this video from English Central that I’m adding to The Best Resources For Chinese New Year.

More importantly, though, it’s the first English Central video that I’m embedding in my blog. It’s easy to do, and I just learned it was possible through David Deubelbeiss’ blog — check out his post with screenshots.

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January 30, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

One New Activity I’m Doing To Help ELLs Learn Academic Vocabulary – & Practice Speaking It

One of my students’ favorite activities, and one that I believe is very effective, is several times a week getting together in assigned small groups to practice conversational English. They all have a “cheat sheet” of about seventy different questions and answers that is in our book, The ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide and practice asking and answering each others questions. Of course, if you don’t have our book, you can easily come up with your own “cheat sheet.”

Periodically, I ask students what other kinds of topics they want to practice, they come up with more questions, and I put them together on additional sheets — which they all glue into their notebooks.

My combination Beginners/Intermediate class has a wide enough range that the groups can work on their own with me just walking around between them.

This semester, however, I gained several excellent twelfth-graders who work as peer tutors during one of my class’ periods. I’ve assigned each one to a small group, and have given each of my students and them copies of various Academic Vocabulary Lists. Now, in addition to the regular conversational questions-and-answers, during each session tutors spend a short time teaching the concept represented by two-or-three of the words (the academic vocabulary on the lists is for the early grades and tutors know the vast majority of them) and develop a question using it and an “answer frame” that students can use in response.

Here’s an easy one a tutor did today — she first explained what the word “fiction” meant (many of my students, though not all, knew it already), asked the ELLs “What fiction book have you read this year?” Then each student responded, “One fiction book I read this year was ____.”

I’ll eventually develop “academic vocabulary” cheat sheets but, until then, this seems to work well. The peer tutors find it challenging and fun, the ELLs are learning needed academic vocabulary, plus they’re gaining speaking practice and confidence.

Do you have any suggestions on how I can improve on what we’re doing?

Though it doesn’t quite fit, I’m adding this post to The Best Websites For Developing Academic English Skills & Vocabulary.

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January 27, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

Webdoc Changes Name To Urturn, Adds Audio Recording Feature (That Didn’t Work For Me)

Web Doc is/was a sorta’ blogging platform that makes it super simple to write individual “docs.” I especially like its ability to search the Web for images within your “doc” and just post it into what you’re writing. It also lets you add a speech bubble to the photo. It has tons more features, including providing an embed code. It was highly ranked on The Best Web 2.0 Applications For Education In 2011.

Today, it “relaunched” as Urturn and added several features, including the ability to record audio. That’s a really nice feature, but I couldn’t get it to work. I guess they’re having some relaunch “bugs.”

Once they get it fixed, though, I’ll be adding it to The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English.

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January 24, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

“U Tell Story” Looks Like A Great Storytelling Tool

John Yan was the creator of ShowBeyond, a very nice alternative to VoiceThread that was on The Best Ways To Create Online Slideshows until it shut down last year.

Now, John has just unveiled his new tool for education, UTellStory, and it’s a good one. It’s sort of a streamlined VoiceThread that I think is easier for both teachers and students to use.

You can make slideshows with your own images or grab ones off the web and easily add a audio you record, as well as text, to it. You can make them private or public, and they’re embeddable. You can also let your slideshows be re-used and mixed by others.

It’s free to use, though it costs $50 each year if you want to be able to manage student accounts (Disclosure: I was given one of those free accounts so I could try out those features, but it in no way influenced my decision to review the site or to say these positive comments about it).

The only advantage I see, and it’s a big one, that VoiceThread has over it is you can’t leave audio comments at UTellStory.

Here’s a video explaining a few of the ways to use UTellStory:

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October 16, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Skqueak” Looks Like A Great App For Providing Audio To Photos

Skqueak is a new free iPhone app I like a lot that lets you easily provide audio for photos. There are several other apps on various “The Best…” lists I’ll be sharing shortly in the post that do something similar. However, I suspect that Skqueak is going to give them a run for their money. It’s very simple to use, it appears to have a very extended recording time (though I’m not sure what the time limit is exactly) and, most importantly, it makes it extremely easy to create sort of a seamless audio slideshow. None of the other similar apps have such an ability, or at least one that is as easy to use.

Here’s a short example:

I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Beginning iPhone Users Like Me and to The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English.

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