Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

July 7, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

Classroom Instruction Resources Of The Week

Each week, I publish a post or two containing three or four particularly useful resources on classroom instruction, and you can see them all here.

You might also be interested in The Best Articles (& Blog Posts) Offering Practical Advice & Resources To Teachers In 2016 – Part Two andThe Best Resources On Class Instruction In 2017 – So Far.

Here are this week’s picks:

I’m adding these two resources to The Best Resources For Using Primary Sources:

Teaching with Primary Sources is from Thinkport.

Engaging Students With Primary Sources is from The Smithsonian.

Brainpop has some nice graphic resources on their Printable Resources page. I’m adding it to The Best & Most Useful Free Student Hand-Outs Available Online – Help Me Find More.

What Culturally Responsive Teaching Sounds Like is by Sean Riley. I’m adding it to The Best Resources About “Culturally Responsive Teaching” & “Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy” – Please Share More!  Thanks to Saraswati Noel for the link.

April 26, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

Here’s A Plan For An Oral Skills Class Next Year – Please Help Make It Better!

We’re going to have a third period next year for our Beginning English Language Learners that will be emphasizing oral skills. Right now, I teach two periods with them – one focusing on basic vocabulary and writing development and the other on academic writing. I obviously integrate speaking into those activities, but it’s easy for it to get short shrift.

Here’s the tentative plan for that third period – its primary purpose is to more regularly incorporate the activities that I’m now only using haphazardly – let me know how you think it can be improved (my talented colleague, Pam Buric, will be teaching it):

It will be mainly divided into three sections – Informal, Academic, and Student-Centered, and each day might have a different focus.



* Begin the class with a Round Robin question/answer process using existing a conversation list you can download for free from our ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide book site (click on “Bonus Web Content” and download Exhibit 4.3).

* Dialogues coordinated with the themes I’m covering in the other period (School, Home, Family, etc.). Many of those dialogues can also be downloaded at our book’s site.

* Students first perform simple dialogues, then can add changes based on scaffolded suggestions. Examples can also be found at our book’s site.


* I’ve written in our books and in an Edutopia article (English-Language Learners and Academic Language) about one way I approach teach academic vocabulary. Here’s an excerpt from that article:

We have two main sources for identifying what words constitute academic language that we must explicitly teach. The first source includes words and usage that are required by units we teach. After identifying critical vocabulary in, say, a persuasive essay unit — convince, reason, counter-argument, etc. — we will pre-teach approximately 20 words, first by reviewing pronunciation, and then by having students . . .

  • Act out the words in a skit.
  • Identify a physical gesture for the word (“opinion” might mean pointing to one’s head).
  • Write definitions of terms using their own words — in English or in their home language.
  • Create a “word chart” that we will also replicate on the wall. During the unit, students will periodically note when those words are used, and add new ones that they believe are important enough to recognize and remember.

The other primary source is an academic vocabulary list divided by grade level, like the list created by the Berkeley, California Public Schools or the guide developed by the Tennessee Department of Education (with Robert Marzano’s assistance) that categorizes academic words by content area. Of course, other lists are also available on the Web.

An activity that uses words from these lists is one of the most popular lessons we facilitate. For 20 minutes three times each week, we divide students into groups determined by levels of English proficiency. (We support mixed groups and are opposed to tracking by ability. In our multilevel class, we clarify that divisions are based on whether students studied English in their home country, not intelligence.)

Then with peer tutors, student teachers, bilingual aides or instructors alternating as they facilitate an activity with one group — while other students are doing something else — we discuss three or four new words aligned with the appropriate “grade level.” (The actual grade for the list — kindergarten, first grade, etc. — does not appear on the copies we give students. Our learners don’t need to be reminded how far away they are from English proficiency.)

After defining words with the same reinforcing activities that we use with word charts for units, we write down “question and answer frames” for each of the words:

“Do you believe that ______________________?”
“Yes, I believe ___________” or “No, I do not believe ___________.”

We ask each student questions, and then they question each other, adapting the “frames” to their own interests. Then students review previously learned words with each other.


* Every month, invite students to help make a list of conversations they would like to learn (asking for directions, asking someone out for a date, ordering at a restaurant, applying for a job). Look for a video teaching that conversation – happily, we have recently discovered that most ESL teaching videos have finally been unblocked, so there are zillions on YouTube – just write the topic and add the letters “ESL.” We’ll use those short videos as teaching tools for those conversations, possibly including ones from that include comprehension quizzes that can be projected on the board with students answering them in game-like fashion on mini-whiteboards.

