Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

August 18, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Guest Post: “Connecting with Students to Impact Learning: A teacher’s reflection around Pokémon Go”

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This is a guest post by Linda Bauld. Linda is the director of the National Board Resource Center, which provides support for teachers pursuing National Board certification and promotes accomplished teaching. She taught in elementary school for 23 years in high-needs schools. Bauld received her Board certification in 2006, and since that time has been supporting candidates while also teaching. She received her M.A. in Education and Reading Specialist credential from San Francisco State University, with a focus on language acquisition and literacy. She also spent 7 years as a teacher researcher using lesson study to research effective lesson design in math and language arts.

Editor’s Note: Readers might also be interested in A Beginning Resource Collection On Pokemon Go & Education.

As a National Board Certified Teacher, I know that knowledge of my students is the crucial first step in reaching them and impacting their learning. So when I heard about the incredible popularity of the game Pokémon Go I was curious to learn about its features.

I have seen the impact when a teacher can quickly reach a student by referencing a video game character, location, action, etc.  So for those of you teachers who haven’t played Pokémon GO, I share some tips to use and things to think about.

Pokémon GO develops traits that help students learn. To succeed it takes perseverance, collaboration, inquiry, strategy, and risk-taking. You even must avoid the temptation to cheat …the same as in the game of learning!

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Perseverance: As I slowly moved up the levels in this game I realized it develops patience. Early levels take only 10,000 points to level up, while at Level 20 it takes 50,000. TIP: If students struggle with a difficult math concept or new academic skill, you can ask them if they play Pokémon GO. If they do, ask them what level they’re on and how long did it take to get there? Or did they notice the increased difficulty as they moved to higher levels? Remind them they know how it feels to persevere because of the level they’re on. Think about: What might we be doing to restrict perseverance? Is the grade, pressure, or class environment causing the shutting down process? Or is our instruction too difficult too soon? Few people would play this game if it started at 50,000 points to move up a level!

Collaboration: I started going up to people and asking for help. I didn’t try to pretend I knew everything. It was interesting to see what happened when I asked for help. Others came around to hear the tips being shared. Haven’t we seen this in our classroom when we make the environment safe for students to ask for help and make mistakes? TIP: Students collaborate naturally over winning a game. Remind them how this collaboration helps them succeed.  Ask what is something they learned about Pokémon GO from a friend?  Think about: Never does Pokémon GO roll its eyes, sigh, yell, or say to me, “I already showed you how to do this.” How can we treat students like video games treat them?

Inquiry and Strategy: Throughout the game I never really knew what I was doing. I would try things and watch what happened. I also asked questions of pretty much anyone who was playing. Wondering why helped me figure out new strategies. If I had been afraid to fail, would I have explored? TIP: Remind students about their successes in games. Ask them how they first learned about using Great Balls or Incense?  Did they click and observe?  Think about: How can we make inquiry less risky?

Risk-taking: I was scared the first time I battled for a gym. I didn’t know what I was doing (I still don’t), but I tried anyway. I kept pressing my Pokémon and lightning shot out of it! So exhilarating! Amazingly, I won and discovered my avatar, NBCTlinda, was listed as the trainer.

In Pokémon GO, if you lose you just revive your Pokémon, so it’s not a big loss. If you win, you get more points. This way the game keeps you engaged and invested. TIP: If students are reluctant to try something new, ask if they have captured a gym. If yes, ask them to describe how proud and excited they felt. Think about: How can we manage the risk so failure (losing the battle for a gym) doesn’t come with such a high cost? How can we duplicate the thrill of seeing our accomplishments celebrated without rankings and shame?

And what about the temptation to cheat? Well, apparently there are programs that can fool the game into thinking you’re walking, collecting Pokémon, and collecting items. Just as in the game of learning, if you cheat, you are robbing yourself of the pride of accomplishment and leaving yourself open to feeling like a fraud. TIP: Ask students if they used a BOT program or know someone who did. How did it make them feel? Think about: It’s a great discussion about who really loses when a person cheats.

As your school year starts, I hope these tips help you reach more students. Pokémon GO creators have cleverly mastered the conditions for successful learning. We educators would be wise to explore these conditions and develop them more fully into our practice.

August 1, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Three New Resources On The World’s Different Cultures

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One of my most popular, and longest, “Best” lists is The Best Sites For Learning About The World’s Different Cultures. Here are three new additions to that collection:

The pros and cons of culinary traditions receiving UNESCO status is from Eater and discusses iconic food traditions from around the world.

