Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

May 26, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Good Advice On NPR About “Grit”: “Take A Step Back & Chill”

Boy, the concept of “grit” is everywhere these days, particularly with the publicity around Angela Duckworth’s new bestselling book on the topic.

I’ve been critical of the use by many to apply grit and other Social Emotional Learning ideas as a “Let Them Eat Character” strategy to short-circuit genuinely effective social and economic policies that our schools, students and families need (see The manipulation of Social Emotional Learning).

And others sincerely just oversell it using the much over-used phrase of it being a “transforming” strategy.

I’m a big supporter of Social Emotional Learning (The Best Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Resources), and believe that it has an important place in the classroom.

I also believe that it has to be kept in its place.

Yesterday, NPR published an important contribution to this on-going debate (I couldn’t post anything earlier because I was on our annual insane twenty-hour field trip to San Francisco with seventy students). Their story is headlined MacArthur ‘Genius’ Angela Duckworth Responds To A New Critique Of Grit.

In it, Angela Duckworth responds to a recent study critical of some of her grit research, and, to her credit, actually agrees with a fair amount of it. I’m not so sure of her protestation that “she never tried to oversell her findings,” though.

I love this excerpt from the piece:


When it comes to grit, many of our students have shown and continue to show as much, if not more, grit than many of us teachers have demonstrated – just in situations outside of the classroom. I think our challenge is to make our classes into places where students want to show that trait there, and to help them see that it’s in their self-interest to do so.

In addition, we’ve got to also not teach a mindless sense of “Stick–to–itiveness” at all costs. We need to help them develop a sophisticated decision-making progress so that they know when it’s appropriate to change directions (see New Study: With Grit, You Need To “Know When To Fold ‘Em”).

Grit, like all the other Social Emotional Learning skills, are important items in a teacher’s toolbox.

Researchers may argue about how important but, I believe, taught with lots of caveats, I think it’s worthwhile.

It’s just always good to remember that there are no panaceas in education.

I’m adding this post to The Best Resources For Learning About “Grit.”

May 25, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

The Week In Web 2.0

'Web 2.0 paljastaa' photo (c) 2011, Janne Ansaharju - license:

In yet another attempt to get at the enormous backlog I have of sites worth blogging about, I’ve recently begin a regular feature called “The Week In Web 2.0.” (you might also be interested in The Best Web 2.0 Applications For Education In 2015). I also sometimes include tech tools that might not exactly fit the definition of Web 2.0:

Adobe Spark looks like an amazing new free tool that lets you create visually attractive quotes, web pages and videos. Richard Byrne, as usual, has created an excellent video showing how it works. I’m adding it to:

The Best Ways For Students Or Teachers To Create A Website

The Best Tools For Creating Visually Attractive Quotations For Online Sharing

A Potpourri Of The Best & Most Useful Video Sites

ClipChamp is an easy tool to make and share five minute “talking head” videos from your webcam. I’m adding it to the “Potpourri” list.

I’m always looking for free online video editing tools that students can use, and Videorama looks like a good app for the job. You can read more about it at TechCrunch. I’m adding it to Not The “Best,” But A List… Of Online Video Editors.

Speaking of videos, I posted in March about Instagram’s announcement that they were going to increase the length of videos you could make with the app from fifteen seconds to one minute. They’ve now done that, in case you haven’t noticed, and it’s a godsend to teachers and students alike. I’ll be sharing videos my English Language Learners and my IB Theory of Knowledge students are making with it.

Three Ways to Share Your Screen and Lend Tech Help is from – who else – Richard Byrne. I’m adding it to The Best Screenshare Tools To Help Others With Computer Problems.

The link in this next tweet shows some pretty interesting ways to use online tools for virtual professional learning communities:

May 24, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Another Study Finds That Poverty Helps Create Lack Of Self-Control – Not The Other Way Around

I’m obviously a big believer in Social Emotional Learning (see The Best Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Resources).

At the same time, however, teaching SEL skills to students isn’t enough because of broader soci-economic issues (see The Best Articles About The Study Showing Social Emotional Learning Isn’t Enough).

We also need to recognize that many of our students actually have a lot of the skills traditionally considered in Social Emotional Learning, such as “grit,” in other aspects of their lives, and the challenge to us teachers is to help students feel that school is important enough to them that they want to apply those skills there.

Part of SEL is helping students develop the ability to control themselves (see The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control). And previous studies, and a new one, have found that it might be a skill that some in low-income communities might not demonstrate because they just haven’t found it in their self-interest to do so.

Here’s what I wrote about one research paper in 2013:

The research paper, Poverty and Self Control, takes issue with a common belief that many low-income people are poor because they don’t have traits like self-control. Instead, it finds that that poverty causes a loss of self control:

“…the chain of causality is circular, and poverty is itself responsible for the low self-control that perpetuates poverty….policies that help the poor begin to accumulate assets may be highly effective…”

Even though a large portion of the paper is highly technical, and not particularly accessible to a layperson like myself (and its PowerPoint presentation is not that much better), here’s my understanding of what they found….

If you don’t have many assets, and you’re used to the environment of living on the edge, then self-control really doesn’t offer that many benefits — as Janis Joplin sang “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” — you might as well give in to your whims because not giving into them doesn’t really pay off based on your experience (instead of Joplin, the researchers quote Bob Dylan, ” When you ain’t got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose.”)

Now a new study has just come out with similar findings.


The use of the word “maladapted” seems a bit weird to me just because I’ve never seen that used to describe students who don’t show self-control. But the broader conclusion of the study does make sense, and seems to reinforce the earlier study.

I don’t think it negates the importance of doing whatever we can to support our students to develop more self-control (though let’s not grade them, please).  It does seem to me, though, to possibly alter the lens we use to look at the issue.

What do you think?

May 24, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

“ReadWorks Digital” Came Online Today & It Looks Great!


I’ve previously posted about ReadWorks as a source of excellent reading passages for use in classes (see “” Looks Like A Good Source Of Free Reading Passages For Social Studies).

Today, they unveiled ReadWorks Digital, a free site where teachers can create virtual classrooms for students to interact with their excellent texts online, including digital assessments.

It comes just in time for me to add it to one of the sites my students will be using over the summer (see Updated: Here Are The Sites I’m Using For My Summer School “Virtual Classroom”), and it will be a great resource during the school year, too.

I’m also adding it to The Best Sites That Students Can Use Independently And Let Teachers Check On Progress.

Here’s a short video introduction to the site:

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