Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

November 14, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

There Are Now Exactly 1,500 “Best” Lists!


The publication of my last “Best” list brings the list total to 1,500.

That’s a lot of “Best” lists :)

Most are regularly updated (except for the ones that highlight tools, articles and video of each year).

You can see them categorized by subject here, and you can see them listed chronologically here.

November 13, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Journeys In Film” Looks Like A Great Teaching Resource


Journeys In Film offers what seem to me to be high-quality (and free) curriculum guides to movies.

Here’s how they describe themselves:

Journeys in Film harnesses the storytelling power of film to educate the most visually literate generation in history.

Most of the critical issues that the United States faces today are international in their scope and complexity, and our abilities as a nation to meet these challenges will be strengthened by a greater understanding of our global interdependence.

Aligned with various prominent national initiatives, Journeys in Film believes that helping America’s youth develop this kind of worldview and understanding should be a primary 21st century educational goal. Our educational program has proven to be effective in connecting cultures, broadening world-views, teaching for global competency and building a new paradigm for best practices in education.

I’ve embedded a video below from their national spokesman, actor Liam Neeson, who describes the organization:

I’m adding this info to The Best Popular Movies/TV Shows For ESL/EFL (& How To Use Them), where you can also find other organizations that provide teaching ideas for theatrical releases.

November 13, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Reading & Writing About El Salvador With Salvadoran Refugees


We’re learning how to write Problem/Solution essays in my Intermediate English class this month. We’ve begun by reading some simple stories and then respond to simple writing prompts using the “They Say/I Say/Why I Say It” model (read my previous post, “They Say, I Say” Is A Great Writing Resource).

This week I decided make a somewhat risky move and have students read a more complex text that I knew would bring up some strong emotions (I spoke to students privately ahead of time to make sure it was not going to result in too strong emotions). Vox recently published a commentary titled El Salvador is now one of the most violent countries in the world. Here’s what it’s like. The article is too advanced for my students, but I was able to modify it in about ten minutes to make it accessible. Unfortunately, Vox wouldn’t give me permission to share my version here, but I’m sure it would take any ELL teacher just a few minutes to create your own version to use with students.

Here is the writing prompt that I used along with the article:

What is the problem that Elaine Denny writes about, and what solution does she suggest? Do you agree with her solution, or can you think of a better one? To support your opinion, you may use examples from your own experiences, your observations of others, and anything you have read (including from this article).

I gave students copies of the article, put mine on the overhead, and began to read it aloud while asking students (several whom were Salvadoran refugees, and others were refugees from Guatemala and Honduras) to read silently with me. While I was reading, students began to behave in classroom inappropriate ways, including laughing and talking. In retrospect, I should have expected that kind of behavior as a coping mechanism that students would use. However, I’m embarrassed to say that I let my feelings of annoyance prevail, instead.

I became exasperated, and announced that I wasn’t feeling respected, we wouldn’t continue reading the article and, instead, I wanted students to take out their workbook and work silently on it. Right after my announcement, the only two students who had been reading intently protested that they really wanted to continue to read it.

So, I moved to their corner of the room and announced that anyone who wanted to be serious was welcome to join use. Others could work on their workbook. Everyone quickly moved to our corner, except for one student who I knew had an exceptionally traumatic refugee experience. He went to the opposite corner of the room, turned his desk so it faced into the corner and away from us, and began to work in his book, though it was also obvious that he was listening as we read the article.

Students became very engaged in the article and the subsequent writing prompt. A student teacher joined me, and I asked her to work with those students. I went over to the student in the corner and asked if he’d like to read the article with me. He quickly agreed, and we sat down together. As we read it, he took his phone and showed me photos of all his young friends who had been murdered by gangs in El Salvador.

He began to write his essay in response to the article, and I was able to check-in with the other students. It was clearly the best writing they had done since class began in September. In our previous writing prompts, everyone had agreed with the perspective of the writer. Here, however, no one agreed with the writer’s “solution” of fleeing the country. Everyone said that, instead, the government needed to make it a safe country for their people.

So what are my lessons from this experience?

* Checking-in with students prior to risky activities is good, but just because they say it’s okay doesn’t mean I shouldn’t anticipate difficulties. This is one a teacher with my experience should have known….

