Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

November 22, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

I Can’t Decide If “Write & Improve” Is The Best Or Worst Site To Help ELLs Improve Their Writing


I’ve written a lot about my ongoing search for a helpful an online site that would help all students, and particularly English Language Learners, develop their writing – one that would have model essays, graphic organizers, accessible explanations of errors, etc. Though none have met my hopes, I have collected some that try at The Best Online Tools That Can Help Students Write An Essay.

In my ideal site, teachers would also have access to student first drafts. If we don’t, then we likely wouldn’t see many common errors in our students writing – it might be possible that students correct errors pointed out by the program without any real understanding of why the error was made and the rule behind its correction. That’s just one of many issues I have with computer grading of essays (see The Best Posts On Computer-Graded Essays).

This all brings me to the new – and free – Cambridge English Write & Improve site.

It’s very easy to use – student just copy and paste what they’ve written and, within seconds, the site will give you feedback on writing mechanics. I was very impressed with the quality of the feedback – it caught many essays and, even more surprisingly, offered accurate alternatives. The quality of the feedback the site gives is tons better than the feedback a writer would get from, let’s say, Microsoft Word.

A big problem, however, is that, though the feedback appears to very accurate, it give no explanation of why the word choice might be incorrect. So a student would write an essay with many errors corrected, but I wouldn’t know what those errors were and wouldn’t know if the student understood the reasons why they were errors.

Of course, one huge advantage to students using this tool would be that teachers could concentrate on the “big picture” of student writing and not have to pay as much attention to spelling, grammar and punctuation basics. That might make it more suitable to higher-intermediate, advanced and English-proficient students who, with luck, will have made it past many of those kinds of mistakes.

Some of my concerns would be alleviated if the error explanations were more clear or, at the very least, included a link where a student could learn more about the concepts.

I’m also confused by the “notebook” set-up of the site. You can create “notebooks” with assignments for others in a closed group, but it’s unclear to me how the “owner” of the notebook can access members’ writing, or if that’s even possible. If it is doable, that would make it more attractive to teachers.

What do you think? Do you have suggestions for ways to deal with my concerns?

Thanks to CASLS & EFL Classroom 2.0 for the tip.

ADDENDUM: See a comment left by the site’s creator in response to this post.


November 21, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Videos For Educators In 2016 – Part Two


Another day, another end-of-the-year annual “Best” list (you can find all 1,600 Best lists here).

You might also be interested in:

The Best Videos For Educators In 2016 – So Far

The Best Videos For Educators In 2015 – Part Two

The Best Videos For Educators In 2015 – So Far

The Best Videos For Educators In 2014 – Part Two

The Best Videos For Educators In 2014 – So Far

The “All-Time” Best Videos For Educators

The Best Videos For Educators In 2013 – Part Two

The Best Videos For Educators In 2012 — Part Two

The Best Videos For Educators In 2012 — Part One

The Best Videos For Educators In 2011

Part Two Of The Best Videos For Educators — 2010

The Ten Best Videos For Educators — 2010

And you might also want to see The Best Funny Videos Showing The Importance Of Being Bilingual — Part OneThe Best Videos Illustrating Qualities Of A Successful Language LearnerThe Best Video Clips Demonstrating “Grit”; and The Best Fun Videos About Books & Reading.

You might also want to check out The Best Video Collections For Educators ; The Best Video Clips On Goal-Setting — Help Me Find More ; The Best Movie Scenes, Stories, & Quotations About “Transfer Of Learning” – Help Me Find More! ;  The Best Funny Videos To Help Teach Grammar – Help Me Find More ; The Best Videos About The Famous “Trolley Problem” and The Best Videos For Teaching & Learning About Figurative Language.

