Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

April 8, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

U.S. Department Of Ed Releases Useful Guide On Teaching Academic Language To ELLs


The What Works Clearinghouse at the U.S. Department of Education has just released an updated Guide for Teaching Academic Content and Literacy to English Learners in Elementary and Middle School.

The recommendations are good ones, and it’s always nice to be able to tell one’s administrator that you’re following the recommendations of the U.S. Department of Education :) .

Even though they say it’s for elementary and middle school, I think it’s safe to say the ideas make sense in high school, too.

I’m adding it to The Best Websites For Developing Academic English Skills & Vocabulary.

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April 8, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

The Best Posts & Videos About Sugata Mitra & His Education Ideas

'Sugata Mitra' photo (c) 2012, Campus  Party Brasil - license:

Professor Sugata Mitra and is famous for his “holes in the wall” experiments where he placed computers in impoverished Indian communities and students “self-organized” their instruction. Professor Mitra was awarded the TED Prize last year, and expanded his work with that support.

I’ve previously published some fairly popular posts about Professor Sugata Mitra.

The first post was one where I shared a number of concerns I had about his work (see Questions About Sugata Mitra & His “Holes In The Wall”) and then a guest post in response from Rory Gallagher. Both attracted many comments — particularly Rory’s — and Sugata Mitra also participated in the comment thread. You can find his TED video on the first one.

The third one was I’m Not Sure How Effective It Will Be, But Sugata Mitra’s New Online Tool Definitely Looks Interesting. It’s about his recently unveiled efforts to extend his ideas further.

A few days ago, he spoke at the International IATEFL Conference to ESL/ELT/EFL teachers. Here’s the video of his speech (I tried embedding it, but the embed code isn’t working).

Here’s a follow-up interview he gave to conference organizers.

He received a decidedly mixed response, which you can read about in How Sugata Mitra Annoyed English Teachers (& why I care) at 16 Kinds.

Sugata Mitra: The Ignorant School Teacher?
is by David Deubelbeiss.

IATEFL Harrogate Online: Sugata Mitra (part 2)
is from Blog EFL.

Marisa Constantinides has collected a number of posts about Sugata Mitra’s recent address to ESL teachers.

I’d be interested in making additions to this list, so please contribute them in the comments section.

You might be interested in my other 1,300 The Best lists, too…

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April 7, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

My New British Council Post: “Creating The Conditions For Self-Motivated Students”


Creating The Conditions For Self-Motivated Students is my new post at the British Council Teaching English website.

It includes specific suggestions for teaching English Language Learners, but most of what I write there is applicable to all students.

I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles On “Motivating” Students.

You can see all my previous British Council posts here.

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April 6, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“FiveThirtyEight” & “” Are Two New Free Online News Sites — Here’s What I Think Of Them

'reviews' photo (c) 2011, Margaret Ornsby - license:

FiveThirtyEight, the Nate Silver site that moved to ESPN, opened-up a couple of weeks ago, and Ezra Klein (and colleagues) moved from The Washington Post to create, which was unveiled tonight.

Here’s a quick review of them both…

FiveThirtyEight clearly has more financial resources behind it, though a substantial portion of that will be devoted to sports (I’m a sports fan, but I’m not convinced sports journalism really needs any more players). It covers many other topics, though, and I like that the articles tend to be on the short-side and include easily accessible data visualizations. However, I have to also admit that I really haven’t found any of their articles very interesting so far, and none that have been helpful in the classroom. The site has been getting a lot of criticism, and Nate Silver has been publicly very open to hearing it, so I suspect there will be substantial improvement.

What I’m really looking forward to, though, are their future plans for education coverage. Silver has made it pretty clear he’s planning to get more involved in ed-related issues, and it seems like he’s coming from a good place on them. appears smaller than FiveThirtyEight, but also isn’t covering any sports. I can only base what I think on what I see after one day, and I’m sure there will be many changes in the future. Their articles seem longer (a little too long, if you ask me), but I’ve got to say they all look pretty interesting. They have a unique lay-out that lets them highlight certain words which, if you click on them, will lead to “explainer cards.” It’s a nice feature, though, like their articles, it would be nice if their explainer cards were shorter, too. The videos they have on the site look good. Like FiveThirtyEight, is planning to cover education issues. However, when Klein’s team was at The Washington Post, their ed coverage was pretty disappointing and surprisingly shallow. There’s nothing on the site about education right now.’s big lead story is titled How Politics Makes Us Stupid. It’s interesting (and useful for an IB Theory of Knowledge class), but a bit disappointing. It basically says that people aren’t persuaded by facts — instead, they are moved more by their ideology. Klein interviews a researcher who says what is needed is better communication skills, and then Klein counters with, no, what is really needed are “better structures,” though he doesn’t seem to say what those “structures” might be. Actually, I’d suggest that what is needed is more and better community organizers (among other things — see The Best Posts & Articles On Building Influence & Creating Change).

