Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

November 28, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

What Was The Favorite Education-Related Book You Read This Year?


Every year, I invite readers of this blog to share the favorite education-related book they read during the previous twelve months. The books could have been published earlier and the only requirement is that you had read them sometime this year.

In addition to the leaving the name of the title and author in the comments section, it would be great if you could also write one sentence explaining why you liked the book.

The deadline for me to receive your recommendations is December 24th. I’ll publish the entire list the following week.

You might also be interested in seeing book recommendations from previous years:

The Best Education-Related Books Visitors To This Blog Read In 2015

The Best Education-Related Books Visitors To This Blog Read In 2014

The Best Education-Related Books Visitors To This Blog Read In 2013

The Best Education-Related Books Visitors To This Blog Read In 2012

The Best Education-Related Books Visitors To This Blog Read In 2011

The Best Education-Related Books Visitors To This Blog Read In 2010

The Best Education-Related Books Visitors To This Blog Read In 2009

The Best Education-Related Books Visitors To This Blog Read In 2008

November 25, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Video: Big Bang Theory Shows (Sort Of) How Close Reading Is Supposed To Work

English teacher and author extraordinaire Jim Burke shared this video on Twitter.

The clip shows (minus the peer insults) how close reading might work in a perfect world.

I’m adding it to The Best Resources On “Close Reading” — Help Me Find More.

November 24, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Ways A Mainstream Teacher Can Support An ELL Newcomer In Class



In addition to teaching full-time in high school during the day, I’m on the adjunct faculty in the teacher education programs at California State University, Sacramento and the University of California, Davis.  I’m finding an important question keeps on cropping up:

How do I teach a newcomer, with next-to-zero English proficiency, who is placed in my mainstream classroom without any additional outside support being provided?

Unfortunately, I suspect that this is a very common issue for teachers across the United States – a newcomer is “parachuted” into their classes and they’re just told to “integrate” the student into their instruction.

Here are some suggestions – from readers and from me:

MY NUMBER ONE PIECE OF ADVICE: Remember, your newcomer student is as intelligent as any native-English speaker you have in your classroom.  He/she is just new to the English language.  Start off by reading this piece that Katie Hull and I have written: Do’s & Don’ts for Teaching English-Language Learners.  And, please, don’t make the mistakes of speaking loudly in English to them or giving them a seat at the very back of the room.



* Learn their story – why their family came here, what their interests are, goals they might have for their life.  If you cannot speak their home language and/or can’t find another staffperson or student who can, using Google Translate is a very viable option.   Using the audio translation mode, it will automatically provide verbal interpretation.   It’s not perfect by any means, but you should be able to have a basic conversation. Just last month, Google announced a breakthrough in improving their Translate tool for some languages and expects to apply a similar tech upgrade to all of them.



* Provide access to a computer or tablet (I often will let a student use my “teacher” computer).  If a student has zero or next-to-zero English, the best help any teacher – no matter what subject they are teaching – can provide is support to students in developing basic English communication skills.  Duolingo, LingoHut, USA Learns and English Central are the four best online tools for that kind of support (here are other language-learning sites, too).  Doing this – for a short time, at least – can help them begin to develop self-confidence, get them familiar with online tools they can also use at home (if they have Internet access there) and give you some time to develop a longer-term plan on how you are going to teach them your content matter and pull together needed resources.

* If the newcomer is literate in his/her home language, you can also provide access to online materials in their language that are comparable to what you are teaching in English to the rest of your students.   Many such resources can be found at The Best Multilingual & Bilingual Sites For Math, Social Studies, & Science.

*If you are fortunate enough to speak your newcomer’s language, using the Preview, View and Review method is an option (preview the lesson in the home language, then the main lesson in English, and then review it in the home language).  I’ve also used the bilingual resources listed in the previous suggestion in the same way – previewing and reviewing with those materials.