* Starting at a place within the experience of students can lead to academic movement far beyond what was achieved previously — relevance, motivation and engagement really trumps most everything else when it comes to learning. This is not a new lesson, but obvious reminders are always helpful.

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

November 12, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Documents That Changed The World


Creating collections of “objects” that have been critical in history has been a popular project in the media recently, and they also make great classroom lesson (see my previous post, “Object Lessons in History”).

Of course, similar collections of photos have also been popular for awhile (see The Best Sites To See “Photos That Changed The World”).

Not to mention similar lists of key people, events and ideas (see The Best “Lists Of Lists” Of Influential People, Events & Ideas).

Now, here’s a new addition to the genre – Scott Christianson has just written a book titled 100 Documents That Changed the World: From the Magna Carta to Wikileaks.

Smithsonian Magazine has been running a series of excerpts from his book, along with interactives. Here’s what they have published so far:

The Telegram That Broke News of the Civil War

A Look Inside Howard Carter’s Tutankhamun Diary

When the Empire State Building Was Just an Architect’s Sketch

How Anne Frank’s Diary Changed the World

I think this “take” is another cool idea that could easily be adapted to the classroom, with students having to select and justify their selection of either, photos, documents, people, events, etc. that are key to the unit of study.  I’ve done it often as a culminating project in both U.S. and World History classes.

By the way, it’s probably important to point out that, though this new book is the first time I have heard of using documents in this way, the U.S. National Archives has already created a list of 100 documents key in United States history, and the University of Washington created a podcast in 2012 about Documents That Changed the World.

How have you used this idea in your classroom?

November 11, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Great New Video: “When People Make Mistakes Their Brains Grow, More Than When They Got Work Right”


Jo Boaler, a math professor at Stanford, recently released this great video. Though it talks about math, it would be a good one to show to any class – it’s a good intro to Social Emotional Learning

I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Showing Students That They Make Their Brain Stronger By Learning.

November 11, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Fun Videos For English Language Learners In 2015 – Part Two


I use short, funny video clips a lot when I’m teaching ELLs, and you can read in detail about how I use them in The Best Popular Movies/TV Shows For ESL/EFL (& How To Use Them). In short, there are many ways to use them that promote speaking, listening, writing and reading (including having students describe – in writing and verbally – a chronological description of what they saw).

I’ve posted quite a few of them during the second half of this year, and I thought it would be useful to readers — and to me — if I brought them together in one post.

I’ve also published quite a few during the previous seven years of this blog. You can find those in these lists:

All My 2015 “Best” Lists In One Place

The Best Fun Videos For English Language Learners In 2015 – So Far

The Best Fun Videos For English Language Learners In 2014 – Part Two

The Best Fun Videos For English Language Learners In 2014 – Part One

The Best Videos For Educators In 2014 – So Far

The Best Fun Videos For English Language Learners In 2013 – Part Two

The Best Fun Videos For English Language Learners In 2013 — So Far

The “All-Time” Best Videos For Educators

The Best “Fun” Sites You Can Use For Learning, Too — 2012 (Part Two)

The Best “Fun” Sites You Can Use For Learning, Too — 2012 (Part One)

The Best “Fun” Sites You Can Use For Learning, Too — 2011

The Best “Fun” Sites You Can Use For Learning, Too — 2010

Part Two Of The Best “Fun” Sites You Can Use For Learning, Too — 2009

The Best “Fun” Sites You Can Use For Learning, Too — 2009

The Best “Fun” Sites You Can Use For Learning, Too — 2008

The Best Movie Scenes To Use For English-Language Development

The Best Funny Videos Showing The Importance Of Being Bilingual Or Multilingual — Part One

The Best Pink Panther Fight Scenes For English Language Learners

The Best Videos Illustrating Qualities Of A Successful Language Learner

The Best Sports Videos To Use With English Language Learners

The Best Video Clips Of Sneaky Critters

The Best Videos Showing “Thinking Outside The Box” — Help Me Find More

The Best Fun Videos To Teach Language Conventions — Help Me Find More

The Best Funny Videos To Help Teach Grammar – Help Me Find More

The Best Movie Scenes For Halloween

The Best Christmas Videos For English Language Learners – Help Me Find More

Okay, now here are my choices for The Best Fun Videos For English Language Learners In 2015 — Part Two:

Here’s a video that would be a could one to show English Language Learners. They can describe orally and in writing the chronology of events. It shows a system this cat’s owner has created so the cat “hunts” for his/her dinner:

Here’s a great series of short commercials with the theme “Don’t Judge Too Quickly.” They would good for English Language Learners to watch and describe what they see, along with learning the critical thinking lesson that it’s dangerous to make assumptions.

