Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

September 22, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“CK-12″ Has Free Resources In All Subjects & Individual Student Progress Can Be Easily Tracked


CK-12 is a non-profit with an impressive list of educational partners. It has resources in a ton of subjects, and just unveiled a bunch of neat physics interactives.

But what’s particularly impressive to me is the ability for teachers to set-up virtual classes, create assignments, and track individual student progress on the work. It has lot of other bells-and-whistles that I’ve just begun to explore, including the ability to leave virtual post-it notes on many of their resources.

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

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September 21, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Resources Sharing The Best Practices For Fruitful Classroom Discussions

Facilitating fruitful classroom discussions can be a challenge for the best of teachers, and I thought I’d begin a related “Best” list and invite readers to contribute additional resources.

Here’s a start:


Teach Thought has published a nice “26 Sentence Stems For Higher-Level Conversation In The Classroom.” I write about how I used them at Wondering How To Handle A Controversial Topic In Class? What We Did This Week Worked Out Very Well.

Socratic Seminars in the Middle is from Middleweb.

small things: increasing participation in classroom discussions is from educating grace.

How NOT to Start A Conversation With A Student….

I’m looking forward to getting lots of new suggestions to add to this list!

You might also be interested in the other 1,400 “Best” lists I’ve compiled.

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September 19, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Researchers See What A Growth Mindset Does To The Brain

Many of us teachers have seen the effect of helping our students develop a growth mindset — that their recognizing that effort trumps intelligence will result in success and better learning.

You can read more about this idea, coming out of the work of Carol Dweck, at The Best Resources On Helping Our Students Develop A “Growth Mindset.”

Now, researchers have announced results of a study where they’ve actually peered into the brains of some who believe that effort is more important, and into the minds of those who believe that native intelligence is number one.

You can read about their work at Brains Get a Performance Boost From Believing Effort Trumps Genetics in TIME.

Here’s an excerpt:

The-researchers-think (1)

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September 18, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

VERY Interesting Info On The Results Of KIPP’s “Character Education” Program

The Fordham Institute has just published a post by Laurence Steinberg titled “Is character education the answer?”

It shares some fascinating research results on the KIPP charter schools’ well-publicized character education program.

The results came from a Mathematica study that compared KIPP students with those who did not win lotteries to attend the KIPP schools. Of course, the obvious flaw in such a study is that both groups of students have highly-motivated parents/families. It’s always surprising, if not shocking, to me that many charter school supporters and researchers don’t recognize this obvious characteristic of charter school students (and lottery participants).

Even with this flaw, the results are intriguing. Here is what Mathematica found in comparing the qualities that typically are described as Social Emotional Learning skills:

The KIPP children showed no advantage on any of the measures of character strengths. They weren’t more effortful or persistent. They didn’t have more favorable academic self-conceptions or stronger school engagement. They didn’t score higher than the comparison group in self-control. In fact, they were more likely to engage in “undesirable behavior,” including losing their temper, lying to and arguing with their parents, and giving teachers a hard time. They were more likely to get into trouble at school. Despite the program’s emphasis on character development, the KIPP students were no less likely to smoke, drink, get high, or break the law.

As Sternberg suggests:

developing teenagers’ self-regulation may require something other than parables, slogans, inspirational banners, and encouragement from compassionate teachers.

I would also suggest that KIPP’s system of grading these kinds of character traits have a lot to do with this lack of success, also, as I wrote in a Washington Post column about KIPP’s program awhile back. The piece is titled Why schools should not grade character traits.

Sternberg makes his own suggestions about what he thinks would make for an effective character education program. I don’t think it has to be that complicated, particularly since there is substantial research showing that short-and-simple classroom lessons and a relationship-oriented school culture can help students want to develop these kinds of skills. You can find links to that research and to many of those kinds of lessons at The Best Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Resources.

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September 17, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

An ESL Teacher’s Good Friend –”America’s Funniest Home Videos” — Turns 25


American’s Funniest Home Videos, whose DVD collections have been a great tool in my English Language Learner classes, is turning twenty-five years old, and The New York Times is marking the occasion with a lengthy article, A Generation of Unintended Laughs: ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’ Turns 25.

The program, which now also has a very popular YouTube channel is a great source of videos to use in the many language-development activities I describe in The Best Popular Movies/TV Shows For ESL/EFL (& How To Use Them).

I do think that some of them are in poor taste and a bit cruel, but the vast majority are good clean fun.

With Thanksgiving in the not-so-distant-future here in the United States, here’s their YouTube playlist for the holiday (I still think it’s worth investing in the DVDs, though):

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September 17, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Our School’s Writing Assessment For Some Students With Special Needs

I’ve shared many writing prompts that I use in my classes (see My Best Posts On Writing Instruction).

