Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

April 3, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

April’s Best Tweets — Part One

'Twitter' photo (c) 2010, West McGowan - license:

Every month I make a few short lists highlighting my choices of the best resources I through (and learned from) Twitter, but didn’t necessarily include them in posts here on my blog.

I’ve already shared in earlier posts several new resources I found on Twitter — and where I gave credit to those from whom I learned about them. Those are not included again in post.

If you don’t use Twitter, you can also check-out all of my “tweets” on Twitter profile page.

You might also be interested in The Best Tweets Of 2013.

I use Storify to “curate” my best tweets:

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April 3, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Wow! The NY Times’ “Time Machine” Is One Wild “This Day In History” Site


The New York Times has unveiled a “Time Machine” feature that lets you read online what appears to be most (or, at least, many) pages of every edition they’ve published. Plus, you can print out PDF’s of the articles — at least, for the ones on the front page.

Unfortunately, it says you have to be a home or digital subscriber to The Times in order to access the feature. I wonder if they might ever make an exception for schools?

Even though you have to pay for it, I’m still adding it to The Best “Today In History” Sites.

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April 3, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

One Of The Worst Tweets I Read This Week Came From The Gates Foundation

It’s been a rather long week — I always know I teach at a 100% free breakfast and lunch comprehensive high schools, but there are some weeks I really know it. This was one of those latter weeks, with many challenges facing our students coming to the forefront. One pleasant thought I had though, after our staff meeting was this one: At least this year, most of our students here in California don’t have to take standardized tests this year!

And this is one of the first tweets I see when I get home:

Here’s what I “tweeted-out,” along with one particular response:



Here’s how the article (a newspaper column written by a charter school operator) Gates said was a “must-read” begins:

With the New York State English Language Arts exam this week, there have been stories galore about how a growing group of parents, concerned about the pressures of the state tests, are opting their children out from taking them.

At our 18 Brooklyn elementary and middle schools, we see this week differently. We see the state exams as a perfect opportunity for our teachers and leaders to create the wackiest and most joyful ways to pump up our 5,000 students as they gear up to show what they know.

In the days before this week’s test, teachers created motivational themes based on popular movies and TV shows focused on making kids laugh and inspiring them to do their best.

So rather than just see themselves as test-takers, our students became X-Men and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fighting off villains who try to steal their knowledge. The students had to decipher sinister messages from Voldemort, who tried to challenge their reading comprehension skills. By being exemplary readers and writers, they won the freedom of beloved teachers who were threatened by the likes of Darth Vader and Captain Hook.

Listen, I’m not opposed to a little test prep — it we gotta’ give these standardized tests sure, let’s spend a few days on preparing (see The Best Posts On How To Prepare For Standardized Tests (And Why They’re Bad) and Ethical & Effective Test Prep).

But, no, let’s not encourage students to value the tests as key evaluators of their learning, let’s not encourage a sense of competitiveness against other schools around their results, and no, let’s not use them to determine if “hard work paid off.”

I’m all for celebration. But don’t we have many more opportunities to do so that teach far more valuable lessons than focusing on standardized test results?


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April 3, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Here Is The Simple Outline I’m Having My TOK Students Use For Their Oral Presentation

'ground 1 outline' photo (c) 2012, Elle Ko - license:

I’ve previously posted about my questions and ideas related to the new changes in the required International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge Presentation (see “The Times They Are a-Changin’”…For IB Theory Of Knowledge Oral Presentations), and invited other teachers to weigh-in, too.

In that post, I shared a downloadable version of the new TOK Presentation Planning Document, as well as links to all the materials and timeline I use in my class related to the Presentation.

Today, I’d like to share two other documents that you might want to download.

The first one is an Exemplar Presentation Planning Document that IB has made available if you can navigate its serpentine website. I think it’s very useful for students and teachers alike.

The second is a new simple outline
I’ve developed for my students to use prior to completing the official Planning Document. It takes into consideration my understanding (which, admittedly, is limited) of the new requirements.

Any and all feedback on it is welcome – it’s working well for my students now, but I’m sure it can be made better….

