Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

April 17, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Ideas For Finishing The School Year Strong & Beginning The Summer Even Stronger

A very popular excerpt from one of my books was titled “Finishing The School Year Strong” was published both at Education Week Teacher and at Edutopia.

It’s very practical, and here’s an excerpt:


Okay, so that’s for dealing with these last several weeks of school.

Is there anything we can do to set-up our students for continuing their academic success in July and August? When there were funds for summer school, at least sixty percent of our 2,000 students would enroll for those classes — not because of having bad grades, but because they wanted to come.

Those days are long-gone — our District hasn’t had money for summer school for at least the last six years.

I’ve previously posted about how I set-up free virtual classrooms at a variety of sites for my Beginning and Intermediate English Language Learners to use during summers and, typically, at least half of them study fairly consistently. I do the same for my mainstream English students, and about a quarter of them tend to use the sites. I make arrangements with their following year’s teacher (who is often me :) ) to give them extra credit for their summer work, but that is clearly a very minor part of their motivation.

Here are those previous posts on my summer work:

How I’m Helping My Students Try To Avoid The “Summer Slide”

Part Two Of “How I’m Helping My Students Try To Avoid The “Summer Slide””

Since I published those posts, a ton of new additional sites have become available that let teachers set-up virtual classrooms for free. I’ll be adding several of these new tools to my list, but haven’t yet gotten around to determining which ones. You can see them all at The Best Sites That Students Can Use Independently And Let Teachers Check On Progress.

And you can see all sorts of research on the summer slide at The Best Resources On The “Summer Slide.”

What do you do to help your students try to avoid the “summer slide”?

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April 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Book Reviews – & Shakespeare – In Three Panels


I’ve previously posted about Lisa Brown’s “Three Panel Book Reviews” that formerly appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle. They’re great models for student projects.

I recently learned about how another artist uses this “three panel” idea, though Mya Gosling uses it to summarizes Shakespeare’s plays. You can see all of her work here, and they’re more great models for student work.

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

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April 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Who’s To Blame For The SAT’s Existence? Thanks A Lot, Tom Edison…

'Thomas Edison, 1930s' photo (c) 2011, Playing Futures:  Applied Nomadology - license:

The SAT Test has been in the news a lot, lately.

The College Board is revamping it, and they just released new sample questions.

In addition to those links, here are a few other useful articles:

The New SAT: Less Vocabulary, More Linear Equations is from NPR.

What is the SAT good for? is from The Washington Post.

The key problem the SAT changes won’t fix is also from The Washington Post.

College President: SAT Is Part Hoax, Part Fraud is from TIME.

But the main reason for this post is to reprint one I published a six years ago.

Here it is:

Thanks, Thomas Edison, For The Light Bulb, Phonograph and…the SAT?

Did you know that a test created by Thomas Edison inspired the creation of the not particularly useful SAT?

I didn’t, until I saw a short piece in the Mind Hack blog today. That post led to a much more descriptive article that appeared in the New Scientist magazine titled 163 ways to lose your job.

Edison apparently developed his ‘Brainmeter” test to evaluated the intelligence of job-seekers at his lab, and the test’s administrator went on to help create the SAT.

Both the blog post and article were pretty intriguing, but neither provided a link to the actual test. I found it at the National Park Service Edison National Historic site website, and you can take the test there (scroll down a bit).

How can this information be useful in today’s classroom, you might ask? Well, I have to admit the primary reason I’m writing this post is because I just found it interesting. However, even though the test isn’t accessible to English Language Learners, it might be fascinating to see what students might come-up with if they were asked to develop questions that they think would be effective in evaluating a person’s intelligence, and what criteria that might use to write them.

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April 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Surprise, Surprise — Study Finds Shouting At Children “creates further discipline problems”


To few teachers surprise, a new study has found that shouting at children is counter-productive. You can read all about it at Shouting at children ‘increases their behaviour problems’ in the British newspaper, The Telegraph.

There have been plenty of studies (and years of countless teachers experience) that have found the same thing (you can find out more at The Best Posts On Classroom Management).

