Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

July 22, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Liberio Says It Lets You Create eBooks From Google Drive

librero />

Liberio is a new tool that says it will let you turn any Google Drive document into an eBook. It also says it lets you upload and use a document from your computer.

That could be a very useful. However, I was not able to successfully upload any document. That may have been because of their being overwhelmed by new users after being written-up in TechCrunch, or it might be a technical problem with Liberio, or something wrong that I was doing (granted, I’m not super technically-knowledgeable, but I do know how to upload a file).

Let me know if you have better luck. Until that problem doesn’t exist, though, I won’t be adding Liberio to The Best Places Where Students Can Write Online.

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July 13, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
4 Comments

The Best Video Clips On The Benefits Of Writing Well — Help Me Find More

I’m working on a lesson about the value of writing well, and am developing a collection of video clips that might be useful.

Here are the ones I’ve come up with — I hope readers will contribute more:

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July 11, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
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“Thesaurus.Land” Looks Like A Helpful Tool

thesaurus

Thanks to a tweet from Eric T. MacKnight, I’ve learned about a new site called Thesaurus.Land.

It’s an online…thesaurus, and a pretty neat one. You type in a word, as I did with the word “sad” in the above image. Once you click on the arrow/triangle to the left of each word, it will show you synonyms for each one of them.

I’m adding it to The Best Reference Websites For English Language Learners.

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May 4, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Here’s The Writing Prompt I’m Using As Part Of My Final For Ninth-Grade English

'Writing Tools' photo (c) 2006, Frederic Guillory - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

I’ve been sharing the writing prompts I have used, and plan to use, in all my classes — both as formative and summative assessments. You can find them all at My Best Posts On Writing Instruction.

Here’s one I’ll be using with my mainstream ninth-grade English class…

The Most Important Question You Can Ask was recently published by The New York Times. It’s a short essay by Tony Schwartz.

Here’s how it ends:

Personal accomplishments make us feel good. Adding value to other people’s lives makes us feel good about ourselves. But there is a difference. The good feelings we get from serving others are deeper and last longer. Think for a moment about what you want your children to remember about you after you’re gone. Do more of that.

After students read the column, they’ll be responding to this prompt:

What is Tony Schwartz saying should be the most important purpose to people’s lives? To what extent do you agree 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.

In the comments, feel free to share prompts you use with your classes….

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May 2, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
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New Writing Prompt For My U.S. History Class

'Smithsonian National Museum of American History' photo (c) 2008, F Delventhal - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

It’s that time of year, so today I’m preparing writing prompts as part of semester finals for my classes.

For my United States History for English Language Learners class, I will be showing students the video embedded below and giving them the first page of this PDF on why we study history, along with this list from School History on the same topic.

They’ll need to use those resources to respond to this writing prompt:

Watch the video, and read the two lists. In your own words, please share some (at least three) of the reasons they say it’s important to study history. To what extent do you agree with what they are 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.

As always, feedback is welcome.

I’m adding this to My Best Posts On Writing Instruction.

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May 2, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Here’s The Writing Prompt I’m Using For My Geography Class

'Cambridge Univeristy Press: Geography for the IB Diploma: Patterns and Change: Paul Guinness' photo (c) 2010, Richard Allaway - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

As regular readers know, I teach a Geography class for English Language Learners (and will be teaching similar U.S. History and World History courses next year).

Here’s the simple writing prompt I’m using as part of my semester final (you can download it here):

Geography Final Essay

“I was not sorry for loving Charleston or for leaving it. Geography had made me who I was.”
― Sue Monk Kidd, The Invention of Wings

“Do you understand the sadness of geography?”
― Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

“All I ever wanted was a world without maps.”
― Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

Pick one quotation from these three and respond to the writing prompt:

Writing Prompt

What do you think the writer is saying about geography? To what extent do you agree with what he or she 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.

Quotes found at http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/geography?page=1

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April 12, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Simple “History Of Anything” Project

Teacher extraordinaire Diana Laufenberg shared a simple and useful series of tweets about a project she’s doing with her class

She calls it the “History of Anything” Project.

Diana is planning on doing a more extensive write-up of what she does (and here it is – you can ignore the rest of this post and just go to read what she has now written), but I think the info in these four tweets can be useful right now for just about any teacher:

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April 2, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Our New ASCD Educational Leadership Article: “Teaching Argument Writing to ELLs”

One-of-our-guiding

My colleague Katie Hull-Sypnieski and I wrote wrote a lengthy and, if I say so myself :) , excellent article that has just been published by ASCD Educational Leadership.

