Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

May 11, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

Two New & Useful Resources For Ending The School Year Strong

Here are two new additions to The Best Ways To Finish The School Year Strong:

Reflection Questions for Teachers and Students: A School Year Like No Other is from Colorin Colorado and is especially good for English Language Learner students and their teachers.

May 8, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

All My Thematic “Best” Lists For Beginning ELLs – In One Place!

As regular readers know, I’ve been creating updated thematic lists for Beginning ELLs to take the place of my outdated website.

Here are links to all of them so far, and I’ll add new ones and I create them:

The Best Resources For Helping Beginner ELLs Learn About Jobs

The Best Resources For Helping ELLs Learn About Sports & Other Fun Activities

The Best Resources For Helping ELLs Learn About U.S. Money

The Best Resources For Helping Beginner ELLs Learn About Space & Planets

The Best Resources For Helping Beginner ELLs Learn About “Feelings”

The Best Resources For Helping Beginner ELLs Learn About Animals

The Best Resources For Helping Beginner ELLs Learn About Health

The Best Resources For Helping Beginner ELLs Learn About Community, Signs & Transportation


May 5, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Resources For Learning About The Value Of “Self-Explanation”

The Harvard Business Review just published a piece on “self-explanation” and described it this way:

The approach revolves around asking oneself explanatory questions like, ”What does this mean? Why does it matter?” It really helps to ask them out loud. One study shows that people who explain ideas to themselves learn almost three times more than those who don’t.

I’ve previously shared resources around this concept and thought it would be useful to bring them all together in a short “Best” list (you might also be interested in Best Posts On Metacognition):

Talking to Yourself (Out Loud) Can Help You Learn is from Harvard Business Review.

Should Students Explain Their Thinking? Not Always, Research Saysis from Ed Week. It’s a helpful study, though I think it uses a “straw man.” It basically says that student self-explanation is effective as long as they’re giving a correct one. It’s difficult for me to believe that many teachers don’t use guidance to ensure that this is the case. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen researchers use straw men to prove their point.

The “Best Learning Techniques” Are Useless If Students Won’t Do Them — A Critical Take On A Well Done Study

“What I Cannot Create, I Do Not Understand”

Self-Explanation as a Study Strategy for Math is from The Learning Scientists.

Self-Explanation: A Good Reading Strategy for Bad Texts (& Good) is from Thinker Academy.

Self-Explanation and Metacognition: The Dynamics of Reading

May 4, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

My Two Education-Related Star Wars Resources


From the Star Wars site:

“May the 4th be with you.” What started as pun warmly shared by fans has become a full-fledged Star Wars holiday: Star Wars Day, a special once-a-year celebration of the galaxy far, far away.

Here are a couple of related resources:

First, awhile back I wrote a column for Education Week headlined What ‘Star Wars’ Can Teach Educators About Parent Engagement.

Secondly, here’s a video included in The Best TV/Movie Scenes Demonstrating A “Growth Mindset”:

Let me know if you have other Star Wars education-related resources!

May 3, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Advice On Protecting Our Digital Info

This post was originally titled “Tech Danger Alert!” but I have since turned it into a “Best” list.

Readers are probably aware of the massive Google Docs Phishing effort going on, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to send this alert – read about it at:

The Google phishing attack: what we know and how it works is from Vox.

Did Someone Just Share a Random Google Doc With You? is from The Atlantic.

Hey: Don’t Click That Weird Google Docs Link You Just Got (and Tell Your Mom Not to Click, Either) is from New York Magazine.

Email Attack Hits Google: What to Do if You Clicked is from The New York Times.

And, while you’re at it, read this new Harvard Business Journal piece, Why You Really Need to Stop Using Public Wi-Fi.

Protecting Your Digital Life in 8 Easy Steps

Public Wi-Fi Users Neglect Basic Security Precautions Against Hackers is from NBC News.

May 3, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

The Best Ways To Handle Fidget Spinners

(This post was formerly titled “Fidget Spinner Wisdom.” I’ve been adding to it since it originally appeared, and decided to turn it into a “Best” list)

Complaints by teachers on social media about “fidget spinners” have recently skyrocketed.

It hasn’t yet hit our high school in full force – I’ve only seen two students out of my 130 with ones. When – and if – they become ubiquitous, I might feel differently, but for now it seems to me that the best advice for us teachers would be to “chill out.”

Or, as teacher Doug Robertson has just written:

In addition to reading his full post, The Worst Thing About Fidget Spinners, I’d encourage you to check out The ASIDE blog’s post, Schools, Please Don’t Ban The Fidget Spinner – 9 Reasons Why This Is The Best Possible Fad.

Let me know if you disagree…

For more background on the fad, read Vox’s Fidget spinners, the latest distraction craze, explained and/or Live Science’s Fidget Spinners: What They Are, How They Work and Why the Controversy.

