Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

June 3, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Short Summary I’ve Seen Of Daniel Pink’s Book, “Drive”

I’ve written quite a bit about Daniel Pink’s book, Drive, here on this blog (see My Best Posts On “Motivating” Students) and in my new book.

I recently saw what I think is the best short description and summary of the book’s key points. Check-out the post “What really motivates us?” at the Barking Up the Wrong Tree blog.

April 12, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Good Short Interview With Daniel Pink

“The American School Board Journal” has published a nice short interview with Daniel Pink, author of the book, “Drive.”

For people familiar with his work, there’s probably nothing new in it. But it’s a nice introduction to the problems of rewards and incentives.

I’ll add this resource to My Best Posts On “Motivating” Students.

August 31, 2010
by Larry Ferlazzo

Exceptional Interview With Daniel Pink

I’ve just finished listening to an hour-and-twenty-minute interview/conversation between Daniel Pink (author of Drive) and Russ Roberts, host of a podcast titled EconTalk.

It’s really an exceptional conversation. Roberts is a gentle skeptic at times of Pink’s points, and it creates a situation where Pink talks about his research and perspective in a somewhat different way than I have heard him talk about it before — I’ve usually just read what he has written, or heard/read interviews from people who are in complete agreement. It was very helpful.

The last half hour of the interview is entirely devoted to incentives in education, but don’t just go to that part. I usually am not a fan of podcasts, but his one is worth listening through in its entirety.

I’m adding this post to My Best Posts On “Motivating” Students.

January 1, 2010
by Larry Ferlazzo

A Few Reflections On Daniel Pink’s New Book, “Drive”

Daniel Pink’s new book, “Drive:The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” just came out. I found it to be a very interesting “read,” though have to admit I was a little bit disappointed that — as far as practical applications to teaching — it didn’t have that much beyond what could be found in his must-see TED Talk (see My Thoughts On A Very Intriguing Video On Motivation & Incentives).

As I wrote in that post:

He cites a lot of research debunking the effectiveness of extrinsic rewards on motivation. This isn’t news to the many of us whom have read Alfie Kohn’s excellent book Punished By Rewards. However, he seems to provide a slightly more nuanced critique.

Pink basically says that extrinsic rewards do work — for mechanical work that doesn’t require much higher-order thinking.  But he says research says that it will not work for anything that requires higher-order thinking skills and creativity.

This analysis mirrors my own experience in the classroom.  In Have You Ever Taught A Class That Got “Out Of Control”? I shared the challenges I faced last year in using extrinsic motivation to get students into a new pattern of behavior, and then moving them back toward intrinsic motivation. Using “points” was definitely effective in getting the class under control. They received them for being focused and doing their work.

However, I didn’t think students started doing their highest quality work until they were “weaned” off the point system and began to gain what Pink calls “autonomy, mastery, and purpose.” Pink says that those are the three essential elements in generating higher-order thinking skills.

One thing I did learn from the book was that behavioral scientists define these two categories into “algorithmic” and “heuristic.”    Here is how he defines the difference on page 29:

An algorithmic task is one in which you follow a set of established instructions down a single pathway to one conclusion.  That is, there’s an algorithm for solving it.  A heuristic task is the opposite.  Precisely because no algorithm exists for it, you have to experiment with possibilities and devise a novel solution.  Working as a grocery checkout cleark is mostly algorithmic.  You do pretty much the same thing over and over in a certain way.  Creating an ad campaign is mostly heuristic.  You have to come up with something new.

I was struck by the similarity of algorithmic and heuristic to what Gladwell and others have framed as “puzzles” and “mysteries.”  I’ve written more about that at Is Figuring Out How To Make Schools Better A Puzzle Or A Mystery?

Another particularly useful part of the book — related to teaching — is a good review of Carol Dweck’s research and writing, though I think you can get the same information directly from her — see What Kind Of Feedback Should We Give Our Students?; The Difference Between Praise & Acknowledgment; and Reading Logs — Part Two (or “How Students Can Grow Their Brains”).

The nice thing about Pink’s book is that he shares a lot of neat research in an accessible way.  I was also impressed by his explanation of Edward Deci’s work on self-determination theory. I also use Deci’s research in my book that will be published in April, English Language Learners: Teaching Strategies That Work (Linworth Publishing).

