Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

April 29, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Transfer Of Learning” & Elon Musk

How Elon Musk learns faster and better than everyone else is an interesting new article in Quartz.

The writer attributes much of Musk’s success to his ability to “transfer” his learning from one context to another.

Here, though, is what I found the most useful part of the piece:

Sounds like a useful and effective strategy to me!

I’m adding this info to The Best Resources For Learning About The Concept Of “Transfer” — Help Me Find More.

You might also be interested in this video I did with Ed Week that was released this week:

April 28, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

A Beginning List Of The Best Resources For Teaching & Learning About The North Korea Missile Crisis

Last week, several students began talking in class about the probability of war with North Korea.

That got me thinking about ways to teach about the crisis without creating undue alarm.

Here are a few resources I’ve pulled together to help prepare some lessons. You might also be interested in The Best Sites For Learning About The Korean War which, in addition to Korean War resources, also has materials on more recent events (feel free to offer additional suggestions):

How North Korea Became a Rogue State: A Brief History (with Lesson Plan) is from KQED

Decision Point: Understanding the U.S.’s Dilemma Over North Korea is an older lesson from The New York Times Learning Network, but it can easily be updated.

As North Korea’s arsenal grows, experts see heightened risk of ‘miscalculation’ is from The Washington Post.

Here’s a recent Associated Press interactive to learn more about the country.

ILLUMINATING NORTH KOREA is a NY Times interactive.

The Council on Foreign Relations has a Crisis Guide that appears a little out of date, but it still has good info.

April 27, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

NY Times Learning Network Announces Their Fabulous Annual Summer Reading Contest

The New York Times Learning Network has just announced their annual fantastic summer reading contest.

You can read all about it at The Eighth Annual New York Times Summer Reading Contest.

Simply put, students can read whatever they want on The Times site and write about it, and then the Network publishes the best contributions each week.

Anything that can help reduce the “Summer Slide” is appreciated!

I have a ton of resources on the topic at The Best Resources On The “Summer Slide.”

You might be particularly interested in one of the posts on that list, Updated: Here Are The Sites I’m Using For My Summer School “Virtual Classroom.”

April 27, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

This Is Intriguing – Now Anyone Can Create A Class In Google Classroom

Last month, Google began letting people use Google Classroom even if they didn’t have G Suite for Education accounts.

Now, today, you can create your own class on Google Classroom just by having a personal Google acccount.

That creates a lot possibilities. Google itself in their announcement talks about adult education classes, after-school classes and other school groups.

It could also be very useful for educator professional development such as book discussions.

You can also read more about it at TechCrunch: Google Classroom now lets anyone school anyone else

I’m adding this info to A Beginning List Of The Best Resources For Learning About Google Classroom.

April 26, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

Here’s A Plan For An Oral Skills Class Next Year – Please Help Make It Better!

We’re going to have a third period next year for our Beginning English Language Learners that will be emphasizing oral skills. Right now, I teach two periods with them – one focusing on basic vocabulary and writing development and the other on academic writing. I obviously integrate speaking into those activities, but it’s easy for it to get short shrift.

Here’s the tentative plan for that third period – its primary purpose is to more regularly incorporate the activities that I’m now only using haphazardly – let me know how you think it can be improved (my talented colleague, Pam Buric, will be teaching it):

It will be mainly divided into three sections – Informal, Academic, and Student-Centered, and each day might have a different focus.



* Begin the class with a Round Robin question/answer process using existing a conversation list you can download for free from our ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide book site (click on “Bonus Web Content” and download Exhibit 4.3).

* Dialogues coordinated with the themes I’m covering in the other period (School, Home, Family, etc.). Many of those dialogues can also be downloaded at our book’s site.

* Students first perform simple dialogues, then can add changes based on scaffolded suggestions. Examples can also be found at our book’s site.


* I’ve written in our books and in an Edutopia article (English-Language Learners and Academic Language) about one way I approach teach academic vocabulary. Here’s an excerpt from that article:

We have two main sources for identifying what words constitute academic language that we must explicitly teach. The first source includes words and usage that are required by units we teach. After identifying critical vocabulary in, say, a persuasive essay unit — convince, reason, counter-argument, etc. — we will pre-teach approximately 20 words, first by reviewing pronunciation, and then by having students . . .

  • Act out the words in a skit.
  • Identify a physical gesture for the word (“opinion” might mean pointing to one’s head).
  • Write definitions of terms using their own words — in English or in their home language.
  • Create a “word chart” that we will also replicate on the wall. During the unit, students will periodically note when those words are used, and add new ones that they believe are important enough to recognize and remember.