*There are many sites that provide similar high-quality materials on multiple subjects using different “levels” of text.  For example, an article on the Electoral College might be edited for three or four different reading levels.   Using a high English level version of one for most of your students and a simplified version for your newcomer is a fairly easy way to make content accessible.  In fact, there are tools that let you do the same for any text you copy and paste into them.  You can find links to all these options at The Best Places To Get The “Same” Text Written For Different “Levels.”

*There are a number of content-specific books that are designed to be particularly accessible to ELLs – you can see a list of a few of them at The Best Books For Teaching & Learning ESL/EFL. I use some of the books listed in my history and English classes (note that, though the book titles are all accurate, the links where to purchase them might be out-of-date).  You can find other content-specific books at The Best Places To Buy ESL/EFL Books. Software & Multimedia.  Providing these textbook alternatives, which likely cover similar subjects to the ones you use with the majority of your students, could be a useful scaffold.

*At the very least, make sure you have a bilingual dictionary in your newcomer’s student language.

*At our high school, seniors often get a class period when they are T.A.’s (teaching assistants) or “Peer Tutors.”  With support and minimal training from me, a student who doesn’t even speak the newcomer’s home language can provide invaluable support to them.  In addition, having the title “peer tutor” can look better on a senior’s transcript when applying to college.

*Inductive teaching emphasizes pattern-seeking, which is a skill found to be particularly important to those learning a new language (and it’s important for everybody else, too!).  If you presently employ inductive methods in your instruction, creating more simple versions for your newcomer should be fairly easy, though would take a little extra time.  If you are not using them now, I’d encourage you to consider experimenting with it.  You can learn more at The Best Resources About Inductive Learning & Teaching.  In particular, you might want to read how I use it: Get Organized Around Assets and The Picture Word Inductive Model.

*If your newcomer does not have Internet access at home (or even if he/she does), providing him/her with accessible books they can read at home can be a big help – plenty of research documents the importance of home libraries.  Our local Friends of the Library has provided hundreds of free books for our newcomer students, and you can also print out many online (see The Best Sources For Free & Accessible Printable Books).

*If your school has a specialized class where the newcomer is learning English, regularly talk with their teacher to learn more about the student and to both listen to – and offer – ideas how you can both support the student in their classes.

Karen MacKenzie:

Prioritize – choose two or three concepts from the unit you are teacher and work hard to get those across to your newcomers. Trying to ensure the student understands every little last thing will be overwhelming for you both.



*Provide a peer mentor to your newcomer – ideally, someone who speaks their home language.  At our school, peer mentors leave one of their classes for fifteen minutes each week and chats with their “mentee.”  You can read more about what we do at Here Are The Instructions I Give Mentors To Our ELLs – Help Me Make Them Better.

* Talk privately to individual students who have demonstrated empathy in the past about their reaching out to your newcomer.  Perhaps share with them this story:


What do you think is missing from this list?


Since I originally published this post, I realized I forgot to include a few other strategies:

Though I discus Google Translate, I forgot to mention its relatively new ability to “read” text, including print textbooks and PowerPoint slides, by using its camera function (see Video: “How Google Translate Makes Signs Instantly Readable”).

In fact, Google just published this video that highlights that feature and the features I mentioned in the earlier post:

In addition, I neglected to mention the obvious strategy of showing English subtitled with any videos you show.

Finally, this was an idea suggested by one of the credential candidates at my California State University, Sacramento, course: if you are teaching whole novels in your class, why not get a version of it in your ELL’s home language, if available?

November 23, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

It’s The Time Of Year For Student Recommendations & This Form Might Help


I don’t know about you, but a good portion of my Friday will be spent writing college recommendation letters for students.

Thanks to Chicago educator Ray Salazar, though, the past couple of years have been made a little easier.

