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October 7, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

“How Can I Better A Better Teacher For You?”


As I’ve shared on numerous occasions (My Best Posts On Classroom Management), classroom management is a periodic challenge for me – I often teach “intervention” classes and/or classes where students have had limited prior schooling and/or have experienced substantial trauma. And sometimes I teach students with issues.

I try to always respond in positive ways (see More Positive, Not Punitive, Classroom-Management Tips). A couple of weeks ago, I shared one relatively successful strategy I tried (see My New Classroom Management Strategy: “How Are You Going To Use Your Power?”).

Yesterday, students in one of my classes were particularly wild (I suspect having substitute teachers in two previous periods contributed to their conduct). Class behavior had been leaning in that direction for a few days, so I decided it was time for a strong reaction.

Of course, every fiber of my being wanted to lash out at them. However, I also realized that going down that road never works.

So, I made arrangements with one of their other teachers to take out most of them one-by-one during my prep period and bring them into my classroom for a private conversation.

How did I begin those talks? With this question:

“How can I be a better teacher for you?”

That question created an entirely different dynamic for the entire conversation than if I had begun discussing classroom behavior. Most replied that the class is great as it is, while others offered good suggestions about seating and websites they like to use.

We were able to also get into a discussion about classroom behavior, norms, and the things they could do to be a better student, but leading with that question was, I believe, the key to the successful conversations.

It’s possible that coming down on students like a ton of bricks might have resulted in sullen compliance, but it would not have led to the sense of joyful learning that we had today in our classroom.

I have no illusions that all my classroom management issues are in the rear view mirror, but today reinforces my belief that positive beats punitive any day…

September 26, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

My New Classroom Management Strategy: “How Are You Going To Use Your Power?”

A teacher can never have too many positive classroom management strategies in one’s pocket (see My Best Posts On Classroom Management and Positive, Not Punitive, Classroom-Management Tips).

Here’s one I began using at the start of this school year and which seems to be working fairly well.

I’ve had individual meetings with students who are clearly considered leaders by some of their classmates, but who have not been the most conscientious in their work or in their behavior. Here’s an example of one of them (we had it in Spanish, but I’ll recount it in English):

Me: In English, there is an expression: “star power.” You are have “star power.” You are clearly popular and very sharp, and are going to have a successful life – even if you don’t focus a whole lot in class and instead choose to talk with others and get them off-task, too. You have power. Other students are struggling. A question is how are you going to use your power? Are you going to use it just to benefit you and enjoy yourself or…..

Student interrupting me: …or am I going to use it to help others, too?

Me: Bingo. You got it. What is your answer?

Student: I’m going to use it to help others, too.

They all haven’t gone as easily, but all have ended well.

There has been a marked improvement the past few weeks in all of their behavior. And, importantly, this discussion has provided me with a much more positive intervention when they get off-task than, “Please get back to work” or “Come one.”

All I quietly say is “Use your power.”

It feels a lot better to me, and I think me saying that to them feels a lot better to them, too.

August 9, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Harvard Business Review Publishes Nice Guide To Positive Classroom Management

Substitute the word “students” for “employees” and “teachers” for “bosses” and the Harvard Business Review article titled Why Compassion Is a Better Managerial Tactic than Toughness offers a pretty decent guide to positive classroom management.

Here’s an excerpt:


I’m adding it to The Best Posts On Classroom Management and to The Best Posts About Trust & Education

July 16, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Q & A Collections: Classroom Management Advice”

Q & A Collections: Classroom Management Advice is my latest Education Week Teacher column.

Links to all classroom management posts from the past four years can be found there.

Here’s an excerpt from one of them:


I’m adding it to The Best Posts On Classroom Management.

June 10, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Study: “Authoritative,” Not “Authoritarian,” Classroom Management Works Best For Boys

A couple of years ago, I wrote about what I thought was a pretty important study (see Parental Style Study Makes Sense For Teachers, Too). It found that parents who were authoritative — strict, but relational, listeners, etc — were more successful in raising kids who were self-reliant and self-controlled than those who were authoritarian.

A new study was released today that reinforced that conclusion for the classroom – especially for boys. You can read a summary in Science Daily or read the entire research paper itself (it’s not behind a paywall).

Here’s an excerpt:


I’m adding this post to The Best Posts On Classroom Management.

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:


April 12, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Options, Options, Options….

I’ve previously posted about Marvin Marshall’s great advice about always providing three options to students in a classroom management situation. As I said then, usually, when teachers only give students two options, it’s often clearly one very bad one and one that the teacher obviously wants done. In that kind of situation, it’s not really giving them a choice they can “own.”

Marvin has now published a bit more on this topic at his blog. Check out Options and Discipline.

I asked him if he could elaborate a bit more on his reasoning, and he sent me this:

When dealing with young people, the advantage of giving three (3) options is that it reduces all coercion. This is especially the case with “passive-aggressive” or “oppositional-defiant” kids. These young people often get their “power” by resisting. When three options are in play, resistance disappears. So often these kids are prompted by “counterwill”–the natural human tendency to resist control of any kind.

The conversation goes like, “Would you rather complete the form by yourself, with someone to help you, or what would you suggest?” Usually, I would give two options and then say, “Or what would you suggest?”

The point is that with so many people, offering two (2) choices is still coercive. Offering three choices–especially if it is elicited from the student–significantly reduces the feeling of being coerced or controlled.

By the way, Marvin, who’s one of the best thinkers about positive classroom management strategies out there, has created an online course on his system. It’s a low-cost way to learn a lot, and he’s offering half-price until April 30th.

March 24, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Another Excerpt From My New Book: “Why Viewing Classroom Management as a Mystery Can Be Helpful”

Why Viewing Classroom Management as a Mystery Can Be Helpful is a short excerpt from my new book, and it’s appearing in Education Week.

I’m adding it to The Best Posts On Classroom Management.