Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

April 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Book Reviews – & Shakespeare – In Three Panels


I’ve previously posted about Lisa Brown’s “Three Panel Book Reviews” that formerly appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle. They’re great models for student projects.

I recently learned about how another artist uses this “three panel” idea, though Mya Gosling uses it to summarizes Shakespeare’s plays. You can see all of her work here, and they’re more great models for student work.

I’m adding this info to My Best Posts On Books: Why They’re Important & How To Help Students Select, Read, Write & Discuss Them.

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April 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Who’s To Blame For The SAT’s Existence? Thanks A Lot, Tom Edison…

'Thomas Edison, 1930s' photo (c) 2011, Playing Futures:  Applied Nomadology - license:

The SAT Test has been in the news a lot, lately.

The College Board is revamping it, and they just released new sample questions.

In addition to those links, here are a few other useful articles:

The New SAT: Less Vocabulary, More Linear Equations is from NPR.

What is the SAT good for? is from The Washington Post.

The key problem the SAT changes won’t fix is also from The Washington Post.

College President: SAT Is Part Hoax, Part Fraud is from TIME.

But the main reason for this post is to reprint one I published a six years ago.

Here it is:

Thanks, Thomas Edison, For The Light Bulb, Phonograph and…the SAT?

Did you know that a test created by Thomas Edison inspired the creation of the not particularly useful SAT?

I didn’t, until I saw a short piece in the Mind Hack blog today. That post led to a much more descriptive article that appeared in the New Scientist magazine titled 163 ways to lose your job.

Edison apparently developed his ‘Brainmeter” test to evaluated the intelligence of job-seekers at his lab, and the test’s administrator went on to help create the SAT.

Both the blog post and article were pretty intriguing, but neither provided a link to the actual test. I found it at the National Park Service Edison National Historic site website, and you can take the test there (scroll down a bit).

How can this information be useful in today’s classroom, you might ask? Well, I have to admit the primary reason I’m writing this post is because I just found it interesting. However, even though the test isn’t accessible to English Language Learners, it might be fascinating to see what students might come-up with if they were asked to develop questions that they think would be effective in evaluating a person’s intelligence, and what criteria that might use to write them.

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April 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Around The Web In ESL/EFL/ELL

'student teacher' photo (c) 2006, Rex Pe - license:

I’ve started a somewhat regular feature where I share a few posts and resources from around the Web related to ESL/EFL or to language in general that have caught my attention:

Innovation in education: looking for learning is by Lizzie Pinard. I’m adding it to The Best Sources For Ideas On How To Use Technology With English Language Learners.

“Red Light! Green Light!” Teaching Students How to Give Peer-Feedback During Speaking Activities is from Evan Simpson.

Play It Again And Again, Sam is from NPR and, I think, may help explain why jazz chants are effective in language instruction. I’m adding it to The Best Sites (& Videos) For Learning About Jazz Chants.

Aeon Magazine has a similar piece on that research. I’m adding it to the same list.

American English from the U.S. Department of State seems like a good resource of materials for teachers of English Language Learners.

The Future of ELT is by Gaven Dudeney.

10 Dictation Activites for EFL classes is from Online TEFL Training. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning How To Use The Dictogloss Strategy With English Language Learners.

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April 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Surprise, Surprise — Study Finds Shouting At Children “creates further discipline problems”


To few teachers surprise, a new study has found that shouting at children is counter-productive. You can read all about it at Shouting at children ‘increases their behaviour problems’ in the British newspaper, The Telegraph.

There have been plenty of studies (and years of countless teachers experience) that have found the same thing (you can find out more at The Best Posts On Classroom Management).

Do I sometimes raise my voice at my class? Of course, we’re all human. But, fortunately, I seldom do so.

I just don’t understand why some continue to use shouting as a part of their classroom management strategy.

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April 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

This Week’s “Round-Up” Of Useful Posts & Articles On Education Policy

''Wisconsin is Open For Business Closed for Schools'' photo (c) 2011, rochelle hartman - license:

Here are some relatively recent articles and blog posts on educational policy issues that are worth reading:

All schools should have good teachers is from The Los Angeles Times. I’m adding it to The Best Articles For Helping To Understand Both Why Teacher Tenure Is Important & The Reasons Behind Seniority-Based Layoffs.

How Seniority Reform Backfired In Minneapolis is by John Thompson. I’m adding it to the same list.

Evidence Based Education Policy and Practice: A Conversation is from Larry Cuban’s blog.

Evaluation: A Revolt Against The “Randomistas”? is by Alexander Russo. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Understanding How To Interpret Education Research.

What Is A Standard Deviation? is from The Shanker Blog. I’m adding it to the same list.

A Brilliant Management Insight Helps Chipotle Retain Its Best Employees is an interesting article from Business Insider that I think has applications for the development of teacher leadership. I’m adding it to The Best Posts, Articles & Videos On “Teacher Leadership.”

Big data: are we making a big mistake? is from The Financial Times. I’m adding it to The Best Resources Showing Why We Need To Be “Data-Informed” & Not “Data-Driven.”