ADDENDUM: Those Darn Spinners are Going to be the End of Me!!! by Matt McCullough

Fidget Spinners: Good Or Bad For Kids’ Concentration? is from NPR.

Another link to the above tweeted resource.

May 1, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

How Are You Using Instagram For Teaching & Learning?

I’ve only used Instagram sparingly – primarily for vocabulary videos for my English Language Learner students (see The Best Resources For Learning To Use The Video Apps “Vine” & Instagram) and some Theory of Knowledge class clips.

Tonight’s PBS New Hour segment on Instagram (see video embedded below) really opened my eyes, though, on its enormous reach.

I began to search for recent posts on how teachers are using Instagram, and found a couple that looked recent and informative – 8 INSTAGRAM HACKS FOR TEACHERS from Education To The Core and 7 Ways Innovative Teachers Use Instagram from MashupMath.

I’d love to hear from others who are using it, and I’ll publish responses in a follow-up post.

May 1, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

Guest Post: How One District Supports Personalized Learning

Editor’s Note: I’ve shared a lot about “personalized learning” (see The Best Resources For Understanding “Personalized Learning”), and invited Dr. Lynell Powell to share about the exciting work she is doing in her district.

Dr. Lynell Powell is a professional learning specialist with Virginia Beach City Public Schools focused on the implementation of personalized learning. She is also passionate about bringing joy to schools. You can visit her website.

One of the greatest challenges to any change initiative is teacher buy-in. Beyond an initial excitement about the possibilities, a true commitment to the process is needed to sustain change. With this in mind, when Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) set out on a course to create personalized learning opportunities for students, we used an approach that tapped into the knowledge, expertise and creativity of teachers.  Over 100 teachers and specialists applied to serve as Design Fellows and were empowered with helping the division to create examples of what personalized learning looks like in the classroom. This leading and learning opportunity placed teachers at the forefront of making personalized learning a reality.

Personalized Learning by Design

We used design thinking to tackle the work because it represented an adaptive challenge that would require the teachers to adopt a mindset that embraced ambiguity, empathy, action and a willingness to share what they were learning as they were trying new things.  I can remember during our initial meeting, many of the design fellows were expecting a model to implement. Our response: You are here to create that model. This was exciting, but a bit daunting at the same time. Although these teacher leaders were up for the challenge, they had some assumptions about personalized learning, questioned how it would fit into a system of rigorous standards and pacing, and struggled with some of their own professional and classroom dilemmas. This made them the ideal group to lead the shift because they represented the voice of those who would be responsible for doing the work.

Design Fellows work to make personalized learning visible in Virginia Beach City Public Schools.


Design thinking allowed this group to enter the work in a manner that was personal and reflective. It also reinforced the power of risk-taking, gathering feedback and sharing what was learned. Janice Bennett, third- grade teacher, shared that she felt encouraged during this process to “strive for progress and not perfection.”  The design fellows also learned first-hand the significance of the learning that occurs in the process as well as major implications for their classroom practice. High school Spanish teacher Shawnda Hinton shared, “Working as a Design Fellow has given me a new outlook on my instructional practices. I have begun to reimagine the role of the student in the teaching process. As a result, I am learning to release some of my control and allow students to take responsibility for their learning.”

As one of the facilitators of the work, my primary role was to support the design fellows in capturing their learning and moving their work forward. It became clear early on in the process that teachers were more willing to nurture and cultivate a change effort when they had ownership in it and levels of choice in how to proceed. The design fellows took great pride in the fact that their work was not only transforming their classrooms, but shaping an entire division’s understanding of personalized learning. They were change agents.  

Making Personalized Learning Visible

As a result of the design process that the teachers engaged in we were able to identify essential components of personalized learning and to surface critical questions for determining what constitutes personalized learning.  The design fellows have worked to show the actionable strategies aligned to each of the essential components in a variety of ways and are creating ripples in their schools and throughout the division. Those critical questions are proving to be particularly helpful in identifying approaches or learning structures that are truly personalized.

Essential Components of Personalized Learning

A Critical View of Personalized Learning

Supporting, Celebrating and Sharing the Work

The Design Fellows’ work has been regularly highlighted through the use of social media (Twitter #vbplearn), blogs (blogs.vbschools/pgi), classroom tours and a Design Fellow showcase. We have begun to offer professional learning opportunities, some which are facilitated by design fellows, and created a website (www.weebly.vbplearn) in order to provide resources to teachers. But even more powerful is watching teachers grow and challenge themselves to do what they know will yield positive results for student learning. As eighth- grade social studies teacher Anthony Nobles put it, “It’s how I always wanted to teach.”


Additional Resources:

Teachers Tackle Personalized Learning in VBCPS Classrooms

Personalized Learning: A Critical View

Design Fellows Exemplify the Shift in the Role of the Learner

Educator Competencies for Personalized Teaching

Design Fellows in Action: Student Journaling Using Google Classroom


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