Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

October 15, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Resources For Writing In Math Class


Regular readers know that, in addition to teaching high school during the day, I also teach an ESL Methods class to teacher credential candidates at California State University, Sacramento.

Next semester, I have also insanely agreed to teach a content literacy class to credential candidates at the University of California, Davis.

I’ve got a good handle on writing in Social Studies and English classes and, in preparation for the course, am reading up on writing in math and science classes.

You might also be interested in My Best Posts On Writing Instruction.

Here’s the beginning of a list on writing in math (I’ve also including some resources on reading), and one on writing in science is not far behind. Feel free to share your own suggestions:

Should We Do More Writing in Math Class? appeared in Middleweb.

Students in My Math Classes Next Year Will Do a Lot of Writing. Here’s Why is from Ed Week.

4 Tips for Writing in the Math Classroom is by Heather Wolpert-Gawron.

Writing In Math Class?

Writing in Math Class by Mr. Honner


Writing Across the Curriculum – Mathematics

Writing in Math is by Marilyn Burns.

Using Writing In Mathematics To Deepen Student Learning

Using Writing In Mathematics

Harness the Power of Writing in Math is from The Teaching Channel.

Using Writing to Improve Math Learning is from AMLE.


Integrating Writing and Mathematics

A Guide to Writing in Mathematics Classes

Math Prompts from Read Write Think

Reading in the Mathematics Classroom

Utilizing Reading Strategies in the Math Classroom

Teaching Reading in Mathematics and Science

October 15, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Guest Post: Making It Safe For Students To Struggle


(Editor’s Note: Shane Safir’s post on helping students learn from mistakes arrived too late for my Education Week Teacher series on the topic, but she agreed to let me publish it here as a guest post. I’m adding it to The Best Posts, Articles & Videos About Learning From Mistakes & Failures)

Shane Safir is a coach, writer, and facilitator who has worked in public education for twenty years. She was the cofounding principal of June Jordan School for Equity, an innovative national model identified by scholar Linda Darling- Hammond as having “beaten the odds in supporting the success of low-income students of color.” She is the author of the forthcoming book The Listening Leader: Creating the Conditions for Equitable School Transformation (Jossey-Bass, 2017). Visit Shane at or follow her @ShaneSafir:

Make it safe to struggle

It’s easy for teachers to encourage failure, but harder for students to willingly expose their weaknesses. I recall a ninth grader I taught, Ed, who often told jokes and blurted out distracting comments in the middle of class. Ed drove me crazy until I realized the source of these behaviors: he couldn’t read. At 15 years old, he struggled with basic decoding and lacked the fluency necessary for success in high school. His daily shenanigans were clearly a strategy to mask his vulnerability as a reader.

Looking back, I recognize that Ed didn’t feel safe to struggle in my classroom. As humbling as it is to admit, this was ultimately my issue as his teacher. While we talk often about students’ cognitive zone of proximal development (ZPD, Vygotsky), we sometimes forget the emotional zone in which students must sit to struggle through complex tasks. The second a child moves from their emotional ZPD into a zone of frustration, we see the types of fight-or-flight behaviors that Ed displayed.

For our students to master challenging skills and concepts, they must be willing to engage in productive struggle—to bravely opt in to risk-taking, mistake-making, and vulnerability. How can teachers make it safe for students to struggle? Here are a few ideas.

  1. Model the value of failure. Share your own struggles as a human being, learner, and educator. When a lesson doesn’t go as planned, consider saying to your class, “Well that went a little differently than I thought it would, and that’s okay! I am learning to embrace struggle and failure as part of my growth as your teacher.” Share a time when you failed at something that mattered to you, and how you learned and grew from the experience.
  1. Incorporate a “best failure” ritual. Leadership author Ronald Heifetz shares a routine called “best failure” in which team members reflect on what they gained by tackling a specific challenge from the past week. Consider having kids do something similar in small groups each Friday. After each student shares, ask the class, what are we learning together about struggle and failure in the learning process? Be sure to chart responses!
  1. Engage students in reflective journals. Metacognition is a critical element of deep learning and another way to incorporate struggle into the classroom. Launch reflective journals at the beginning of the year to model the value of reflection. As your students complete a unit or project, have them write in their journals about successes, challenges, and lessons learned. Invite them to set a growth goal for the next project.
  1. Do a “strife and struggle” oral history project. Every student has adults they look up to, and those adults carry stories of strife and struggle. Consider doing an oral history project in which students interview an adult they admire about an experience of strife or struggle, what happened, and what they learned from it. To leverage technology, invite students to capture audio or video clips of these oral histories to share in class.

