Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

August 20, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Guest Post: Starting The New School Year


Due to a miscommunication that was probably my fault, I received Maggie Beattie Roberts’ response to my Ed Week Teacher question, “What are the best ways to start a new school year?”, too late to include in my Ed Week four-part series on the topic.

I’ve since added it to the fourth post in that series, and also wanted to share it hear as a guest post to ensure people didn’t miss it:

Maggie Beattie Roberts is a national literacy consultant, author and frequent speaker. She worked for the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project for nearly ten years as a lead staff developer, where she supported teachers, administrators and school districts with literacy instruction and curriculum. Her latest book, DIY Literacy: Teaching Tools for Differentiation, Rigor and Independence (co-authored with Kate Roberts), is out now:

As teachers, we celebrate New Year’s Eve twice a year. We celebrate the first in the company of millions of people. We count down the last few seconds before midnight on December 31, or watch the iconic ball drop in Times Square. No matter the ritual, it is tradition to hold reflections from the past and hopes for the near future as the new calendar year begins.

Our second New Year’s Eve as teachers happens now. And while there is no nationally televised celebration, there are signs that it’s happening: the back to school shopping sales, beginning of the year emails trickling in, summer camps wrapping up. This second New Year’s Eve–the day before the school year begins–is one of the best parts of our jobs as teachers. Our profession is one of renewal; it offers new beginnings each year and extends an annual invitation for reinvention.

Now, there are lots of ways to start off a new school year strongly. Some people start with lists of new goals, while others start with very few goals. No matter your personal restarting style, here are some overall, transferable ways to ensure the best start of a new school year.

Support Your Goals

I’m a fan of new beginnings and I love making a list. So, I tend to start a new year with a laundry list of goals: exercise more, eat healthier, see friends more often. I start off strongly (I’m one of many in the crowded gym in January). But nine times out of ten, I struggle following through on all the goals I made at the start of the year.

It became clear that this was less an issue of follow through and more an issue of the amount of goals I set for myself. In recent years, I’ve narrowed down my list to one or two goals for the start of each school year, like giving authentic feedback in more timely ways or sharing more of my writing process with my students. After setting a short list of goals, I build in support by scheduling check-ins across the school year. Try setting an alert on your digital calendar, picking a common day of the month, or setting quarterly check-ins for the goals. Lastly, I find a friend to share my progress with or, even better, someone who has a shared interest in the same goal. Working towards a goal in the company of others offers both support and gentle accountability that can lead to a more joyful experience.

Build Community

As one of her New Year’s resolutions, a friend of mine joined her local CrossFit community. By the look of her Instagram feed, she is not only building friendships that will last a lifetime, but she’s taking incredible physical risks. The longer she spends with her community, the deeper the bonds become and the more challenges she tackles. And whereas she didn’t start her new workout routine devoid of rigor and new work, it happened in a culture where community and social support was valued equally.

It’s important to remember the power of community amid the busy start of the new school year. There are routines to cover, mandates to launch, assessments to begin. But all of that goes smoother when the classroom community is nurtured from the start.

Think about the ways you form community and replicate it in kid form. Share favorite book titles, read a powerful poem together:

  • Bring in pictures of favorite places and people to decorate a writing or reading notebook.
  • Do a small community service project together
  • Create a Moth-style ( storytelling series where students share stories from their lives
  • Watch a documentary together and have students lead a discussion
  • Have students interview each other and launch a classroom podcast
  • Coordinate collaborative art projects
  • Lead physical team building exercises

Whatever your style, make the time nurture the bonds of your class community, as these bonds are the foundation for intellectual, academic and social risks. (Pick up A Mindset for Learning: Teaching the Traits of Joyful, Independent Growth by Kristine Mraz and Christine Hertz ( to read with colleagues for more ideas of how to nurture strong, authentic communities.)

Aim for Balance

The life of a teacher is one of extremes–from the extreme busyness of a school year to the extreme abruptness of a holiday break. It’s easy to find yourself running on empty as the school year gets underway, craving the rejuvenation a break brings.

During the school year, try infusing the busyness of the new school year with some essence of summer relaxation. Keep your summer reading going, stay enrolled in that yoga class, schedule (and keep) dates with friends or your partner. I color code my digital calendar with the week’s events: work-related events get one color, social and self-care appointments get another color. This gives me an at-a-glance look at how balanced or (more commonly) unbalanced my week is.

Taking care of ourselves is the important work that provides fuel to keep giving to our students and each other during the school year. Leaning on friends, family members or loved ones helps build in small moments of summertime care, giving us the reboot to keep tackling the demands of the year.

As the air begins to cool and the leaves turn, pause for a moment to celebrate the beginning of the year, both for you and for your students. Wishing you the best start to your new year!

August 19, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Zooniverse” Is One Of The Coolest Ed Sites On The Web – I Can’t Believe I’m Just Hearing About It!


