Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

January 20, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Ask A Question, Any Question…

'question marks' photo (c) 2007, gillian maniscalco - license:

My Classroom Q & A column over at Education Week Teacher continues to grow in popularity as it enters the middle of its fourth year. The accompanying BAM! Radio Show has also exploded in popularity in only its second year.

I’ve already begun collecting new questions for the next school year, so feel free to contribute one — either by leaving it in the comments section or by sending it to me using this contact form. As you probably know, a wide-ranging group of educators provide guest responses in the column to questions,

Let me know if I can use your name or if you prefer to be anonymous.

And if I select your question, you get to choose a free book from a variety of publishers!

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January 19, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Guest Post On TPR Storytelling – What It Is & How To Do It

I previously invited readers who were familiar with TPR Storytelling to tell me about it, and many responded. You can see many great lengthy comments here and I’ve also added the link to A Quasi “The Best” List On TPRS (TPR Storytelling) For Teaching ESL..

In addition, I’ve invited several to write full-length guest posts.

A big thanks to Martina Bex for contributing this first one!

Martina Bex is a World Languages Curriculum Consultant and former Spanish teacher that lives in Anchorage, AK. She specializes in training teachers to teach language through the study of culture using Comprehensible Input. She regularly publishes world language lesson plans, strategies, and activities on her blog, The Comprehensible Classroom (


I remember sitting in a new-to-district training in 2009 and being asked whether I was familiar with TPRS®. “Sure”, I thought, “Total Physical Response….uh…S! That must be a West Coast addition”. After an afternoon in Michele Whaley’s Russian classroom, however, I knew that I knew nothing about TPRS®. Here’s a crash course to see whether or not you are in the same boat:

While Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling, a teacher provides comprehensible input that contains many personalized repetitions of the language structures being taught. This is achieved through three steps: (1) Establishing Meaning, (2) Storytelling, and (3) Reading. The steps in a TPRS® lesson are simple, and they are effective when employed correctly.

Step 1: Establishing Meaning

A typical TPRS® lesson targets 1-3 structures, which can be any vocabulary term or phrase. The the lesson begins by establishing the meaning of the target structures, and most teachers do this by writing the target structure and its translation on the board.
Establishing meaning image

Step 2: Storyasking

After establishing meaning, the teacher tells a story that employs the target structure(s) using a strategy, called “storyasking”, in which the teacher co-creates the story with the class. Many teachers begin with a basic script that contains variable details. Here is an example of a script for the structure “wants to go”:

Story script image

In this script, the variable details are underlined. Instead of telling these details to the class, the teacher asks the class for the missing information:

Storyasking image
In this way, the class story becomes “Kendra wants to go to Jamaica to get dreads….”.

While the story is being asked, the teacher employs a myriad of techniques: most notably,  circling (asking a series of questions about a single statement in order to provide repetition of the structures that it contains) and checking for comprehension. Click here for tutorials if you are unfamiliar with these strategies: Above all, it is critical that the story remain comprehensible to all students in the class by limiting vocabulary and employing strategies such as circumlocution and translation.

Step 3: Reading

Once the class concludes its story, the students read a short text that contains the target structures. The reading is usually done as a class so that the teacher can continue circling, personalizing, and checking for comprehension. The text could be a written version of the class story, a new version of the same story, or a completely different story that uses the same structures. After the reading, the teacher can choose to provide additional repetitions of the target structures through other forms of comprehensible input and/or opportunities for output. Click here to read more about variations on the three steps of TPRS® and to see demos:

Learn More

Most teachers that use TPRS® on a regular basis often self-identify as “TCI” (Teaching through Comprehensible Input) teachers, because TPRS® is just one of the means by which they provide students with comprehensible input. If you are interested in learning more about TPRS® and other Comprehensible Input strategies, please consider following these blogs:

Crystal Barragan

Martina Bex

Laurie Clarcq

Judith Dubois

Kristin Duncan

Bryce Hedstrom

Cynthia Hitz

Mike Peto

Kristy Placido

Chris Stolz

Carrie Toth

Michele Whaley

Dustin Williamson

Other recommendations:

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January 18, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Quote Of The Day: I Think This Is The Best Article Carol Dweck Has Written

The Secret to Raising Smart Kids is an article by Carol Dweck in this month’s Scientific American, and I think it’s the best shorter piece sharing her work and perspective that I’ve seen.

I can’t think of anything better to share with a colleague who may be unfamiliar with her work.

Here’s a short excerpt, though it won’t be new to anyone who knows her writings:


I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning How To Best Give Feedback To Students and to The Best Resources On Helping Our Students Develop A “Growth Mindset.”