* Have the class select videos of their choice from Brainpop, Jr., use the “Easy Quiz” with mini-whiteboards and, most importantly, have students work in pairs and use a nice “Word Play” feature it offers. It’s simple – it’s a form where students write a super-short skit about one of the words they just learned from the movie and act it out (you have to pay for Brainpop, but it’s not too bad if you just buy the feature that allows only three log-ins at any one time).

So, that’s the first draft of the plan – suggest and critique away!

I’m going to add this post to The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English, which is where I also have other posts – in addition to websites – about speaking activities.

November 24, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Online Learning Games Of 2016 – Part Two


Time for another end-of-year ”The Best…” list.

As usual, In order to make it on this list, games had to:

* be accessible to English Language Learners.

* provide exceptionally engaging content.

* not provide access to other non-educational games on their site, though there is one on this list that doesn’t quite meet this particular criteria.

* be seen by me during the last six months of 2016. So they might have been around prior to this time, but I’m still counting them in this year’s list.

You might also be interested in:

The Best Online Learning Games Of 2016 – So Far

The Best Websites For Creating Online Learning Games

The Best Online Learning Games Of 2015 – So Far

The Best Online Learning Games Of 2014

The “All-Time” Best Online Learning Games

The Best Online Learning Games Of 2013 – Part Two

The Best Online Learning Games Of 2013 — So Far

The Best Online Learning Games Of 2012 — So Far

The Best Online Learning Games — 2011

The Best Online Learning Games — 2010

The Best Online Learning Games — 2009

The Best Online Learning Games — 2008

The Best Online Learning Games — 2007

Here are my choices for The Best Online Learning Games Of 2016- Part Two:

The Fiscal Ship was just named of one the top games at the Serious Play Conference. It’s a surprisingly accessible and engaging interactive about (yawn) fiscal policy and the federal budget. Though the majority of its backers appear to be conservative groups, the sponsoring group includes a few others, too. I didn’t play the game all the way through; however, what I did get through seemed to be relatively even-handed without pushing a particular agenda.

Pairprep is a free site that has a number of “courses” (a series of multiple choice questions on a particular topic – like “ESL”) where students can compete against a friend, a random opponent, or themselves as they choose answers. Teachers can monitor student progress through a virtual classroom.

National Geographic has created a page with links to their most engaging and educational games.

Guess What! is the name of a “new” game from Cambridge University Press. I have “new” in parenthesis because it’s a version of a game used with English Language Learners for decades – Taboo – where players have to describe a word without using the word, and others have to guess what is being described. The great twist in “Guess What!” is that students can create videos of them describing a word, upload it, and then have other classes use them as part of their own game (they provide simple instructions).

Pioneers of Flight has several interactive games, and comes from the Smithsonian.

Mission U.S. has created some excellent interactives and some bad ones.  Their newest one is on the Depression.  I haven’t played it, but they seemed to learn some lessons in on how their created their last one on immigration, so I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt.

GlassLab Games lets educators create virtual classrooms where students can play educational games and have their progress monitored. You can create a free classroom, but only have access to one-or-two of the games, and you can also create a free one with access to all of them for sixty days. For a longer period of time, you need to pay, but the price is not astronomical. I’m not that impressed with the games they have now. However, the well-known game Civilization is creating a specific education version that was supposed to be available on the site in October.

Thanks to Sara-E. Cottrell, I recently learned about Sugarcane, a free web tool that lets you easily create lots of different kinds of learning games, as well as access ones that others have created. It’s owned by IXL Learning, but your school doesn’t have to be subscribed to it in order to use Sugarcane.

Reader Gabrielle Klingelhöfer shared the site Learning Apps with me, and I’m sure glad she did! It’s a free site that lets teachers create virtual classrooms where students can uses lots of different kinds of online exercises and games to learn many subjects. There are tons of already-created exercises divided by subject, and it seems super-easy – and I really mean easy – for teachers to create their own.

A bunch of groups, including museums and the city of London, have cooperated to create The Great Fire of London interactive, which includes what they call a “children’s game,” a Minecraft resource, and a lot of other features.

Brainpop has pulled together a nice collection of online games.

Smithsonian Science has put all their games in one place.


