Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

January 22, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

What Does “Direct Instruction” Really Mean?

If you search for the definition of “direct instruction” online, this is what pops-up first:

Direct instruction (DI) is a general term for the explicit teaching of a skill-set using lectures or demonstrations of the material to students.

That’s the definition I’ve always thought was accurate and, even though I certainly believe this type of direct instruction has its place in the classroom, I also believe it has to be kept in its place (see The Best Posts Questioning If Direct Instruction Is “Clearly Superior”).

This past week I published an interview in Ed Week that I did with co-authors of a new book applying John Hattie’s research to math instruction (Author Interview: ‘Visible Learning for Mathematics’). In it, they point out that Hattie uses a very different definition for direct instruction – one that includes seven specific steps.

Interestingly, I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that “assisted discovery” teaching (my preferred instructional strategy) could fit into those seven steps, too.

Is this seven-step description really accepted by most educators as the correct definition? Or, as I suspect, do the vast majority of educators consider it much more the “sage on the stage” model that includes a lot of lecturing (The Best Research Demonstrating That Lectures Are Not The Best Instructional Strategy)?

January 17, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

Free Resources From All My Books

Every few months, I reprint this post so that new subscribers learn about these resources.

I have many free resources, including excerpts and student hand-outs, available from all my books. Clicking on the covers will lead you to them (and look for two new forthcoming books – another one on ELLs that Katie Hull and I are writing, and a fourth in my student motivation series):




Helping Students Motivate Themselves: Practical Answers To Classroom Problems.


January 16, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

I Can’t Imagine Why Anybody Teaching Shakespeare Would NOT Use “Shakespeare’s World”

Shakespeare’s World is part of Zooniverse, a crowdsourced research platform (see “Zooniverse” Is One Of The Coolest Ed Sites On The Web – I Can’t Believe I’m Just Hearing About It!).

At the site, users can “Transcribe handwritten documents by Shakespeare’s contemporaries and help us understand his life and times. Along the way you’ll find words that have yet to be recorded in the authoritative Oxford English Dictionary, and which will eventually be added to this important resource.”

This project is really neat, as are all of the features at Zooniverse. You don’t have to transcribe sentences or pages – you can just identify words that seem obvious to you.

I can’t imagine a more engaging addition to a unit on Shakespeare then having students give it a go.

I heard about this new project today when reading an article in The New Yorker about it, Crowdsourcing For Shakespeare.

You might also be interested in The Best Resources For Teaching Shakespeare To English Language Learners.

January 15, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

NBC News Visits Classroom Of My Friend & Co-Author To Learn About Letters Students Wrote To Trump

Katie Hull, my good friend and co-author, had her students write letters to President-Elect Trump late last year.

NBC News is doing a segment on what she did on Monday night, and shared this preview on Facebook today:

You might also be interested in the letters my students also wrote: ‘Dear President-elect Trump’: Immigrant students write letters asking for ‘the opportunity to demonstrate we are good people.’

January 12, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

Guest Post: New ELL Teacher Online Book Club

NOTE: I invited Katie Toppel to write a guest post about a neat idea I heard about on Twitter:

Katie Toppel, Ed.D (@Toppel_ELD) is a K-5 English Language Development Specialist in Oregon and an adjunct professor at Portland State University.

If there remains any doubt about the impact of educational technology, let’s take a look at the power of an educators’ book club when transformed via the world of social media. What started as my simple tweet featuring a photo of a book cover and the words “Starting a new book tonight,” has evolved into a virtual book club bringing together educators from around the world who are passionate about enhancing instruction for English learners and excitedly talking about co-teaching, collaboration, and technology!

