Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

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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July 13, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Videos & Articles Where Athletes Explain How Reading & Writing Well Has Helped Their Career – Help Me Find More

'LeBron James' photo (c) 2011, Keith Allison - license:

It’s not unusual for me students to tell me that they don’t have to worry about reading and writing well because they are planning on being a professional basketball player, skateboarder, etc.

I’ve got responses to that (though am happy to hear what readers say to it), but I think having students hear directly from athletes themselves saying how reading and writing well has helped their sports career.

I’ve only got a couple of resources, and hope that readers will suggest more.

Here’s what I have so far:

Here’s a video about LeBron James and why and what he’s reading, and an ESPN article about it — LeBron James, open book.

LeBron, Reading And How Books Can Benefit A Pro Athlete is by Dan Grunfield.

Other suggestions — please!

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June 13, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

My Best Posts On Writing Instruction

'saturated writing' photo (c) 2007, Eduardo - license:

I’ve published a number of posts on writing instruction, and thought I’d bring them all together into one “The Best” list.

I’ve previously posted tons of lists sharing sites that are useful in writing instruction, but none collecting posts I’ve written about what to actually do in the classroom.

Before I get to those posts, though, here are the website lists:

The Best Websites For K-12 Writing Instruction/Reinforcement
The Best Places Where Students Can Write Online
The Best Sites For Grammar Practice
Not “The Best,” But “A List” Of Mindmapping, Flow Chart Tools, & Graphic Organizers
The Best Resources For Researching & Writing Biographies
The Best Resources For Learning How To Write Response To Literature Essays
The Best Places Where Students Can Write For An “Authentic Audience”
The Best Places Where Students Can Create Online Learning/Teaching Objects For An “Authentic Audience”
The Best Places To Read & Write “Choose Your Own Adventure” Stories
The Best Sites To Learn About Advertising
The Best Websites For Developing Academic English Skills & Vocabulary
The Best Online Interactive Exercises For Writing That Are Not Related To Literary Analysis
The Best Online Resources To Teach About Plagiarism
The Best Resources For Learning Research & Citation Skills
The Best Sites For Students To Create & Participate In Online Debates
The Best Online Resources For Helping Students Learn To Write Persuasive Essays
The Best Spelling Sites
The Best Sites For Gaining A Basic Understanding Of Adjectives
The “Best” Sites For Helping Students Write Autobiographical Incident Essays
The Best Sites To Learn “Feelings” Words
The Best Sites For ELL’s To Learn About Punctuation
The Best Resources To Help Students Write Research Essays
The Best Sites For Learning To Write A Story
The Best Writing Advice From Famous Authors
The Best Resources On Punctuation

And, now, here are my writing instruction posts:

I published a four-part series on teaching writing over at my Education Week blog. Here’s a link to the final post in that series — it contains links to the previous three, too.

My Revised Final Exams (And An Important Lesson)

Five ways to get kids to want to read and write

“Instead of seeing students as Far Below Basic or Advanced, we see them as learners” is a guest post written by my colleague Lara Hoekstra.

More Mount Everest Resources, Including Prompt We’re Using As Part Of Our “Final”

Writing Prompts — Feel Free To Contribute Your Own!

Rwanda Lesson & Writing Prompt

Here’s The “Growth Mindset” Article & Prompt We’re Using As Part Of Our Semester Final

“Point, Quote, Connect”

Helping Students Write Essays

Student Writing & Metacognition

My Student Handout For Simple Journal-Writing

New Study Says That Half Of “Evidence-Based Practices” In Writing Instruction Not “Signaled” By Common Core

I’ve posted a collection of all my Education Week Teacher posts on teaching reading and writing. It includes contributions from lots of great educators.

Student-Created Prompts As A Differentiation Strategy

Here’s What I’m Having My ELL Geography Students Do As Their Semester “Final”

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

Here’s What My IB Theory Of Knowledge Students Are Doing For Their Semester “Final”

Writing Prompt For “The Long March”

Quote Of The Day: “We Must Always Take Sides”

Helping Students Respond To Writing Prompts

Video (& Writing Prompt): “A failure isn’t a failure if it prepares you for success tomorrow”

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

This Is Exactly What I Mean By Connecting Social Emotional Learning & Literacy Instruction….