September 10, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

This Is The Revised & Updated Three-Day 9/11 Lesson I Did This Week (With Hand-Outs & Links)

New York NY ~ Manhattan ~ NYC ~ Old World Trade Center ~ My Photography 1996 ~ Destroyed                                                                             Onasill ~ Bill Badzo via Compfight

I’ve previously shared the three-day lesson I usually do with my English Language Learner History classes, and this past week did it again. I made some changes, however, and thought readers might find it useful for me lay-out exactly what I did (and if readers don’t find it useful it will at least be helpful to me next year when I do it again!).

You might also be interested in The Best Sites To Help Teach About 9/11.


First, I had students create a K-W-L chart titled 9/11 and had them write what they thought they knew about it. Students then broke into groups of three to share and add anything they might have heard from their group members. Most knew very little, if anything – “people died,” “terrorists attacked America,” “bin Laden did it” were the comments from the few who had heard anything about it prior to Wednesday. I had people share to the entire class and added to a class K-W-L chart on the document camera.

Next, I asked students to write down at least two questions to which they wanted to learn the answers about 9/11. We repeated the sharing process and added to the class K-W-L chart.

I then told the class we were going to watch a few videos and I wanted them to write at least ten new pieces of information they learned from them – particularly the answers to the questions they listed. I showed these videos, stopping often to highlight pieces of information for them to add to their chart:

Brainpop 9/11 Movie (It’s available for free)

10 Iconic 9/11 Images

First Plane Crashing Into The World Trade Center

Second Plane Crashing

Interest and engagement steadily increased during the class, with lots of questions and comments.

I then shared a short video, along with images, from the New York Times about the 9/11 Museum.

I then gave students homework which was a list of questions they had to ask their parents/guardians. I’ve uploaded it here if you want use it or make changes, and will also share it in this post:

Please ask your parents or grandparents these two questions:

1. What do you remember about the terrorist attack in New York City ten years ago on September 11th?

2. What major acts of political and/or criminal violence do you remember in your native country? Please describe what happened.

How did it affect you and your family? How did it make you and them feel?

How did it affect our native country?

Lastly, I asked students to think for a moment how they think 9/11 might have affected their life in any way, had them share with a partner, and then with the class.  All the Muslim students (Afghani refugees) said basically the same two things – “Now people think all of us Muslims are terrorists” and “We probably wouldn’t be here in the United States” – and all the non-Muslim students couldn’t think of anyway it affected them.  We had a brief discussion of how the attack disrupted potential immigration reform.  This last part went okay, but was clearly the weakest part of the lesson.  I need to think more about it, and am open to hearing suggestions — about this and all part of the whole thing!


I asked students to take out their K-W-L charts and reminded them about the last video we had seen — about the 9/11 museum.  I explained we were going to watch another video about it, and asked that they add new information they learned to their chart.

I showed this short ABC News video about the opening of the museum.

I then asked them to think about this question without saying anything:

Why do you think they have a museum there?

After a minute, I asked students to share their answer with a partner and we then shared in the class.  There were several responses, including “To remember them.”

I then passed out this “Remembering People Who Died” chart.  You can download it at the link, and here are the questions:

Think of important people who have died — in your family, in your home country.

Who are they?

1. _________________________________________________________________

2. __________________________________________________________________

3. ___________________________________________________________________

How do you remember them?

When do you remember them?

Why do you remember them?

Why do you think we try to remember the people who died on 9/11?

I modeled the “Who are they?” section and listed my father, first wife and Muhammed Ali, and encouraged students to pick people who they are close to and people who might be more well-known.

Then, I modeled a response to “How do you remember them?” (think about them, look at pictures), and then students wrote down their answers.

Next, I modeled a response to “When do you remember them?” (family events), and then students wrote their own.

Then, I had students write answers to “Why do you remember them?” without modeling an answer, and did the same with the last question, “Why do you think we try to remember the people who died on 9/11?”

Students then shared in groups of four, and I called on different ones to share with the class.  There were several many moving responses, though the answers to the last question were all fairly vague – “They were important” or “We want to honor them.” I shared my response, which was two-fold: One, to honor people who help others – all those firefighters and police who sacrificed their lives to save people.  Before I gave my second response, I asked one of the Afghani students to share her comment from the day before about how 9/11 affected her  and she shared that people think all Muslims are terrorists.  I then said another important reason to remember 9/11 was because there were only nineteen Muslim terrorists and asked students how many Muslims they thought were in the world.  They answers millions, and we talked about how nineteen is a small number compared to that large number.

