Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

January 7, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

More Resources About The Presidential Inauguration

Here are new additions to The Best Sites For Learning About The Presidential Inauguration – 2017:

Videos From CBS News: History of presidential inaugurations and The very first inauguration

January 2, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

Guest Post: Social Studies & The Common Core (With Downloadable Lessons)

Last last year, I published a two-part series at my Education Week Teacher column with answers to this question: What do the Common Core Standards look like in Social Studies classrooms?

Teachers Tara Dale and Mandi White contributed a response to the question that was too late to include in that series, but they agreed to let me publish it here.

You can contact them at:

Mandi White:  mandiwhite at kyrene dot org
Tara Dale:  tara.dale at gilbertschools dot net

Prior to the implementation of Common Core Standards, the emphasis of social studies classes on our campus was memorization of facts and dates.  As teachers embrace the new Standards, we’ve witnessed three specific changes in social studies classrooms.  First, teachers’ expectations of students has increased.  Prior to Common Core, you would hear teachers make comments such as, “our students can’t perform at that level” or “my students aren’t capable of that higher level thinking.”  Those beliefs have been squashed in many classrooms!  The expectations we have of our 7th graders has risen and it has been much fun watching the students rise to the occasion.

The second change was to create new goals for social studies classes.  We have a lot to cover, which often becomes very overwhelming and oftentimes causes us to get off target.  Therefore, we had to narrow our work by following these five goals:

1. Students will learn all required social studies standards as outlined by the state of Arizona and the Kyrene Elementary School District.

2. We will begin to close the achievement gap by:
a. increasing reading fluency,
b. increasing reading comprehension, and
c. focusing on tier 2 and tier 3 vocabulary.

3. Students will practice Common Core ELA Standards by:
a. reading complex text,
b. reading informational text, and
c. citing their text in their answers.

4. All students will have opportunities to practice higher level thinking skills such as analyzing, inferring, predicting, creating and evaluating.

5. All students will be tested for their understanding of how historical people and events affect American life today, specifically that of a middle school student in Phoenix, Arizona.

Finally, the last change on our campus has been how we plan.  It has been customary to plan in department silos.  Language arts teachers planned together, social studies teachers planned together, and science teachers planned together.  But now we are planning across departments because every teacher is requiring students to provide text evidence.  We want our students to receive the same message about the importance and procedure for using text so we plan as one large team, which better supports our shared students.  In return, the language arts teachers shared with us and the science teachers their resources so that we can use them in our classes with students.  It is very powerful that our students are receiving the same Common Core message in their language arts class but also their social studies and science classes.

We’ve provided two examples of downloadable social studies lessons requiring students to read complex text, provide text evidence, and use higher level thinking skills.  Social studies class is now much more than memorizing dates and people; it’s about understanding why people made decisions and how those decisions affect us today.

1.       Was the American Civil War Avoidable?  Students research the three main causes of the American Civil War and formulate another option besides war.   Using text evidence, they create an alternate solution to the nation’s problems.

2.       A Syrian Immigration Story.  Students read an article from Newsela outlining the details of what it is like to be a Syrian immigrant in the US.  Then they answer text dependent questions.

January 1, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

“The Widening Racial Wealth Divide” Is Such An Important – & Accessible – Article

Once of my goals during the winter break has been to catch-up on reading back issues of The New Yorker.

Today, I got to the last issue in my stack – from October. In it, I found an incredibly important, short, and well-written article by James Surowiecki that was headlined The Widening Racial Wealth Divide.

It give a very concise explanation of the reasons behind the “wealth-gap” facing African-Americans.

Here’s an excerpt:

I’m adding it to:

The Best Resources About Wealth & Income Inequality

A Collection Of Useful Posts, Articles & Videos On Race & Racism – Help Me Find More

The Best Articles Showing Why Education Reform Is NOT The Best Way To Fight Poverty

January 1, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

Guest Post: Exploring Cultural Values with Students (With Hand-Outs)

Editor’s Note: I’ve shared many resources related to learning about different cultures, including a lesson I do as well as The Best Sites For Learning About The World’s Different Cultures.  Today, Josh Kurzweil shares a related lesson he does with his English Language Learners.

Josh Kurzweil began his teaching career in 1990. He has taught and trained in Japan, Spain, the Republic of Georgia, and the United States. He has been teaching at an intensive English program called the International Education Center at Diablo Valley College since 2004. He is a trainer on the SIT TESOL Certificate Course and is on the faculty of the MATESOL program at Marlboro College Graduate School in Marlboro, VT. He is the author of Understanding Teaching Through Learning, which was published by McGraw-Hill in 2006. Josh also runs an educational consulting business called Berkeley LTC, and has designed instructor development programs for labor unions. His particular areas of interest include experiential learning, reflective practice, and instructional design. Josh lives with his wife and son in Berkeley, California:

Exploring Cultural Values with Students

In my advanced reading/writing course, I have students from different countries who usually 17-20 years old and are preparing to go to college. Recently, my colleagues and I developed a unit on culture, which helps these students look more at the ‘invisible’ aspects of culture such as beliefs, values, and attitudes. The unit is primarily based on the work of Geert Hofstede, a Dutch professor who worked for many years in the business world and developed six dimensions of culture using extensive interviews with people from over 70 countries over the last 50+ years.

The dimensions of culture are scales from 0-100 that measure beliefs about power distance, individualism vs. collectivism, masculinity vs. femininity (i.e. competitiveness vs. cooperation), uncertainty avoidance, long-term orientation, and indulgence. Hofstede has made a great deal of his research available online for free, and I have adapted his ideas and created lessons and materials for my ELLs so that they can explore their own culture and that of the U.S. The unit culminates in the students producing a compare/contrast essay about the their national culture and the U.S. Below are the steps and materials that I use during the week.