Included in that “Best” list is a very popular post by my colleague and English Department leader Lara Hoekstra. In it, she describes a pretty sophisticated fall and spring writing assessment process we use with all of the students at our school. Students spend two days writing to the same prompt early in the year and at the end of the year, and all the English teachers get together for two days after each assessment to evaluate all the essays (ones not written by their own students) using an “Improvement Rubric.” We then use the results to guide our future instructional priorities.

We’ve had a modified assessment for English Language Learners and, just recently, my very talented colleagues Jennifer Adkins and Jonathan Mikles created a good one for some students with special needs. They have given me permission to share it here.

They have students read the Chicago Tribune article titled, Inner-city Mentoring Program Helping Youths Improve Lives.

Students then write to this prompt:

Essay Topic:

A role model or mentor is a person you look up to. Before you begin writing, think about someone you look up to.

Why do you admire or respect this person? Write at least a 3 paragraph essay in which you explain whom you admire, and why you look up to this person. To develop your position, be sure to discuss specific examples; those examples can be drawn from anything you’ve read, as well as your experience.

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September 17, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Search For Historical Word Use In Movies With “Bookworm”


I’ve previously written about several web tools that let you search for word usage in various places — books, the NY Times, Yelp — and then chart them out over the years. You can read about all of them here.

There’s a new addition to that list — Bookworm.

Despite its name, it focuses on word use in the movies, and operates in a similar fashion to the other sites I mentioned. Type in a word or phrase and it will search the dialogue in thousands of movies and TV shows and trace differences over the years.

Thanks to Flowing Data for the tip.

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September 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Learning From Failure

What The Hype Behind Embracing Failure Is Really All About is a useful article that appeared in Fast Company.

Here’s a quote from it:


I’m adding it to The Best Posts, Articles & Videos About Learning From Mistakes & Failures.

While I’m at it, I’m also adding Rejection letters to superstars early in their careers give us all hope [9 pictures] to the same list.

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September 15, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Two New Sesame Street Videos On Social Emotional Learning

Sesame Street has been sharing a series of videos on Social Emotional Learning skills, and you can see their previous ones on self-control at The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control.

I think they’ve been pretty good, and my high school students enjoy watching them as a reinforcing/reminder activity after we’ve done lessons on The Marshmallow Experiment (by the way, watch for my interview with Dr. Walter Mischel, the creator of the Marshmallow Test, in Education Week Teacher on Sunday).

They just issued another one on self-control — a Star Wars parody. I don’t think it’s as good as their previous ones, but it still gets the job done:

They’ve also just released a video called “The Power Of Yet” — a message on the growth mindset idea that even if you haven’t succeeded now, it’s just a matter of “not yet.” I like this one better, and I’m not familiar with Sesame Street doing other videos on SEL skills other than self-control. Perhaps this season they will expand their content.

I’m adding this video to The Best Resources On Helping Our Students Develop A “Growth Mindset”:

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September 15, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

MOOC’s For English Language Learners & Teachers

MOOC’s seem to be growing in popularity, even with their well-documented challenges (see The Best Posts & Articles On MOOC’s).

There are also popular ones for English Language Learners and ELL teachers.

The British Council has 100,000 students in their recently-opened MOOC for English Language Learners. Here are some articles about it:

Online English course attracts 100,000 students is from The BBC.

How thousands of people can join an English language online course for free is from The British Council.

Future Learn has posted Exploring English with The British Council.

For teachers of ELLs, Understanding Language will offer two MOOC’s for ELL teachers. Here’s how they describe them:

Starting on October 1, we will again offer Constructive Classroom Conversations: Mastering Language for College and Career Readiness, by Kenji Hakuta, Jeff Zwiers, and Sara Rutherford Quach from Understanding Language. This course is a modified version of the Constructive Classroom Conversations MOOCs offered last year, in which over 6000 educators enrolled.

Also starting on October 1, Understanding Language will be collaborating with Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of Education to offer a new MOOC: Supporting English Language Learners under New Standards, by Karen Thompson, Kenji Hakuta, and Sara Rutherford-Quach.

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September 13, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

“A Visual History of Kids Being Unimpressed with President Obama” Is Great For English Language Learners


The Atlantic has just published some great pictures at “A Visual History of Kids Being Unimpressed with President Obama.”

They’d be perfect to use with English Language Learners to have them talk and write about them.

I’m adding this resource to The Best Ways To Use Photos In Lessons.

