Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

July 22, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

Using “Wrote My Way Out” From Hamilton With Students (Including Writing Prompt)

My wife took me to see Hamilton has birthday present this past week and, of course, it was amazing!

Regular readers know I’m a big fan (see The Best Teaching/Learning Resources On The Musical, “Hamilton”).

I’ve used Hamilton in class (see Using “My Shot” From Hamilton With ELLs & Others (Including Writing Prompt)), and I’ve been thinking about how I could use its song “Hurricane.”  That song has been modified and released as a mixtape titled “Wrote My Way Out,” which is the part of the song that I think I could particularly use with ELLs.

This is a lyrics video of the original Hamilton song:

You can read the lyrics here.

The verse that I’m thinking of using is this one:

I wrote my way out
Wrote everything down far as I could see
I wrote my way out
I looked up and the town had its eyes on me

There are variations of that verse in other parts of the song, and I think those parts could be pretty accessible to ELLs and they’d certainly enjoy it.

The mixtape uses lots of the original lyrics, but adds a lot, too. You can read all the lyrics here and I’ve embedded the video below (which only contains audio):

I  particularly like the final lyrics to that version:

I picked up the pen like Hamilton
I wrote my way out of the projects
Wrote-wrote my way out of the projects
Picked up the pen like Hamilton
I wrote my way out of the
Wrote-wrote my way out of the projects
I wrote my way out
Picked up the pen like Hamilton
I wrote my way out of the

(I wrote my way out)
Really, I saw like a hole in the rap game, so if I wanted to put my
little two cents in the game, then it would be from a different
(I wrote my way out)
I thought that I would represent for my neighborhood and tell
their story, be their voice, in a way that nobody has done it
Tell the real story


I’m thinking that I could use the music with my Intermediate English Language Learners and ask them to respond to this prompt:

What do you think the singer means by “I wrote my way out. I thought that I would represent for my neighborhood and tell their story, be their voice, in a way that nobody has done it. Tell the real story”? Who do you think has told the story of your community? Do you think you could be a voice of your community? If you think you can help tell your community’s story, how could you do it and what kind of help would you need? If don’t think you can tell your community’s story, please explain why not.

What do you think?

I’ll be adding this post to Best Posts On Writing Instruction, as well as to the Hamilton “Best” list.

July 22, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

Guest Post: Advanced ELLs Write About Their Summer School Experience Tutoring Newcomers


Editor’s Note: Mary Stokke, one of the very talented student teachers who worked with me last year, agreed to teach summer school to our ELL Beginners.  We were able to recruit an exceptional group of former newcomers who are now Advanced ELLs (all of whom are taking some International Baccalaureate classes) to be peer tutors for several hours each day this month.

I asked them to write about what they did as a peer tutor, what they liked about it, what they learned, what they thought they could do better, and what better ways we as teachers could work with them.  

Here are their responses:

This summer we have a chance to be the peer tutors in Ms. Stokke’s ELD class.  During the period of being the peer tutors, we have learned how to teach other people.


At first, we introduced our name in front of the class so that all the student can know who we are. Every day, Ms. Stokke has a plan for us about the lesson that we will teach the student. We divide in small group and work because the student have a different level. If the student have a high level, they will have more difficult lesson than other student. During the class, we also ask them what they feel about the lesson and how much they understand what we teach them. After class, we have a meeting with Ms. Stokke to know what we did good or bad, give some new ideas for the class and improve the way how to teach them ( more fun, more activity and more effective ).

In my opinion, I like about being a peer tutor because i have a chance to teach other people. look at the way how I teach them ( is it good or bad, did they understand what i said), improve my speaking skills or any English skills, meet my friends everyday and have fun with them during the class. I wish our class have more student come, i know it is summer time but summer school still good for them, they have no pressure about grade, they can enjoy English in a comfortable way and they can improve their English skills faster. From my view, i think our class is good because Ms. Stokke respect our ideas about class and she put in practice immediately, so that our class become more active and professional every time.

During the class, we teach the student almost four skills of english: listening, writing, speaking, reading in fun ways and the best comfortable way we have. I think we did good enough to help students learn english because this is the first time we did as a peer tutor, we try our our best and improve the way of teaching every time. We also let them use computer program in the internet to help them learn English ( razkid, english central, brainpop and etc ). I think we could use more game for them to learn english, not only do work on the paper, let them do what they want to learn english, ask them how we can teach them and be more creative because we get used to english in the most comfortable way and no pressure environment.



