Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

November 17, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Oh, Boy, This Is Great! Researcher’s Scans Show Brain Connections Growing When Learning New Language


Photo from Ping Li Lab, Penn State

Regular readers of this blog and/or my books are familiar with how I help students see the physical impact learning new things can have on its brains (see The Best Resources For Showing Students That They Make Their Brain Stronger By Learning). It has a powerful impact on students.

I use that lesson with my English Language Learners, too, as well as helping them see The Advantages To Being Bilingual Or Multilingual.

Today, though, I learned about a brand new study that found, and shows, the direct physical impact learning a new language has on the brain. Showing those images (see the top of this post and in the links below) and excerpts from the study will really bring the point home to my ELL students.

Here’s a quote from the researcher:


Here are links to and about the study:

Learning languages is a workout for brains, both young and old

Second language experience modulates neural specialization for first language lexical tones

Neural changes underlying successful second language word learning: An fMRI study

Learning a New Language Changes Functionality and Structure of Brain Networks

Neuroplasticity as a function of second language learning: Anatomical changes in the human brain

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November 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Places To Get The “Same” Text Written For Different “Levels”

Having the “same” text written for different levels of English comprehension can be a life-saver for a multi-level class of English Language Learners or for a teacher with a mainstream class that includes some students that are facing other challenges. They can be an important tool for differentiation.

But where do you get these different versions other than creating them yourself?

Here are a few sources, and I hope that readers will suggest more:

Newsela provides several “levels” of the same newspaper articles, along with accompanying online quizzes, that students can read and take. For a small fee, Teachers can create a virtual classroom, assign articles and monitor student progress. However, students can read the articles for free without having to pay anything.

News In Levels offers similar resources, but without the ability to track student progress online. The site is free.

For The Teachers has similar leveled articles available for download. It, too, is free.

Breaking News English

Text Compactor lets you paste text into it and then automatically shares different versions with fewer words. It seemed to work pretty well when I tried it.

Rewordify is like a super-sophisticated Text Compactor on steroids. You can read my previous post about it: “Rewordify” Is One Of The Most Unique Sites Out There For English Language Learners & Others.

Reader Laurie suggests Embedded Reading, which has these kinds of similar “leveled” texts in English, as well as in other languages.

I learned about CommonLit from the amazing educator Suzie Boss at her recent Edutopia post. It’s a neat site that doesn’t actually provide the “same” text written for different “levels.” What it does do, however, is provide leveled readings – with prompts — on the same theme. It’s pretty neat.

Books That Grow has a library of texts that have each been edited to be made accessible to different reading levels. And it has some other unique features — teachers can create virtual classrooms to assign and/or monitor what students what are reading and students can click on words that are new to them to see definitions and hear how they are pronounced. They are also planning on adding comprehension questions. The texts can be read on any device.

Everything is free for now, though they plan on starting to charge for some “premium” features in the 2015/16 school year.

You can register now on their sign-up page, and then they’ll contact you by email in a few hours or the next day with registration information. They won’t have a super-easy system in place until January for registering students in virtual classes, but they’ll do it for you prior to that time.

I’m adding this list to The Best Resources On Differentiating Instruction.

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November 15, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“How to Handle Stress in the Moment” Is Best Piece I’ve Stress Management I’ve Seen

Stress management is a critical skill for our students to learn, not to mention being an important one for us teachers, too!

I have a pretty good lesson it in my Self-Driven Learning book (you can download the hand-outs for free), and I also have a popular related “Best” list — The Best Resources For Learning About Teens & Stress.

The Harvard Business Review has just published a short and concise piece sharing various stress management strategies, and it’s excellent. I will certainly be adding How to Handle Stress in the Moment to my lesson and to that Best list. It talking bout stress in the work context, but is easily applicable to any stressful situation.

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November 11, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Quote Of The Day: “When Will I Ever Use This?” (& How I’ll Use It In Class)

When Will I Ever Use This? An Essay for Students Who Have Ever Asked This Question in Math Class is an extraordinary essay by Douglas Corey from Brigham Young University. Though portions are specifically devoted to math, most of it is applicable to any subject.

It was shared on Twitter by Steven Strogatz.

Here’s how it ends:


It’s too long (nine pages) to use “as is” in most of my classes, but I plan on editing it down and asking students to respond to this writing prompt:

What does Professor Corey say is the reason we should learn new things even though we may not see how it can be used? To what extent do you agree (or disagree) with what he is saying? To support your opinion, be sure to include specific examples drawn from your own experience, your observations of others, or any of your readings, including from his essay.