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January 18, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

More Interesting Words-of-the-Year Features

Here are new (and I assume, final) additions to The Best “Words Of The Year” Features For 2014:

My ‘Word Of 2014′: Privilege is from NPR.

You Heard ’Em Here First: Words of 2015 is from The Wall Street Journal.

A ‘Salty’ Word With a Promising Future is from The Wall Street Journal.

The ‘Worst’ German Word of the Year is from The Atlantic.

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January 18, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Useful Free Resources From ASCD

As regular readers know, I’m a big fan of ASCD, the teacher professional development organization, and regularly post about their resources.

Here are some recent ones that I think readers might find particularly useful:

Checking for Understanding: Formative Assessment Techniques for Your Classroom, 2nd Edition is a great book by Douglas Fisher & Nancy Frey. A chapter is available online for free, and it’s worth reading. The chapter is titled Why Check for Understanding?, and I think the section on distinguishing between mistakes and errors is outstanding. I’m adding it to The Best Posts, Articles & Videos About Learning From Mistakes & Failures.

The ASCD Express newsletter’s theme this month was on asking questions, and it’s very good. I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles About Asking Good Questions — Help Me Find More.

Which Book Should I Read To Jump-Start The New Year? is a fun and useful interactive flowchart created by ASCD.

Here are two good recent articles by ASCD leaders on teacher leadership:

Leadership / Meaningful Pathways for Teachers is by Judy Seltz.

What Is a Teacher Leader? What Should It Be? is by Sean Slade.

ASCD board member and Tacoma Public Schools deputy superintendent Josh Garcia is a 2015 Education Week Leader to Learn From. He’ll be presenting a free Ed Week webinar January 21 at 2 p.m. on designing a whole child accountability system. What does that mean, you might ask (as I wondered, too)? Here’s the answer:

To be considered successful in Tacoma, Wash., schools must show they can deliver a lot more than good test scores. They should be able to involve many children in extracurricular activities, attract lots of adult volunteers, and reconnect with teenagers who have dropped out. They need to spark praise from parents and students for providing a safe and engaging place to study. They have to reach into their communities to make sure all eligible children take advantage of district preK and full-day kindergarten.

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January 17, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Guest Post: One Teacher’s Perspective On Common Core Math

As regular readers know, I’m not a huge fan of the Common Core Standards (at least for English), but am now focused on figuring out ways to implement them in the classroom (see A Collection Of My “Best” Lists On The Common Core).

The math department at our school, with the leadership of Gretchen McMeekin, has embraced the new standards with enthusiasm. I have a lot of respect for the judgment of my colleagues, and an enormous amount of it for Gretchen. I’ve invited her to contribute a guest post sharing her thoughts on applying the Common Core Math Standards in our school.

Gretchen McMeekin has been teaching at Luther Burbank High School for 10 years. She is currently the math department head and teaches IB mathematics and Integrated Math 1. She grew up in the Washington DC suburbs and has Undergraduate and Master’s degrees from the University of North Carolina. (Editor’s Note: She’s also a very good basketball player)


Most professionals will never be asked to factor a quadratic or simplify a square root. Most will, however, be asked to critique the reasoning of others. In my 10th year of teaching I have embraced the common core for just that reason. The standards of math practice ask students to be problem solvers with the ability to look at a situation, find patterns, utilize resources, and use math models in order to persevere in solving problems.

I get so frustrated when I see complaints on Facebook about common core: they put up a problem and say I don’t know how to do this. Why aren’t teachers teaching the easy way I learned? I find myself arguing that the new way is actually good and it teaches students number sense. I’ve lately realized this isn’t even the right conversation about common core.

The content standards have not changed that much with the common core. What has changed is the expectation that students can approach a problem before being told exactly how to do it. Students are expected to explain their reasoning and engage with each other rather than just the teacher.

Here’s what I witness in my Freshman Math 1 Classroom:

The problem:

Find the equation of a line that connects the relation





Math explanation for those of you that are not math teachers:

The answer is y=3x-2 because 3 times the x value -2 is equal to the y value.

Ex: 3(0)-2=-2  and 3(2)-2=4 and 3(4)-2=10


The old share out:

Smartest student in class: I got y=3x-2

Teacher: good

Almost Every other student in class: I got that too (because they don’t want to share if they didn’t)


The new share out:

Kong says the equation that links x to y is y=6x-2.  Paul says it’s y= 3x-2.

Teacher: What did Kong do well in his thinking and what did Paul do well?