Do I sometimes raise my voice at my class? Of course, we’re all human. But, fortunately, I seldom do so.

I just don’t understand why some continue to use shouting as a part of their classroom management strategy.

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April 15, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

The Best Research On Listening To Music When Studying

'Typical Teen' photo (c) 2011, Tyler-Adams - license:

I’ve published a few posts about the question of playing background music in the classroom, along with info on the practice of listening to music when studying.

I thought I’d bring them together in one post, and invite readers to contribute their own ideas and experiences, too.

I’ll be adding this “Best” list to The Best Resources On The Dangers Of Multitasking.

Here goes:

This is a reprint of my first post on the topic. It’s worth looking at the original post because of the comments readers left:

A  study find that listening to music while performing a task can impair cognitive ability.

Researchers divided participants into three groups — one listening to music they liked, one to music they didn’t like, and one with no music:

The most accurate recall occurred when participants performed the task in the quieter, steady-state environments. Thus listening to music, regardless of whether people liked or disliked it, impaired their concurrent performance.

One of the study’s authors concluded:

“Most people listen to music at the same time as, rather than prior to performing a task. To reduce the negative effects of background music when recalling information in order one should either perform the task in quiet or only listen to music prior to performing the task.”

This reflects my experience in the classroom (and my own personal experience). I use music a lot with English Language Learners as parts of lessons, and use music in lessons with our mainstream English classes when studying Bob Marley and, also, New Orleans. But they are always specific parts of lessons. Any time I acquiesce to student pleas to let them listen to those music examples outside of those specific lessons — for example, if they are working on a group project or during silent reading, it becomes an obvious distraction and I usually turn it off relatively quickly.

However, there is an important caveat — I have found that a few students who face particular challenges actually work better if they are listening to their own mp3 player at times, and have made individual agreements to let students sometimes use them.

Several years ago, when I was teaching a particularly challenging class, having students close their eyes for a couple of minutes after lunch and listen to soothing music also worked well as a calming influence. But they did not have to perform any task other than calming down, and the study does point out that music can “very positive effect on our general mental health” in that kind of situation.

Another study has found that working in quiet is the best atmosphere for cognitive work, listening to music you don’t like is next, and listening to music you like creates the worst cognitive atmosphere.

Don’t Listen to Music While Studying is useful post from Edutopia.

Okay, I’m all ears. Please share if your experience agrees, or disagrees, with this research….

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April 15, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

ELL Teachers & Students Will Love MusiXmatch – It Provides Karaoke-Style Lyrics To Most YouTube Music Videos


MusiXmatch is a free Chrome extension that will provide karaoke-style lyrics to most YouTube music videos. It can be used very easily on desktop and mobile devices.

Using songs, and using lyrics karaoke-style, is a longstanding and effective language-learning strategy, and you can read about many of them at The Best Music Websites For Learning English.

You can read more about it at TechCrunch.

I think MusiXmatch is a great tool. However, they’re advertising it with a video that pretty much tells you nothing about it, and may be one of the dumbest videos put out by at tech company. Because it’s so weird, I couldn’t resist embedding it below, but don’t plan on learning anything about how it works by watching it:

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April 15, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

National Teacher Day Is Coming-Up & Here Are Two Great Ways To Celebrate It On Social Media!


National Teacher Day in the United States is always celebrated on the Tuesday in the first full week of May. World Teachers’ Dayis held annually on October 5th since 1994, celebrates teachers worldwide, and was started by UNESCO. You can find lots of related resources for both days at The Best Resources To Learn About World Teachers Day.

This year, two great groups are sponsoring ways to celebrate National Teacher Day on social media.

The National Education Association is encouraging people to “use the #ThankaTeacher hashtag and join thousands showing their support for our nation’s teachers. Show some love on Facebook and Twitter or get creative and create your own six-second video thank you on Vine.”

Here’s a sample Vine:

And here’s a project being sponsored by The Center For Teaching Quality:

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week (May 5-9), CTQ is launching #TeachingIs, a social media effort to challenge stereotypes and recognize teaching as the complex work it is. Set the record straight. Join us!