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April 3, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Free Resources From All My Books

I have many free resources, including excerpts and student hand-outs, available from all my books. Clicking on the covers will lead you to them (and look for two new books being published over the next eighteen months — one will be the third volume in my student motivation “trilogy” :) , and the other will a new book on teaching English Language Learners):


Helping Students Motivate Themselves: Practical Answers To Classroom Problems.


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April 2, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

April’s Infographics & Interactives Galore – Part One

There are just so many good infographics and interactives out there that I’ve begun a new semi-regular feature called “Infographics & Interactives Galore.”

You can see others at A Collection Of “The Best…” Lists On Infographics and by searching “infographics” on this blog.

I’ll still be publishing separate posts to individually highlight especially useful infographics and interactives, but you’ll find others in this regular feature.

Here goes:

This map shows how the world has been hurt by climate change so far and A terrifying map of what climate change will mean around the world this century are both from The Washington Post, and are taken from the recent UN report on climate change. I’m adding them to The Best Sites To Learn About Climate Change.

Daily Routines Of The World’s Most Creative People is a pretty interesting infographic. You can see it as a slideshow at Fast Company or as a full infographic. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Identifying Qualities Needed In Order To Be “Successful.”

KQED has some good infographics on poverty. I’m adding them to The Best Visualizations Of Poverty In The U.S. & Around The World:

America, the Land of Opportunity? Not for Most Poor Kids, One Study Finds

Infographic: What Does it Mean to Be Poor in America?

Poverty Line Problems: The History of an Outdated Measurement (Infographic)

County Health Rankings Interactive Application is from The Robert Woods Johnson Foundation. Type in any zipcode and you sure get a lot of info on that community. I’m adding it to A Lesson Highlighting Community Assets — Not Deficits.

Here’s another useful infographic on climate change:

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April 2, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Our New ASCD Educational Leadership Article: “Teaching Argument Writing to ELLs”


My colleague Katie Hull-Sypnieski and I wrote wrote a lengthy and, if I say so myself :) , excellent article that has just been published by ASCD Educational Leadership.

It’s titled Teaching Argument Writing to ELLs, and it discusses very practical ways to teach writing to Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced English Language Learners — especially in light of the new Common Core Standards. But I think it offers helpful advice even if you’re teaching in a country not using CCSS.

I’m adding it to The Best Online Resources For Helping Students Learn To Write Persuasive Essays and to My Best Posts On Writing Instruction.

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April 2, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Bus Boycott “Choose Your Own Adventure” Game


The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis is reopening this weekend after a $28 million renovation (see the NY Times article, From Slave Ship Shackles to the Mountaintop).

That’s great news for people who live nearby or who can travel there for a visit. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear they spent any of that money on providing web resources for people unlikely to go there in person.

Their site does have a somewhat rudimentary, but still useful, “Choose Your Own Adventure” game called Before The Boycott that provides a glimpse into what it was like riding a bus in the South prior to segregation.

I’m adding it to The Best Places To Read & Write “Choose Your Own Adventure” Stories.

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April 1, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Another Good Writing Prompt: Reconciliation

'Mandela Graphic Novel' photo (c) 2007, Michael Sean Gallagher - license:

I have lots of useful resources at My Best Posts On Writing Instruction, and it’s also the place I collect posts about the writing prompts I use in my various classes.

Here’s one I’m using in my class right now. We’re ending a unit on Nelson Mandela, but it can be used in other contexts, too.

I can’t take credit for it, though. It was developed by my colleagues Lara Hoekstra, Katie Hull, and Cary Zierenberg, and I have permission to share it here. I’ve modified the process somewhat, though.

First, I ask students to take a minute and write down what they think the word “reconciliation” means. Students come up with some fairly logical guesses, but generally no one has heard of it before that day. I generally bring up two students to the front, tell them to fake like they are fighting each other, and then have them shake hands.

Then, I introduce the the short essay, The Cycle of Revenge Can Be Broken, by Mark Mathabane. As usual, I quickly introduce the essay and almost immediately go to the writing prompt:

How does Mark Mathabane believe hatred can be overcome? To what extent do you agree or disagree with what he believes? Write an essay responding to these questions; to develop your essay, be sure to include specific examples drawn from your own experience, your observation of others, or any of your reading — including “They Cycle Of Revenge Can Be Broken” itself.