I then had students take out their homework and we did a “speed-dating” sharing with students lined up across from each other recounting the responses they received from their parents.

We were then running out of time, so I showed a couple of other short videos about 9/11: from Fox News and from The Telegraph.

Third Day

Students converted the answers they received from their parents and their K-W-L chart into a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting 9/11 with violent events in their own country (I used print-outs from Read Write Think – Venn Diagram and Compare/Contrast Planning, along with this model Compare/Contrast essay.

Please leave comments with suggestions on how I can make this a better lesson next year!

May 23, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Updated: Here Are The Sites I’m Using For My Summer School “Virtual Classroom”


NOTE: I have added ReadWorks to both Work History and U.S. History – see “ReadWorks Digital” Came Online Today & It Looks Great!

I’ve written a lot about the “summer slide” (see The Best Resources On The “Summer Slide”)  and how I try to combat it by creating virtual online classrooms that students use during vacation time (our district used to have money for summer school, but that time is far in the past).

Even though I’m a big believer in intrinsic motivation, I am not above both offering extra credit for the following year’s classes (either in my classes if they are having me again, or in other classes where I make arrangements with their teachers) and by telling them that they will function as “teaching assistants” in next year’s classes if they complete all the assignments.

Here are the updated sites I’ll be having my students use over the summer (we always spend a couple of classes at the end of the school year familiarizing them with the sites):

My Beginning/Intermediate ELL English Class Students

Of course, Duolingo is number one and is free. It’s very easy to set-up a virtual classroom to monitor student progress.

costs $110 a year for a class, but I’ve always thought it was worth it, and have used it for many years. It has lots of “talking books” and interactives.

USA Learns is for Beginners, Low-Intermediate and Intermediate ELL’s, and has reading, speaking and listening activities. Teachers set up the class, and students enroll themselves after you set up the class.

My ELL Geography Students Who Will Be Taking World History Next Year

I’m creating free virtual World History classrooms on these sites:

Think Circa – you can read my previous post about the site here.

Power My Learning

Hstry – you can read my previous post about the site here (I haven’t yet decided for sure about it, though).

OpenEd – you can read my previous post about this site here.

My ELL World History Students Who Will Be Taking U.S. History Next Year

Zoom-In – you can read my previous post about this site here.  You can create a free virtual classroom.

In the subscription I have for Brainpop, only three log-ins can be used at any one time.

Though I have fifteen students who will be entering U.S. History next year, unfortunately, I think only about six or seven of them will actually do online work over the summer. Part of that small number is due to the fact that some are going to Mexico over the summer and don’t expect to have Internet access.

Because I have such a small number who I think will use the summer sites, however, it means that just having three log-ins to Brainpop should be workable. I’m having them view all the U.S. History videos there and complete the quizzes. They will print-out each quiz they complete and give me a packet at the beginning of next year (I also gave them the option of taking pictures of the quizzes to send me, but they all seem more interesting in the print-out versions).

I’m Adding “Zing” To List Of Sites I’m Having Students Use This Summer

So that’s my list, and I’d love to hear more suggestions!

(FYI, my Beginner and Intermediate ELL students will also be taking my Geography class next year. If they do anything over the summer, though, I want them to work on their English through Duolingo and USA Learns. If I wanted them to get a head-start on Geography, though, I’d pay $100 for a classroom in IKnowThat.)

Also, check out “TIME/Edge” Could Be Useful For Students Over The Summer

NEW: Sites On Economics My Students Will Be Using In Their Virtual Summer School

March 1, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best & Most Useful Free Student Hand-Outs Available Online – Help Me Find More

This “Best” list is going to a very popular one that’s starting off short, but it’s going to be getting longer as time goes on.

I thought it would be useful to me, and to others, to gather links to the best free downloadable student hand-outs that are simple and useful.

Here is my criteria. They need to be:

* Fairly generic. By “generic,” I mean that they can be used more than one time during the year and, ideally, be applicable in a number of different lessons. I think you’ll get a clearer idea of what I mean after you see the ones I start off with in this post.

* Promote some degree of higher-order thinking. You won’t find downloads to a basic reading comprehension sheet on this list.

* Free-of-charge, and not requiring even site registration in order to access it.