The other primary source is an academic vocabulary list divided by grade level, like the list created by the Berkeley, California Public Schools or the guide developed by the Tennessee Department of Education (with Robert Marzano’s assistance) that categorizes academic words by content area. Of course, other lists are also available on the Web.

An activity that uses words from these lists is one of the most popular lessons we facilitate. For 20 minutes three times each week, we divide students into groups determined by levels of English proficiency. (We support mixed groups and are opposed to tracking by ability. In our multilevel class, we clarify that divisions are based on whether students studied English in their home country, not intelligence.)

Then with peer tutors, student teachers, bilingual aides or instructors alternating as they facilitate an activity with one group — while other students are doing something else — we discuss three or four new words aligned with the appropriate “grade level.” (The actual grade for the list — kindergarten, first grade, etc. — does not appear on the copies we give students. Our learners don’t need to be reminded how far away they are from English proficiency.)

After defining words with the same reinforcing activities that we use with word charts for units, we write down “question and answer frames” for each of the words:

“Do you believe that ______________________?”
“Yes, I believe ___________” or “No, I do not believe ___________.”

We ask each student questions, and then they question each other, adapting the “frames” to their own interests. Then students review previously learned words with each other.


* Every month, invite students to help make a list of conversations they would like to learn (asking for directions, asking someone out for a date, ordering at a restaurant, applying for a job). Look for a video teaching that conversation – happily, we have recently discovered that most ESL teaching videos have finally been unblocked, so there are zillions on YouTube – just write the topic and add the letters “ESL.” We’ll use those short videos as teaching tools for those conversations, possibly including ones from that include comprehension quizzes that can be projected on the board with students answering them in game-like fashion on mini-whiteboards.

* Have the class select videos of their choice from Brainpop, Jr., use the “Easy Quiz” with mini-whiteboards and, most importantly, have students work in pairs and use a nice “Word Play” feature it offers. It’s simple – it’s a form where students write a super-short skit about one of the words they just learned from the movie and act it out (you have to pay for Brainpop, but it’s not too bad if you just buy the feature that allows only three log-ins at any one time).

So, that’s the first draft of the plan – suggest and critique away!

I’m going to add this post to The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English, which is where I also have other posts – in addition to websites – about speaking activities.

April 25, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

Visualizations Of ESSA’s Impact On English Language Learners

The Every Student Succeeds Act may, or may not, end up having a big impact on English Language Learners (see The Best Resources For Learning How The Every Student Succeeds Act Affects English Language Learners and The Best Resources For Learning About The Ins & Outs Of Reclassifying ELLs).

As regular readers know, in addition to teaching high school full-time, I am an on the adjunct faculty of California State University, Sacramento and the University of California, Davis.

I gave this assignment to my ELL Methods class last week at Sacramento State after they divided up the articles on those two “Best” lists:

You can see all the posters in a YouTube video embedded below. However, the images aren’t that clear in the video. So, you can seem an Animoto video with images that are a little more clear at this link.

I’ve also embedded photos of a few of them below:

April 23, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

Learning As An Act Of Rebellion

As regular readers know, the challenge of helping students develop intrinsic motivation to learn is constantly on my mind (see The Best Posts & Articles On “Motivating” Students).

Recently, I’ve been thinking of another strategy to use with students – framing learning as an act of rebellion.

I was prompted to initially think about this by Study: Teens are more likely to eat healthy if they think it’s rebellious.

Next, I began thinking about applying it to reading (see Help Me Create A Series Of Lessons On “Reading As An Act Of Rebellion” (Or Let Me Know If You Have One Already) ).

Then, this week I saw this article: Learning a second language isn’t just good for your brain—it’s good for democracy, too

And a New Yorker cartoon running this week also seemed to relate to the idea:

I don’t think this framing is really a “gimmick” – the challenges of racism (see A Collection Of Useful Posts, Articles & Videos On Race & Racism – Help Me Find More); economic and wealth inequality (see The Best Resources About Wealth & Income Inequality) and other socio-economic issues (see The Best Places To Learn What Impact A Teacher (& Outside Factors) Have On Student Achievement) are clearly apparent to them and everyone else.

And though education is clearly not a direct route around those challenges (see The Best Resources On Why Improving Education Is Not THE Answer To Poverty & Inequality), it can be a partial answer, especially if we help our students develop the tools needed for them to become “active citizens” (see A Look Back: “Yes, Schools Should Develop Active Citizens &, No, We Don’t Need Another Test To Do It”).

I’ve applied a bit of this frame when teaching about “fake news,” and it seemed to be effective.  And it’s pretty easy to use the same frame in IB Theory of Knowledge classes.  The next time I teach an intervention or mainstream ninth-grade English class, I think I’ll try to use it that frame more strategically.

