Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

February 6, 2018
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Tools For Creating Chatbots

The original title for this post was “Voicegram Is A Useful Tool For ELLs.” However, new chatbot creation tools are coming online a-mile-a-minute, and I wanted to put them all together in one place. Voicegram doesn’t quite fit that description, but the other tools listed do. So this is an “imperfect” list.

I’ve been a longtime fan of using chatbots with English Language Learners (see The Best Online “Chatbots” For Practicing English, as well as The Best “When I Say Jump” Online Sites For Practicing English).

I recently began exploring the possibility of having students create their own for their classmates to use. There are some free tools that seem pretty easy to use, like Rebot. And Botsify will also let you create a audio one for Alexa.  And Storyline lets you build and publish Alexa skills without coding is a TechCrunch post about…what its headline describes.

Floatbot lets you create chatbots, including ones you can make for free.

Get On Demand is a new tool for creating chatbots.

Ocobot lets you make one free Chatbot.

Today, TechCrunch posted about Voicegram, a new online tool that will let you easily record an audio conversation you have with a chatbot – Alexa.

It’s super-simple: login with an Amazon account, record, and then it emails you the recording, like this:

It seems to me like it would be great for speaking practice!

I’m adding it to The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English.

Botreach lets you easily create chatbots.

January 27, 2018
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Ways To Use Tongue Twisters With ELLs

I was originally just going to share a commercial appearing in the Super Bowl next year that could be used as an introduction to a tongue twister lesson.

Then, I realized that I had previously shared several posts about the specifics of using tongue twisters in class, and decided to turn this into a “Best” list.

Here are good resources:

I’ll start off with the commercial:

Here are posts:

I explain how I use them in class in my New York Times post for English Language Learners.

Tongue Twisters in Thailand: An ESL Adventure is from TESOL Connections.

10 ways to use tongue twisters in your class! is from Carissa Peck.

Feel free to offer additional suggestions!


October 31, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

One Of My Favorite – & Easiest – ELL Activities To Practice Speaking (Links & Recordings Included)

Most ELL teachers know that 90% of dialogues for students to practice are terrible – it’s like textbook writers are in a contest to see who can write the most boring ones.

But dialogues can be so much fun – and such a great language acquisition tool!

I utilize the strategy by writing my own – making them funny and engaging.

For example, today we practiced this one for Halloween:



KOU and KAO: Trick or Treat!

ADULT: You scared me! What do you want?

KOU: We want a treat!

ADULT: I only have one piece of candy left and there are two of you. Will you share?

KAO: No, I want it!

KOU: No, I want it!



ADULT: Since you can’t share, I’ll eat it.

KAO and KOU: We don’t like you!


We’ve been studying Halloween for a couple of days, so students had some prior knowledge of the holiday.

I modeled the dialogue a couple of times, handed out copies of the dialogue, and divided students into groups of three.  They had five minutes to practice and then perform in front.

But that wasn’t all.

I also recorded them, posted the recordings on our class blog, and played them afterwards.  They were uploaded there within minutes of students doing the role-play. Plus, students could listen to themselves later and play it for their parents at home.

Here’s an example of one (you can listen to all of them at our class blog):

I’ve written before how I use the Audio Copy app to record and then immediately upload it to SoundCloud. It literally takes seconds.

You can read about how I’ve used these apps for speaking activities in previous posts:

Simple & Fun Lesson For ELLs Of All Ages: Writing & Recording A Letter To Santa Claus

Singing, Recording & Authentic Audiences For English Language Learners

You can also download other dialogues for free here:

All The Figures In Our ELL Book Can Now Be Downloaded By Everybody

I’m adding this post to The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English.

January 27, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

Simple & Effective Speaking Rubric For Class Presentations

Talented student teacher Kevin Inlay created this simple and effective speaking rubric that we used with class presentations in our ELL World History class.

Reviewing it ahead of time and then using it made a tremendous difference in the how students spoke.

He gave me permission to share it here, so feel free to download and modify.

Let me know if you have other very simple rubrics you’ve successfully used for different classroom lessons and that you’d like to share!

I’m adding it to The Best Sources Of Advice For Making Good Presentations.

September 18, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

StoryCorps Kicks-Off “Great Thanksgiving Listen” Again


I posted a lot about last year’s StoryCorps’ Great Thanksgiving Listen, and they’re doing it again this year.