Let me know if you have suggestions to improve the prompt…

I’m adding this post to The Best Posts On Writing Instruction, where you’ll find other prompts.

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November 10, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Two Resources On “Failure”

Here are two new additions to The Best Posts, Articles & Videos About Learning From Mistakes & Failures:

Wearing Your Failures on Your Sleeve is from The New York Times.

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November 9, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Hay Levels” Are New TED Talk-Like British Videos

Hay Levels are a new and fast-growing series of TED Talk-like videos from the United Kingdom.

They are three-minutes each, are designed for “A-Level” students (who are preparing to enter college)and are divided in three areas (Humanities, Sciences and Social Sciences).

You can watch the videos at its YouTube Channel and read more about it in this article at The Telegraph.

I’m adding this info to The Best Teacher Resources For “TED Talks” (& Similar Presentations).

Here are a couple of examples from the Hay Levels:

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November 8, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Excellent Infographic On Growth Mindset

Here’s an excellent infographic on a growth mindset. I’m adding it to The Best Resources On Helping Our Students Develop A “Growth Mindset”:

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November 8, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Excellent — & Free — Resources From ASCD

I’m a big fan of ASCD, the professional support and development organization for teachers. In fact, if you search “ASCD” on my blog, you’ll find that they’re mentioned 237 times!

I thought reader might be interested in some of their more recent free resources:

They’ve just announced that they’re presenting a number of free Common Core-related courses on iTunes U. I’m no big fan of the Common Core, but they are a reality for most of us, and there are a lot of people out there trying to make a fast buck on pushing a lot of garbage they’re saying will help teachers with the new standards. ASCD, on the other hand, has a history of providing some very useful Core-related resources. In fact, you’ll find a number of them on my The Most Useful Resources For Implementing Common Core list. I’m confident that these new courses will be equally as high in quality.

ASCD has also announced a series of free Virtual Learning Network Webinars centered on helping teachers with the Common Core in multiple subjects. I know some of the people leading these webinars, and have confidence in their ability to deliver practical and useful help. You can also access previous webinars at the same link.

Lastly, I want to mention the ASCD In Service blog, which regularly publishes helpful posts like this one: In It for the Long Haul: Four Strategies for Beginning a Virtual PLC.

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November 7, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Here’s A New Reading Activity I Tried Out Today That Went Pretty Well…

As regular readers know, I’m a big fan of students choosing their own books to read (see My Best Posts On Books: Why They’re Important & How To Help Students Select, Read, Write & Discuss Them and The Best Resources Documenting The Effectiveness of Free Voluntary Reading).

With my mainstream students, I begin each class with ten minutes of their silently reading a book of their choice. With my Beginner/Intermediate English Language Learners, I try to do the same thing, but the “silently” part is always tricky. Obviously, many of the Beginners and even the Intermediates don’t know what many of the words in their books mean and they want to learn them. Most have smartphones and can use the translate function on them, and many want to ask their classmates (I can’t be everywhere to help). Of course, I also want to encourage that kind of peer support and discussion. At the same time, beginning the class with a focused quiet activity can help students concentrate and get the class started-off well.

It’s a bit of a conundrum at times — I want students to read high-interest books and want them to engage with each other, but also want to have an environment where students who want to read and concentrate silently can do so and want to create a centering activity for a high-energy class of adolescents. It’s easy for some of those conversations about their books to go off-topic, and having fifteen of these kinds of conversations at once can get distracting.

One strategy I’ve chosen to use to deal with this issue is by telling students if they want to read the same book and talk, pairs can go outside and read. That works well, as long as the weather is warm (fortunately, being in California, we have a high percentage of those days).

Today, I tried another activity that I think will become a once-or-twice weekly event, and may also deal with this challenge. It provides student choice; reading, speaking, listening, and writing practice; an authentic audience; and immediate feedback.

Students came in to find these instructions on the board:

They were given a few seconds to find a partner with whom they wanted to read and then one minute to pick a book. I then explained that they would read to each other — a paragraph at a time — while both students were looking at the words. At the end of those ten minutes, they would pick three new words they saw, write them down on a piece of paper, and learn what they meant. They would also draw a picture representing the book, and write a sentence explaining why they liked or didn’t like the book.