This is just a beginning list I wanted to put out there.  I have previously shared many free downloadable forms that I and others have created, but it will take me a while to revisit all of them to see which are appropriate for this post. Please leave additional suggestions that meet the criteria and, if I agree that they do, I’ll add them to the list and, of course, give you credit for suggesting it.

Here goes:

You might want to start at Not “The Best,” But “A List” Of Mindmapping, Flow Chart Tools, & Graphic Organizers.

The Best Scaffolded Writing Frames For Students

Teaching and Learning with Science Media is from KQED and shares some hand-outs that can be very useful in all subjects, not just in science.

The New York Times Learning Network has a great collection of these kinds of “reusable activity sheets.” Their excellent Text To Text series offers ideas on how to use them. Here’s another more recent link to them, but I’m not sure if it includes just the same ones or has new hand-outs, too.

Here’s a Critical Reading Study Guide.

Document Analysis Worksheets are very useful student handouts from The National Archives.

All of the student hand-outs, and there are a lot of them, from my last several books are available for free download. You can get the ones from my student motivation books here and from my teaching English Language Learners book here (click on “Bonus Web Content”).

Jossey-Bass is making all the lesson plans and student hand-outs from our Navigating The Common Core With ELLs book available for free online – you don’t even have to register to get them! Just go to our page on the publisher’s site and download away!

You might also find The Best Sites For Free ESL/EFL Hand-Outs & Worksheets useful.

You’ll find multiple versions of forms my students use to evaluate me and our class at My Best Posts On Students Evaluating Classes (And Teachers).

Smithsonian’s “Our Story” Is A Valuable Resource For Teachers & Parents (nice forms to use on field trips to any museum)

Read Write Think has lots of great interactives. I recently learned, though, that they also have PDF versions of many of them.

Brainpop has some nice graphic resources on their Printable Resources page.

Again, this is just the beginning.  Suggest away!

October 1, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

A Simple Lesson On Climate Change For English Language Learners

My colleague and co-author Katie Hull Sypnieski (with whom I’m writing a sequel to our surprisingly popular book, The ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide) are teaching a lesson on climate change to our Intermediate and Advanced English Language Learners on Friday. I’ll be combining my Intermediate class with her Advanced one.

I thought readers might be interested in hearing what we will be doing…

First, we’ll show students two short videos on climate change after providing a short introduction to it. There are surprisingly few accessible videos out there, and I think these are the two best ones — Brainpop’s animation on Global Warming (happily, they make this video available free) and this one from the Australian government:

Next, we’ll explain that the United Nations had a special meeting last week on climate change, and that a Marshallese poet recited a poem that brought many delegates to tears (see Marshallese Poet Brings UN To Tears With Climate Change Poem & Provides Extraordinary Opportunity To ESL Teachers). We’ll give everyone a world map, and our Marshallese students will explain where the Marshall Islands are located.

We’ll then give students a copy of the poem, read it to them, and then show one of the videos that accompanies the poem that is embedded in my post about it. Then we’ll have students work in pairs to write in their own words what they think the different stanzas of the poem mean, and discuss it in class.

Next, we’ll show a video of the poet reciting the poem at the United Nations.

Then, depending on how much time we have left, we’ll bring students to the library to do research so they can write an “ABC” paragraph in response to this question: Answer the question, Back it up with evidence like a quotation, make a Comment or Connection. You can read more about this strategy here.

How do you think climate change will affect you?

They’ll research resources at The Best Sites To Learn About Climate Change. They’ll also be able to use information they learned from the two videos.

Their homework will be to write the paragraph, and then they’ll share it verbally with classmates on Monday.

Let me know if you have suggestions on how we can make the lesson an even better one!

October 9, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

The Best Online Activities For Learning About Time Zones

This is a quick “The Best” list I’m putting together for my Geography class tomorrow. Fell free to offer additional suggestions:

A Brief History Of Time Zones is from The BBC.

Geography : Time Zone Quiz

Time Zones Game

Time Zones Challenge

United States Time Zone Quiz

Time Zones

More on Time Zones

Even More on Time Zones

Time Zones Again

One moment around the world

United States Time Zone Quiz

Time Zone quiz

BrainPop Time Zone movie (requires paid subscription)

If you found this post useful, you might want to explore the other 950 “The Best…” lists and consider subscribing to this blog for free.

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