The Best TV/Movie Scenes Showing Good & Bad Classroom Discussions

The Best TV/Movie Scenes Demonstrating A “Growth Mindset” – Help Me Find More

The Best Movie/TV Scenes Demonstrating Metacognition – Help Me Find More

The Best Videos About The Importance Of Practice – Help Me Find More

The Best Videos Explaining Gravitational Waves (In An Accessible Way)

I’ve also written a guest post for Edutopia titled 5-Minute Film Festival: 8 Videos for ELL Classrooms. You might find it useful.

Here are my choices for The Best Videos For Educators In 2016 – Part Two (some may have been produced prior to this year, but are just new to me):

In this video, sponsored by Bill Gates, “The 71 Most AMAZING Innovations of All Time” are described chronologically.

I’m adding it to The Best Websites For Teaching & Learning About World History and to The Best Sites Where Students Can Learn About Inventions.

Here’s a new video from the American Museum of Natural History that I’m adding to The Best Websites For Teaching & Learning About World History:

I’m adding this video to The Best Sites For Learning About Immigration In The United States (which I just completely revised and updated):

I’m adding this video to The Best Sites For Learning About World Refugee Day:

I’ve previously posted many pieces about StoryCorps, including their exceptional video animations.

Recently, they began a joint project with Upworthy to create a series of animated videos called #WhoWeAre, “a campaign to share the stories of every Americans, build compassion, and offer hope to a divided nation.:

You can see all of them here.

They’re short and very visually engaging. Here are a couple of their most recent ones:

Raising Barriers is a three-part interactive video series from the Washington Post that’s appearing this week.

It examines the rise of border fences and walls throughout the world.

I’m adding it to The Best Sites To Learn About Walls That Separate Us.

Vox shared this terrible video of the destruction in Aleppo.

I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About What’s Happening In Syria.

As regular readers know, I love TED-Ed.

However, earlier this year they blew it big time with a very bad video and lesson on Henrietta Lacks (see Disappointing New TED-Ed Video & Lesson On Henrietta Lacks).

Today, through the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans , I learned about this video created by students at a KIPP school in Oakland.

It includes all the information that TED-Ed left out of theirs:

I’m adding this video to The Best Resources For Learning About School Desegregation (& Segregation) – Help Me Find More:

The PBS News Hour aired an important segment:

You might also be interested in the multi-part series I published about the Flint crisis. You can find links to all my eleven related “Best” lists at Part 11 – Best Resources For Learning About Flint Water Crisis.

This video is is way too long – 47 minutes – but it is well done:

President Obama spoke at opening of The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture. You can read more about it at this Washington Post article, African American Museum opening: ‘This place is more than a building. It is a dream come true.’

I’ve embedded the video of his speech (he begins at the nine minute mark) below. Here’s the transcript.

He talks a lot at the beginning about the importance of story-telling and what he says meshes very well with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s popular TED Talk, “The Danger Of A Single Story.” Many teachers use it in the classroom now, and I think portions of the President’s speech would be an excellent addition to those lessons.

You can find more info on that idea in two previous posts:

“the danger of not having your own stories”

Useful TED-Ed Lesson On “The Danger of a Single Story”

I’ve added this info and video to The Best Resources On The Smithsonian’s African-American Museum.

Apart from a forgettable part with Sal Kahn (see Because Khan Academy Doesn’t Receive Enough Attention, Sal Khan Featured In TED Talk PBS Special Next Week), I thought September’s TED Talks “Education Revolution” show on PBS was fairly decent.

It was much, much better than their last one, though that one was so bad they couldn’t really go anywhere but up (see Complete Unedited Versions Of Last Night’s TED Talks On Education (Including Bill Gates & His $5 Billion Boondoggle).

The real surprise to me was the section beginning from twenty-two minutes in and ending at about the thirty-second minute. Victor Rios, who I’m embarrassed to say I had never heard of prior to the show (you can learn more about him at this PBS News Hour segment from a few years ago, One Man’s Journey From Gang Member to Academia), gave a must-watch talk on grit and resilience – with a very different perspective than those who say “Let them eat character” (see The manipulation of Social Emotional Learning).  His talk was followed by an excellent short film on undocumented students in Georgia who want to attend college.