Your Thoughts: What Does It Mean To Be A ‘Feminist’ In Your Country? is from NPR.

Americans Are Shrinking, While Chinese And Koreans Sprout Up is also from NPR (here’s a cool interactive – Spanish – showing the same data).

June 22, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Guest Post: Teaching English Language Learners With Special Needs

I published a two-part series on teaching English Language Learners with special needs in my Education Week Teacher column in March.

Unfortunately, I just discovered that I had misfiled an important contribution to it from Dr. Paul Boyd-Batstone. I’ve now added it to one of the two columns, and am also publishing it here as a guest post.

The Ed Week question was:

What are the best instructional strategies for working with ELLs who have special needs?

Here’s is Paul’s bio and response:

Dr. Paul Boyd-Batstone is Chair of the Department of Teacher Education at California State University, Long Beach.  He has worked in public education for almost 30 years as a bilingual teacher, reading and language specialist, and professor of language arts and literacy.  He has write five books in the field including his most recent book, Helping English language learners meet the Common Core:  Assessment and instructional strategies. Eye on Education (2013).

These are two very big questions because they involve multiple factors including socio-economic status, schooling environment, family involvement, cultural differences, and cognitive processing issues on the part of the students; not to mention linguistic issues such as literacy in the primary language and access to quality materials in first and second languages.

Asking for strategies is not the starting point with closing the achievement gap. What we need to be asking for first of all is what systems support all students. When I use the term “systems,” I refer to coordinated efforts of the entire educational community. Schools where all students are supported begin with administrators who have been entrusted with adequate budgets, facilities, and resources to address a coherent vision for achievement.  Teachers are supported with materials, tools, and time to plan and confer with each other and families about their students’ progress. Business communities open up sites for field trips, internships, and celebration of achievement. Families of all cultures and language populations have a place to network and learn how best to work with their children in a North American schooling community. 

Let me share one example of a very cost effective approach one urban school employed.  This school’s population was over 85% ELL, low income, and consequently, low achieving academically.  But the principal had a vision to create a parent center.  He received funding to hire support teachers to run the parent center.  The teachers opened the center for drop in times before, during, and after school.  Parents received classes from the community on family medical and dental resources, how to write a resume, and how to interview for a job.  They also received classes in English, but in the context of using English to help their own children with their homework. 

During the school day, the parent center functioned as a tutoring hub for the entire school.  Classroom teachers could refer students to the center for help with their schoolwork.  The teachers in the center would utilize the tutoring opportunities to show parents how to help their children.  Even illiterate parents were taught to sit with a child as they read, and to ask simple questions like, “What does that word mean?” and “Where does the text say that?”  Members of the surrounding business community provided coffee and snacks for parents.  And parents were encouraged to organize themselves as boosters for the schools programs. 

This kind of systemic model costs money in the form of teacher salaries, facilities, and materials; but it was an extremely cost effective support that engaged the entire school community for the benefit of the students.  The net impact was a dramatic increase in academic achievement as measured by classroom performance as well as standardized test scores.

Students with special needs require systemic approaches, as well. More recently Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) has gain a lot of attention, but the body of research support is still very slight.

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May 30, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
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I’m Adding “Zing” To List Of Sites I’m Having Students Use This Summer

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Zing is a great reading site that’s been on The Best Sites That Students Can Use Independently And Let Teachers Check On Progress list since it began.

Today, though, I notice for the first time it has a substantial catalogue of categorized Social Studies books, specifically for U.S. History.

It’s free, though it offers some features that make it a lot easier to assign books to virtual classrooms if you pay just $10 a year, which I have done.

I’ve added it to Updated: Here Are The Sites I’m Using For My Summer School “Virtual Classroom” for my English Language Learner students who will be taking U.S. History next year. A few of the books have specific “elearning” exercises, which look decent. Most have a “Show What You Know” tab at the end. For those, I’m just asking students to write the three things they found most interesting and why.

May 21, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Parent Engagement Resources Galore!

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Regular readers may know that my first book was on parent engagement in schools, and that I’ve been publishing a related blog for the past several years, Engaging Parents In School.

This school year, though, I’ve been too busy to write regular posts there. However, I do publish a weekly list of new and useful links on the topic there.

Over the summer, I’ll review those links and update my fifty “Best” lists on parent engagement.

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