You can read an interview with Pink at the Wall Street Journal, which also has published an excerpt from his book.

I’d be interested in hearing other people’s reactions to the book. Please leave a comment…

June 20, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

My Conversation With Texas Teachers About Self-Motivated Learners



I had the pleasure of having a half-hour Skyped conversation with a group of Texas teachers earlier this month, and invited Dan Perez to write about it:

Dan Perez comes from the Lamar Consolidated ISD in Rosenberg, TX.  Dan was a 6th grade Science teacher for eight years prior to transitioning to his new adventure this year as an Instructional Technology Specialist.  

Connecting Texas to California

Two weeks ago our district hosted a week long mini technology PD conference for our teachers called INTERACT (Integrating Technology Realistically Among Classroom Teachers).  This year we included a time frame for teachers to discuss various topics of interests. Prior to the conference, teachers read snippets of an assigned book relating to their selected topic in order to prep for our conversation with various educational experts. Enter the topic of meaningful student motivation, Larry Ferlazzo, and his book, Helping Student Motivate Themselves.

Our group met for about an hour and a half, part of which would include a live conversation with Larry via Skype.  Prior to our conversation with him, we reflected on our reading assignments and came up with questions to ask.  We had questions relating to student ownership, intrinsic rewards, goal setting, dealing with disruptive students, and reassessments.

When we connected with Larry, we discussed the importance of getting to know your students’ hopes and dreams.  He mentioned we need to “lead with our ears, instead of our mouths.”  It’s difficult for students to “buy in” if we’re not listening.  We also need to be flexible with our assignments relating to their dreams. This allows their work to be more meaningful and thus keeping the students’ interests. Dreams, meaningful work, and conversations regarding second chances can also help students who are often apathetic towards school work.

Acknowledging improvements in student work is essential. Students need to see individual progress, and they need to be conversed with it as well. One teacher shared how she’s changed the way she grades assignments by pointing out what the student got correct versus what they got wrong.  Some teachers also mentioned how they don’t grade with red pens either.

In relation to goal setting, our teachers loved the concept of Daniel Pink’s One Sentence Project mentioned by Larry.  Teacher’s want to invoke this where students will write one sentence on what they hope people will say about them in the future. Our group also discussed Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule, where it will take 10,000 hours of practice in order to achieve mastery.  All of this was to reinforce the topic of creating measureable realistic goals. Our teachers discussed how they respect students’ dreams, but they want them to come up with a “Plan B”.

For other questions, conversations with students seem to be the answer.  Whether it’s with the class as whole relating to classroom discipline issues or a one on one conversation with a student regarding behavior or academic concerns, heartfelt conversations are key.

Our conversation with Larry was exciting and participants enjoyed hearing his input as these opportunities don’t happen often.  Larry input was truly humble and honest. He mentioned how he was there to share, but also to learn.  He never tried to “fake” an answer and would mention if he didn’t know an answer to a question.


May 27, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Quote Of The Day: “Do” Is Better Than “Don’t”

I’ve previously written about how I apply research that shows using “positive-framed” messages instead of “loss-framed” ones.

Here’s an excerpt of what I’ve written earlier about researchers learning:

that “loss framed messages” (if you do this, then something bad will happen to you) really don’t have the “persuasive advantage” that they are thought to have. In fact, positive-framed messages (if you do this, all this good stuff will happen to you) are more effective, particularly in changing people’s health behaviors.

Researchers suggest the reason is because people “don’t like to be bullied into changing…behavior.” This is similar to the reason why incentives don’t work to increasing behavior that requires higher-order thinking — people don’t want to feel like mice in a maze (I heard that in a podcast interview with Daniel Pink a few months ago).

It certain reflects my experience with classroom management. I’ve had much better success talking with students about how changing their behavior will help them achieve their goals (passing a class, graduating from high school, going to college, etc.) than with threatening negative consequences (though, admittedly, in a few circumstances, that might work and I’ve used it).

A new study released today reinforced these same findings. Here’s an excerpt:


February 7, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Eighth Anniversary Of This Blog — What Have Been My Most Popular Posts?

I began this blog eight years ago.

Writing it has made me a better teacher for my students, and I hope it’s been helpful to others. It’s been an incredible gift to be able to connect with so many talented educators around the world.