Here are a couple of excerpts from his talk:



Here is the entire video (which may, or may, show up in an RSS Readers0:

I’m adding this info and video to The Best Resources For Learning About The Importance Of “Grit.”

KQED Mindshift hosted a Facebook Live session with me in August on “10 Strategies to Help Students Develop Intrinsic Motivation to Write.”

I’ve embedded the forty-minute video below. It seemed to go well and received quite a few positive comments. I kept it very practical. Feedback is welcome!

I’m adding this to The Best Posts on Writing Instruction.

This is a fun video – I hope all our students were as excited as he was to start a new school year!

“Welcome To The Fourth Grade” is a very impressive video teacher Dwayne Reed created to welcome his new fourth grade students.

You can read more about it at TIME Magazine.  Thanks. to Jonas Chartock for sharing it on Twitter.

This is a great video for Geography classes, BUT I wish the narrator didn’t talk so fast!

Here’s an intriguing new video segment from the PBS News Hour (you can read the transcript here):

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

“The five major world religions” is an older TED-Ed lesson and video, but it’s new to me.

I’m adding it to The Best Websites To Learn About Various Religions (& English), which I’ve just completely revised and updated.

I gave a presentation to the California Teachers Summit at California State University in Sacramento. Here, I’ve added audio to my PowerPoint presentation.

My talk will eventually be posted at the California Teachers Summit YouTube Channel but I don’t know when that’s going to happen, and I’m also not sure if the video will just be me talking or if it will including the slides, too.

So, I figured getting it out this way would be most useful to teachers, particularly as we all are planning for the upcoming school year.

Any and all feedback is welcome!

I’m adding it to The Best Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Resources.

Many of us have students who have fled gang violence in El Salvador and, unfortunately, some of them may very well be deported back there.

Here’s a new fascinating video about what some teens do there in an attempt to help the community and escape the violence:

Here is an incredible video for the Rio Paralympics.

I’m adding it to:

The Best Resources On The 2016 Rio Olympics

The Best Video Clips Demonstrating “Grit” – Help Me Find More


The Telegraph newspaper publishes a series of “Explained – In 60 Seconds” videos about current events (though they sometimes also include coverage of more “gossipy” topics).

Unfortunately, they don’t have a central place on their website where you can access them all in one place.

However, they do have a YouTube playlist that appears to be about three weeks behind in publishing their newest ones.

You can also search “Explained – in 60 Seconds” on their website.

I’m adding it to The Best Online “Explainer” Tools For Current Events.

Here’s a sample:

I have several videos on The Best Resources For Helping Teachers Use Bloom’s Taxonomy In The Classroom list that are of the “Bloom’s Taxonomy According to _______” genre (The Simpsons, Star Wars, etc.).

Here’s a new one using the Disney movie, Monsters Inc. (it’s not as good as some of the others, but still useful):

I learned about this video from Vox, and I’m adding it to The Best Websites For Teaching & Learning About World History:

Let me know about videos I’ve missed!

November 18, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Fake News & Information Literacy Resources


Fake news and its role in the Presidential election has been in the real news this week, and here are some related additions to The Best Tools & Lessons For Teaching Information Literacy – Help Me Find More:

How online hoaxes and fake news played a role in the election is from the PBS News Hour:

10 Ways to Spot a Fake News Story is from How Stuff Works.

The plague of fake news is getting worse — here’s how to protect yourself is from CNN.

Of course, there’s the Snopes site to find out what is true and what isn’t true.

November 17, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Remembering “Breaking The Plane” Solved My Classroom Problems This Week


On Monday and Tuesday of this week, my English Language Learner classes were going fine, but students in my Theory of Knowledge classes were restless and not very focused.