  1. Culture Intro. Students discuss pictures of different greetings from around the world. This leads to a discussion of visible and invisible culture (see worksheet ‘Culture_Intro_Greetings’). Students do a hands-on sorting activity in which they think about the iceberg metaphor of visible and invisible culture.
  2. Compare/Contrast Language. Students brainstorm similarities and differences between their school now and another school. Since my students are all going to Diablo Valley College, we use that and our school. Students then work with compare/contrast connectors (see worksheet Compare_Contrast_Connectors) and review using a Quizlet set.
  3. Country Statistics (Quantifiers). Students work on quantifiers (Ex. almost all, most, many, etc) by making guesses about the U.S. and then discussing their own countries (see worksheet Quantifier_Introduction)
  4. Culture Dimensions Introduction. Students read a simplified description of the culture dimensions and mark on the scales where they think most people in their country would fall and where they feel they are on the scale. I usually assign this as HW. Then they discuss it the next day in class (see worksheet Cultural_Dimensions_Intro).
  5. Introduce Hofstede’s Charts. After students have thought about the culture dimension scales on their own, I hand out charts from Hoftstede’s website that compares their national culture with that of the U.S. These charts can be produced using the free tool on Hofstede’s website.

I print them out beforehand and hand them out so that students can discuss whether they agree or disagree with Hofstede’s results by giving examples to support their ideas. I model this by explaining my ideas about the Power Distance dimension as I thought about the U.S. and India (I spent a year studying in India when I was in college). I tell the students that initially I thought the U.S. would be lower on the Power Distance scale because we value equality so much, but then I thought about how normal it is to ask people about their jobs and where they went to school or where they live. The answers to those questions create a kind of hierarchy of power and privilege, so maybe the U.S. isn’t as egalitarian as it seems to be.

6. Intro Compare/Contrast Essay. After the discussion, I hand out the compare/contrast essay prompt (see worksheet Culture_Writing_Prompt), which asks them to write an essay in which they answer the question: Overall, is your culture more similar to or different from that of the U.S.? The prompt also includes a guide for how to organize the body paragraphs and sample body paragraphs from my essay comparing India and the U.S. (see Sample_Culture_Essay to see a very strong student essay)

7. Intro Hofstede Website. In addition to the charts, Hofstede’s website produces reports that discuss each dimension for the national cultures that are selected. Students can use parts of this report as ‘references’ (i.e. evidence) to support their body paragraphs. I usually do an in-class demonstration of how to use the website and also have a screen capture video on my website. 


Overall, this unit can help students take a much deeper look at cultural differences and move beyond the more obvious visible differences such as greetings, clothing, and customs. While those can be fascinating, it is often the hidden beliefs and values that most challenge students who are living or studying in the U.S. In addition, students often develop a deeper awareness of their own culture as they go through this process of reading and writing.

January 1, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Sites For Learning About The Presidential Inauguration – 2017

Donald Trump will take the oath of office on January 20, 2017 and become the 45th President of the United States.

It’s an opportunity for learning about how the U.S. government works and for critical thinking about what it means to be an “active citizen” in the United States (see my NY Times posts, “Ideas For E.L.L.s: Civics and Citizenship and “Ideas For English Language Learner: What Does It Mean To Be A Citizen?, as well as my Washington Post piece, ‘Dear President-elect Trump’: Immigrant students write letters asking for ‘the opportunity to demonstrate we are good people.’).

I’m eager to hear from teachers about how they will be approaching the inauguration in their classrooms – if at all.

You might also be interested in these previous “Best” lists, which provide lots of additional resources for potential government and critical thinking lessons:

The Best Sites For Learning About The Presidential Inauguration – 2009

The Best Sites For Learning About President Obama’s Second Inauguration

The Best Sites To Learn About U.S. Presidents

The Best Sites To Learn About The 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections

The Best Websites For Learning About Civic Participation & Citizenship

The Best Posts & Articles On Building Influence & Creating Change

Here are my choices for The Best Sites For Learning About The Presidential Inauguration – 2016:

Here’s the official government inauguration website.

Trump Inauguration Security Planners Brace for Wave of Protesters is from The New York Times.

Organizers Hope Women’s March On Washington Inspires, Evolves is from NPR.

National Geographic has a good article and slideshow about the history inaugurations.

EL Civics has a good lesson for English Language Learners on Presidential Inaugurations.

Inaugural Words from The New York Times, I believe, is one of the more useful resources that were been created for President Obama’s first  Inauguration (it’s still “live,” but I don’t believe it’s been updated).  “Word clouds” highlighting the most-used words in each inaugural address in history can be seen. In addition, words that were used in each address much more than in the other ones given in history are identified. Plus, by clicking on each word you are shown how it was used in a sentence. Comparing the words and even just using them as a vocabulary-building exercise for English Language Learners make this an excellent resource.

Inaugural Firsts is a slideshow from National Public Radio.

The Wall Street Journal has a multimedia feature highlighting inaugurations since 1960, including providing both the audio and text of the speeches, along with “word clouds.”

Latest Inauguration News is from The Washington Post.

10 inaugural moments that mattered is from CNN.

From drunken speeches to dead canaries, a guide to our quirky inaugural history is from MSNBC.

The oaths: From Washington to Obama is from The Washington Post.

Protesters’ Plans Present Challenges for Inauguration Security is from Voice of America.

Videos From CBS News: History of presidential inaugurations and The very first inauguration

Countdown to January 20 is from Teaching Tolerance.

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