You can find out lots of information – along with downloading resources – at their website, and here’s how they describe the event:

The Great Thanksgiving Listen is a national education project that empowers high school students to create an oral history of the contemporary United States by recording an interview with an elder over Thanksgiving weekend using the StoryCorps App.

Interviews are entered into the StoryCorps archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and on where they become an invaluable resource for future historians and provide families with a priceless piece of personal history.

In its pilot year of 2015, thousands of high schools from all 50 states participated and preserved over 50,500 individual recordings at the Library of Congress. In 2016, StoryCorps will continue to work with educators around the country to preserve the voices and stories of an entire generation of Americans over a single holiday weekend.

August 14, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Call Me Ishmael” Is A Neat Site & Model For Student Book Activity


Call Me Ishmael is a neat site that I learned about through John Damaso’s excellent post, Top 10 ISTE takeaways for English teachers.

It’s very simple – students read a book of their choice, call a number and leave a message telling a short story how it impacted their life. The site’s creator then picks three of these stories each week to (literally) type them out and publish a video with the typing coordinated with the voice message.

Here are a couple of examples:

All the voice messages seem to be embedded on the site, too, and visitors can vote on which ones they think the site should turn into videos.

It’s a pretty neat idea, and I especially like that the voice messages are embedded. That way, even if a video is not made with them, students can still see that their message is posted.

Even if you don’t have students call the number, though, the videos can be used as good models. Students can easily create their own versions of these kinds of “book trailers” by a website like Little Bird Tales or the KnowMe phone app.

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

August 5, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

This Would Be Great For ELLs: Play – Or Create – A “Listening & Speaking” Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Story


As regular readers know, I’m a big fan of both having students create and read (or, in the case of videos, watch-and-play) choose your own adventure stories (see The Best Places To Read & Write “Choose Your Own Adventure” Stories). Many students find them very engaging to read, they can be quite accessible, and even low-Intermediate ELLs can create simple ones.

I’ve been a fan of them for quite awhile, and thought I was aware of all their different permutations.

Once again, however, I was wrong.

You might be aware of Amazon’s popular home voice assistant called Echo, which uses the Alexa voice software. I don’t have it, but do have the Amazon Fire TV plugin, which I like a lot (I used to be a fan of Google Chromecast, but now favor Fire).

Apparently, a few months ago, they created a listening choose-your-own-adventure game connected to the terrible Batman vs. Superman movie. In it, Alexa describes physical surrounds, provides choices, and assists players in making them. The game received a much better critical reception than the film.

Today, Amazon released software to developers so that they could more easily create these kinds of games.

So, one, this means that there will be many more of these kinds of professionally-produced “listening-and-speaking” choose your own adventure games, which would seem to me to offer exceptionally engaging opportunities for English Language Learners to practice listening and speaking. All we’d have to do is bring an Amazon Fire TV plugin to the classroom.

But, more importantly, I think, is the idea of a listening & speaking Choose Your Own Adventure story!

Teacher can create simple or more complex ones by just writing them out and saying it like this (it’s a sample from Amazon’s software instructions):


On top of that, English Language Learner can also create their own. It would seem to me that these versions would need to be more simple than ones that are typically written so that players don’t have to remember as much, which should make them even easier for ELLs.

I have plenty of templates like this one at my previously-mentioned “Best” list.

Do you think this kind of thing could have as much potential as I do?

April 29, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

This Interactive Could Be The Most Motivating Tool Ever To Help ELLs Improve Pronunciation


The online publication Quartz just published a piece about an amazing new interactive ad campaign that encourages people to repeat phrases as part of an online video story.

Fine, you might be thinking, so what’s the big deal?

Well, the recorded phrases then go into a VoiceBank that supplies audio for people who must use a device to communicate.

Can you think of many other things that could be more motivating to an English Language Learner to try to get as close to perfect pronunciation as that?

All you have to do is go to the Voice of Goldivox and follow the story along. The phrases are short and very accessible. I wouldn’t use it with Beginners, but would think Intermediates and Advanced could do it with a little practice.

Here’s a sample video, though you have to to the Goldivox link to watch it all and record:

I don’t know how long this campaign will last but, because it’s so cool, I’m adding it to The Best Websites For Learning English Pronunciation.

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