Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

May 17, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

“TweenTribune” Provides The Same Text At Different Levels AND A Virtual Classroom – For Free!


Thanks to reader Vincy Murgillo for letting me know about the Smithsonian’s Tween Tribune.

It provides daily news stories, with the same one edited several times for different reading levels. The stories also have self-scoring quizzes and provide decent “critical thinking” questions that students can respond to in the comments. On top of that, teachers can create virtual classrooms to monitor it all, as well as moderating student comments.

And it’s all available for free!

I’m adding it to:

The Best Sites That Students Can Use Independently And Let Teachers Check On Progress

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

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May 17, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Somewhat Interesting Video: Duckworth & Yeager Talk About Their New “Grit” Paper

A few days ago, I wrote a somewhat popular post titled Measurement Matters….Maybe Not So Much. It was about the new paper written by Angela Duckworth (of “grit” fame) and David Scott Yeager (a researcher of “growth mindsets”). The paper is titled “Measurement Matters:Assessing Personal Qualities Other Than Cognitive Ability for Educational Purposes.”

Emily Hanford shared a video the two of them made talking about the paper, which I’ve embedded below. There’s nothing particularly new about it if you’ve read their paper, but it was somewhat interesting to hear them talk about it.

I hadn’t seen videos like this before where researchers talk about a paper that has just been published. Maybe it’s a common practice but, if it isn’t, it seems like it would be a nice way to help laypeople gain a better understanding of research.

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May 17, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

My U.S. History Class Blog Has Now Been (Almost) Completely Updated


I’ve spent this weekend, and the entire school year, updating my various class blogs. So far, I’ve shared about my ones for World History and for IB Theory of Knowledge.

I’ve now almost completed updated my U.S. History Class Blog for English Language Learners. It follows the chapter sequence found in Steck-Vaughn’s “America’s Story” textbook, but certainly the sequence would be useful for any U.S. History class.

I still have to add a post or two covering events from the last few years but, other than that, I think it’s fairly complete.

You’ll also find a lot of student-handouts that you can download, particularly in the first two-thirds of the chapters. Feel free to use them in your own classes, but please don’t distribute them commercially.

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May 17, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

My Summer Plans & How They Will Affect This Blog

There are three more weeks of school left, including two insane field trips. May all of us finish the year strong!

I thought some readers might be interesting in hearing about my summer plans and, if you’re not, feel free to stop reading :) .

My big project will be authoring, along with my colleague Katie Hull, a sequel to our surprisingly popular ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide. I’m very confident that teachers are going to find this one as, if not more, useful than our first one! Our manuscript deadline is September 1st, and it should be out in the first part of 2016.

Because of the work involved in writing it, I anticipate publishing fewer posts here over the next few months. I also expect many of the ones I do share will be collections of thematic links instead of posts highlighting individual resources. Of course, in June I will also start publishing my usual mid-year “Best of 2015 – So Far” lists, too.

One key lesson I’ve finally learning from authoring eight books over the last eight years has been that, after this one is done, I’ll be reducing my output to one every two years, instead. That seems to me to be a much more sensible schedule, one which I should have begun following long ago.

New episodes of my BAM! Radio Show will stop appearing in early June and will begin again in September.

I’ll be taking a break from covering new questions-and-answers over at my Education Week Teacher column beginning in late June and then begin again sometime in September. Of course, I will post my usual thematic compilations of past posts there over the coming months, along with a handful of interviews I’ll be doing with education authors.

Along with all those tasks, I plan on spending time with family, continuing to play basketball several times each week, and do some lesson preparation for the fall.

I hope you have a great summer!

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May 16, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Here Are Forms Students Will Be Using To Evaluate The Class & Me

It’s that time — three more weeks left in the school year!

As usual, one of the final activities students will be doing is completing anonymous evaluations of the class and me. I’ve written quite a bit about this process, and you can see all of those posts at The Best Posts On Students Evaluating Classes (And Teachers).

Also, as usual, I’ll be posting the unfiltered results, which I also share with my colleagues and administrators. I think that students tend to take the process a little more seriously when they realize that I make the results public. Interestingly enough, The Washington Post republished my report on the results from one of my tougher classes awhile back.

I’ve used various forms for these student evaluations, and you can download them in the previously mentions “Best” list. This year, though, I thought I’d do something different and, instead of looking at those previous sheets, I just created them from scratch.

Here is the form I’m using for my English Language Learner World History and U.S. History class, and here’s the one I’m using for my IB Theory of Knowledge class. I haven’t gotten around to creating one for my ELL English/Geography class, but will share it when it’s complete.

Take a look at what I’ve got, and feel free to share any suggestions for how I could make them better!

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May 16, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

My Almost Complete World History Class Blog

world history

This year, I taught World History to English Language Learners, and it was the first time I had taught it in several years.

To support instruction, I created a World History Class Blog. It has what I think are the most accessible online resources out there to English Language Learners.