Ray wrote a great post about how he has his students write drafts of their own recommendation letters. With his permission, I ran with his idea and created a form I have students complete. Here’s a slightly modified version of my original post about it from two years ago:

I wrote a piece about Ray Salazar’s great post about his practice of having students write drafts of recommendation letters for themselves (see A Must-Read For Any H.S. Teacher Who Is Asked To Write A Letter Of Recommendation (In Other Words, Most Of Them) and you can see his original post, How to write letters of recommendation for high-school students).

With Ray’s permission, I have developed a form that I will be posting on our class blogs and asking students (primarily from my IB classes) to complete and send to me.  However, I’m not using it for all students (English Language Learners and students who I know very well and admire a great deal – which may be one in the same).

I’ve created the form so it can used and modified by anybody, and would love to hear suggestions on how to make it better.

You can download it here.

Thanks, Ray!

November 22, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

I Can’t Decide If “Write & Improve” Is The Best Or Worst Site To Help ELLs Improve Their Writing


I’ve written a lot about my ongoing search for a helpful an online site that would help all students, and particularly English Language Learners, develop their writing – one that would have model essays, graphic organizers, accessible explanations of errors, etc. Though none have met my hopes, I have collected some that try at The Best Online Tools That Can Help Students Write An Essay.

In my ideal site, teachers would also have access to student first drafts. If we don’t, then we likely wouldn’t see many common errors in our students writing – it might be possible that students correct errors pointed out by the program without any real understanding of why the error was made and the rule behind its correction. That’s just one of many issues I have with computer grading of essays (see The Best Posts On Computer-Graded Essays).

This all brings me to the new – and free – Cambridge English Write & Improve site.

It’s very easy to use – student just copy and paste what they’ve written and, within seconds, the site will give you feedback on writing mechanics. I was very impressed with the quality of the feedback – it caught many essays and, even more surprisingly, offered accurate alternatives. The quality of the feedback the site gives is tons better than the feedback a writer would get from, let’s say, Microsoft Word.

A big problem, however, is that, though the feedback appears to very accurate, it give no explanation of why the word choice might be incorrect. So a student would write an essay with many errors corrected, but I wouldn’t know what those errors were and wouldn’t know if the student understood the reasons why they were errors.

Of course, one huge advantage to students using this tool would be that teachers could concentrate on the “big picture” of student writing and not have to pay as much attention to spelling, grammar and punctuation basics. That might make it more suitable to higher-intermediate, advanced and English-proficient students who, with luck, will have made it past many of those kinds of mistakes.

Some of my concerns would be alleviated if the error explanations were more clear or, at the very least, included a link where a student could learn more about the concepts.

I’m also confused by the “notebook” set-up of the site. You can create “notebooks” with assignments for others in a closed group, but it’s unclear to me how the “owner” of the notebook can access members’ writing, or if that’s even possible. If it is doable, that would make it more attractive to teachers.

What do you think? Do you have suggestions for ways to deal with my concerns?

Thanks to CASLS & EFL Classroom 2.0 for the tip.

ADDENDUM: See a comment left by the site’s creator in response to this post.


November 21, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Videos For Educators In 2016 – Part Two


Another day, another end-of-the-year annual “Best” list (you can find all 1,600 Best lists here).

You might also be interested in:

The Best Videos For Educators In 2016 – So Far

The Best Videos For Educators In 2015 – Part Two

The Best Videos For Educators In 2015 – So Far

The Best Videos For Educators In 2014 – Part Two

The Best Videos For Educators In 2014 – So Far

The “All-Time” Best Videos For Educators

The Best Videos For Educators In 2013 – Part Two

The Best Videos For Educators In 2012 — Part Two

The Best Videos For Educators In 2012 — Part One

The Best Videos For Educators In 2011

Part Two Of The Best Videos For Educators — 2010

The Ten Best Videos For Educators — 2010

And you might also want to see The Best Funny Videos Showing The Importance Of Being Bilingual — Part OneThe Best Videos Illustrating Qualities Of A Successful Language LearnerThe Best Video Clips Demonstrating “Grit”; and The Best Fun Videos About Books & Reading.

