Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

June 26, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Quote Of The Day: A Problem With Book “Leveling”

Literacy expert Timothy Shanahan published a very useful post today titled Further Explanation of Teaching Students with Challenging Text.

Here’s an excerpt:


I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles About Why Book “Leveling” Is A Bad Idea.

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June 26, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Studies: Attendance & Passing Classes More Important Than Test Scores


Can ‘early warning systems’ keep children from dropping out of school? is a useful Washington Post article reviewing research about what factors accurately predict high school graduation.

And standardized test scores aren’t one of them.

Here’s another important quote in the article that clearly justifies our school’s heavy emphasis on ninth-graders’ success (as does previous research – see Important Article — “Ninth Grade: The Most Important Year in High School”):

Allensworth’s research on the strong correlation between the number of courses ninth-graders pass and the high school graduation rate persuaded Chicago school officials to begin closely tracking the passing rate of freshmen, going to new lengths to make sure that students were coming to school regularly and engaging in class.

Of course, as the article indicates, doing this right requires resources – which are not always available….

June 25, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

What Are Your Ideas For Incorporating the “Maker Movement” In Teaching English Language Learners?


The Maker Movement is growing in popularity (see The Best Resources For Learning About The “Maker Movement” — Help Me Find More).

Teachers of English Language Learners have certainly incorporated “maker” strategies for years — for example, I have had students create simple musical instruments (see The Best Sites For Ideas On Making Simple Musical Instruments).

But a post about string telephones by Ana Maria Menezes (shared by Roseli Serra) got me wondering how other teachers of English Language Learners use “maker” strategies with their students.

In case you’re not familiar with The Maker Movement, and don’t feel like going to the previously mentioned “Best” list to learn about it, here’s a simple description form Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez from their book about it:

The best way to activate your classroom is for your students to make something. This might an amazing high-tech invention or it might take the form of costumes for a historical reenactment, homemade math manipulatives, a new curtain for the local auditorium, toys, a pet habitat, a messy science experiment, or a zillion other things. Best of all, you don’t need expensive hardware, or to start by mastering a programming language. You can begin with found materials: buttons, bottle caps, string, clay, construction paper, broken toys, popsicle sticks, or tape (hint: Google “tapigami” or “duck tape projects”).

What are you having your students “make” to help them learn English?

I’ll put all responses into a future post….

Here’s one other useful resource: The Maker Movement and English Language Teaching

June 24, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Resources For Organizing & Maximizing Field Trips – Both “Real” & “Virtual”


I’m a big fan of field trips — the “real” kind, where we take students out of the classroom. I also believe, though, that “virtual” trips can be useful.

Here are resources, including past posts, about how to organize and maximize both types of field trips (and why they’re important):

Fewer field trips mean some students miss more than a day at the museum is from Brookings.

Field Trips Leave Indelible Memories is by Walt Gardner.

Google Expands Its “Expeditions” Virtual Field Trips For Schools (that post includes links to several other pieces I’ve written about Google’s Expeditions program)

The Best Resources For Finding And Creating Virtual Field Trips

The Best Sites Where Students Can Plan Virtual Trips

Why the much-maligned field trip really matters is from The Washington Post.

Successful Field Trips with English Language Learners is from Colorin Colorado.

Skype Connects Classrooms With Field Trips Around the World is from Ed Tech Magazine. I’m adding it to The Best Ways To Find Other Classes For Joint Online Projects.

Smithsonian’s “Our Story” Is A Valuable Resource For Teachers & Parents (nice forms to use on field trips to any museum)

Learning from Live Theater is from Education Next and reviews research on the value of taking students on field trips.

English Language Learners Design Their Own “Ideal” Neighborhoods discusses a field trip I do every year.

How Field Trips Build Critical Thinking Skills is a post from MindShift about a recent study.

Here’s What Students Did On Our Field Trip To The Zoo

The Best Web Applications That Lets Multiple People Upload Their Photos To One Place

The Fabulous Field Trip Guide: Mobile Learning and QR Codes is from Shelly Terrell.

What am I missing?

June 24, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

GlassLab Games Could Be Useful To Educators, Especially Now With Adding “Civilization”


GlassLab Games lets educators create virtual classrooms where students can play educational games and have their progress monitored. You can create a free classroom, but only have access to one-or-two of the games, and you can also create a free one with access to all of them for sixty days. For a longer period of time, you need to pay, but the price is not astronomical.

I’m not that impressed with the games they have now. However, the well-known game Civilization is creating a specific education version that will be available on the site in October.

That new feature could make it much more attractive…

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

June 22, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Smithsonian Learning Labs Now Lets You Create Free Virtual Classrooms & Assignments


I’ve previously posted about the Smithsonian Learning Labs – when they first opened you could create your own personal online collections of their “objects,” which was why I added it to The Best Ways For Students To Create Their Own Online Art Collections.

This week, they expanded its features to include letting teachers create class rosters, assignments, and monitor student progress. You can even upload non-Smithsonian resources to your assignments.

Using those features don’t appear to be as intuitive as I would like them to be – you can read the instructions here. But, I assume they’ll deal with those challenges as they receive feedback.

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

Here’s a video about the Learning Labs:

June 22, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

I Didn’t Learn Much From How Students Evaluated Me This Year, & Here’s What I’m Going To Try In The Future


As regular readers know, I’m a big advocate of having students complete anonymous evaluations of their teachers – though not as part of a formal evaluation system. I’ve written a lot about the topic, and for many years have posted the results of my own evaluations (see The Best Posts On Students Evaluating Classes (And Teachers)).

Up until this last semester, I’ve provided students a fairly long list of questions specifically related to the class, along with responses they could circle, along with some space for write-in answers. I provided only free-response questions to my Theory of Knowledge classes, but they were questions that – generally – were specific toward TOK.

This last semester, though, I decided to try something different. Instead of my usual evaluation forms, I created one that I used in all my classes that had five questions:

1. What did you like about this class?

2. How could this class be improved?

3. What did you think of Mr. Ferlazzo as a teacher? Give him a grade and make a comment.

4. What class activities helped you learn the most?

5. How would you grade yourself as a student? Did you work hard, help Mr. Ferlazzo, help your classmates? What could you have done better?

I thought it would be interesting to see what students would write without the prompting provided in past evaluations.

Responses to the last questions were interesting and, I thought/hoped, ended up being a useful self-reflective exercise for students.

Responses to the first four, however, were no where near as helpful as the results of past evaluations.

Almost universally, all students said they loved the classes, thought I was a fabulous teacher, and wouldn’t change anything about the classes.

I am very confident in my ability as a teacher, but I am by no means perfect and, in fact, if anything, because of some specific challenges that came up in class this year, I don’t necessarily think I did as good of a job as I have done in the past.

The more targeted questions and responses that I generally use have provided me with much more nuanced and critical responses — generally favorable, but certainly not universally positive.

I still think there’s value in seeing what students can write in response to less-scripted evaluation forms, so I plan on trying-out this year’s form again next year. However, I plan on doing so with two additions:

* One, immediately prior to having students complete the evaluation form, I think it will be worth spending a short time reviewing the different learning activities we did during the year. I think that’s one useful aspect of the more detailed forms — they basically list many of them.

* Second, I will create two examples of completed evaluations — one “good” and one “bad.” The “good” version will include critiques and positive comments with specificity. It will be a version of the the concept attainment instructional strategy.

I don’t know if those two changes will produce a significant difference or not in the quality of student comments and, if not, I’ll return to the old forms.

Any comments or suggestions from readers?

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