At some point early this school year, I discovered what a powerful resource Twitter is for professional development and despite feeling like an uniformed newbie in certain respects, I dove right in and started accumulating connections with other educators who are passionate about teaching English language learners. I began to notice different education hash tags including the word “chat” and was excited to discover opportunities to become part of these real-time discussions. Despite the draw of these Twitter chats, I came to realize that as a busy working mom with two young children, it was hard to remember the specific hour of the day on the specific day of the week that the various chats were to take place. And, even when I happened to remember a chat was happening, it was often during a time of day when I needed to get dinner ready or when I really needed to be present with my children rather than tweeting on my phone.

Consequently, when I tweeted about the book I was going to start and my Twitter pal, Tan, in Laos, responded by saying “Let’s read it together and start our own EAL (English as Another Language) book club” the seeds were planted for this virtual book club that we now call ELL Chat Book Club (#EllChat_BkClub). In my opinion, the greatest appeal of this book club is that we decided to make it a slow chat, meaning participants can post at any time using the group hash tag and a wonderful conversation gradually ensues. Another terrific feature is that after choosing our first book, Collaboration and Co-teaching: Strategies for English Learners, which is co-authored by Andrea Honigsfeld, @AndreaHonigsfel, and Maria Dove, @MariaGDove, we were able to get Andrea to chat along with us as we discussed her book! We could directly ask her questions or get her opinions and she was very active in responding to our #EllChat_BkClub tweets.

We structured the book club by posting a suggested reading schedule and then questions to go along with the content. The flexibility inherent in this virtual format is terrific because participants can truly read at their own pace and interact with the hash tag however they find valuable. Participants post photos of highlighted text, share related tweets such as articles, images, and info graphics, and also post photos from our own classrooms to illustrate how the book/discussion has influenced our instruction.  Participants can easily access all of the book club tweets by searching #EllChat_BkClub and are welcome to join in or just read what has been posted.

Gradually, as we continued tweeting with our newly minted hash tag, more participants joined in and we now have quite a large group reading and tweeting about our second book, ELL Frontiers: Using Technology to Enhance Instruction for English Learners. It’s very valuable to interact with educators who teach in different instructional contexts as well as different districts, states, and even in different countries! I am constantly learning new ideas and broadening my perspective. Please consider checking out our #EllChat_BkClub tweets and joining in!

January 10, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

Video & Transcript Of President Obama’s Farewell Address

The President is giving his Farewell Address right now, and the White House has just released the transcript of his address (Here’s another link).

Barack Obama’s farewell speech in full: annotated is from The Guardian.

I think it’s pretty impressive, and lots of excerpts from it are going to be great Read Alouds and grist for writing prompts.

You can find several other writing prompts connected to the President’s past speeches at Best Posts On Writing Instruction.

I’m adding this post to The Best Places To Learn About President Barack Obama’s Life.

Here’s an embedded video of his speech:

January 7, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

Guest Post: Responding To Student Trauma

I recently published a three-part series in Education Week Teacher about responding to student trauma. Unfortunately, I had misfiled this response from Kevin Parr, and he graciously agreed to let me post it here.

Kevin Parr is a fourth grade teacher in Wenatchee, Washington and a 2014 ASCD Emerging Leader.

As educators, our personal lives are so intertwined with our work that what happens in our personal life affects our work with kids, (just as our work with kids can affect our personal life). At times then, the most difficult part of teaching is managing our personal life so that it does not interfere with our responsibility to be fully present and available to our students each and every day.

I have been fortunate to live a life free of much of the trauma my students have experienced in their short lives. Sure, I have had my fair share of stressful times, but nothing that would really classify as traumatic. Meanwhile, many of my students come to school with a history including multiple traumatic experiences (divorce, imprisoned parent, poverty, domestic violence). Never having experienced these types of trauma myself, however, made it difficult for me to truly empathize with my students. Sure, I have read about the effects of trauma, but reading about something and experiencing it are completely different things. This past winter, however, when my father passed away unexpectedly, I tasted the effects of trauma and learned a lot about how I could best support my trauma-affected students.