Students were immediately engaged, and chose to take some notes while they were reading. At the end of ten minutes, they worked on that second part of the assignment while I used my phone to take photos of their books and the drawings-in-progress.

Some students were working faster than others, and I sent four pairs outside with a peer tutor and instructions to use the incredibly easy-to-use Shadow Puppet app (see Video: Here Is How I Used The Shadow Puppet App Today To Teach Verb Tenses) to record the pairs saying why liked or didn’t like their book and sharing the definition of one of their new words. It was incredibly easy and fast to use. The entire activity was done within twenty-five minutes.

They returned, it took me about a minute to upload the video to YouTube, and showed it to the class (it’s embedded below). Students love it!

I shared the experience with my colleagues, and they saw how this process could easily and successfully be used with mainstream students, too, perhaps as a quick-and-easy book trailer.

Let me know if you have ideas on how to make this activity even better!

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November 6, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Seven Different Ways You Can Subscribe To This Blog For Free…

Thousands of people subscribe to this blog for free so they can be notified of new posts.

Here are ways that you can, too. You can:

Subscribe by a RSS Reader. One popular RSS Readers is Feedly (though there are many others). You can read about Feedly in this New York Times guide.

Subscribe to email updates through Feedblitz.

Follow me on Twitter, where I share my posts and many other resources.

Follow me on Pinterest, where I share posts and other resources.

“Friend” or “Follow” me on Facebook, where I also share my posts.

Add me to one of your Google+ Circles. If you send me a message there saying you would like to be notified of new blog posts, I will put you in that “circle” so you receive those notifications.

Subscribe to a monthly email newsletter where I share my “Best” lists and my other picks of the best posts of the month.

Hope you find this list of choices helpful!

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November 5, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Wow! Shadow Puppet Is A Great iPhone & iPad App For English Language Learners


I learned about the free Shadow Puppet Edu (what appears to be a premium version of the more commercial Shadow Puppet app) through an article in this month’s ASCD Educational Leadership, and am very, very impressed.

It has a bunch of bells and whistles that I haven’t even explored yet but, at its core, it’s an iPhone/iPad app that lets you pick photos and super-easily (and I do mean easily) lets you add audio narration to each photo and create a slideshow.

Here’s a simple one I made in about thirty seconds:

You can be sure I’ll be using this app on my phone frequently. It’s ease-of-use will make it perfect for English Langauage Learner speaking practice.

I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Beginning iPhone Users Like Me.

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November 4, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

New ASCD’s Ed Leadership Is Online – Here Are My Recommendations


ASCD Educational Leadership is one of my favorite journals, and every month I share my favorite articles from the new issue.

Their November edition has just come online, and it’s a good one on talking and listening.

Here are my favorites:

Talking to Learn is by Elizabeth A. City.

Speaking Volumes is by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey.

I’m adding both of those articles to The Best Resources Sharing The Best Practices For Fruitful Classroom Discussions.

And I’ve already added these next two articles to The Best Resources On The Idea Of “Wait Time”:

Research Says / Get All Students to Speak Up
is by Bryan Goodwin.

All the Time They Need is by Ellin Oliver Keene.

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November 4, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Resources On The Idea Of “Wait Time”

There is more to “Wait time,” typically described as the idea of giving students time to think prior to answering a teacher-asked question, than one might usually think.

I’ve previously posted about it, and this month’s ASCD Educational Leadership has two very good articles commenting on the topic.

I thought I’d bring those resources together in one “Best” list, and invite readers to contribute additional ones.

Here is what I have at this time:

My post is titled An Extremely Important “Take” On “Wait Time” — One That I Hadn’t Thought About Before….

Research Says / Get All Students to Speak Up
is by Bryan Goodwin at ASCD Educational Leadership.

All the Time They Need is by Ellin Oliver Keene at ASCD Educational Leadership.

You might also be interested in all 1,400 “The Best…” lists.

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November 4, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

My Latest British Council Post: “What Does Enhanced Discovery Learning Look Like In The ELL Classroom?”

What Does Enhanced Discovery Learning Look Like In The ELL Classroom? is the title of my latest Teaching English – British Council post.

Here’s an excerpt:


You can see all my past British Council posts here.

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November 3, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

“Fewer bosses. More coaches, please” Applies to Schools As Well As To Business

Fewer bosses. More coaches, please. is a nice short post at Medium by Paul Gonzalez.

Replace the word “management” with “schools” throughout the piece and it can easily be applied to education.