I’d say keep an eye on them both and see how they develop…

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April 6, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Scarlet Letter” Comes To The UK: Get Good Test Results & You Can Wear Your Own Clothes, While Bad Results Means You Wear School Uniform

'Dunce' photo (c) 2009, ~Pawsitive~Candie_N - license:

Readers might remember the controversy around the southern California high school that issued color-coded student ID’s based on student standardized test scores. They also made students wait in different lunch lines, among other things. See The Best Resources To Learn About High School ID’s & The Scarlet Letter for more information.

Well, a school in the United Kingdom is applying their own version of the idea by letting students who score well in reading tests wear their own clothes while making those who didn’t wear school uniforms. See The Telegraph article, School’s mufti day ban for underachieving pupils ‘equivalent of dunce’s hat.’

I’m sure this strategy is going to be very effective in developing intrinsic motivation and a love for reading — NOT!

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April 6, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

A Bunch Of Student Motivation Resources

'Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink' photo (c) 2010, cdorobek - license:

As regular readers know, I have a particular interest in the topic of student motivation, and my third book on the topic will be out next year.

I’ve been accumulating some related resources, and am putting them all together in this post:

Studies Offer Practical Ways to Bring ‘Growth Mindset’ Research to Schools is an Ed Week post about some recent studies. One of them featured having students read about the struggles experienced by famous scientists, as opposed by focusing solely on their achievements, and resulted in higher student motivation and academic achievement. Here’s an earlier study done by the same researchers with Taiwanese students (the most recent research was with classes in New York) that reached similar conclusions and has a lot of interesting background information. I’m adding this info to The Best Resources On Helping Our Students Develop A “Growth Mindset.”

Teachers told: use ‘not yet’ in place of ‘fail’ when marking is from The Telegraph. It’s about a new guide for UK teachers on how to help students develop a growth mindset. I’m adding it to the same list.

Carol Dweck and others have developed an online program focused on helping students develop a growth mindset around math. They are invited teachers to participate for free. You can find more information about it here.

Here are links to two articles that don’t really provide any new information on motivational issues (at least, they’re not new if you’ve been following this blog). However, they do provide good short summaries on the topic. I’m adding them to The Best Posts & Articles On “Motivating” Students:

Why Incentives Don’t Actually Motivate People To Do Better Work is from Business Insider.

How To Motivate People – 4 Steps Backed By Science is from Barking Up The Wrong Tree.

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April 5, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“The Image Story” Is A Nice Site & Provides An Even Better Classroom Idea


The Image Story is a new site where photographers submit their pictures along with the “back story” about them — their inspiration, gear, etc.

It has some nice photos but, more importantly for me, it gave me an idea for a classroom activity that I hadn’t thought of before (though I suspect someone else has).

What not have students show their own photos and provide their own back story? I don’t think most of the questions The Image Story uses would work, but others would, like:

What made you want to take this picture (or, as The Image Story asks, what was your inspiration)?

Why do you like (or not like) the image?

Who would you want to show the image to and why?

Will this photo be important to you five, ten, or twenty years from now? Why or why not?

I’m sure there are plenty of other questions students could respond to — what your suggestions?

Also, I wonder if a version of this exercise could also be used with images students did not take? For example, showing famous (and not so famous) photos and asking students why they thought the photographer took them and how they think he/she was feeling at the time.

I’m adding this post to The Best Ways To Use Photos In Lessons.

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April 3, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Here Is The Simple Outline I’m Having My TOK Students Use For Their Oral Presentation

'ground 1 outline' photo (c) 2012, Elle Ko - license:

I’ve previously posted about my questions and ideas related to the new changes in the required International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge Presentation (see “The Times They Are a-Changin’”…For IB Theory Of Knowledge Oral Presentations), and invited other teachers to weigh-in, too.

In that post, I shared a downloadable version of the new TOK Presentation Planning Document, as well as links to all the materials and timeline I use in my class related to the Presentation.

Today, I’d like to share two other documents that you might want to download.

The first one is an Exemplar Presentation Planning Document that IB has made available if you can navigate its serpentine website. I think it’s very useful for students and teachers alike.

The second is a new simple outline
I’ve developed for my students to use prior to completing the official Planning Document. It takes into consideration my understanding (which, admittedly, is limited) of the new requirements.

Any and all feedback on it is welcome – it’s working well for my students now, but I’m sure it can be made better….

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April 3, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Free Resources From All My Books

I have many free resources, including excerpts and student hand-outs, available from all my books. Clicking on the covers will lead you to them (and look for two new books being published over the next eighteen months — one will be the third volume in my student motivation “trilogy” :) , and the other will a new book on teaching English Language Learners):


Helping Students Motivate Themselves: Practical Answers To Classroom Problems.


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April 2, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Our New ASCD Educational Leadership Article: “Teaching Argument Writing to ELLs”


My colleague Katie Hull-Sypnieski and I wrote wrote a lengthy and, if I say so myself :) , excellent article that has just been published by ASCD Educational Leadership.

It’s titled Teaching Argument Writing to ELLs, and it discusses very practical ways to teach writing to Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced English Language Learners — especially in light of the new Common Core Standards. But I think it offers helpful advice even if you’re teaching in a country not using CCSS.

I’m adding it to The Best Online Resources For Helping Students Learn To Write Persuasive Essays and to My Best Posts On Writing Instruction.