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September 11, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Wondering How To Handle A Controversial Topic In Class? What We Did This Week Worked Out Very Well

As all teachers know, controversial topics can be very tricky to handle in class. Here’s a process I used in my International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge classes this past week they went far better than I had expected, and I think this series of lessons might be able to be applied to other classes.

FIRST DAY: I introduced The Belief-Knowledge Continuum from our IB textbook. You can find it the continuum online in many places and it just so happens that our textbook’s version is available at Google Books. I’m not sure who originated it, so I’m wary of reproducing it in this post. But it’s really very simple — a number scale from negative ten to positive ten, with a few labels including impossible, probable and certain. “Probable” is also labeled “Belief” and “Certain” is labeled “knowledge.”

TOK’s definition of knowledge is “justified true belief.” This continuum doesn’t mean that belief is worse than knowledge. It just means that though we might believe something, we just don’t “know” for sure.

Then, our textbook lists a few items asking students to place them on the continuum (Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492, Murder is wrong) — you can see the list here.

I have students work in pairs to create their own poster plotting each of those items and providing an explanation of why they placed it there. Students then share their charts and discuss where they agree and disagree.

SECOND DAY: Students read an excerpt from the philosopher Ruben Abel’s book “Man is the Measure.” In it, he lists the different kinds of “evidence” people use to justify their knowledge. You can find that excerpt here (I only use the section following the heading “Good Reasons”). In groups of three, students make a poster ranking the types of evidence from the one they think is most convincing to least convincing; they have to provide an example; be prepared to defend their ranking; and draw a picture representing each type of evidence.

THIRD DAY: In a “speed-dating” style (groups facing each other, and then when one group is done one of the lines moves to the next group while the other line remains where they are), students share and discuss their “evidence” poster. However, they use a specific process for their discussion.

Teach Thought has published a nice “26 Sentence Stems For Higher-Level Conversation In The Classroom.” I adapted them and created a shorter list just showing their “Clarifying,” “Agreeing,” and “Disagreeing” questions. Students used them to guide their discussions with each group. I was the timer, and was flexible in both speeding it up and slowing it down:

  1. First minute: each group read and reviewed the other’s poster
  2. Second minute: one group asked clarifying questions from the sheet
  3. Third minute: the other group asked clarifying questions from the sheet
  4. Fourth minute: one group using the agreeing stems
  5. Fifth minute: the other group used the agreeing stems
  6. Sixth minute: one group used the disagreeing stems
  7. Seventh minute: the other group used the disagreeing stems

Students would then switch to discuss with another group (we did it about three or four times). In addition, I had asked students to keep in mind which poster they liked the best, and which disagreement they found most interesting.

After “speed-dating,” students met in their groups for a few minutes to discuss their favorite poster and which disagreement they found most interesting, and each group then gave a very short report.

After providing the group with the “winning” poster a dried fruit prize, I then gave students a half-piece of paper to write anonymously if they liked the use of the question/sentence stems and to say why or why not. I hadn’t tried using them before and want to get honest reactions. In both of my 35 student classes, everyone except for one or two students like them a lot and felt that without them the discussions would not have been productive.

FOURTH DAY: The warm-up activity was students writing down their response to:

Should we respect people’s racist or sexist beliefs? Why or why not? What might be the reasons they are using to justify those racist and sexist beliefs?

After a short discussion, I introduced a sheet developed by TOK teacher Remi Vicente called “Problems of Knowledge.” Basically, it’s a list of many of the reasons why people often confuse their “beliefs” with actual “knowledge.”

In their same groups of three, students reviewed the list and identified which ones they felt were the five most common “problems of knowledge.”

FIFTH DAY: In their same groups of three, I gave each a first section of that day’s daily newspaper (in one class, we also had access to computers) and distributed these instructions (here they are as a downloadable hand-out):

1) Take out the Belief knowledge continuum and your types of evidence poster.

2) Get with your group that developed the types of evidence poster.

3) Look at newspapers, news magazines and online news sites to identify current events – between two and five of them

4) Where are your chosen current events on the continuum – what is guiding the action of the primary person/people involved in the current events you chose. There may be more than one, and they might need to be “plotted” differently. Explain your decision.

5) Look at the types of evidence poster. Identify what evidence each of the primary people are using to justify their actions.

6) Look at the problems of knowledge sheet and poster you made. What flaws, if any, are the primary people making?

7) Make a simple poster for each current event showing where on the continuum you placed the current event and why, they type of evidence and flaws. Be prepared to share with class.