I initially attributed it to a combination of nervousness over the implications of the Presidential election and eagerness for our week-long Thanksgiving break to begin on Friday. Then, this morning on the way to work, I realized, as I said in the last paragraph, that there didn’t appear to be any issues in my ELL classes and that the problems were taking place in my  afternoon TOK classes. I then began reviewing in my mind if I was doing anything differently in the classes since, really, my instructional moves are generally similar — lots of small group work, movement, fast-pace.

All of sudden, Doug Lemov’s phrase, “Breaking The Plane,” came to me. It’s the catchy term he uses to describe the age-old teacher move of not staying in front of the class and, instead, moving around the room(you can read his piece, What is ‘Breaking the Plane’?, which is on The Best Posts On Classroom Management list).

I’ve been feeling tired this week (I guess I’m ready for the break, too!) and realized I had been lazy in my afternoon TOK classes and not been “breaking the plane” – I’d been hanging out on my stool in the front.

This afternoon, I shook-off my tiredness in the afternoon and went back to “breaking the plane.”

Everything went back to normal.

Even though moving around the room is a common classroom management strategy (and one constantly encouraged Jim Peterson, our principal), I’m not sure if I would have identified the problem and the “fix” so quickly if it wasn’t for Doug’s easily remembered catchy phrase.

Another example that words do matter!

November 16, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

How Can A Mainstream Teacher Support An ELL Newcomer In Class?



In addition to teaching full-time in high school during the day, I’m on the adjunct faculty in the teacher education programs at California State University, Sacramento and the University of California, Davis.  I’m finding an important question keeps on cropping up in:

How do I teach a newcomer, with next-to-zero English proficiency, who is placed in my mainstream classroom without any additional outside support being provided?

Unfortunately, I suspect that this is a very common issue for teachers across the United States – a newcomer is “parachuted” into their classes and they’re told to “integrate” the student into their instruction.

I have a number of ideas, but I also wanted to invite readers to contribute their own suggestions – it’s one thing to provide instructional strategies to help intermediate and advanced English Language Learners in a content class.  However, it’s an entirely different issue when you have thirty relatively English-proficient students in a class and you’re then given a newcomer to teach, too.

I’ll be publishing a post with my ideas, along with recommendations shared in the comments by readers….

You might also be interested in The Best Sites For Learning Strategies To Teach ELL’s In Content Classes.

November 14, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

The End-Of-Year “Best” Lists Are Coming!



It’s that time of year again – I’ll begin posting end-of-the-year “Best” lists during Thanksgiving break!

In the meantime, you can review all my mid-year lists at All Mid-Year 2016 “Best” Lists In One Place.

I also got a head-start last month posting a couple of year-end lists early:

The Best “Words Of The Year” Features For 2016

My Best Posts On New Research Studies In 2016 – Part Two

November 13, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

There Are 8 Different Ways You Can Subscribe To This Blog For Free

Over fifteen thousand people subscribe to this blog for free so they can read its posts without ever having to directly visit this site. They use the RSS Reader, Flipboard or email options. Thousands of others get notified of posts’ headlines and then decide if they want to visit and read it – they use the Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter or Google+ alternatives. Nearly six-thousand readers visit this blog daily.

Here are all the different ways your can subscribe – with links to them:

I recently created a Flipboard Magazine for this blog, so that’s a newer way way to read my posts. The posts seem to sometimes be delayed by a few hours but, other than that, it seems to work fine. You can read Sue Waters post to learn about other ways Flipboard can be used.

Subscribe by a RSS Reader. One popular RSS Reader 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!

November 13, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Resources From All My Blogs

In addition to this blog, I regularly post at several other sites:

Engaging Parents In School:

Larry Ferlazzo's Engaging Parents in School Site

Weekly Posts At Classroom Q & A With Larry Ferlazzo:

Periodic Posts At The New York Times Learning Network on Teaching English Language Learners:

New York Times Learning Network

Periodic Posts at Edutopia:


Monthly Posts At The British Council – Teaching English

MY CLASS BLOGS (the World History, U.S. History and Beginner & Intermediate ones are very current)

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