Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

March 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Excellent (& I Mean EXCELLENT!) Post On Asking Questions

'The Five Ws' photo (c) 2007, Emily Moe - license:

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

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

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

Writing Prompt For “The Long March”


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

Here’s What I’m Having My ELL U.S. History Students Do As Their Semester “Final”

'Writing Exams' photo (c) 2007, ccarlstead - license:

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

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:

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

Student-Created Prompts As A Differentiation Strategy

'Thought on School 2.0' photo (c) 2007, Wesley Fryer - license:

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

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


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

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:

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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October 7, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

Create “Playlists” Of Educational Videos, Websites & Google Docs With HippoCampus (Plus Explore English Interactives)


I’ve previously posted about HippoCampus a number of times, and it’s on several “The Best…” lists. It has pretty extensive video collections in a number of subjects, and I’ve often used their U.S. History resources.

I’ve just learned from Beth Pickett, a HippoCampus staff member, that it now lets teachers easily create “playlists.” Here’s what she wrote me:

OER website also allows users to create playlists of videos (or web pages, or PowerPoints, or Google docs, or any combination of those) and annotate them as well. For content that’s already on HippoCampus (core academic subjects for 7th-12th grades), it’s a matter of drag-and-drop. For content outside HippoCampus, just paste in the URL in the appropriate dialogue box and give it a title.

I’ve done a four-minute tutorial (I’m the product manager) for how it works, which you can see from any of the HippoCampus subject pages or directly from vimeo [NOTE: I've embedded the video below]

HippoCampus content is free for individual teachers and students to use, and it’s free to create an account (which you’d need to do if you want to create a Playlist).

It seems to me that this could come in quite handy. I’m adding the info to The Best Ways To Create Online Video Playlists.

There seem to have been a number of other additions to HippoCampus since I last posted about it, including a number of potentially useful English interactives including audio and visual support for the text. I’ll be exploring them more, and writing a separate post in the future.

Here’s Beth’s video:

HippoCampus – How To Create a Playlist from The NROC Project on Vimeo.

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October 1, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Preparing Students To Write Is ‘About Our Own Collaboration’”

'Writing Exams' photo (c) 2007, ccarlstead - license:

Preparing Students To Write Is ‘About Our Own Collaboration’ is Part Two in my Education Week series on teaching writing in the context of the Common Core.

Today’s post highlights the ideas of Heather Wolpert-Gawron, Kathy Glass, and Carol Jago.

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September 29, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

“Developing Student Writers By Letting Them Talk…”

'Just Write' photo (c) 2011, Sean MacEntee - license:

Developing Student Writers By Letting Them Talk… is my new post over at Education Week Teacher.

It’s the first post in a three-part series focusing on teaching writing in the context of the Common Core Standards.

Today’s commentaries come from educators Mary Tedrow, Ray Salazar and Tanya Baker.

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September 26, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

NY Times Begins Very Helpful Regular Feature — “Text To Text”


The New York Times Learning Network has just begun a regular feature that I suspect is going to be very helpful to teachers — it’s called “Text To Text.”

Here’s how they describe it:

it is just what it sounds like: we’ll be pairing two written texts that we think “speak” to each other in interesting ways, and supplying a few questions and ideas for working with the two together.

One of the excerpts will, of course, always be from The New York Times — sometimes ripped from that week’s headlines, and other times from the archives.

The other excerpt will usually come from an often-taught literary, historical, cultural, scientific or mathematical text. We will also include visuals — photographs, videos, infographics or illustrations — that might be used as additional texts on the topic.

In addition, they also prepared free downloadable student hand-outs to use with the lessons!

They hope it will be helpful to teachers trying to apply “close reading” in their classroom (see The Best Resources On “Close Reading”).

So far this week, they’ve posted two of these “Text To Text” lessons:

Text to Text | Edward Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg

Text to Text | ‘Where Do Your Genes Come From?’ and ‘DNA Double Take’

In the interest of full disclosure (and most readers already know), I write a weekly post for the Times on teaching English Language Learners. I can assure you that I haven’t been influenced in any way to write this post about their new feature….

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August 5, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

Resources On Writing

Here are a few good resources on writing I’ve been accumulating recently:

You probably have heard about the recent Pew Center/National Writing Project survey on technology and writing. It’s worth a look at Pew Report Illustrates Impact of Digital Technologies on Student Writing.

George Orwell on writing is from The Economist. It elaborates and offers some commentary on it, as well. I’m adding it to The Best Writing Advice From Famous Authors.

Advice For Scientists Who Want To Write For The Public is not written by a famous writer, but it’s still good and I’m putting it on the same list for now (until I figure out something different).

Story notes #2 — Begin in the middle fits in the same category — good advice, but not by a famous writer. I’m still putting it on the same list.

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July 30, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

Quip Is A New Online Word Processing Tool Useful For Collaboration

Quip is a new online word processing tool that is free to non-business users, adapts its look to the kind of device you’re using (tablet, desktop, smartphone), and lets you collaborate with others on your document. You can read more about it at TechCrunch.

I’m adding it to The Best Online Tools For Real-Time Collaboration.

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