Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

April 18, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Deliberate Practice Redux

I’ve posted a lot about deliberate practice (see The Best Resources For Learning About The 10,000 Hour Rule & Deliberate Practice), include recent criticisms of its importance.

I’m prompted to write about it again after seeing this tweet today:

You’ll find resources on the Hambrick study the tweet refers to at my previously mentioned “Best” list. The tweet did prompt me to wonder if Karl Ericsson ever wrote a response to it. I discovered he did and, among other critiques, he says that Hambrick included many studies in his review that did not really include the elements of what Ericsson had originally identified as important to deliberate practice.

I don’t believe that there is anything like a silver bullet for anything, and I don’t think Ericsson really ever suggested, or suggests, that deliberate practice is one. However, I do think that others have interpreted it that way.

In searching for Ericsson’s response, I came upon a piece written by Duncan Smith, who writes a blog called Red-Green-Code. He offers what I think is a pretty fair description of both “sides” of the talent/practice debate, and also hits on what I think is the key point of it all.

Can any person with average physical and mental abilities reach a world-class level of expertise in any skill by following a practice system designed by an expert instructor for a sufficient length of time?

Even after making the usual caveats, like excluding 5.5-ft NBA hopefuls, this question will generate opinionated responses. But while it’s an interesting scientific topic, it’s often not the question that people really care about when they’re trying to improve their abilities. The more relevant question for this purpose is:

What is the most efficient way for me to get better?

The advantage of this question is that regardless of which side of the nature/nurture debate you’re on, once you choose a skill, the answer is the same: deliberate practice.

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April 18, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

It’s Time To Start Thinking About The “Summer Slide” – Here Are Resources To Help With It

Plenty of research documents the “summer slide” — that many students, particularly those in low-income communities, lose academic skills during that time.

I have a full lesson on this issue in my new book on student motivation, and I also have lots of resources and ideas at The Best Resources On The “Summer Slide.”

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April 17, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Ways To Finish The School Year Strong

Wow, the school year has gone by fast, and it’s time to start thinking about how to end it well.

I’ve written and/or published a number of related resources over the years, and thought it was time to bring them all together — for your benefit and for mine.

Feel free to leave suggestions for additions in the comments section.

Here goes:

Finishing the School Year Strong is an excerpt from one of my books. That link is to its site on Education Week. Edutopia also republished it.

Ideas for English-Language Learners | Celebrating the End of the School Year is a piece I co-wrote for The New York Times Learning Network a couple of years ago. I’ve written a new version, and that should be published there in early May.

Here’s The End-of-Year Goal-Setting Activity I’ve Done With English Language Learners – Including Worksheet & Video

Here’s The Latest Reflection/Goal-Setting Sheet I’m Using With Students

What Do You Do To Keep Students (& You!) Focused Near The End Of The School Year?

What Do You Do On The Last Day Of Class? (Part Two)

Here is a two-part series over at my Education Week Teacher column:

Ways to Use Class Time During the Last Two Weeks Of School

This post offers suggestions from two exceptional teacher authors: Roxanna Elden and Donalyn Miller.

Ideas for the Last Two Weeks of School — Part Two

This piece includes responses from three great educators: Chris Wejr, Alice Mercer and Bill Ivey.

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April 16, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Quote Of The Day: “A scientific look at the art of teacher talk”

A scientific look at the art of teacher talk is the title of a report from Eureka Alert on a new study.

Here’s an excerpt:


Those findings probably won’t sound surprising to most teachers, but it would be interesting to learn more about the study. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it online, though I did locate a preliminary presentation the authors did that I really didn’t understand. This is the website of one of the authors, so I assume it will be posted there at some point.

I’m adding this post to The Best Resources For Learning How To Best Give Feedback To Students.

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April 16, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

All Of My “All-Time” Best Lists In One Place!

April 14, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Managing Student Cellphone Use In Class

Over the years, when it comes to student cellphones in class, I’ve moved from outright hostility to begrudging acceptance to looking at them as an overall benefit (though not unreservedly)– at least, for English Language Learners and for my IB Theory of Knowledge classes. You can read more about my concerns at The Best Posts On Student Cellphone Use In Class — Please Contribute More.

Though they can be a huge help for English Language Learners, they can also be a distraction.

This week, because of its growing distraction, my colleague Alma Avalos and I had conversations with our Beginner and Intermediate ELLs.

After a reminder of the lesson we did earlier in the year about the famous Marshmallow Test, we wrote two columns on the board labeled “Yes” and “No.” We then asked students what cellphone use they thought would be appropriate and not appropriate in class.

As you can see from the two photos below (the first one was from Intermediates, the second from Beginners), students came up with good lists. Then, everyone agreed to follow the list and agreed that the phone should be taken away for the period if the agreement is violated.

The whole exercise only took about fifteen minutes. And, though I did have to take one cellphone away since the discussion, it’s been much less of a problem.

I hope it lasts!



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April 14, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Here’s How We’re Using “WhatsApp” For Language-Learning


Ever since Joe Mazza encouraged me to sign-up for Voxer, I had been ruminating about how it could be used by my Beginning English Language Learners. But Alma Avalos, the extraordinary bilingual aide who is my colleague, came up with an even better idea.

Readers might, or might not, be familiar with the WhatsApp instant messaging app bought by Facebook. Alma suggested that, since many students already have the app on the phone, why not have all of them download it and use it for homework English practice?

So, we easily set-up a Group Chat for the class. At the end of the school day, Alma texts and records a simple audio question (“What did you eat for lunch today?”). She models a response in text and in audio, as do I. Then students have until the beginning of our class at 10:00 AM the following morning to write and record their response. Everyone in the group chat can see and listen to everyone’s responses. Students can receive extra credit for either asking another question or responding to an extra question.

We’re just beginning, and it seems to be going well. I’d love to be able to figure out an easy way to be able to post students’ recordings on our class blog, but there doesn’t seem to be a way. You can email a chat to yourself, but you receive a list of texts (which is useful), and a separate audio file for each voice message. It’s just too time-intensive to deal with clicking on each individual audio message. I wish there was some way to be able to access it on the Web, but that process seems to be a bit convoluted and won’t work with an iPhone.

Does anyone know of another way that Whatsapp can be accessed on the Web in order to play recorded messages for the class? Even though everyone in the Group Chat can already hear them on the app, people would still enjoy hearing them played in class. Plus, I think hearing what the Beginners are doing might inspire enthusiasm for doing something similar among Intermediate students.

How are others using Whatsapp for language learning?

I’m adding this post to The Best Resources For Learning About Homework Issues.

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