It’s titled Teaching Argument Writing to ELLs, and it discusses very practical ways to teach writing to Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced English Language Learners — especially in light of the new Common Core Standards. But I think it offers helpful advice even if you’re teaching in a country not using CCSS.

I’m adding it to The Best Online Resources For Helping Students Learn To Write Persuasive Essays and to My Best Posts On Writing Instruction.

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April 1, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Another Good Writing Prompt: Reconciliation

'Mandela Graphic Novel' photo (c) 2007, Michael Sean Gallagher - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

I have lots of useful resources at My Best Posts On Writing Instruction, and it’s also the place I collect posts about the writing prompts I use in my various classes.

Here’s one I’m using in my class right now. We’re ending a unit on Nelson Mandela, but it can be used in other contexts, too.

I can’t take credit for it, though. It was developed by my colleagues Lara Hoekstra, Katie Hull, and Cary Zierenberg, and I have permission to share it here. I’ve modified the process somewhat, though.

First, I ask students to take a minute and write down what they think the word “reconciliation” means. Students come up with some fairly logical guesses, but generally no one has heard of it before that day. I generally bring up two students to the front, tell them to fake like they are fighting each other, and then have them shake hands.

Then, I introduce the the short essay, The Cycle of Revenge Can Be Broken, by Mark Mathabane. As usual, I quickly introduce the essay and almost immediately go to the writing prompt:

How does Mark Mathabane believe hatred can be overcome? To what extent do you agree or disagree with what he believes? Write an essay responding to these questions; to develop your essay, be sure to include specific examples drawn from your own experience, your observation of others, or any of your reading — including “They Cycle Of Revenge Can Be Broken” itself.

We go through our typical process of breaking down the prompt — underlining the tasks the prompt is asking you to do, and then quickly converting it into a simple graphic organizer using the “They Say, I Say, Why I Say It” framework.

California Writing Project member Jessica Mann came up with the idea of having students listen to some Storycorps recordings related to reconciliation and then have students reflect on them so they might have more grist to use in their response to the prompt. I played a few recordings; after each one, I had students answer if they thought reconciliation had been achieved — if so, how and, if not, why? Students first did a pair share, followed by a quick class discussion.

I also slightly modified an exercise developed by my colleague Lara Hoekstra, and gave people a sheet listing seven words/quotes, and had them write for a minute or two on each one:

1. Hatred

2. Forgiveness

3. The worst thing someone ever did to me was…

4. “I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there was a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me, I would not shoot him.” — Malala Yousafzai

5. I forgave…

6. We should treat our enemies….

7. Overcome hatred…

We then began watching Mandela:Long Walk To Freedom, which just came out on Netflix. We’ve been studying Mandela for six weeks, so it functions as a review and the last third highlights the idea of reconciliation. We’re going to watch Invictus, which starts where the “Long Walk” ends, though we’ll probably only watch the first part before students start writing their essay. During the movie, students are taking notes in their outline to help them write their essay.

We began yesterday — Monday — and essays will be due at the beginning of class next Monday.

It’s gone well in the past, and I suspect it will go well now.

Feedback, particularly suggestions on how to make it better, are welcome.

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March 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Excellent (& I Mean EXCELLENT!) Post On Asking Questions

'The Five Ws' photo (c) 2007, Emily Moe - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

MindShift has published an absolutely great post titled Why It’s Imperative to Teach Students How to Question as the Ultimate Survival Skill, written by Warren Berger.

My colleagues and I were just discussing different strategies to help students value the importance of asking thoughtful questions — we’re teaching lessons on the difference between literal and interpretative questions now (I’ve written about those lessons in The NY Times).

This post and writing prompt will be a great addition to that lesson, and to the other ideas I’ve written about in my books and in The Best Posts & Articles About Asking Good Questions.

Here’s the writing prompt students will be responding to after they’ve read the MindShift post:

What is Warren Berger saying about the importance of learning how to ask good questions? Do you agree with his position? To support your opinion you may use examples from your own experiences, your observations of others, and anything that you have read, including this essay.

I’ll be adding this post to My Best Posts On Writing Instruction, where I’ve been collecting various writing prompts.