I began writing it as a place for me to keep resources that I would use in the classroom in one place. Little did I know it would result in 15,000 posts (including 1,400 “Best” lists), seven million visitors, and thousands of subscribers, and lead to seven books.

I have also begun writing two other blogs — my teacher advice column at Education Week Teacher and the Engaging Parents In School blog.

I appreciate the people I have met — online or in person — through this blog, and everything I have learned from you.

Thanks, and forward to another year!

In addition to the above few words, I thought people might find it interesting to see what have been the most popular posts since this blog began (you can also see a list of my personal favorite ones here).

Here they are:

1. The Best Resources For Helping Teachers Use Bloom’s Taxonomy In The Classroom

2. The Best Sites For Online Photo-Editing & Photo Effects

3. The Best Popular Movies/TV Shows For ESL/EFL

4. The Best Online Virtual “Corkboards” (or “Bulletin Boards”)

5. The Best Teacher Resources For “Foldables”

6.  The Best Sites For Learning About The World’s Different Cultures

7. The Best Comic Strips For Students & Teachers In 2012 — So Far

8. The Best Sites For Learning Spanish Online

9. The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English

10. The Best Sites For Teaching About Latitude & Longitude

11. The Best Places To Read & Write “Choose Your Own Adventure” Stories

12. Easily Make Your Own Unique (& Fake) CNN, NY Times, Etc. Website With “News Jack”

13. The Best Sites For Grammar Practice

14. The Best Websites To Help Beginning Readers

15. The Best Applications For Creating Free Email Newsletters

Though “The Best…” lists are clearly extremely popular, some of my non-”The Best…” posts have also rung a chord with readers. Here are some of those most popular ones:

1. Answers To “What Do You Do On The First Day Of School?”

2. How Students Evaluated Me This Year — Part One

3. Have You Ever Taught A Class That Got “Out Of Control”?

4. This Is The Best Lesson Plan On Punctuation I’ve Ever Read

5. This Has Got To Be One Of The Most Useful Sites On The Web For ELL Teachers

6. Excerpt From My Book On Teaching English Language Learners

7. What Do You Do On The Last Day Of Class (Part Two)?

8. The Best Short Summary I’ve Seen Of Daniel Pink’s Book, “Drive”

9. Why Is It Important For Students To Learn About Bloom’s Taxonomy?

10. What Is The Accurate Edison Quote On Learning From Failure?

11. March’s Infographics & Interactives Galore – Part Four

12. Writing Letters To Students

13. Reading Logs — Part Two (or “How Students Can Grow Their Brains”)

14. When A “Good” Class Goes “Bad” (And Back To “Good” Again!)

15.  “I Like This Lesson Because It Make Me Have a Longer Temper” (Part One)

16. Helping Students Motivate Themselves: Practical Answers To Classroom Challenges

February 1, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Update On My Forthcoming Book On Student Motivation

Building a Community of Self-Motivated Learners1

The publication date of my forthcoming book, Building A Community Of Self-Motivated Learners: Strategies To Help Students Thrive In School and Beyond, has been moved-up a bit, and will now become available on March 15th. You can pre-order it at Routledge or on Amazon.

You can see reviews at both places from people like Daniel Pink and Rick Wormeli, and you can see the Table of Contents at the Routledge site.

As regular readers know, this is the third book in my student motivation “trilogy.”

School Leadership briefing did a fifteen minute interview with me about my last student motivation book, and they’ll be posting one they recently did about this new book in a couple of weeks.

I’ll be doing a “chat” on Twitter lasting for several days during the second week of March where I’ll be sharing snippets from the book and encouraging reactions and questions. I did this for my last student motivation book (you can see the Twitter collection here) and it went very, very well.

Then, in mid-March, look for book excerpts appearing in Edutopia, Middleweb, The Washington Post, The Guardian and Education Week (and maybe one or two other outlets). Ed Week will also be hosting an online chat about the book on a still-to-be-determined date.

Once that flurry of activity is done, I’ll be cracking-down to complete my next book — a sequel to the surprisingly (at least, to me) popular The ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide: Ready-to-Use Strategies, Tools, and Activities for Teaching English Language Learners of All Levels (co-authored by Katie Hull Sypnieski). Katie and I should have that manuscript done by September 1st, and it should be available in first half of 2016.

I’m thinking of taking a break from book-writing after that — eight books in eight years is beginning to take its toll….

But…you never know :)