Through reflecting on my own reaction to a traumatic experience, here are a few simple things I learned about how I could interact better with students with trauma:

Cut them some slack (but not too much): When I was dealing with my own trauma I had trouble remembering simple things, even topics we were focusing on in class at the time. Knowing this, I realized I need to offer extra pencils, replacement papers, and reminders freely and without interrogation to trauma-affected students. That said, nobody enjoys feeling forgetful so our compassion needs to come with capacity-building so students can become better at holding themselves accountable for their learning.

Check up often: A student’s traumatic experiences can be uncomfortable and stressful for teachers to talk about. Therefore, the easiest thing for a teacher to do is to ignore them. This is especially true if teachers haven’t experienced the same types of traumatic experiences as their students, partly because they may feel like they don’t have any advice to give them. For me, the truth was that onceI had told someone about my father, I wanted them to ask about it. I wasn’t looking for advice or first-hand experiences so a simple, “How are you feeling today?” or “I’m thinking of you,” meant a lot to me. For teachers, checking in like this can go a long way toward building the trust and relationships students need to successfully manage their traumatic experiences.

Maintain routines: After my father’s passing everything seemed unstable and unpredictable. At the same time, I just wanted things to be “normal.” One of the easiest things teachers can do to help students in this regard is to establish and maintain routines in the classroom. The more predictable a teacher can make the classroom environment will translate directly to student comfort and ability to put more energy and focus into their learning.

Traumatic experiences are widespread in our schools. How teachers interact with and react to students is critical in helping them through their difficult times and create learning environments where they can thrive. One thing teachers can do is reflect on their own traumatic experiences, how they were affected and what helped them through.

January 7, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

Here Are Two Activities I’ll Be Doing With My ELL Students The Day We Come Back From Break

Our Winter Break is coming to a close, and I thought I’d share two activities I’ll be doing with my Beginning English Language Learners on the first day of our return:


I’ve done lots of goal-setting variations with students over the years (see Best Posts On Students Setting Goals).  Today, though, I read a fascinating piece from New York Magazine headlined To Change Your Life, Learn How to Trust Your Future Self that shared a different “take” on the idea.

It’s interesting (though overly-long – reading the second half of the article would be sufficient). I’m not going to go into the whole thing but it reviews research suggesting it’s better to start off with relatively easy goals that you can meet, and then gradually, each week (or some kind of short period of time), increase the difficulty of them. Achieving the goals each week gives you more confidence that you can achieve the next more difficult ones.

This is how I’m going to apply it first thing Monday morning:

I’m going to ask students to develop three goals — two school related ones and on non-school (they can do all three school related ones if they want.).
I’m going to give them a summary of the research described in the article and ask them to identify small goals that they are pretty sure they can meet by the end of the week. I’ll provide this sentence-starters:
“Everyday this week I am going to _____________________”
I’ll provide sentences like these as models:

Everyday this week I am going to do Duolingo for ten minutes outside of school.

Everyday this week I am going to read a book in English for five minutes outside of school.

They’ll also draw an image for each goal and present them in the front of the class.

We’ll review them at the end of the work and, if it goes well, create slightly more challenging goals for the following week.

I think it’s worth a try, and will write about how it goes….



Cellphones clearly have a place in the classroom, but they also have to be kept in their place (see The Best Posts On Student Cellphone Use In Class — Please Contribute More).

I’m generally fine with ELL Beginners having their phones out for translation and definitions but, of course, the lure of texting is always there.

I’m going to begin enforcing having the phones put away in backpacks more (even having them in pockets can be too much of a temptation.

And I’m going to introduce this new “rule” using research that has just come out describing the distractions generated by just having a phone out near you.

Science Daily summarizes the research in Who gets most distracted by cell phones?

Here’s an excerpt:

Researchers have verified that the mere presence of a cell phone or smartphone can adversely affect our cognitive performance…

Introducing changes by connecting them to research always seems to be better received.

Here’s some other similar research:

How about you – are you making any changes on Monday morning?

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