Kids discussion as witnessed in my class:

Jackie: They both got the starting point right but I think Kong is right because the rate of change is +6.

Richard: no you are wrong

Teacher: Remember your academic disagreement, Richard

Richard: Oh right. I see what you are saying about the change in y, but you forgot to consider the x’s?

Jackie: I don’t think that matters.

Marabelle: I looked at it a different way… if you plug in the point (2,4) it works in Paul’s equation not in Kong’s.

Teacher: Does everyone understand what Marabelle said?

Jackie: Yes. but I still think the rate of change should be 6.

Teacher: Ok, I need everyone to think about this. We know Paul’s equation is right, but how do you get the rate of change of 3 from the table?

Edgar: Maybe because of what Richard said about the x’s?

Jennifer: Right cuz it skips every other so it’s really changing 3.

Teacher: I don’t quite understand.

Kemari: Well, like it changes 6 for 2 so if you break it evenly it changes 3 each 1.

Alexis: Oh, you have to divide the y change by the x change.


These freshman are engaging in academic conversation in the math classroom. They are presenting their arguments and listening to others. Different perspectives are welcome because it helps kids see the problem in a different way. Often they understand each other better than they used to understand me. Right or wrong is no longer the only important aspect of problem solving – the conversation and the ability and willingness to express your opinion is also critically important.

To me the Common Core is about skills that you need beyond high school. The Standards of Math Practice nicely sum up skills we need that we can get from a math classroom.

I don’t think parents would complain about their teacher trying to teach the kids how to spot and explain patterns. They wouldn’t be upset about teachers teaching kids to be good calm logical arguers.  We would all celebrate our children being problem solvers with perseverance.


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January 17, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

This Has Got To Be One Of The Most Useful Sites On The Web For ELL Teachers


I was browsing Pinterest earlier today and came upon this page after searching “infographic language ell”.

Wow, what a treasure chest of useful visualizations!

It’s not quite ready to be added as a fourth to The Best Three Sites On The Web For ESL/EFL/ELL/ELT Teachers, but it’s pretty darn close….

I am, though, adding it to The “All-Time” Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of English Language Learners.

(by the way, while you’re visiting there, you might find my Pinterest Boards useful, too)

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January 16, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Resources About Inductive Learning & Teaching

In the inductive process, students seek patterns and use them to identify their broader meanings and significance. In the deductive process, meanings or rules are given, and students have to then apply them.

I’m a huge fan of using inductive learning, and plenty of research (which you’ll find in the resources on this list) document its effectiveness.

I’ve written many posts about it, and thought it would be useful to bring together a few of my best ones, along with resources developed by others, that explain the inductive process and how to apply it in mainstream and English Language Learner classrooms (feel free to make suggestions of ones I’ve missed):

The British Council has shared a short post that Paul Kaye wrote six years ago that does a great job explaining the difference between inductive and deductive, and he provides a number of practical examples from the language-learning classroom. Check out his article, Presenting New Language.

Here are two British Council posts where I wrote about it:

What Does Enhanced Discovery Learning Look Like In The ELL Classroom?

The picture word inductive model

I’ve written several posts at The New York Times explaining the concept:

Ideas for English Language Learners | Labeling Photos, Sequencing Passages and More

Learn About President Kennedy Using the Inductive Model

Learning About New Year’s Inductively

Get Organized Around Assets is an article I wrote for ASCD Educational Leadership. It includes a section on teaching inductively.

The Best Ways To Modify The Picture Word Inductive Model For ELLs

More Info On Why Inductive Learning Is So Effective

”How Google is teaching computers to see” — Inductively

More Research Showing Why Inductive Learning Works

The Picture Word Inductive Model In Science & Social Studies

How to Teach an Inductive Learning Lesson is by Jennifer Gonzalez.

Learning Inductively Works…

Web 2.0 Tools For Beginning English Language Learners – “Padlet”

Picture Word Inductive Model with High school Newcomers by Wendi Pillars is an exceptional step-by-step description of how to use one of my favorite ELL teaching strategies.

“Thinking Like A Scientist Can Help Overcome Allure Of Appearances”

Study Says Ability To Identify Patterns Key To Second Language Learning

“Szoter” Will Become A Key Tool For ELL Students & Teachers

“Thinglink” Could Be A Great Tool For ELL’s

What Can Teachers Learn From Target?

“We Should Celebrate Mistakes”

This Is The Best Lesson Plan On Punctuation I’ve Ever Read

Is This The Most Important Research Study Of The Year? Maybe

How to Help Our Learners Discover English is from Gallery Languages.

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