As a peer tutor, firstable, everyone has their own students to work with and help when their students needed. We, the peer tutors, introduced ourself to all of students, talked about how the days were and tried to make students be more self-confidence because some students really nervous and do not like to show their expressions. Everyday, Ms.Stokke made the plans for us to teach our own students and after the class ended, we stayed a few minute to discussing what went well or not well and what gonna be the best for the students. Of course, every student has different levels, so, Ms. Stokke divided students into small groups to work on different things such as work on reading, Razkid, Brainpop, poster, conversation sheet and worksheet.

I, myself, worked with the girl, who completely can’t understand English at all, so, my group has to use lots of ways to teach them by using the board to drawing, acting out and translating the words. For what I had experience, what I liked being a peer tutor is I have a chance to teach other people, to help them when they needed and to help improve myself on my English skills. The thing I liked the most from this summer class was I learned how to be more patient, to be good example for my students and to get used with the new people in class. However, there are the things that I think I could and should do better such as to trying to make my student be more comfortable to work with other people or any peer tutors, not just only work with my group and also, to make myself to be more confident when I have to work to other student that I’m not used to work with. So far, I have gained a lot of experiences through this summer program, it helped me to become more confident, more patience and more self-control. After all, I think I can use this kind of knowledge or experience to help me to be a better peer tutor in the future.



As volunteering to be a peer tutor during this summer school, I’ve got  many opportunities to experience a lot of things, one of them was to be able to become a teacher. Everyday when I came to school, Ms. Stokke told us the plan she’s got for us the peer tutors to do, ask us some ideas of what we should do to make our students learn best and then opinions from what we did after the class ended. Each day she divided us in small group to work on posters, worksheets, readings, presentations and practice conversations with our students. And because of our students have different level of English skills, they sometimes were having different lessons to learn based on their rates.

I, most of the time, was assigned to work with some students that can’t understand English at all, I had to put a lot of efforts and patiences to be helpful and a good teacher for my students. I’ve tried very hard to make my students learn best, the ways I helped myself to make them understanding were to use Google translate, the sign language and illustrations. Sometimes we were not just learning in class, we also went to work on computer lab to do Raz kids, USA learns, Brainpop, Quizizz, Lyrics Trainings, English Cental (Student’s choices or Ms.Stokke’s assigned) and went to the ceramic class to learn about the art stuffs with the help of Mr. Smith. There was one day when Ms. Brandon came to teach us the Origami too. I was having a lot of fun participating in this program and gained many experiences from it.

As far I’ve taught my students, I’ve also improved my English skills and  learned how to get used to talk and work with other people. I felt like I have more patience and self-control. One thing I could do better is having more confident to be used to work with other people I’m not closed or feel uncomfortable with, I just don’t feel like I can show my best working with these people. Anyway, I’ve tried my best already and I could use these knowledges from what I’ve got so far during these programs to help me be a better peer tutor in the next school year.



As a peer tutor, I helped Ms. Stokke with helping the students to understand the lesson. The first thing we do every day was the Round Robin. It was one way to give students more chance to practice speaking and listening. Then, we would divide into small groups of different levels. Most of the time we would practice reading by doing Raz Kids or read printed books. Sometimes after we had some activities, we would let the students make posters and present to the class. That helped them to be more confident and use logical thinking. For the beginner students, it was harder for them, so we had to use a lot of different ways to help them to understand what they were reading such as drawing, acting the words out or translating. One of the most important things we needed to remember while being a peer tutor was patient. Not that all of the students would understand the lesson at the same rate, so we had to be more patient with the beginners.

While being a peer tutor, I can improve my English skills, especially my speaking skill. I also learned how to work with different people using different methods. It pushed our imagination and creative ability in order to teach the students. I have gained a lot of experiences from Ms. Stokke and other peer tutors as well. I have been more patient and found out some other fun and active ways to get someone to understand something. I could use those new things in the future when I be the peer tutor for my Math teacher.

I think I can be more confident and active during the course. When we had a presentation, I should share my idea with the class more in order to help the students understand what they needed to do.




The first thing we did everyday was called Round Robin,  some students are very shy and don’t like to talk to other students, it gave everyone a chance to speak. We were also did some presentation, like share our poster, it also helps student practice their ability to speak. Is hard to teach if students don’t understand English that much, what we did were try our best to help them. I can see a shadow from them as me when I was don’t understand English that much.

As a peer tutor, we must be a good example for the students. As a peer tutor, we must continue to learn in order to improve our self-cultivation. improve the level of personal expertise, strengthen our own moral construction, to let our own personality charm to influence students. For being the peer tutors, we are playing the role of teacher, but we are not just teach something to the students, we are learn something from our students also.