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February 17, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

WRITE Institute Unveils New Website



As I’ve often written in this blog
, and as my co-author Katie Hull and I have written in our ESL book, The WRITE Institute is a great writing curriculum to use with English Language Learners.

They have just unveiled a new website. I might be missing something, but their new site doesn’t seem to have the ability for teachers to purchase their individual units at $20 each (and they are well worth the price). It seems you still have to go to their old site to order them.

I’ll be looking forward to seeing what kind of resources they’ll be adding to their new home on the Web.

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February 17, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Video (& Writing Prompt): “A failure isn’t a failure if it prepares you for success tomorrow”

John McCarthy shared this short video clip of U.S. Olympic bobsledder Lolo Jones. She begins by sharing her favorite quote (though doesn’t cite the source and I can’t find it online, either):

“A failure isn’t a failure if it prepares you for success tomorrow”

I’m going to show the video to my students, along with writing that quotation on the board. Then, I’ll ask them to respond to this writing prompt:

What is Lolo Jones saying about how we should view failure? What do you think of her view? To develop your position, be sure to include specific examples. These examples can come from the video, anything else you’ve read, and/or your own observations and experiences.

I’m adding this to The Best Posts, Articles & Videos About Learning From Mistakes & Failures and to My Best Posts On Writing Instruction (where I collect all my writing prompts).

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February 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Great Chart: “the differences between teaching writing and teaching writers”

I’m adding this to The Best Websites For K-12 Writing Instruction/Reinforcement (even though it’s obviously not a website):

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January 23, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Writing Prompt For “The Long March”

longmarch

As regular readers know, My Best Posts On Writing Instruction contains, among other things, various writing prompts I use in my classes.

One of the books we read in my ELL U.S. History class is The Long March: The Choctaw’s Gift to Irish Famine Relief. It tells the story of how some survivors of the Trail Of Tears raised money to help the Irish suffering from the Great Potato Famine.

Here’s the writing prompt I have students use:

In the book, The Long March, what is the author saying about helping others in need? What do you think of her views? To develop your position, be sure to include specific examples. These examples can come from the book, anything else you’ve read, and/or your own observations and experiences.

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January 10, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Here’s What I’m Having My ELL U.S. History Students Do As Their Semester “Final”

'Writing Exams' photo (c) 2007, ccarlstead - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I’ve previously posted Here’s What I’m Having My ELL Geography Students Do As Their Semester “Final” and thought readers might find it useful to see what I’m having my ELL U.S. History student do for theirs next week.

The final will be a simple reading followed by a prompt. They’ll be reading Why is studying history important?, followed by this prompt:

According to the author, why is important to study history?  Do you agree with what the author is saying?  To support your opinion you may use examples from your own experiences, your observations of others, and any of your reading (including passages from this essay).

You can see similar prompts and the reasons for their wording at My Best Posts On Writing Instruction.

Feedback on this final, including ideas on how I can make it better, are welcome!

By the way, you might (or might not) be interested in a similar model prompt I’m using with my ninth-grade mainstream classes — Here’s The “Growth Mindset” Article & Prompt We’re Using As Part Of Our Semester Final.

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December 4, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
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This Is Exactly What I Mean By Connecting Social Emotional Learning & Literacy Instruction….

'Self-control (fruit of the Spirit)' photo (c) 2012, Sarah Joy - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

My drumbeat here on this blog and in my books is about the importance of connecting Social Emotional Learning and literacy instruction.

It’s so easy to do, and I’m amazed that so many SEL strategies don’t make that explicit connection.

Here’s a short lesson I’m doing tomorrow that illustrates that connection:

I always teach a lesson on self-control using the famous marshmallow experiment during the first week of school (see “I Like This Lesson Because It Make Me Have a Longer Temper”). And I regularly due quick lessons as refreshers, which you can read about at The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control.

Today, I found a great short video on this topic by Nobel-Prize winner James Heckman, which is embedded below and which I’ll show my ninth-grade English classes.

Since we’ve also been working a lot on writing — specifically on AWPE-style writing prompts (see Writing Prompts — Feel Free To Contribute Your Own!) — I’m going to have them write a short (not essay length) response to this prompt:

In the video, how does Dr. John Heckman define “soft skills” and why does he say they are important? To what extent do you agree with him? To support your opinion, be sure to include specific examples drawn from your own experience, your observations of others, anything you have read, and information from the video.