Here’s an excerpt:


I’m adding this post to The Best Resources On “Instructional Coaching.”

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November 3, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Advance Praise For My Upcoming Book On Student Motivation

Building a Community of Self-Motivated Learners1

The third book in my series on student motivation will be published in early March.

Here is some advance praise:

Rick Wormeli, Author of Fair Isn’t Always Equal:

“Truly one of the smartest guys in the room, author and teacher Larry Ferlazzo channels state of the art teaching into one book, compiling the best resources and thinking on student perseverance, particularly in middle and high school. It’s all here: deliberate practice, humor, transfer of learning, flow, autonomy, classroom management, competence, self-determination, feedback, and much more. Want to know the first step to both teaching smarter and motivating students? Move Building a Community of Self-Motivated Learners to the top of the reading stack.”

Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind:

Building a Community of Self-Motivated Learners is another volume of the warm yet practical teaching advice we expect from Larry Ferlazzo. Ferlazzo answers the most pressing concerns teachers have about managing the classroom and reaching the disenchanted or at-risk student—and provides more strategies, lesson plans, and resources than you could use in a year of teaching!”

Mai Xi Lee, Director of Social Emotional Learning, Sacramento City Unified School District, CA:

“Having strong intrinsic motivation is the key to persevering and succeeding in school, college, career, and life. In Building a Community of Self-Motivated Learners, Larry Ferlazzo offers some practical lessons and strategies on how to teach and foster intrinsic motivation for student success. A must-read for teachers as they work to support their students develop strong social emotional learning skills.”

Lara Hoekstra, high school teacher, CA:

“I’ve used the ideas and lessons in Larry Ferlazzo’s last two student motivation books very successfully in my own classroom, and the ones he talks about in this volume have had the same positive impact.”

My publisher, Routledge, is now offering a twenty percent discount on pre-orders for that volume, and offering the same deal on my first two books, Helping Students Motivate Themselves and Self-Driven Learning, until December 31st.

You can read about the discount here, or just use the discount code IRK95 at their website.

You can also get free resources from all my six books here, including downloading all student hand-outs from my previous two student motivation books.

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November 1, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Video: Bloom’s Taxonomy According To Harry Potter

In The Best Resources For Helping Teachers Use Bloom’s Taxonomy In The Classroom, which is — by far — the most popular post I’ve ever published, I include videos using Star Wars, Finding Nemo, Pirates of the Caribbean, and other movies to teach Bloom’s.

Here’s another such video, and this one uses scenes from Harry Potter. Unfortunately, it has embedding disabled, so you’ll have to go to the link on YouTube. Of course, I’ll be adding it to that list….

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November 1, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Experience What It Is Like To Have Attention & Learning Issues


We can all learn to become more empathetic, and I’ve shared a number of online tools designed to help us in that area (see The Best Sites For Walking In Someone Else’s Shoes).

Now, the Ad Council and the organization Understood have created resources to help us begin to experience what it might be like to have learning and attention issues.

First, here are a couple of PSA’s developed by the Ad Council:

Next, here are some interactive online simulations created by Understood.

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October 30, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

“Oh, I Get It! If You Send Me Out, Then I’m Being Bad; If I Send Me Out, Then I’m Being Good!”

I write about positive classroom management strategies a lot (see The Best Posts On Classroom Management) and I’m always learning through everyday challenges.

One student this year is a great kid who is very energetic and can get distracted and somewhat disruptive at times. We’ve talked and experimented a lot, and have found that when he reaches that point, his going outside — to get a drink, got the restroom, or just walk for a minute or two — helps him get some energy out of his system and then is focused when he returns.

Now, we’re at the point where I’d like him to develop more of his own self-control (see The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control) so that he doesn’t wait for me to send him out. Instead, he begins to see the warning signs and goes out on his own (after giving me a subtle sign that he’s headed out).

Yesterday, we started talking about it at lunchtime and, after a few seconds, an excited look of understanding came on his face and exclaimed, “Oh, I get it! If you send me out, then I’m being bad; if I send me out, then I’m being good!”

We spoke a little more about how it’s a little more nuanced than good/bad, but that basically, yes, he got it. During class a half-hour later, he was beginning to get distracted and pointed outside. I nodded, he went out, returned a minute later, and was great the rest of the class.

One day does not a solution make but, perhaps, with a daily reminder at the beginning of class, this might work…

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