Ainge: Analytics Sometimes Leads To Shortcuts is from RealGM Basketball. I’m adding it to the same list.

New Common Core exams will test whether a robo-grader is as accurate as a human is from The Hechinger Report. I’m adding it to The Best Posts On Computer-Graded Essays.

The Classroom of the Future: Student-Centered or Device-Centered? is by Anthony Cody at Education Week Teacher.

A Teacher Offers Sound Advice to Tom Friedman is from Diane Ravitch’s blog.

Teaching as a Second Act, or Maybe Even a Third is from The New York Times.

One of many nails in the VAM coffin…. is from Better Living Through Mathematics. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About The “Value-Added” Approach Towards Teacher Evaluation. Thanks to Alice Mercer for the tip.

Here is a VAM mathematical formula from Florida. I’m adding it to the same list.

I’m adding this tweet to The Best Resources On “Race To The Top” (& On “Personalized Learning”):

How Does PISA Put the World at Risk (Part 5): Racing to the Past is by Yong Zhao. I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles On 2012 PISA Test Results.

The Great Lakes Center has done an important review of infamous Raj Chetty, John Friedman, & Jonah Rockoff study on teacher’s value-added. I’m adding it to the list where many critiques of that study can be found, The Best Posts On The NY Times-Featured Teacher Effectiveness Study.

Classes of Donkeys is by David Truss, and offers some thoughtful commentary on the popular Class Dojo behavior management tech tool. I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles On “Motivating” Students.

On Using And Not Using ClassDojo*: Ideological Differences? is by Larry Cuban. Motivating is from ELT Reflections, and is also on Class Dojo. I’m adding both to the same “Best” list.

I’ll end this post with this tweet:

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April 15, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

The Best Research On Listening To Music When Studying

'Typical Teen' photo (c) 2011, Tyler-Adams - license:

I’ve published a few posts about the question of playing background music in the classroom, along with info on the practice of listening to music when studying.

I thought I’d bring them together in one post, and invite readers to contribute their own ideas and experiences, too.

I’ll be adding this “Best” list to The Best Resources On The Dangers Of Multitasking.

Here goes:

This is a reprint of my first post on the topic. It’s worth looking at the original post because of the comments readers left:

A  study find that listening to music while performing a task can impair cognitive ability.

Researchers divided participants into three groups — one listening to music they liked, one to music they didn’t like, and one with no music:

The most accurate recall occurred when participants performed the task in the quieter, steady-state environments. Thus listening to music, regardless of whether people liked or disliked it, impaired their concurrent performance.

One of the study’s authors concluded:

“Most people listen to music at the same time as, rather than prior to performing a task. To reduce the negative effects of background music when recalling information in order one should either perform the task in quiet or only listen to music prior to performing the task.”

This reflects my experience in the classroom (and my own personal experience). I use music a lot with English Language Learners as parts of lessons, and use music in lessons with our mainstream English classes when studying Bob Marley and, also, New Orleans. But they are always specific parts of lessons. Any time I acquiesce to student pleas to let them listen to those music examples outside of those specific lessons — for example, if they are working on a group project or during silent reading, it becomes an obvious distraction and I usually turn it off relatively quickly.

However, there is an important caveat — I have found that a few students who face particular challenges actually work better if they are listening to their own mp3 player at times, and have made individual agreements to let students sometimes use them.

Several years ago, when I was teaching a particularly challenging class, having students close their eyes for a couple of minutes after lunch and listen to soothing music also worked well as a calming influence. But they did not have to perform any task other than calming down, and the study does point out that music can “very positive effect on our general mental health” in that kind of situation.

Another study has found that working in quiet is the best atmosphere for cognitive work, listening to music you don’t like is next, and listening to music you like creates the worst cognitive atmosphere.

Don’t Listen to Music While Studying is useful post from Edutopia.

Okay, I’m all ears. Please share if your experience agrees, or disagrees, with this research….

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April 15, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Research Studies Of The Week

'magnifying glass' photo (c) 2005, Tall Chris - license:

I often write about research studies from various fields and how they can be applied to the classroom. I write individual posts about ones that I think are especially significant, and will continue to do so. However, so many studies are published that it’s hard to keep up. So I’ve started writing a “round-up” of some of them each week or every other week as a regular feature.

By the way, you might also be interested in My Best Posts On New Research Studies In 2013.

Here are some new useful studies (and related resources):

The Education Endowment Foundation has published a useful free Neuroscience and Education Literature Review. They describe it as:

A review of education literature, considering the impact of neuroscience informed approaches or interventions on the attainment of children.

I’m adding it to The Best Resources On “Brain-Based Learning.”

Frequent school moves can harm children’s mental health — study is from The Washington Post, though it’s no surprise to many of us teachers. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

With data from some 6,500 families who were part of a long-term study, the researchers found that students who as children had moved to three or more different schools were 60 percent more likely to experience at least one psychotic symptom when they were 12 years old. They did not find a causal relationship between frequent school changes and an increased risk of psychotic symptoms in preteens but the researchers said that moving often can fuel low self-esteem in children who find themselves socially isolated in new environments, which can affect brain chemistry.

