Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

February 22, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Socratic Smackdown” Looks Fun & Interesting – If You’ve Tried Using It, What Do You Think?


I’ve had limited success with using Socratic Seminars, though I know others have had far more positive experiences (see The Best Resources Sharing The Best Practices For Fruitful Classroom Discussions).

Kristen Swanson today shared an intriguing tool she found called Socratic Smackdown that might be a good way to introduce the concept to students, especially younger ones (by that, I mean ninth-grade and below). It’s basically a “gamified” Socratic Seminar.

I’ve embedded a video about it below, and I’d love to hear from teachers who’ve already used it. I’m considering giving it a try this year….

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January 28, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Web 2.0 Tools For Beginning English Language Learners – “”



This post is the fourth in a lengthy series where I will be sharing the Web 2.0 tools that I’m using with my Beginning English Language Learners, along with explaining how we’re using and sharing student examples of each one.

Previous posts in this series have been:

Web 2.0 Tools For Beginning English Language Learners – “Phrase.It”

Web 2.0 Tools For Beginning English Language Learners – “Padlet”

Web 2.0 Tools For Beginning English Language Learners – “Szoter” is the focus of today’s post. It’s an extremely simple free tool that lets you easily record audio online without a need to register. You’re then given a link and embed code to your recording. I’m not sure what the length limit is to it, but I haven’t found one yet.

The ability to use it without registration is, like the other tools in this series, is a big selling point. There are other similar Web 2.0 sites that provide a similar service (check out The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English), particularly Vocaroo. However, Vocaroo will only keep the recordings available for six months (I don’t know what, if any, similar restrictions has).

The real advantage that has over all the other similar sites is the best one of all — it’s not blocked by our School District’s content filters. Most of the other recording tools are blocked, so it doesn’t matter if they offer better features than or not. And if it’s not blocked by our district’s filters, it’s probably not blocked by yours, either.

One simple way my students use is making a short recording and pasting the link to it in the comments section of our class blog where they and their classmates can hear it. For example, after using the tool I blogged about yesterday, Szoter to annotate images of homes, students recorded very short sentences describing the images. They were about to use the “reply” feature on the comments to put the link directly below the link of the image.

For example, here’s a recording made by a Beginning ELL student saying “This house has a garage”:

Simple, easy, and effective — and that’s the criteria for every Web 2.0 I’ll be blogging about in this series….

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December 18, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Video: My English Language Learners Did A “One-Sentence Project”

I’ve previously posted about a project suggested and developed by Daniel Pink about “one sentences” (see The Best Resources For Doing A “One-Sentence Project”).

The idea is that people think twenty years ahead or further about what they want other to say about them, and then use it as a helpful guide for how they live their lives.

In that resource link, you’ll find short videos from Dan, a hand-out I use, along with videos from my previous classes and ones from other schools in the United States.

I just did it with my Beginning and Intermediate English Language Learner students today — it’s a very good project to do two days before winter break! In addition to having them write their “one sentence,” I had them write three things they will do in 2015 to help them move towards their one-sentence goal (see The Best Posts On Students Setting Goals).

I used my favorite iPhone app, Shadow Puppet, to record a few of my Intermediate students showing and sharing their posters (actually, I should say that I had my students actually do the recording, and the last photo is upside down).

I’ll record the rest of my Intermediate students and My Beginners tomorrow, and will post the rest at our class blog.

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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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