Though it specifically follows the chapters in our textbook, Access World History by Great Source (by the way, thanks to Mary Ann Zehr for originally sharing it with me), it pretty much follows the chronology of events that most World History textbooks use.

Feel free to use it with your classes and to also recommend other resources I should add it to it.

Right now, it’s missing resources for the final two chapters, but I’ll be taking care of that in the next week or two…

One difference, though, between this one and the blogs I have for my other classes is that you won’t find uploaded materials that I use for lessons, and you won’t find student examples of work. But I still think the online resources on it are very useful.

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May 15, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Reading Strategies, Student Engagement, & The Question Of “Why?”

I’ve never been entirely happy with my understanding of “reading strategies,” how they’re supposed to work, and which are the best ones.

I don’t think I’ve ever done a great job helping students understand how and why “reading strategies” (which, in my experience, have been ones like asking questions, visualizing, prediction, connecting, summarizing, evaluating, etc.) work, and, in fact, I’ve primarily used them as less a “reading strategy” and more of an “engagement strategy.” Even though our ninth-grade English curriculum is composed of very high-interest nonfiction texts, I can’t imagine how I’d get a good number of our students to really read them if I didn’t have those sort of “strategies” as assignments to apply either alone or with a partner.

Of course, the best way to become a better reader is to read, so, along with reading for pleasure, having students read these texts helps them become a better reader, including through developing additional background knowledge.

There has been a fair amount of criticism of spending a lot of time teaching reading strategies, particularly from Dan Willingham and Robert Pondiscio – two thinkers whom I highly respect. How Reading Strategies Can Increase Student Engagement is a post I wrote a couple of years ago on this issue, which including a useful dialogue in the comments section.

Dan Willingham elaborated on some of those criticisms recently in a Washington Post excerpt from his recent book and Grant Wiggins has written a post critical of the piece. The post is worth reading, though he bills it as “Part One” and I think his next one is going to be a “must-read.” (it is — you can find it here). I suspect that post, as have many of his other recent ones, will end up on The Best Posts On Reading Strategies & Comprehension – Help Me Find More!

My big “takeaway” today, though, is an older post that Grant linked to and which led me to one by Kristen Swanson titled Are You Addicted to Teaching Reading Strategies?

She shares a useful list of signs that show if you are addicted to reading strategies in your classroom. Here, as far as I’m concerned, is the “money quote” from it that really prompted this somewhat “stream of consciousness” post:

Sign 3: Students can’t explain why a certain strategy should be used in a certain situation.
Students use strategies so that they can meet the expectations in the classroom and get a good grade. They aren’t sure WHY they actually use these strategies, and they can’t explain WHY when you ask them.

It seems to me that, in addition to needing to spend more time becoming more familiar with the research on reading comprehension, one simple thing I could do — after students become familiar with the “reading strategies” I do use in the classroom — is to ask them which ones they are finding helpful, how and why and in what situations.

Though we do a similar exercise with the instructional strategies (asking students to describe, for each one, what it is, why we do it, how they think it helps them, etc.) we use in class, I can’t believe that I’ve never done it with the reading ones. Perhaps some of my colleagues have, but I haven’t heard them talk about it, and I’ll certainly be asking around.

Have you had this kind of discussion with your students around reading strategies?  If so, please share how it went in the comments section.

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May 13, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

A Simple Game Using Academic Language

Playing gamesCreative Commons License Jos van der Hoek via Compfight

I have previously written an article in Edutopia (along with my colleague, Katie Hull) about English-Language Learners and Academic Language.

One of the strategies included in the article was a short regular activity I do using words from an Academic Word List (there are various versions freely available online). Simply put, I explicitly teach three words a day in a very fun and engaging way, and then students divide into groups to practice using them.

Last week I tried a fun game as a review that worked very well. I’m sure other teachers have used something similar, but — for me — it was an original idea :) .

Students divided into small groups of two-to-four each and their groups were composed of students from the same “level” (I have a combination Beginner and Intermediate class, and each of those two levels learn different academic words. Each group was given a small whiteboard, marker and eraser, along with their Academic Language Notebooks (where they kept track of the words they were learning).

I explained the rules. Students would be given two minutes to write a sentence correctly using academic words they had learned. For every word they used correctly, they would receive one point. So, if they used three in one sentence, their team would receive three points. They would need to underline the academic words in their sentence, and assign a person to stand and read it. Once they read it, I would determine which words were used correctly and award the appropriate number of points. Afterwards, they would be given another two minutes to develop a sentence using new academic words and assigning a new person to read them to the class.

It was a lot of fun and engagement was at a very high (at times, too high) of a level — sometimes it was difficult to get everyone to listen to the group spokespeople. Not only was it an effective reinforcement activity, and was great for formative assessment, too. We did four rounds, and then they were given an opportunity to “bet” the points they had already won and could write two sentences using new words.

Let me know if you have suggestions of other useful games to use with academic language, or ideas on how to make this one even better!

I’m adding this post to:

The Best Ideas For Using Games In The ESL/EFL/ELL Classroom

The Best Websites For Developing Academic English Skills & Vocabulary

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