Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

October 5, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Commaful” Looks Like An (Almost) Perfect Place For Students To Write Online

Adobe Spark has been my “go-to” tool for English Language Learners to write and display online their written work. Their videos, accompanied by music, are very engaging.

However, it might have competition now that I learned about Commaful from Nik Peachey.

Commaful lets you simply and easily create online slideshows of your writing, with the text accompanied by easily search-for and selected photos, videos or GIFs. Then, you can link to or embed your creation.

It doesn’t have music, unlike Adobe Spark, and the photo selection does not appear to be as robust. However, Commaful does have one huge advantage over Adobe Spark – you can create your stories without registering or logging-in. That is indeed a huge advantage, as any teacher will tell you.

Of course, another disadvantage is it’s unclear what kind of standards are maintained for Commaful’s content. I didn’t see anything inappropriate in a quick search, but who knows?

One other minor inconvenience with Commaful – after I embedded by five second creation below (it’s only two slides, but you can make ones with many, many more) and clicked on it here, I got a pop-up inviting me to register at the site to read stories. However, if you click it to go away, you can then continue to read the embedded story.

I’m adding this to The Best Places Where Students Can Write Online,

I might add it to The “All-Time” Best 2.0 Tools For Beginning English Language Learners if it works out well in school.

anon / Commaful

September 6, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

Quote Of The Day: Justice Sonia Sotomayor On Reading Books & Education

Quartz has a nice short video of US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor talking about reading books and education.

You might also be interested in Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s Stanford Speech Is Filled With Useful Quotes For Students.

I’m adding this info to The Best Sites To Learn About The U.S. Supreme Court.

August 9, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Examples Of ELL Student Writing

I thought teachers might find it useful to be able to see – and possibly use as models – examples of writing by English Language Learners.

Please feel free to leave links to other examples in the comments section.

Here they are:

Guest Post From One Of Our ELL Students: “Challenge”

Guest Post: Advanced ELLs Write About Their Summer School Experience Tutoring Newcomers

A Look Back: “What ELLs Taught Our School In A Week-Long Empathy Project”

Guest Post From An English Language Learner Student

Jose Carlos Haro Preciado is a student in Bret Gosselin‘s high school class. Jose has created a nice resource on How To Write A Poem, and I’m adding it to The Best World Poetry Day Resources – Help Me Find More.  A little more about Jose: Jose Carlos Haro Preciado is currently a student at Coppell High School. He is from Mexico where he lived until moving to the United States two years ago as a sophomore. He is an ambitious student who uses his writing as a way to learn from the world around him. He believes that by hard work, he can learn to do anything well, including English. He plans to go to college to become an engineer and is a valued member of Coppell’s champion-winning varsity soccer team.

Here are many examples from our student blog:

Response to Literature essays

Problem/Solution essays

Essays on Gangs

Persuasive Essays about Neighborhoods

Persuasive Essays

Autobiographical Incident Essays


August 7, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

“Writing Sparks” Could Be A Useful Online Writing Tool

Writing Sparks is a new free online writing tool made by the creators of The Night Zookeeper, a paid-subscription online writing program.

Writing Sparks lets students select a writing genre and then provides a good outline for students to then write the essay. Then can save it to a PDF file which, unfortunately, is not editable. So, if students were going to use the site, they’d probably want to copy and paste their writing into a Google Doc.

The useful outline is what makes this site stand-out a bit from similar tools.

I’m adding it to The Best Online Tools That Can Help Students Write An Essay.

Here’s a short video about Writing Sparks:

July 22, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Using “Wrote My Way Out” From Hamilton With Students (Including Writing Prompt)

My wife took me to see Hamilton as birthday present this past week and, of course, it was amazing!

Regular readers know I’m a big fan (see The Best Teaching/Learning Resources On The Musical, “Hamilton”).

I’ve used Hamilton in class (see Using “My Shot” From Hamilton With ELLs & Others (Including Writing Prompt)), and I’ve been thinking about how I could use its song “Hurricane.”  That song has been modified and released as a mixtape titled “Wrote My Way Out,” which is the part of the song that I think I could particularly use with ELLs.

This is a lyrics video of the original Hamilton song:

You can read the lyrics here.

The verse that I’m thinking of using is this one:

I wrote my way out
Wrote everything down far as I could see
I wrote my way out
I looked up and the town had its eyes on me

There are variations of that verse in other parts of the song, and I think those parts could be pretty accessible to ELLs and they’d certainly enjoy it.

The mixtape uses lots of the original lyrics, but adds a lot, too. You can read all the lyrics here and I’ve embedded the video below (which only contains audio):

I  particularly like the final lyrics to that version:

I picked up the pen like Hamilton
I wrote my way out of the projects
Wrote-wrote my way out of the projects
Picked up the pen like Hamilton
I wrote my way out of the
Wrote-wrote my way out of the projects
I wrote my way out
Picked up the pen like Hamilton
I wrote my way out of the

(I wrote my way out)
Really, I saw like a hole in the rap game, so if I wanted to put my
little two cents in the game, then it would be from a different
(I wrote my way out)
I thought that I would represent for my neighborhood and tell
their story, be their voice, in a way that nobody has done it
Tell the real story


I’m thinking that I could use the music with my Intermediate English Language Learners and ask them to respond to this prompt:

What do you think the singer means by “I wrote my way out. I thought that I would represent for my neighborhood and tell their story, be their voice, in a way that nobody has done it. Tell the real story”? Who do you think has told the story of your community? Do you think you could be a voice of your community? If you think you can help tell your community’s story, how could you do it and what kind of help would you need? If don’t think you can tell your community’s story, please explain why not.

What do you think?

I’ll be adding this post to Best Posts On Writing Instruction, as well as to the Hamilton “Best” list.


June 12, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

I Suspect That Many ELL Teachers Will Want To Use These Personal Stories As Models For Their Students

Last month, I published Guest Post: What ELLs Taught Our School In A Week-Long Empathy Project written by my talented colleague, Pam Buric.

Pam shared about a project we did at our school where our Intermediate English Language Learner students wrote about their personal experiences and then other classes came to learn from them over a week’s time.

Those Intermediate ELLs then helped my Beginning ELL students to write their own stories.

Now, Pam and her Intermediate class have pulled together all of those stories into a downloadable PDF book, which I have permission to share here. The description of the process and all the downloadable materials in Pam’s original post, along with the Beginner and Intermediate models, should make it a lot easier for others who might want to do similar projects (‘ll also add this link to Pam’s original post).

Thanks to Pam and her students!

June 10, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

New TED Talk From Anne Lamott With Great Excerpt On Writing – Here’s How I’m Using It In Class

12 truths I learned from life and writing is the title of a new TED Talk from Anne Lamott.

I’ve embedded it at the end of this post, but I think this is the “money” quote from the talk which would be most useful for teachers. I’m going to share it with students and have them respond to the prompt right below it:

What does Anne Lamott say are the keys to being a good writer? Do you agree with what Lamott is saying? To support your opinion you may use examples from your own experiences, your observations of others, and anything you have read.

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

Here’s the video of her talk:

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