Another Good Writing Prompt: Reconciliation

Here’s The Writing Prompt I’m Using For My Geography Class

New Writing Prompt For My U.S. History Class

Here’s The Writing Prompt I’m Using As Part Of My Final For Ninth-Grade English

John Lewis: “You Must Find A Way To Get In Trouble”

Feel free to offer links to your best posts (or pieces that others have written) on teaching writing….

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May 19, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

More Mount Everest Resources, Including Prompt We’re Using As Part Of Our “Final”

As I’ve previously shared, our ninth-graders finish up the year with a unit on Mount Everest. I’ve also previously described the writing prompts we often use (see Writing Prompts — Feel Free To Contribute Your Own! and Rwanda Lesson & Writing Prompt).

As part of our “final,” we’re going to have students read Mount Everest: the ethical dilemma facing climbers and respond to this prompt:

What do you think writer Jon Henley is suggesting should be a higher priority — helping people who need assistance or not letting that get in the way of achieving your goals? 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 reading (including Henley’s article).

In addition, here are some more resources I’m adding to The Best Sites For Learning About Mount Everest:

Mount Everest Is Not Immune to Climate Change is from The Smithsonian.

Maxed Out on Everest is a slideshow from National Geographic.

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May 7, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

121Writing Looks Like It Could Be Helpful, Especially With IB & Other Advanced Classes

There’s a fair amount of research, which I describe in some of my books, which shows that leaving lots of teacher comments on student papers is pretty much a waste of time — many, if not most,  students don’t pay much attention to them. And doing that with our many students who are struggling writers can be very damaging and deflating (one of the many reasons I don’t like the idea of computer grading of essays). Instead, what my colleagues and I try to do is generally focus on one major positive area and one area that needs improvement (usually via post-it note and quick private conference) and teacher short class lessons on what we see as common problems — sometimes through the concept attainment method.

However, for our International Baccalaureate classes (in particular, for the Theory of Knowledge course I teach), we have some very self-motivated students that have to develop essays that are submitted to IB, who can be pretty particular. Even though we are constrained by IB rules about the number of times we can provide critical feedback on outlines and essays, we need to be pretty complete during the times allowed.

For those classes, I can see the 121Writing site as fairly useful. Students log-on to your class site, copy and paste their assignment onto it, and teachers can provide audio feedback on it. It could save a teacher time, and provide a way to give more detailed feedback to students who need it, and can “take” it.

I learned about it from Richard Byrne’s blog, and I’d encourage you to visit his post to read more about it. His post focuses on schools using Google Drive. However, you can use it even without using Google Drive by registering at the site here.

I’m adding it to The Best Websites For K-12 Writing Instruction/Reinforcement.

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April 26, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

Rwanda Lesson & Writing Prompt

'Rwanda Genocide Memorial' photo (c) 2010, configmanager - license:

Geography is one of the classes I teach to Beginning and Intermediate English Language Learners, and we’re just finishing up our unit on Africa (see A Beginning List Of The Best Geography Sites For Learning About Africa).

We’re studying the Rwandan genocide (see The Best Sites To Learn About Genocide In Rwanda) as part of that unit, and American University has an excellent lesson on it, including readings for small group “jigsaws.”

In addition to that lesson, students watched the movie Hotel Rwanda.

I’ve previously posted about our school’s use of AWPE Writing prompts, and decided to integrate them into this Rwanda unit. Students watched the movie yesterday, and began work on this prompt today:

What does the movie Hotel Rwanda say about courage? To what extent do you agree with the movie’s message? To support your opinion, be sure to include specific examples drawn from your own experience, your observations of others, anything you have read, and scenes from the movie.

The Beginning students aren’t responding to it, but the Intermediates are working hard on it — with the support of peer tutors.

They’ll be posting their final essays at our class blog soon, so you’ll be able to see the results….

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April 24, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

Make Multimedia Creations With “buncee”

buncee lets you easily create simple multimedia creations — almost like an extended virtual postcard. You can grab media off the web and add text.

Here’s a video about it:

I’m adding it to The Best Places Where Students Can Write Online.

My only reservation about the site is that they ask for your birthdate when you register, and that seems a bit odd. I certainly wouldn’t recommend that students put their correct one. I took a quick look at their terms of service and didn’t see anything about an age requirement, but could have missed it. I just don’t see why that information is needed….

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April 15, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Simple Writing Exercise Said To “Narrow Achievement Gap”

Be seeing you
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Oliver Hammond via Compfight

I’ve previously posted about a simple writing exercise that was shown to particularly help African American students increase their academic achievement (see Useful Writing Exercise For Helping Students Develop Self-Esteem) and expanded that into a full-fledged lesson plan in my book, Helping Students Motivate Themselves.