First off, here’s a group of them together. The second to the last one, however, is probably not appropriate to show in class:

Here’s another one:

There are others on YouTube, too, but, like the one I cautioned about in the first collection, they are a little “iffy” to show in class.

I’ve written in my New York Times column about how I use optical illusions with English Language Learners, and I certainly use them when teaching perception in my Theory of Knowledge class. You can many that I’ve previously posted here.

The 2015 Illusion Of The Year has been announced, and here it is:

The upcoming movie “The Secret Life of Pets” looks like it’s a winner, if this new trailer for it is an accurate picture of what it will be like. The trailer itself would be great to show English Language Learners and have them describe in writing and verbally what happens in it. In addition, the segment in the trailer showing how the cat is trying to demonstrate self-control would be a great example to demonstrate an unsuccessful strategy to use….

Though slightly depressing at the end, the Oscar-nominated short would be great for English Language Learners to watch and describe what happened:

November 11, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Student Agency & How To Encourage It


I believe helping students develop “agency,” which is often defined as the ability to be pro-active in responding to your circumstances, is an important part of classroom – and life – success. Unfortunately, few include an important second part of the definition – recognizing that there could be outside limitations on a student’s pro-activity, and that omission can lead to what I call the “Let Them Eat Character!” element of Social Emotional Learning (see my Washington Post piece, The manipulation of Social Emotional Learning).

Nevertheless, there are a number of actions we can take in the classroom to help students deal with both parts of that definition.

Unfortunately, I’m not convinced that a big new report on “student agency” is going to be that much of a help to teachers and students who want to implement those kinds of actions. It comes from something call The Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard, and it’s called The Influence of Teaching Beyond Standardized Test Scores: Engagement, Mindsets, and Agency. You can read more about it at Education Week and at the Boston Globe.

It’s based on 300,000 electronic student surveys and, though I’m a big advocate of teachers using personalized student surveys to inform instruction, I’m less convinced of their value on a broad scale. As we say in community organizing, a survey is only useful as a tool to initiate a personal conversation. Outside of an individual classroom context, I would be very hesitant to use them to generate conclusions about anything, no matter what the writers of this report or the people behind the flawed Gates MET Project say (see A Beginning List Of The Best Posts On Gates’ Final MET “Effective Teaching” Report).  The report justifies the use of the student surveys by citing their use by Gates.

I’m very open to hearing that I’m unfairly criticizing the report, but it also doesn’t seem to me to provide any useful recommendations to teachers beyond vague ideas.

My next book (out in March) will have a section on student agency and how teachers can encourage its development. I suspect that this particular section will appears somewhere as an excerpt. However, to get started now, here are a few links to more practical strategies that teachers can apply in the classroom to help students gain agency:

Positive Self-Talk (“Control Your Destiny”: Positive Self-Talk, Students & Stephen Curry)

Goal-Setting (My Best Posts On Students Setting Goals)

Metacognition (My Best Posts On Metacognition)

Teaching Students About Their Brains (The Best Resources For Showing Students That They Make Their Brain Stronger By Learning)

Student Reflection (The Best Resources On Student & Teacher Reflection)

Students Teaching Others (The Best Posts On Helping Students Teach Their Classmates — Help Me Find More)

Encouraging Student Action on Justice Issues (The Best Teacher Resource Sites For Social Justice Issues)

Student Choice (The Best Posts & Articles About Providing Students With Choices)

Giving Appropriate Feedback (The Best Resources For Learning How To Best Give Feedback To Students)


November 11, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

PBS News Hour Video: Journalist Walking Around The World (Who Also Has Great Connected Student Community)

Paul Salopek is a journalist who is walking around the world. His walk also has an exceptional student learning community connected it (see my previous post, “Out Of Eden Learn” Looks Like An Incredibly Creative & Engaging Resource).

The PBS News Hour has just done this segment on his adventure though, surprisingly, it only very briefly mentions the associated learning community. It does say there will be future segments so, perhaps, those will highlight Out Of Eden Learn.