Zooniverse is an amazing site where scholars put up projects that require “people-powered research” – for example, attempting to decode formerly secret Civil War telegrams.

It has many projects in multiple subject areas, along with very cool online tools for students to use when doing the research. The site also has lesson plans for teachers to use when introducing students to the site.

A site like this offers real purposes for student learning. I’m amazed that I hadn’t heard of it before today when Stephen F. Knott sent the tweet about the Civil War project. Further exploration led me to all the site’s other features.

I’m going to add it to Best Places Where Students Can Write For An “Authentic Audience,” but it deserves to be on a lot of other Best lists.

Have any readers had experience with Zooniverse before?  Am I the only one around who didn’t know it existed?

August 14, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Call Me Ishmael” Is A Neat Site & Model For Student Book Activity


Call Me Ishmael is a neat site that I learned about through John Damaso’s excellent post, Top 10 ISTE takeaways for English teachers.

It’s very simple – students read a book of their choice, call a number and leave a message telling a short story how it impacted their life. The site’s creator then picks three of these stories each week to (literally) type them out and publish a video with the typing coordinated with the voice message.

Here are a couple of examples:

All the voice messages seem to be embedded on the site, too, and visitors can vote on which ones they think the site should turn into videos.

It’s a pretty neat idea, and I especially like that the voice messages are embedded. That way, even if a video is not made with them, students can still see that their message is posted.

Even if you don’t have students call the number, though, the videos can be used as good models. Students can easily create their own versions of these kinds of “book trailers” by a website like Little Bird Tales or the KnowMe phone app.

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

August 14, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Create Virtual Classrooms With “Awesome Stories” – Plus Students Can Write For An Authentic Audience


I’ve written a number of posts over the years Awesome Stories, the excellent site for free accessible student content on many topics.

Now, for an annual fee of $59, teachers can create virtual classrooms using the site and monitor student progress. That’s nice, though a feature that goes along with that is the one I particularly like – the ability for students (and teachers) to create their own “stories” that can then become part of the site’s content. You can’t beat having an authentic audience for student motivation!

The process to create those stories seems workable for students, though it would be nicer if it was a little more simple – I get wary of anything that requires a ten minute instruction video. But, as I said, it seems like students could figure it out.

Of course, reading the site’s content remains free to everybody.

I’m adding this info to:

The Best Places Where Students Can Write For An “Authentic Audience”

The Best Sites That Students Can Use Independently And Let Teachers Check On Progress

August 14, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

The “All-Time” Best Sources Of Online Images


I have nearly 1,600 “Best” lists and, though they’re all categorized and regularly updated, they can be pretty overwhelming – even to me!

That’s one reason why I have a small number, but growing, newer category of lists call “All-Time Best” ones. You can see All Of My “All-Time” Best Lists In One Place!

This post is another attempt at bringing a little more sanity to these lists.

I’ve just revised and updated The Best Online Sources For Images, but it’s still pretty massive – plus there are a zillion comments with even more recommendations from readers.

Here are my choices of the best – and easiest – sites to use for legally obtaining free images. They’re the ones I use the most. The links on this list are either direct links to the sites or links to my blog posts about the resources. In the case, those posts include the direct links:

“Photos For Class” Is My Favorite Site For Finding Images

“Unsplash” Is A Great Source Of Public Domain Photos & Just Got A Lot Better!

Getty Images Has Just Become The Number One Source For Images In Social Media — Choose From 40 MILLION!

You Can Now Embed Images From Imgur With Automatic Attribution

Pixabay is a good source of public domain images. Here’s a post from Richard Byrne some suggestions on how to use it.

ELT Pics is a project initiated on Twitter to collect photos helpful to English Language teachers.

Feel free to let me know if you think I’m missing any obvious ones that should be on this “all-time” list.


August 13, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Resources On The Study Finding That Reading Books Makes You Live Longer


There’s been a lot of attention, both in this blog and elsewhere, on a recent study finding that reading books can extend your life.

I thought readers might find it useful if I put the best articles/videos about it together in one spot. And, since I’ll be preparing a lesson about it, a “Best” list will help me, too!

You might also be interested in The Best Posts On Books: Why They’re Important & How To Help Students Select, Read, Write & Discuss Them.

Here are the resources (the first two are links to previous posts on this blog):

Statistic Of The Day: Reading Helps You Live Longer

Video: “Reading books could help lengthen your life”

New research shows that people who read a lot live longer is a great differentiated lesson for English Language Learners from Breaking News English.

Readers Live Longer, Plus 4 Other Science-Backed Benefits to Turning Pages is from People Magazine.

Study: Reading May Extend Lifespan is from Voice Of America.

The best reason for reading? Book lovers live longer, scientists say. is from The Washington Post.

Read Books, Live Longer? is from The New York Times.

Do Bookworms Live Longer? New Study Links Reading More Books To Longer Lifespan is from Tech Times.

Book up for a longer life: readers die later, study finds is from The Guardian.

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