Youth Gang Involvement Is a Public Health Issue Into Adulthood, Study Concludes is from Education Week. Here’s an excerpt:

It probably won’t surprise many educators that a young person’s decision to join a gang will have negative effects that continue well into his or her future. But a new study, published this month in the American Journal of Public Health, paints a clearer picture of how long the effects of that decision echo and how negatively it impacts a broad scope of factors—from the likelihood of later drug abuse and incarceration to poor health in adulthood.

America’s Teens Outscore Adults On Stress is from TIME Magazine. Here’s an excerpt:

Since 2007, the American Psychological Association (APA) has conducted a survey of different aspects of stress in America. This year’s analysis focused on teens, and on a 10-point scale, adolescents ranked their stress at 5.8, compared with a score of 5.1 reported by adults.

I’m adding this info to The Best Resources For Learning About Teens & Stress.

I’m adding this video report from The Brookings Institution to The Best Resources For Learning About Homework Issues:

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April 15, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Spacehopper” Is One Of The Best Geography Games I’ve Seen


There are quite a few online geography games out there, and you can see them at The Best Online Geography Games. Many of them are pretty hard, and can be frustrating to students.

Spacehopper is a new online game that isn’t easy but, after showing you a Google Street View image of a location, provides clues that make it less difficult. You’re shown a map with various dots on it, as well as the map outline of the country. After three guesses, you’re given the answer along with information on the location.

Thanks to Google Maps Mania for the tip.

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April 15, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

ELL Teachers & Students Will Love MusiXmatch – It Provides Karaoke-Style Lyrics To Most YouTube Music Videos


MusiXmatch is a free Chrome extension that will provide karaoke-style lyrics to most YouTube music videos. It can be used very easily on desktop and mobile devices.

Using songs, and using lyrics karaoke-style, is a longstanding and effective language-learning strategy, and you can read about many of them at The Best Music Websites For Learning English.

You can read more about it at TechCrunch.

I think MusiXmatch is a great tool. However, they’re advertising it with a video that pretty much tells you nothing about it, and may be one of the dumbest videos put out by at tech company. Because it’s so weird, I couldn’t resist embedding it below, but don’t plan on learning anything about how it works by watching it:

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April 15, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

National Teacher Day Is Coming-Up & Here Are Two Great Ways To Celebrate It On Social Media!


National Teacher Day in the United States is always celebrated on the Tuesday in the first full week of May. World Teachers’ Dayis held annually on October 5th since 1994, celebrates teachers worldwide, and was started by UNESCO. You can find lots of related resources for both days at The Best Resources To Learn About World Teachers Day.

This year, two great groups are sponsoring ways to celebrate National Teacher Day on social media.

The National Education Association is encouraging people to “use the #ThankaTeacher hashtag and join thousands showing their support for our nation’s teachers. Show some love on Facebook and Twitter or get creative and create your own six-second video thank you on Vine.”

Here’s a sample Vine:

And here’s a project being sponsored by The Center For Teaching Quality:

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week (May 5-9), CTQ is launching #TeachingIs, a social media effort to challenge stereotypes and recognize teaching as the complex work it is. Set the record straight. Join us!

Here’s how you can participate:

  • Show your support by donating a Facebook post or tweet and encourage your friends, colleagues, and followers to do the same.
  • Tell the world what #TeachingIs. Share your definitions, stories, small (and big!) wins, and manifestos via tweet, blog post, Vine, Instagram, YouTube, shareable graphic, Six Word Memoir, you name it! Just be sure to use the hashtag #TeachingIs.

From small details to spectacular achievements, let’s tell the world what #TeachingIs.

Looking for resources? Read some social media how-tos and explore our partner packet with sample tweets, logos, and avatars.

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April 14, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Yay! The Education Writers Association Now Lists Their Award Winners In A Way That’s Accessible!

'trophy 1 | the both and | shorts and longs | julie rybarczyk' photo (c) 2010, Julie Rybarczyk - license:

I’ve previously posted about the 2013 Education Writers Association National Awards For Education Reporting.

There were many of them, including many “must-reads.” However, their design made it very difficult to access links to them all — many clicks were required to find them.

Happily, I saw on Twitter today that they have now listed them in an easily scrollable, downloadable and clickable PDF.


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April 14, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Fun Video Useful To ELLs: “One Man Does 30 Animal Sounds”

This is a great video of a voice actor making 30 animal sounds. Even better, the name of the animal is displayed after each sound.

One way I reinforce new vocabulary is by playing sound effects games where I play sounds representing words we have recently learned (water dripping from a faucet, door opening, etc) and have students use small whiteboards to get points (that are just for fun) for the correct word. I use it when we learn animals, too. It’s easy to find these sound effects online, but playing a video like this and stopping it prior to the name showing up on the screen could be a lot more fun.

I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Learning About Animals.

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