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April 1, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Another Good Writing Prompt: Reconciliation

'Mandela Graphic Novel' photo (c) 2007, Michael Sean Gallagher - license:

I have lots of useful resources at My Best Posts On Writing Instruction, and it’s also the place I collect posts about the writing prompts I use in my various classes.

Here’s one I’m using in my class right now. We’re ending a unit on Nelson Mandela, but it can be used in other contexts, too.

I can’t take credit for it, though. It was developed by my colleagues Lara Hoekstra, Katie Hull, and Cary Zierenberg, and I have permission to share it here. I’ve modified the process somewhat, though.

First, I ask students to take a minute and write down what they think the word “reconciliation” means. Students come up with some fairly logical guesses, but generally no one has heard of it before that day. I generally bring up two students to the front, tell them to fake like they are fighting each other, and then have them shake hands.

Then, I introduce the the short essay, The Cycle of Revenge Can Be Broken, by Mark Mathabane. As usual, I quickly introduce the essay and almost immediately go to the writing prompt:

How does Mark Mathabane believe hatred can be overcome? To what extent do you agree or disagree with what he believes? Write an essay responding to these questions; to develop your essay, be sure to include specific examples drawn from your own experience, your observation of others, or any of your reading — including “They Cycle Of Revenge Can Be Broken” itself.

We go through our typical process of breaking down the prompt — underlining the tasks the prompt is asking you to do, and then quickly converting it into a simple graphic organizer using the “They Say, I Say, Why I Say It” framework.

California Writing Project member Jessica Mann came up with the idea of having students listen to some Storycorps recordings related to reconciliation and then have students reflect on them so they might have more grist to use in their response to the prompt. I played a few recordings; after each one, I had students answer if they thought reconciliation had been achieved — if so, how and, if not, why? Students first did a pair share, followed by a quick class discussion.

I also slightly modified an exercise developed by my colleague Lara Hoekstra, and gave people a sheet listing seven words/quotes, and had them write for a minute or two on each one:

1. Hatred

2. Forgiveness

3. The worst thing someone ever did to me was…

4. “I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there was a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me, I would not shoot him.” — Malala Yousafzai

5. I forgave…

6. We should treat our enemies….

7. Overcome hatred…

We then began watching Mandela:Long Walk To Freedom, which just came out on Netflix. We’ve been studying Mandela for six weeks, so it functions as a review and the last third highlights the idea of reconciliation. We’re going to watch Invictus, which starts where the “Long Walk” ends, though we’ll probably only watch the first part before students start writing their essay. During the movie, students are taking notes in their outline to help them write their essay.

We began yesterday — Monday — and essays will be due at the beginning of class next Monday.

It’s gone well in the past, and I suspect it will go well now.

Feedback, particularly suggestions on how to make it better, are welcome.

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April 1, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments Launches App ELLs Might Like


I’ve previously posted about, a very useful Chrome extension for people learning another language, including English (see Is A Useful Tool For Second-Language Learners).

In fact, it’s on The Best Websites For English Language Learner Students In 2013 list.

They just launched their first mobile app (it’s Android-only now, but they should have a version for the iPhone, too) that appears to be an engaging flashcard-learning tool and one that automatically identifies appropriate-level Web articles to read. You can learn more about it at TechCrunch.

I’ll have students try it out today in class and, for now, I’m adding it to The Best Mobile Apps For English Language Learners.

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March 30, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“You Really Need To Get A Life, Mr. Ferlazzo”

'GET A LIFE' photo (c) 2010, Acid Pix - license:

I had this dialogue in class on Friday and shared it on Facebook. It got such a positive reaction there, I thought readers here might enjoy it, too:

Me to class: “Email your outlines to me and I’ll send you back comments.”

Student: “When are you going to read them?”

Me: “Over the weekend”

Student: “You really need to get a life, Mr. Ferlazzo.”

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March 29, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Tools for flipping your class”

'back flip' photo (c) 2007, Rachelle Meyer - license:

Ana Maria Menezes, whose Life Feast blog is a must-read for any ESL/EFL/ELL teacher, has just put together an excellent list of “Tools For Flipping Your Class.”

I’m embedding it below, though I’m not sure if it will show up in an RSS Reader.

It’s a pretty exhaustive list, but she’s inviting others to add to it. All you have to do is click “ADD TO LIST.” I’m not sure if you have to go directly to the website to make those additions, or if you can do it with the embedded version in this post. Ana will be checking it regularly to avoid duplications.

I, too, have various “flipped” tools listed on two “Best” lists — The Best Posts On The “Flipped Classroom” Idea and A Potpourri Of The Best & Most Useful Video Sites. I haven’t gotten a chance yet to compare Ana’s list to mine.

Check it out!

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March 29, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

‘Best Practices’ Are Practices That Work Best For Your Students

‘Best Practices’ Are Practices That Work Best For Your Students is the final post in my three-part Ed Week series on the five best practices teachers can use in the classroom.

Today’s post features contributions from Roxanna Elden, Barnett Berry and Pedro Noguera, along with comments from readers.

Here are some excerpts:




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