Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

September 17, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Our School’s Writing Assessment For Some Students With Special Needs

I’ve shared many writing prompts that I use in my classes (see My Best Posts On Writing Instruction).

Included in that “Best” list is a very popular post by my colleague and English Department leader Lara Hoekstra. In it, she describes a pretty sophisticated fall and spring writing assessment process we use with all of the students at our school. Students spend two days writing to the same prompt early in the year and at the end of the year, and all the English teachers get together for two days after each assessment to evaluate all the essays (ones not written by their own students) using an “Improvement Rubric.” We then use the results to guide our future instructional priorities.

We’ve had a modified assessment for English Language Learners and, just recently, my very talented colleagues Jennifer Adkins and Jonathan Mikles created a good one for some students with special needs. They have given me permission to share it here.

They have students read the Chicago Tribune article titled, Inner-city Mentoring Program Helping Youths Improve Lives.

Students then write to this prompt:

Essay Topic:

A role model or mentor is a person you look up to. Before you begin writing, think about someone you look up to.

Why do you admire or respect this person? Write at least a 3 paragraph essay in which you explain whom you admire, and why you look up to this person. To develop your position, be sure to discuss specific examples; those examples can be drawn from anything you’ve read, as well as your experience.

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August 25, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Personal Writing Based on The Times’s Sunday Routine Series” Is A Nice Idea From The Learning Network


Reader Idea | Personal Writing Based on The Times’s Sunday Routine Series is a very useful post at The New York Times Learning Network.

It’s a simple teacher-suggested lesson plan that includes some very useful student hand-outs that is particularly timely at the beginning of the school year.

I obviously didn’t write it but, for now (until I create another “Best” list), I’ll be adding it to My Best Posts On Writing Instruction.

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August 20, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Two Good Videos On How We Learn & How I Plan To Use Them In Class

The Khan Academy (you might want to see The Best Posts About The Khan Academy) recently unveiled three new videos that they have apparently developed with the help of Carol Dweck.

Their main new one is pretty decent and titled “You Can Learn Anything.” It’s the first video embedded below.

The one I really like, though is of John Legend. I don’t agree with his education politics, but he tells a great story of how and what he learned on his way to success. It’s called “Success Through Effort.” That’s the second video embedded below.

I’m not as thrilled with their third video, which has Sal Khan talking with Carol Dweck. You can find better videos of her explaining the growth mindset at The Best Resources On Helping Our Students Develop A “Growth Mindset.”

At some point during this school year, as a reinforcing activity for our lessons on how we learn and the growth mindset, I plan on showing these two short videos and have students respond to this prompt:

According to these videos, how do we learn? Do you agree with what the videos are saying? To support your opinion you may use examples from your own experiences, your observations of others, and any of your reading.

I’m adding this post to:

My Best Posts On Writing Instruction

The Best Resources On Helping Our Students Develop A “Growth Mindset”

The Best Posts, Articles & Videos About Learning From Mistakes & Failures

You might also be interested in Here’s The “Growth Mindset” Article & Prompt We’re Using As Part Of Our Semester Final

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August 14, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Rootbook” May Be The Easiest Tool For Creating Online Choose Your Own Adventure Stories


As regular readers know, I’m a big fan of having students both read and write Choose Their Own Adventure stories (see The Best Places To Read & Write “Choose Your Own Adventure” Stories).

One big problem I’ve found, though, is that there hasn’t really been a super-easy way for students to create their own.

Thanks to reader “Grubie,” though, I think I might have found one. It’s called Rootbook.

The site has lots of choose your own adventure stories you can read without registering or signing-in. In addition, if you register (which takes seconds), you’re also given the ability to create your own. And it seems to be pretty easy to do so — the only trick I found was that you have to make sure to upload a photo cover page first to your story or else it won’t let you continue.

I’ll definitely be having my students give it a try this upcoming school year.

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August 12, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

“The High Price Of The American Dream” Is A Free eBook & Great Writing Model For English Language Learners


My extraordinarily talented teacher colleague at our high school, Dana Dusbiber, along with the extraordinarily talented bilingual aide Alma Avalos, teach a class of adult English Language Learners once-a-week at our school in the evening.

With support from the University of California at Davis, their students have published a “must-read” book that I’m sure will be a model for ESL classes around the country and the world.

And the University has made it available free! You can download an eBook version here.

The stories in it are so moving and so well-written. You couldn’t ask for more engaging, and better-written, models for student-writing.

Here’s information about the process Dana used in the book itself, but here’s a short introduction she wrote. Dana has been an urban educator for 25 years and a National Writing Project teacher consultant for 20 years, including working in ELL leadership for NWP:

The adult learners and I met once a week during this past school year. This was our third year together, so there was a familiarity and comfort already established amongst the core group of students. I believe that this was a crucial element which allowed the students to both trust me and know beforehand something about the process we use to read and write in class. We were fortunate to have a UC Davis Adult Literacy Grant which paid for materials and for the cost of the book publication (see more about the grant at the end of the manuscript).

We started back in September of 2013 with narratives about childhood. We brainstormed topics and discussed elements of autobiography. We used scaffolding materials designed for an “autobiographical incident” essay to talk about the important pieces we would include in our drafts. From there, I gave weekly mini-lessons on organization, development, adding detail and topics related to our drafting process. Alma Avalos and I worked alongside students during class time to read and provide feedback on their drafts. Some students wrote in Spanish early in the process.

The students decided that they wanted to write holiday reflections and coming-to-America stories for the book. I was excited that they wanted to include writing that reflected a broader range of their life experience and that they had the confidence to risk doing so.

We will write again together next year, and will again publish our writing. We ended our year together in June with some ideas and goals for next years’ stories. The stories will again show the risks that the students are taking as they reach higher to write their lives. I am honored to work with them.

I am thinking now, in the quiet time of these late summer days, about some of the structures I will use next year in the adult class. I will bring in more design elements of Writer’s Workshop and provide more time for the students to free-write and brainstorm draft ideas. I will teach vocabulary through focused topic study (which the students also initiate) and will continue to teach grammar and language structure in the context of student needs as they arise in class.

Thanks for sharing it with us, Dana!

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July 22, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Liberio Says It Lets You Create eBooks From Google Drive

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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

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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