Here’s how you can participate:

  • Show your support by donating a Facebook post or tweet and encourage your friends, colleagues, and followers to do the same.
  • Tell the world what #TeachingIs. Share your definitions, stories, small (and big!) wins, and manifestos via tweet, blog post, Vine, Instagram, YouTube, shareable graphic, Six Word Memoir, you name it! Just be sure to use the hashtag #TeachingIs.

From small details to spectacular achievements, let’s tell the world what #TeachingIs.

Looking for resources? Read some social media how-tos and explore our partner packet with sample tweets, logos, and avatars.

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April 14, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Yay! The Education Writers Association Now Lists Their Award Winners In A Way That’s Accessible!

'trophy 1 | the both and | shorts and longs | julie rybarczyk' photo (c) 2010, Julie Rybarczyk - license:

I’ve previously posted about the 2013 Education Writers Association National Awards For Education Reporting.

There were many of them, including many “must-reads.” However, their design made it very difficult to access links to them all — many clicks were required to find them.

Happily, I saw on Twitter today that they have now listed them in an easily scrollable, downloadable and clickable PDF.


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April 12, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Grit, Failure & Stuff Like That

'The four capital mistakes of open source' photo (c) 2011, - license:

Hype around “character-building” has escalated to the point that some see building perseverance and pushing students to make mistakes as sort of a silver bullet to cure all learning ills (I’ve written about that problem in my Washington Post piece, The manipulation of Social Emotional Learning).

Of course, every action results in an opposite and equal reaction, in this debate is no exception to the rule. Some attack the whole idea of grit and encouraging failure. I tend to thing parts of this reaction are over-blown, but I can understand it.

I come down in the middle — I believe that many of our students can benefit by developing more grit, and learn that making mistakes while trying their best is okay and, more importantly, learn how to deal with them effectively after they’re made. However, I don’t think we have to put failure on a pedestal.

Here are some recent posts and articles that make some good critical points about the the grit and failure narrative, though I don’t necessarily agree with all of them. They’re all excerpts from Alfie Kohn’s new book (except for the last post):

Ten concerns about the ‘let’s teach them grit’ fad is by Alfie Kohn.

The Downside of “Grit” is also by Alfie Kohn.

Sometimes it’s better to quit than to prove grit is by Alfie Kohn.

Protect Your Kids From Failure appeared in The Atlantic.

Taking a different tack, Grit – motivating students is a good classroom lesson at TEFL Reflections.

I’m adding this post to The Best Resources For Learning About “Grit” and to The Best Posts, Articles & Videos About Learning From Mistakes & Failures.


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April 12, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Financial Aid Resources For Students Planning To Go To College — Help Me Find More

'College Fund' photo (c) 2012, Tax Credits - license:

I’ve previously posted three “Best” lists related to students attending college:

The Best Sites For Encouraging ELL’s To Attend College

The Best Posts About Getting Our Students To Attend College

The Best Resources For Showing Students Why They Should Continue Their Academic Career

They all have a slightly different “take” on the topic. However, I’ve realized that, though some accessible financial aid related-resources are including in some of them, there is a lot more out there.

I hope readers will contribute many more.

Here goes:

Questions About Financial Aid? is from The New York Times.

What You Don’t Know About Financial Aid (but Should) is also from The Times.

Avoiding the most common financial aid application errors is from The Washington Post.

Applying to College With The New York Times

Comparing College Costs: A Primer is from The Washington Post.

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April 12, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Simple “History Of Anything” Project

Teacher extraordinaire Diana Laufenberg shared a simple and useful series of tweets about a project she’s doing with her class

She calls it the “History of Anything” Project.

Diana is planning on doing a more extensive write-up of what she does (and here it is – you can ignore the rest of this post and just go to read what she has now written), but I think the info in these four tweets can be useful right now for just about any teacher:

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April 12, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

How Adam Grant Just Made Teaching More Complicated

I’m a big fan of Professor Adam Grant’s work (see my interview with him at Education Week, Teachers As “Givers, Takers & Matchers”: An Interview With Adam Grant).

