Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

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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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”

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

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

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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