What do you think?  Have you used this “frame”? How has it gone?

April 21, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Guest Post: What ELLs Taught Our School In A Week-Long Empathy Project

Editor’s Note: My talented colleague Pam Buric led an extraordinarily successful – on a number of levels – project at our school this month. She agreed to write about it in this guest post. I’ve added a few comments and links that might be helpful if you’d like to do something similar at your school.

Pam Buric has been teaching at Luther Burbank High School for 18 years and has teaching English learners for most of that time. In addition to teaching, she is the lead teacher of a small learning community and the multilingual coordinator for the school site.

A few weeks ago, my EL students were given the opportunity to share their stories with the “mainstream” students at our school.  The idea was dropped in my lap by administration as a means to promote empathy, our school social-emotional learning focus for the month of March.  I was slightly annoyed by the short turn-around time, the fact that my seniors would have to postpone their work on senior projects, and that it was a great idea that wasn’t mine.  I took a deep breath, adjusted my attitude and embarked on one of the highlights of my teaching career.

 “…We are not rich.  My mom doesn’t have a job. What matters most is to have something to eat before going to school….I don’t care if I go to school with an empty stomach.  I can survive a day without meals.  But to my brother, I do care.  He’s just six years old and that’s too young to go to school starving.  I would go to my friends’ houses and ask them if they have any spare food for my brother.  They always help.  But asking someone for something is what I don’t like. I don’t want to owe people.  I don’t have anything to give back.”  — Erisa, Marshall Islands

The stories of the lives of my students are heart-wrenching, poignant, incomprehensible.  They are stories of the harshness of this world and the resiliency of the human spirit.  To observe these students, you would never know… They laugh, they tease each other, they come to school, they work…. On the outside, the seem to be “normal” kids, but they have lived bigger lives than most of us. Almost all of the students expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to receive an education that could lead to endless possibilities.

“Almost every child is involved with the gang…. At this time, if I was in El Salvador, maybe I will not exist anymore in this world…. It was hard coming here.  I had to cross three borders walking, sometimes in a car, but I had a lot of difficulties in Guatemala and in Mexico with immigration.  But this country gave me a lot of opportunities to go to school to prepare me if I want to be something…. I want to change everything to a better life for my family and make them proud of me.” — Ronald came to the US alone at the age of 14.

For one week, my students shared their stories during our class period.  We organized this in the library.  My students sat one-on-one with students from other classes for about seven minutes, then, they moved to another table and another group of students.  During the class period, they told their stories six or seven times. It was gruelling, and we were asking a lot from them.  Their vulnerability and transparency took an emotional toll, and by Friday, a few of them bowed out.  I couldn’t blame them.  Every day, they had been asked to relive tragic and painful memories, and express them in a language that is not the language of their hearts.

(Editor’s Note: Our colleague Nichole Scrivner prepared very useful note-taking sheets for listeners, as well as a prep sheet for teachers of the visiting listeners).

“There were some people who put poison gas around the school, and no one knew about it. After a few minutes, I smelled a really hurtful smell.  And I started feeling dizzy, and all the students were the same as me.  A few minutes after this happened, I was in a situation that I wasn’t able to see around me and I fainted.  When I opened my eyes, I was in the hospital with other students.  I started crying, and I felt really afraid.  My mom was there, and she hugged me.” — Maria, Afghanistan

The effect the students’ stories had on their listeners was profound.  As students and teachers interacted with my students, many wiped away tears as they listened.  The conversation didn’t stop with the ending of the story.  The listeners asked questions that lead to more questions that lead to connections to their own lives.  Everyone involved, storytellers and listeners, came away with a better understanding of the humans at our school.

After the students’ week of telling their stories to students who are not English learners, they had the opportunity to teach the beginning English learners how to write their own stories.  They enjoyed passing on what they had learned and helping the beginners to put their stories into English. After they told their stories to the beginners, my students helped the beginners with scaffolding in the form of sentence starters. After the beginners wrote their own stories, they had the opportunity to read them one-on-one to the students in my class in a rotation similar to the one we used in the library.  

(Editor’s Note: You can see all the stories written by the Beginners at our class blog. Here’s the graphic organizer they used to plan their stories.).

As the teacher of these courageous students, I was blown away.  I know that they participated so readily because I asked this of them.  They trusted me that their stories would be heard with respect and that they would be protected.  They trusted that the students who were listeners would be prepared for what they would hear.  They trusted that their stories would make a difference.  I am humbled by my students’ trust in me.

(Editor’s Note: I’m adding this post to The Best Resources On Helping To Build Empathy In The Classroom – Help Me Find More)

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