Bam! Two birds with one stone — a review of the importance on self-control and practice responding to an academic writing prompt. I’m figuring the whole thing will take up twenty minutes, including a quick sharing in partners.

Works for me, works for them….

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November 6, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Student-Created Prompts As A Differentiation Strategy

'Thought on School 2.0' photo (c) 2007, Wesley Fryer - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

I’m very good at differentiating instruction to make lessons more accessible to students facing learning challenges.

Differentiating the other way, however, is another story. And one of my goals this year is to get better at providing a more intellectually stimulating environment for some of my students who want it and/or who I think need it.

As our principal, Ted Appel, succinctly put it, these kind of strategies might fall into two broad “camps” — one that might entail different materials or even a different location and, the other, having students do something different with the same materials everyone else is using.

One way I’ve done the former in the past and during this year is with the formation of independent book discussion groups, which I describe (with supporting materials) here.

A new strategy I’m trying is expanding on an idea suggested by my talented colleague Jeff Johnson, who has his students develop prompts to which they would respond.

After asking which students might be interested in doing more intellectually challenging assignments that are tied to the goals they have made for themselves (which, in my ninth-grade classes, is often “become a better writer”), I asked them to make a list of things they were interested in.

Next, I had individual conversations with them during our silent reading time, pointing out that they had identified they wanted to become better writers. I reminded them that we talked a lot about how good readers often ask questions of their reading, and also reminded them about discussions we had about Bloom’s Taxonomy.

I then gave them a copy of a list of question-starters from Bloom’s (it’s the third page) and told them that sometimes when there might be times when other students are doing one thing, I might ask them to create their own writing prompt using one of the higher-order question-starters. One example I used was if we were reading about tornadoes, they could choose the question-starter “How can you improve_________?” and they might fill in the blank with “tornado shelters.” They would then write a one paragraph response to that prompt using the “ABC” outline (Answer the question; Back it up with a Quotation; Make a Comment or Connection — you can read more about it at My Best Posts On Writing Instruction). It would have to be something in which they had genuine interest. I also told there might be times I’d ask them to create a prompt from the list of things they listed as interests.

I’ve just tried it a little so far, and it’s gone well.

I’d love to hear other ideas from readers about realistic differentiation strategies you’ve used to help your students who desire/need more of an intellectual challenge….

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October 19, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
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If You Want To Write A Book, Or If You Are Teaching Writing, Then “Writer’s Success Academy” Is A Must-See Site

writer

I’m a big fan of author/educator Alan Sitomer (you can see my interview with him here). And, of course, my students love his books.

Today, he has unveiled a free site to help others who are interested in writing a book, and it’s called Writer’s Success Academy.

In addition to being an incredible resource for potential book-writers, many of its materials are great classroom resources for teaching writing, too.

I’m adding the site to So, You Want To Write A Book? Here’s The Best Advice…

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October 13, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
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New Study Says That Half Of “Evidence-Based Practices” In Writing Instruction Not “Signaled” By Common Core

'Writing Assignment - Drafting and Revising' photo (c) 2010, Enokson - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

One day after I posted the last in a three part Education Week Teacher series on teaching writing in the context of the Common Core Standards, a study was released suggesting that over one-half of “evidence-based practices” in writing instruction are not “signaled” in those standards.

This is a quote from one of the researchers in Sarah Sparks’ article about the study in Education Week:

“Standards don’t specify the how to, they specify the what to teach,” Troia said, “but they are supposed to ‘sign-post’ or signal to teachers what they might teach.”

Sarah’s post made the study sound interesting enough for me to pay the $12.50 it cost to get past a paywall.

The researchers identified thirty-six “evidence-based practices” in writing instruction (it was a little unclear to me how they chose them, but I assume they were the practices with the most research behind them) and found that over half of them were not “signaled” in the Common Core Standards. Those included emphasizing feedback, the use of text models, teaching grammar in context, and helping to develop student intrinsic motivation.

The authors really try hard in at several points to say their study is not a critique of the standards but, I’ve got to say after reading the study, it’s hard not to look at it any other way.

I think it’s a worthwhile document for teachers to have. It’s short and concise. It’s an excellent summary of writing instruction research and, even if the CCSS don’t encourage them, that doesn’t mean we can’t…

I’m adding this post to My Best Posts On Writing Instruction.

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