Above all else, remember that creating a safe-to-struggle classroom culture is an ongoing process. Your actions will speak even louder than your words so look for small opportunities to model these values. As students take risks, celebrate their successes and failures in equal measure and affirm the courage it takes to fail.


October 12, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Places Where Students Can Tell Their – And/Or Their Families – Immigration Story


Students having an “authentic audience” for their work – in other words, someone other than their teacher – can have a major positive effect on motivation (you can see the research behind this claim at The Best Places Where Students Can Write For An “Authentic Audience”).

Here are the best places that students can share their own immigration stories, and/or those of their families, so that an authentic audience can read or see them. Their stories can also remain anonymous at these sites by using a pseudonym:

Clearly, the best one is from the University of Minnesota – Immigrant Stories. Their announcement today that they are expanding their local program internationally (see the NBC News article, Immigrant Story Archiving Project to Expand Internationally) is what prompted me to post this list. It’s a video archive, and it includes a step-by-step interactive on planning a video, including offering specific suggestions of topics (for example, focusing on an object).

“My Immigration Story” is designed for immigrants to share their story in 200 words or less. It’s specifically designed to:

Let other Americans know how the current generation of immigrants is helping enrich this land of opportunity.

The famous New York City Tenement Museum, located near where my father was raised, has just expanded its facility and website. You can read more about it at NBC News, NYC’s Tenement Museum Will Now Showcase a Puerto Rican Migrant Family . They’ve added some additional nice resources. One is Your Story, Our Story is a digital archive where students can upload images of family objects and their stories.  It has lots of decent free lesson plans to use with it.

Let me know if you know of other similar sites!

October 10, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

A Decent Post About The Value Of Guided/Assisted Discovery Learning – Too Bad It Uses The Wrong Comparison


I like the MindHacks blog, and I was pleased today to see that the authors wrote about the value of “guided discovery learning” (I, and others, prefer to call it “assisted discovery learning”).

The post makes a fairly accessible case for its use. Unfortunately, however, they make a mistake that I’ve seen in other places — it contrasts “assisted” or “guided” discovery learning (where teachers provide some…guidance or assistance) with what they call “pure discovery,” where students are pretty much left to their own devices.

Really, apart from Sugata Mitra  (The Best Posts & Videos About Sugata Mitra & His Education Ideas), are there really many teachers who use this kind of “pure discovery”? It seems to me like a recipe for disaster.

If we’re serious about encouraging the use of more constructivist pedagogy in the classroom, I think we need to be making the contrast with instructional strategies that are more commonly used, like direct instruction. Yes, direct instruction has its place, but it must also be kept in its place.

This post is really just an excuse for me to post previous resources I’ve shared on this topic:

Is This The Most Important Research Study Of The Year? Maybe shares research that favorably compares assisted-discovery learning with direct instruction, though it, too, uses the straw man of unassisted discovery.

And here are some related “Best” lists:

The Best Posts Questioning If Direct Instruction Is “Clearly Superior”

The Best Resources About Inductive Learning & Teaching

The Best Research Demonstrating That Lectures Are Not The Best Instructional Strategy

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments….

October 10, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

The Best Resources For Teaching Students About The Dangers Of Procrastination


Who among us doesn’t have to deal with the issue of students putting off doing work until right before it’s due?

Dave Stuart Jr. got me thinking about doing a lesson on this topic when he posted his excellent A Simple Activity for Teaching About Procrastination.

I’m planning on modifying his lesson a bit with some of these resources:

Asking These 4 Questions Can Help You Stop Procrastinating is from Fast Company.

How to Beat Procrastination is from The Harvard Business Review.

Why do You Procrastinate, and What Can You do About it? is from The Learning Scientists.


Do you have other suggestions?

October 8, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Drafting Board” Is A Good Interactive For Teaching Argument


I’ve previously posted about how impressed I am with recent improvements to the iCivics site (see iCivics Steps Up Its Game Big Time With Free Virtual Classrooms & Primary Source Interactive).

Today, through Education Week, I learned about yet another relatively new addition called Drafting Board.

Here’s how they describe the tool:

This online tool walks students through the process step by step, showing them how to understand an issue before taking a side, use evidence to support a claim, and address the opposing point of view. At the end, students have a complete argumentative essay with an introduction, body, counterargument, and conclusion.

You have to register to use it (it’s free) and then students can log-in and work on seven different units. The units seem very accessible and engaging.

I’m adding this info to both:

The Best Sites That Students Can Use Independently And Let Teachers Check On Progress

The Best Online Resources For Helping Students Learn To Write Persuasive Essays (which I have just updated and revised)

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