The first thing we did as a peer tutor  was to introduce ourselves, Then Ms Stokke had the work for the day ready so she explain to us what would we been doing in the class with the beginers., one of the things that i like of being  a peer tutor is to help them because i remember when i did not speak any English so that’s one of my motivations to help them because i know the struggle to learn English so that’s why i like to help them during summer school.

As a peer tutor we will  be the example and we have to be very responsible with the students so that way they can learn from us and from our experiences that we had as a beginners, and we can also learn from them. something i think we could do better would be to work we differents students so that way we can work with all them and learn more from each person and get different experiences from the different people.

July 21, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

Good Advice On Talking With Anyone (Including Students & Colleagues) About Doing Something Differently

Overcome Resistance to Change with Two Conversations is a very good Harvard Business Review article.

I particularly like the four ground rules (check out the article itself for elaboration on each “rule”) it suggests for “Talking With Resistors:

Forget efficiency

Focus on listening

Be open to change yourself

Have multiple conversations

I’m adding this info to The Best Posts & Articles On Building Influence & Creating Change.

July 21, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

Collections Of Academic Sentence Starters

Here are some nice collections of printable academic sentence-starters that I’m adding to The Best Websites For Developing Academic English Skills & Vocabulary:

26 Sentence Stems For Higher-Level Conversation In The Classroom is from Teach Thought.


Sentence Frames is from Miss Hultenius.


Another school district’s downloadable list.

Let me know what I’m missing!

July 20, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Resources & Ideas For Using Sound Effects In ELL Lessons

I sometimes use sound effects with my English Language Learner classes as a game (playing sounds, let’s say, of animals and having groups having to identify its name) or as story-writing prompts (play some sounds in sequence and have students write parts of a related story).

Generally, I find Free Sound as the easiest place to find them, but I have lots of others sites at The Best Places To Get Royalty-Free Music & Sound Effects.

Here are some posts other ELL (and non-ELL) teachers have written about how they’ve used sound effects with their students:

Teaching With Sound Effects by Hall Houston.

The Sound Book by Mike Harrison.

Using sound in the classroom is from Learn NC.

ESL Halloween Lesson Plan – Scary video and sounds

Here’s an animal sound quiz.

July 18, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Resources On Developing A Sense Of Community In The Classroom

Several studies have been published over the past month related to the idea of how individual members of a group (co-workers, students) can do better cooperating in a supportive atmosphere than if everybody is working on their own.

I’ve published several posts about them and, as I’ve said in those posts, they go along with a push I made late in the last school year on “Everybody Is A Teacher.”

Here are links to those posts, along with some other related resources (I’ll be putting them all together into a lesson that I’ll share at a later date):

Bingo! There Are Issues With This Study On Grit & ELLs, But I Am Sure Going To Use It With My Students

“Everyone Is A Teacher” Is A New Engagement Strategy I’m Using & It Seems To Be Working

Intriguing Research On How To Increase Intrinsic Motivation

Focusing On The Impact Classroom Disruptions Have On Others, Not On The Students Doing The Disrupting

Here is an article I wrote for Education Week (which was later reprinted in The Washington Post) that includes an activity I do at the beginning of each school year to help students decide if they want to be a “classroom of students” or a “community of learners.”

Another related resource is The Best Resources For Teaching & Learning About The “Helper’s High.”

You might also be interested in The Best Resources On Students Having A “Purpose For Learning”

Feel free to make other suggestions….

July 18, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

Podcast: Interview With…Me On Parent Engagement

I was recently interviewed by Val Brown on parent engagement.

It was part of the Center for Teaching Quality “microcredential series.”

If you find it useful or interesting, you can read and/or listen to other commentaries I’ve done on the topic.

July 17, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

Amazon Makes Its Teacher Resource-Sharing Site Public Today

Amazon unveiled its Amazon Inspire teacher resource-sharing site about a year ago. At that time, you could request access to it (see Amazon Officially Announces Its Education Platform & Gives It A Name).

Today, I received an email saying it’s now public and they want you to sign-in using your Amazon account. That kind of seamless connection does make me wonder how and if participation in Inspire will affect my buying recommendations that show up on Amazon.

If you’re joining now, however, you’ll apparently have to wait a few more weeks before you’re able to upload and share resources. If you joined earlier through requesting an invitation, it seems like that might have come with uploading privileges.

Who knows how it’s all going to turn-out but, as I wrote at its initial announcement, it seems to me like it’s generally not a wise idea to bet against Amazon.

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