Students chose a variety of events, including President Obama’s de facto declaration of war against Islamic militants, the Ray Rice controversy, and the killing of Michael Brown. Because of the activities we did earlier, the quality and tone of the discussions was at an incredibly high intellectual level — examining evidence, points of view, and reasoning.

I also have to say that, perhaps for one of the few times in my years of teaching Theory of Knowledge, students really “got” how what they were learning could be applied to the world outside of school.

Admittedly, it took a lot of time. But, with this background, I think we can approach future discussions of current events in similar vein without all the days of preliminary build-up.

Let me know what you think of this series of lessons, and how you think I can make it better!

Coincidentally, Luis Vilson has just published a good post over at Edutopia with additional ideas on how to handle controversial topics in the classroom.

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September 10, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Here’s The Table Of Contents To My Upcoming Book On Student Motivation

Building a Community of Self-Motivated Learners1

It’s not quite yet available for pre-order from Routledge, but they do have it up on their website with a publication date of March 15, 2015.

I thought blog readers might be interested in seeing the Table Of Contents:

Chapter 1. I Still Want to Know: How Do You Motivate Students?

Chapter 2. Still Want to Know: How Can You Best Handle Classroom Management?

Chapter 3. Still Want to Know: How Can You Get Students More Interested in Reading And Writing?

Chapter 4. How Can You Get Students to Transfer Their Knowledge and Skills From

One Class to Other Classes and Outside-of-School Situations?

Chapter 5. How Can You Help Students Want To Live A Physically Healthy Lifestyle?

Chapter 6. How Can You Help Students Get Into a State of “Flow”?

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September 9, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Teaching Tolerance Releases Ambitious “literacy-based, anti-bias curriculum”


Teaching Tolerance, the organization justifiably well-known for developing very good social-justice oriented teaching resources, has just unveiled: “Perspectives for a Diverse America… a literacy-based curriculum that marries anti-bias social justice content with the rigor of the Common Core State Standards.”

It’s a very ambitious site, and I think most teachers will find the highlight to be 300 great texts, often from larger works, all set-up to print out and copy for students. Those are a gold mine!

I hate to say it, but I generally found the site’s set-up to be fairly convoluted and confusing to navigate, though others may very well feel differently. But, whether you agree with me or not on that, I’m sure you’re going to agree that the texts are a wonderful resource.

You do have to register in order to access the site, but it takes a minute to do so.

I’m adding the site to The Best Teacher Resource Sites For Social Justice Issues.

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September 8, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

NEA Today Unexpectedly Runs Article Featuring Classroom Practice Of…Me?


More Teachers Adopting Restorative Discipline Practices is the title of an NEA Today story that unexpectedly features my classroom practice.

I had a short email interaction with the writer over the summer, but hadn’t thought much would come of it.

You might find it interesting.

I’m adding it to The Best Posts On Classroom Management.

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September 8, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Here’s The Cover Of My Upcoming Third Book On Student Motivation (Along With Free Resources)

book cover

This is the cover of my upcoming third book on helping students develop intrinsic motivation (my own little trilogy :) ). It will be published by Routledge in early 2015.

You can get free resources from all my six books here, including downloading all student hand-outs from my previous two student motivation books.

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September 7, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Four Valuable Posts On Classroom Instruction

Here are several recent and valuable resources on classroom instruction:

No More Language Arts and Crafts is a must-read post by the one-and-only Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer.

Dispelling the Myths: The Truth about Student Engagement is from the Alabama Best Practices Center. I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles On Student Engagement.

Efficient Ways to Check for Understanding is from Edutopia. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About Formative Assessment.

I’m adding this tweet to The Best Resources For Learning How To Best Give Feedback To Students:

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September 6, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Teachers, T-Shirts & The Messages That They Send

Particularly in light of what’s happened in Ferguson recently, and in light of the death of Eric Garner, who was killed by a New York City police officer using an illegal choke hold, it just boggles my mind that a number of New York City teachers chose to wear NYPD T-Shirts to begin the school year.

Did they even stop to consider the message that this action might send to students?

Do they not know that the school population is now comprised of a majority students of color?

Do they not know that relationships are key to student learning, that trust is key to developing relationships, and that first impressions are critical?

Here are some articles about what happened in New York City this week, followed by a couple of must-read tweets by Melinda Anderson:

NYC’s Teacher, Police Unions Battle After Teachers Warned Against Wearing NYPD T-Shirts is from Channel Four in New York.

Also, check out An Open Letter To The White Teachers Who Wore NYPD T-Shirts To School, Despite Being Told Not To and Not All My Teacherfolk Are My Kinfolk (written by Jose Vilson).

I’m adding this post to A Collection Of Useful Posts, Articles & Videos On Race & Racism.

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