We go through our typical process of breaking down the prompt — underlining the tasks the prompt is asking you to do, and then quickly converting it into a simple graphic organizer using the “They Say, I Say, Why I Say It” framework.

California Writing Project member Jessica Mann came up with the idea of having students listen to some Storycorps recordings related to reconciliation and then have students reflect on them so they might have more grist to use in their response to the prompt. I played a few recordings; after each one, I had students answer if they thought reconciliation had been achieved — if so, how and, if not, why? Students first did a pair share, followed by a quick class discussion.

I also slightly modified an exercise developed by my colleague Lara Hoekstra, and gave people a sheet listing seven words/quotes, and had them write for a minute or two on each one:

1. Hatred

2. Forgiveness

3. The worst thing someone ever did to me was…

4. “I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there was a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me, I would not shoot him.” — Malala Yousafzai

5. I forgave…

6. We should treat our enemies….

7. Overcome hatred…

We then began watching Mandela:Long Walk To Freedom, which just came out on Netflix. We’ve been studying Mandela for six weeks, so it functions as a review and the last third highlights the idea of reconciliation. We’re going to watch Invictus, which starts where the “Long Walk” ends, though we’ll probably only watch the first part before students start writing their essay. During the movie, students are taking notes in their outline to help them write their essay.

We began yesterday — Monday — and essays will be due at the beginning of class next Monday.

It’s gone well in the past, and I suspect it will go well now.

Feedback, particularly suggestions on how to make it better, are welcome.

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April 1, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments Launches App ELLs Might Like


I’ve previously posted about, a very useful Chrome extension for people learning another language, including English (see Is A Useful Tool For Second-Language Learners).

In fact, it’s on The Best Websites For English Language Learner Students In 2013 list.

They just launched their first mobile app (it’s Android-only now, but they should have a version for the iPhone, too) that appears to be an engaging flashcard-learning tool and one that automatically identifies appropriate-level Web articles to read. You can learn more about it at TechCrunch.

I’ll have students try it out today in class and, for now, I’m adding it to The Best Mobile Apps For English Language Learners.

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March 31, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Testing Talk” Is A Forum For Feedback On “Next Generation” Of State Tests


Testing Talk is a new site designed to solicit feedback from educators on this next generation of state standardized testing.

I’m not quite clear on how it’s different from the Assessment Advisor, developed by the National Education Association (you can read my post about it at NEA Partners With Teach Plus & Creates Online Rating System For Student Assessments).

I do have to say that the committee of educators behind Testing Talk is pretty darn impressive, so I’m sure they’ve developed a rationale and a plan that does not duplicate the work of the Assessment Advisor. I’ll certainly be giving them my feedback on the tests!

You might also be interested in The Best Resources For Learning About The “Next Generation” Of State Testing.

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March 31, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

I Am Tired Of “School Reformers” Using The Civil Rights Movement Legacy To Support Their Agenda


Los Angeles Schools Superintendent John Deasy spoke today at USC on the Vergara lawsuit (see The Best Resources On California Court Case Attacking Teacher’s Rights).

Los Angeles Times reporter Howard Blume is not going to write a story about his speech, but he did send out these tweets:

This attempted appropriation of the Civil Rights Movement legacy as a “false dilemma fallacy” in support of a “reform” agenda is an insult to educators, students, families, and our communities. The choice is not one of either having “civil rights” for students or a “lower-quality teacher corps.” Teachers, and our unions, have been and will continue to be fierce fighters for the rights of our students.

More and more, this seems to be the real choice: One between educators who spend each day in schools and communities supporting their students and those with little connection to the classroom and who are backed by billionaires with even less interest in strengthening our system of public education.

Here are a few other articles on reformers and their misuse of the Civil Rights legacy:

Key flaw in market-based school reform: a misunderstanding of the civil rights struggle is from The Washington Post.

Beware of Education Reformers Who Co-Opt the Language of the Civil Rights Movement is by Denisha Jones.

Eva Moskowitz’s Shameful Misuse of Civil Rights is from The Huffington Post.

Does Tenure Violate the Civil Rights of Students? is by Diane Ravitch.


What do you think?

Here are a couple of new additions — comments on this post:

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