You might also want to check out The Best Video Collections For Educators ; The Best Video Clips On Goal-Setting — Help Me Find More ; The Best Movie Scenes, Stories, & Quotations About “Transfer Of Learning” – Help Me Find More! ;  The Best Funny Videos To Help Teach Grammar – Help Me Find More ; The Best Videos About The Famous “Trolley Problem” and The Best Videos For Teaching & Learning About Figurative Language.

The Best TV/Movie Scenes Showing Good & Bad Classroom Discussions

The Best TV/Movie Scenes Demonstrating A “Growth Mindset” – Help Me Find More

The Best Movie/TV Scenes Demonstrating Metacognition – Help Me Find More

The Best Videos About The Importance Of Practice – Help Me Find More

The Best Videos Explaining Gravitational Waves (In An Accessible Way)

I’ve also written a guest post for Edutopia titled 5-Minute Film Festival: 8 Videos for ELL Classrooms. You might find it useful.

Here are my choices for The Best Videos For Educators In 2016 – Part Two (some may have been produced prior to this year, but are just new to me):

In this video, sponsored by Bill Gates, “The 71 Most AMAZING Innovations of All Time” are described chronologically.

I’m adding it to The Best Websites For Teaching & Learning About World History and to The Best Sites Where Students Can Learn About Inventions.

Here’s a new video from the American Museum of Natural History that I’m adding to The Best Websites For Teaching & Learning About World History:

I’m adding this video to The Best Sites For Learning About Immigration In The United States (which I just completely revised and updated):

I’m adding this video to The Best Sites For Learning About World Refugee Day:

I’ve previously posted many pieces about StoryCorps, including their exceptional video animations.

Recently, they began a joint project with Upworthy to create a series of animated videos called #WhoWeAre, “a campaign to share the stories of every Americans, build compassion, and offer hope to a divided nation.:

You can see all of them here.

They’re short and very visually engaging. Here are a couple of their most recent ones:

Raising Barriers is a three-part interactive video series from the Washington Post that’s appearing this week.

It examines the rise of border fences and walls throughout the world.

I’m adding it to The Best Sites To Learn About Walls That Separate Us.

Vox shared this terrible video of the destruction in Aleppo.

I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About What’s Happening In Syria.

As regular readers know, I love TED-Ed.

However, earlier this year they blew it big time with a very bad video and lesson on Henrietta Lacks (see Disappointing New TED-Ed Video & Lesson On Henrietta Lacks).

Today, through the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans , I learned about this video created by students at a KIPP school in Oakland.

It includes all the information that TED-Ed left out of theirs:

I’m adding this video to The Best Resources For Learning About School Desegregation (& Segregation) – Help Me Find More:

The PBS News Hour aired an important segment:

You might also be interested in the multi-part series I published about the Flint crisis. You can find links to all my eleven related “Best” lists at Part 11 – Best Resources For Learning About Flint Water Crisis.

This video is is way too long – 47 minutes – but it is well done:

President Obama spoke at opening of The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture. You can read more about it at this Washington Post article, African American Museum opening: ‘This place is more than a building. It is a dream come true.’

I’ve embedded the video of his speech (he begins at the nine minute mark) below. Here’s the transcript.

He talks a lot at the beginning about the importance of story-telling and what he says meshes very well with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s popular TED Talk, “The Danger Of A Single Story.” Many teachers use it in the classroom now, and I think portions of the President’s speech would be an excellent addition to those lessons.

You can find more info on that idea in two previous posts:

“the danger of not having your own stories”

Useful TED-Ed Lesson On “The Danger of a Single Story”

I’ve added this info and video to The Best Resources On The Smithsonian’s African-American Museum.

Apart from a forgettable part with Sal Kahn (see Because Khan Academy Doesn’t Receive Enough Attention, Sal Khan Featured In TED Talk PBS Special Next Week), I thought September’s TED Talks “Education Revolution” show on PBS was fairly decent.