And I was very excited to see his must-read guest column in The New York Times today, Raising a Moral Child.

It’s geared towards parents, but just about everything he says is also extraordinarily useful to teachers, too.

He discusses recent studies identifying effective ways to help children become “kind, compassionate and helpful.”

Developing these kinds of qualities are being identified more and more as an important part of our work as educators (see my Ed Week series, ‘Character Is Not Compliance Out Of Fear,‘ and The Best Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Resources).

There’s so much substance in his short column that I’m not even going to try to summarize it — just read the whole thing.

I do, however, want to highlight one part of it where I think he just made our job more complicated (obviously, I’m talking tongue-in-cheek):


Many of us who are familiar with Carol Dweck’s work on praising action instead of intelligence might find a contradiction in this finding.

I know I was a bit confused.

So I sent an email to Adam asking about this apparent contradiction and he was kind enough to respond right away. Here’s what he said:

In “Mindset”, Carol Dweck describes her famous body of groundbreaking research demonstrating that when we praise children for their intelligence, they develop a fixed view of ability, which leads them to give up in the face of failure. Instead of telling them how smart they are, it’s wise to praise their effort, which encourages them to see their abilities as malleable and persist to overcome obstacles. Some parents and teachers have stretched this idea to its logical conclusion: always praise actions, not fixed qualities. In the domain of moral character, though, this might be the wrong approach. If we want children to become caring and generous, the evidence suggests that there’s value in helping them see these as stable dimensions of their identities.

That said, even in the moral domain, there may be some risks of praising character. Research on moral licensing suggests that when we see ourselves as good people, we sometimes feel greater freedom to engage in unethical behaviors. This is captured in chilling detail in Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, and in The Honest Truth about Dishonesty by Dan Ariely. I’d love to see more research on how to instill a sense of moral character without leading people to say, “I’m a good person, so I can do a bad thing”—or worse yet, “I’m a good person, so this clearly isn’t a bad thing.”

So, now, based on this research, we might need to be aware of which character quality we want to teach and employ contradictory instructional strategies for some of them.

Teaching is complicated, ain’t it?

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April 12, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

LBJ As A Teacher In Texas


I knew that Lyndon Baines Johnson had been a teacher, but had never explored it further.

I’ve been an admirer of much of LBJ’s work (though, obviously, not of his terrible actions in Vietnam). You can read some of my thoughts about him at This Is A Great Passage For Learning How To Make Change.

Today, NPR has a segment about his time as a teacher in a high-poverty school in Texas, and his visit there years later after he became President. It also includes the audio of the speech he gave (the second video below is a report on his visit).

You can read his entire speech here.

This first video is an excerpt of a speech he made to the U.S. Congress where he talked about his teaching:

I’ve used TubeChop to clip the segment on his Texas visit, and the video might not show up in an RSS Reader:

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April 9, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“What Is This Animal Thinking or Saying (If It Could Talk)?” Is A Fun Language Development Exercise

'Totally Tweet.' photo (c) 2010, SEO - license:

Having English Language Learners put words in the mouth (or thoughts in the mind) of puppets, animals, or photographs of people is a common activity in the classroom. It can be fun and less-threatening when it’s something/someone else who’s talking (or, at least, it can feel that way to the student).

You can learn specific strategies to use at:

The Best Resources For Using Puppets In Class

The Best Sites For Online Photo-Editing & Photo Effects, which includes a number of sites where you can choose photos and add “speech bubbles” to them.

The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English, which includes sites you can use online to actually provide audio to images or animations.

Another engaging strategy is show short animal videos and have students develop a dialogue or a series of sentences the animals might be thinking.

There are lots of suitable videos online, and you can start at The Best Video Clips Of Sneaky Critters. Students can simply act them out when showing videos on a screen with the sound turned-off, or you can be more sophisticated and dub the videos themselves.

Here’s an example that an environmental campaign created (several others will play through if you want):

Do you have any suggestions of similar good animal video collections?

I’m adding this post to The Best Popular Movies/TV Shows For ESL/EFL (& How To Use Them).

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