Two new studies have now shown that it can be equally effective with Latino students.

My previous blog post and the new studies (along with my lesson plan) do a good job explaining the process but, simply put, the idea is to have students write briefly about values that are important to them.

Here’s how one of the researchers behind the new studies describes why it’s effective:

“When you look at what the students write, you see that they are generally not boosting their egos or self-aggrandizing. What they do is remind themselves about who they are, and what is important to them. They are reaffirming a narrative about themselves that they are okay people who have core values that will be with them through the ups and downs of school. And this helps the students see threatening events from a broader perspective, and these threats become less of a stressor and less disruptive of their academic motivation and efficacy.”

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April 12, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Value Of “Mimic Writing”

I’ve written about the value of “mimic writing” in some of my books, and today read a post by Daniel Coyle that put the value of mimicry much more succinctly and and accurately than I have ever described it.

But first, let me share a little bit more about what it is and what I’ve shared about it….

Simply put, it’s just showing students models of writing and challenging them to write their own versions sticking pretty close to the models’ styles.

In our book, The ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide, here’s what my co-author, Katie Hull Sypnieski, and I say:

Mimic writing. Students can examine multiple examples of certain writing features through strategies like concept attainment, text data sets, and teacher modeling. Then students can mimic these writing features by creating their own examples. For example, students can examine several Yes and No examples of topic sentences and identify the features of a good topic sentence. Then students can write their own topic sentences and evaluate them according to these features.

We then share a “data set” of effective openers or “hooks” that students can use for mimicking (you can see an example of what we mean by a “data set” at this article).

Here’s what I wrote about mimic writing as part of a chapter on “Gratitude” in my new book, Self-Driven Learning:

there may be times in lesson plans where “mimic writing” a gratitude “letter” to someone could also be used to refine writing skills. For example, students could write such a letter to someone important in their life using the speech Nelson Mandela gave upon his release from prison as a model. The first portion of that speech is all about the idea of gratitude.

Now, back to Daniel Coyle’s post….

He shares a couple of excellent videos. One is a famous Bruno Mars skit from Saturday Night Live where he brilliantly mimics several famous singers:

Here’s Coyle’s key reflection:

Apparently Mars has been doing these impressions for years, starting with Elvis when he was a little kid. Think of what the repetitions of these imitations have done for Mars’s vocal technique, his range, and his ability to create certain vocal effects. Thanks to mimicry, he has a whole menu of sounds and moves to choose from and use.

I can testify that writers do this too. At various times in my notebooks I’ve mimicked Hemingway, Tom Wolfe, Frank DeFord, Gary Smith, and Kurt Vonnegut, and I know many others who did the same.

What experiences have you had with mimic writing in your classes?

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April 3, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

Writing Prompts — Feel Free To Contribute Your Own!

The University of California requires incoming freshmen and women to take the Analytical Writing Placement Exam to determine their English placement. We use their model a lot in our high school English classes — both during our regular classes and for a beginning and ending year writing assessment we evaluate through use of an improvement rubric (see “Instead of seeing students as Far Below Basic or Advanced, we see them as learners”).

You can see an example of this kind of prompt (which requires students to read an essay and respond to it) at a previous post where I shared one my colleague and I developed for an article on Carol Dweck and the idea of a growth mindset.

Here’s an AWPE-style prompt based on a Bob Marley quote (we’re studying a unit on Jamaica) that my colleague Katie Hull Sypnieski and I developed (well, really, it was mostly her :) ). You can download it here as a student hand-out, but I’ll also share it here:

“If she’s amazing, she won’t be easy. If she’s easy, she won’t be amazing. If she’s worth it, you won’t give up. If you give up, you’re not worthy . . . Truth is, everybody is going to hurt you; you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.” Bob Marley

Writing Prompt:
In the above quotation, what is Bob Marley saying about love and relationships? To what extent do you agree with what Marley 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 reading.

Again, it’s very abbreviated — not the prompt itself, but what they are reading prior to their response. Typically, it’s an actual essay. But even a short quote like this can be good practice.

These kinds of prompts follow the “They Say, I Say”

Do you have similar examples of prompts (& the essays that the prompts refer to) that have worked well with your students? If so, leave examples in the comments and I’ll write a future post sharing them all.

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