It was much, much better than their last one, though that one was so bad they couldn’t really go anywhere but up (see Complete Unedited Versions Of Last Night’s TED Talks On Education (Including Bill Gates & His $5 Billion Boondoggle).

The real surprise to me was the section beginning from twenty-two minutes in and ending at about the thirty-second minute. Victor Rios, who I’m embarrassed to say I had never heard of prior to the show (you can learn more about him at this PBS News Hour segment from a few years ago, One Man’s Journey From Gang Member to Academia), gave a must-watch talk on grit and resilience – with a very different perspective than those who say “Let them eat character” (see The manipulation of Social Emotional Learning).  His talk was followed by an excellent short film on undocumented students in Georgia who want to attend college.

Here are a couple of excerpts from his talk:



Here is the entire video (which may, or may, show up in an RSS Readers0:

I’m adding this info and video to The Best Resources For Learning About The Importance Of “Grit.”

KQED Mindshift hosted a Facebook Live session with me in August on “10 Strategies to Help Students Develop Intrinsic Motivation to Write.”

I’ve embedded the forty-minute video below. It seemed to go well and received quite a few positive comments. I kept it very practical. Feedback is welcome!

I’m adding this to The Best Posts on Writing Instruction.

This is a fun video – I hope all our students were as excited as he was to start a new school year!

“Welcome To The Fourth Grade” is a very impressive video teacher Dwayne Reed created to welcome his new fourth grade students.

You can read more about it at TIME Magazine.  Thanks. to Jonas Chartock for sharing it on Twitter.

This is a great video for Geography classes, BUT I wish the narrator didn’t talk so fast!

Here’s an intriguing new video segment from the PBS News Hour (you can read the transcript here):

I’m adding this next video to The Best Posts On Books: Why They’re Important & How To Help Students Select, Read, Write & Discuss Them.

“The five major world religions” is an older TED-Ed lesson and video, but it’s new to me.

I’m adding it to The Best Websites To Learn About Various Religions (& English), which I’ve just completely revised and updated.

I gave a presentation to the California Teachers Summit at California State University in Sacramento. Here, I’ve added audio to my PowerPoint presentation.

My talk will eventually be posted at the California Teachers Summit YouTube Channel but I don’t know when that’s going to happen, and I’m also not sure if the video will just be me talking or if it will including the slides, too.

So, I figured getting it out this way would be most useful to teachers, particularly as we all are planning for the upcoming school year.

Any and all feedback is welcome!

I’m adding it to The Best Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Resources.

Many of us have students who have fled gang violence in El Salvador and, unfortunately, some of them may very well be deported back there.

Here’s a new fascinating video about what some teens do there in an attempt to help the community and escape the violence:

Here is an incredible video for the Rio Paralympics.

I’m adding it to:

The Best Resources On The 2016 Rio Olympics

The Best Video Clips Demonstrating “Grit” – Help Me Find More


The Telegraph newspaper publishes a series of “Explained – In 60 Seconds” videos about current events (though they sometimes also include coverage of more “gossipy” topics).

Unfortunately, they don’t have a central place on their website where you can access them all in one place.

However, they do have a YouTube playlist that appears to be about three weeks behind in publishing their newest ones.

You can also search “Explained – in 60 Seconds” on their website.

I’m adding it to The Best Online “Explainer” Tools For Current Events.

Here’s a sample:

I have several videos on The Best Resources For Helping Teachers Use Bloom’s Taxonomy In The Classroom list that are of the “Bloom’s Taxonomy According to _______” genre (The Simpsons, Star Wars, etc.).

Here’s a new one using the Disney movie, Monsters Inc. (it’s not as good as some of the others, but still useful):

I learned about this video from Vox, and I’m adding it to The Best Websites For Teaching & Learning About World History:

Let me know about videos I’ve missed!

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