Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

June 29, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Am I Missing Something, Or Are There Very Few Online Tools That Can Help Students Write An Essay?

Girl in a classroom World Bank Photo Collection via Compfight

I’ve got a ton of tools on The Best Places Where Students Can Write Online. Many let you create picture books, create multimedia projects, and write a blog.

But hardly any provide any scaffolded support for a student to actually write a “standard” essay.

John Spencer’s Write About site, which I’ve previously written about in “Write About” May Be The Education Site Of The Year offers some of that.

A site I learned about today called Write Well has some potential, though its scaffolded instructions are pretty meager and there are no models.

What are tools that you use that I don’t know about?

Here’s a Twitter exchange with a good caution and that also shares what I think would be helpful:

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June 26, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Getting Student Writers To “Buy-Into” Revision

Many teachers, including me, have experienced the struggle of getting our students to buy into seriously revising their original drafts.

I’ve tried modeling my own writing process, and have met with limited success.

I’ve previously posted this sixth-grader interviewing President Obama. He cut the President off when he began talking about students needing to revise their writing, and that reflects many students’ feelings about it:

I was prompted to think about this by finally getting around to reading a late March New York Times column titled What’s More Important to You: the Initial Rush of Prose or the Self-Editing and Revision That Come After It?

I thought that this excerpt, in particular, would be a good one to share and have my mainstream students (I think it might be too difficult for my ELLs) respond to a prompt along the lines of:

According to Cheryl Strayed, what kind of relationship do original writing and the process of revising it have with each other? Do you agree with her? To support your opinion, be sure to include specific examples drawn from your own experience, your observations of others, or any of your readings.


What strategies do you use to get students invested into revising their writing?

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

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June 26, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Video: “Watch President Obama deliver eulogy at Rev. Pinckney’s funeral”

Here is a video of President Obama’s moving eulogy at Reverend Clementa Pinckney’s funeral this afternoon. Here’s the transcript. I’ve also embedded some tweets sent during the service (Here’s a fascinating analysis of if by James Fallows):

I plan to highlight this next quotation in history class:

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June 2, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

I Think The Amazing Card Trick Shown In This Video Could Be Modified Into A Fun ELL Writing Activity

I just saw this video (the first one embedded below) of an amazing card trick on YouTube. In it, a man in a pub uses a deck of cards to tell a story.

It got me thinking about adapting it into a fun writing activity for English Language Learners.

I wonder what would happen if I gave groups of two-or-three students ten cards, and asked them to use them to tell a story – they would have to use a card in each sentence (One day the old King went out for a walk. He saw six red birds…)?

This video might not be the best to show as an example, since the accent is thick and they are also obviously drinking in a bar. However, I did a quick online search and was surprised to learn that storytelling card tricks appear to be fairly common, though the idea is new to me. Unfortunately, most of the ones I saw were inappropriate for classroom use (sexism, among other reasons). But I did find another version of the first one that had clearer pronunciation. And, of course, a teacher could quickly create his/her own model. The last video I’ve embedded is a TED Talk version of this kind of card trick — starting at around the four minute mark.

I don’t think I’ll have time this year to try out this idea since we only have five days left of school, but I’ll definitely put it in my “back pocket” for the future.

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May 24, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

This Is The Geography “Final” For My ELL Students

It’s finals time. Here is the final I’m giving to students in my English Language Learner Geography class (you can see other finals I’ve given in that class here and here).

I’ll be giving students a two section packet of short quotations from Geographers saying why learning geography is important, as well as this short piece, 9 Reasons to Study Geography, from Brainscape.

In addition, they will watch this short video from National Geographic:

I’ll ask them to use all that material to respond to this writing prompt:

According to the writers and/or the video, what are reasons why it is important to study geography (you only have to pick four of them)? Do you agree with what they are saying? To support your opinion you may use examples from your own experiences (including what has taken place in our class this year), your observations of others, and any of your reading.

As usual, please let me know your ideas on how to make this better!

I’m adding this post to The Best Posts On Writing Instruction, where you’ll find a long list of other prompts I use in my classes.

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May 11, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Here Are Some Examples Of Using “Concept Attainment” In Writing Instruction

I’ve written and shared on this blog and in my books about the inductive learning method called concept attainment. Basically, teachers placed examples, typically (though not always) from unnamed student work, under the categories of “Yes” and “No.” The class then constructs their own understanding of why the examples are in their categories. It’s a great tool for many lessons, and I like it especially for grammar and other writing. You can read more about it at The Best Resources About Inductive Learning & Teaching.

My exceptional colleague Lara Hoekstra has developed concept attainment charts she looks to model quick-writes for an immigration unit we teach. I’ve written before how we use ABC (Answer the question; Back it up with evidence; Make a comment or connection) and PQC (Make a Point, use a quotation, and make a comment or connection) that we use as a simple paragraph frame for students. These charts reinforce those frames.

Here’s Lara’s chart. There are three of them. Here are the questions each of them are answering:

1. How do you feel about creating a fence? Will it work? Is it worth the money? Can we fence off ALL of America?

2. What do you think is the most interesting or important point made in the passage. Why? Explain your point, use text to support your point.

3. Some feel immigrants are willing to work harder than Americans. Why is that? Do you agree?

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

Let me know if you have similar writing models that you’d like to share….

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April 29, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Two Good Pieces Of Simple Writing Advice For Students – Share Your Own

I’ve posted a few times about the twice-yearly writing assessment we do at our school (you can read details about it at this guest post by the talented head of our English Department, Lara Hoekstra: “Instead of seeing students as Far Below Basic or Advanced, we see them as learners.”

We just completed two full-days of all the English teachers reviewing our students’ essays, and I thought readers might be interested in two simple pieces of writing advice I’ve learned from this experience over the years. In addition, I’d like to invite you to share if you have your own simple (and, by simple, I’m talking about a short sentence that both teachers and students can remember) advice that you’ve found helpful in guiding students).

The first is something I learned from Lara Hoekstra a few years ago and has been very helpful to my students and me. She suggested that as we review our students’ essays, we keep in mind the question, “Who is doing the work?” In other words, are we as readers having to connect the dots, or are students taking responsibility to make those connections for the reader? I have uttered the phrase countless times since — both for students’ writing and in helping my IB Theory of Knowledge class keep the same question in mind when preparing their Oral Presentations.

The second is something said yesterday by Roxanne Stellmacher, another talented English teacher at our school. She suggested that we need to ask our students (and ourselves as reviewers of their writing) “Who is guiding the writing?” In other words, is the writer just reacting to a prompt by using a writing formula, or is he/she taking control of the narrative and responding to the prompt in his/her voice?

I think those are two sentences that might be easy for both teachers and students to remember. Do you have any other ones?

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

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