Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

February 12, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

A Useful Lesson When Teaching Problem/Solution Essays – & Other Topics


Sequencing activities are great lessons for teaching language and higher-order thinking, particularly if students are challenged to explain their reasons for putting texts or pictures in the order they choose.

Chronological order is the typical sequence that is used, and it works great.

There’s also a different twist on this kind of sequencing, one which I learned from my teaching mentor, Kelly Young.

Instead of cutting-up sections of text and having students put it in chronological order, another option is to list questions, mix-up the answers, and have students have to identify which ones go with the other. The texts can be complex, including having multiple paragraphs making-up the answers, or can be very simple.

Here’s a simple version I used when introducing Problem/Solution essays to my Intermediate English Language Learners. As you can see from the image below, there are a list of problems that are then followed by a list of solutions (that are not in order). Students had to match the problem with the solution (you can download it here).

problem solution

Another fun way to use this list is to call out the items under “Solutions” (without sharing the items under Problems) and have students come-up with different types of problems they could solve.

While I was preparing this post, I realized that, though I have “Best” lists for tons of other kinds of essays, for some reason I don’t have one for Problem/Solution.

However, I do have quite a few related resources at our class blog.

You can find links to lists on the other essays at The Best Posts On Writing Instruction.

February 11, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Here’s An Example Of How I Scaffold A Short Writing Prompt

I’ve written in my books and here on this blog about how I often have students – ELL and proficient English students – respond to simple writing prompts with a paragraph following either an “ABC” (Answer the Question; Back it up; make a Comment/Connection) or “PQC” format (Point/Quote/Connect).

You can read my past posts about it here, including several models.

My ELL Geography students are studying Mexico right now, and I thought readers might find it useful to see an example of how I scaffold a writing prompt using the ABC format.

Here’s a picture of it, and you can download the sheet here.

ABC prompt

If you have any suggestions on how to make it better, or have sources of similar scaffolds, I’m all ears!

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

February 2, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Teachers Might Find My “Concept Attainment – Plus” Instructional Strategy Useful


As regular readers know, I’m a big fan of using Concept Attainment as an instructional strategy for writing. You can see examples at Here Are Some Examples Of Using “Concept Attainment” In Writing Instruction.

As I explain in that post, teachers using this strategy place examples, typically (though not always) from unnamed student work, under the categories of “Yes” and “No.” The class then constructs their own understanding of why the examples are in their categories. It’s a great tool for many lessons, and I like it especially for grammar and other writing.

Last week, though, I had a brainstorm, and came up with a revised strategy that I’m calling “Concept Attainment – Plus,” and it has worked very well. I think teachers of English Language Learners and non-ELLs alike might find it useful and, I hope, offer suggestions on how to improve it further….

“Concept Attainment – Plus” has three steps:


I pick an example of student writing that especially illustrates one writing error and put it under the “No” column. In this case, I’m focusing on the tendency for many ELLs to have very long run-on sentences, along with the frequently made mistake of how to write “the United States.”

Parallel to that passage, under the “Yes” column, I re-write the paragraph correctly. Student have to compare the two passages, identify the errors in the student’s writing, and explain why they are mistakes.  After students have completed their review, I call them up to the overhead individually to identify one mistake at a time.

first step


The second sheet contains a short humorous passage in the “No” column that I write and which mimics the errors in the first student passage.

Students have to identify the errors and re-write it correctly on the left under the “Yes” column.  Again, I call students up to the overhead frequently.

step two


I then give students a simple and engaging prompt where they need to write a passage demonstrating their understanding of the writing feature we have learned in the first two sheets.

Step three

Students always like “regular” Concept Attainment, but they have loved this more intensive scaffolded process. It takes about one full class period to do from start-to-finish, and takes me about an hour to prepare it. It’s definitely worth the time.

Let me know what you think of the strategy and, importantly, how you think it can be improved….

I’m adding this post to The Best Resources About Inductive Learning & Teaching and to The Best Posts On Writing Instruction.

February 2, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Three Good Speaking/Writing Prompts – Along With Video Models


Here are three new videos from Soul Pancake that I think provide excellent speaking or writing prompts to English Language Learners and others. Plus, the videos are great models to get students thinking!

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

January 28, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Here’s The Writing Prompt I Used With My Intermediate ELLs Today


As regular readers know, I collect many articles, and accompanying writing prompts, that I use over at The Best Posts On Writing Instruction. Of course, there are a lot other resources there, too. In fact, I think it’s one of my most useful posts.

Today, I used a new one with my Intermediate English Language Learner students.

I used a Read Aloud from our book, The ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide (by the way, you can freely download the zillions of student hand-outs from that book here). It’s on the benefits of learning English and being bilingual. Then, I added this prompt:

Writing prompt:

What does the author say about learning another language and why it is helpful? Based on your own experience and what you’ve read and seen, do you agree that these three benefits are helpful/? It’s okay to say you agree with some, but not all, of them. It’s also okay to say that you might not know enough to agree with one or more of them. Is there any way you could use this information to help motivate you to learn English? Support your opinion with your experiences, your observations of others, and your readings.

You can download the whole thing here.

One change I did make from the Figure you can find in the book is that I deleted the sources — the additional words would have added unnecessary confusion for students.

Students did a good job on it.

You might also be interested in The Best Resources For Learning The Advantages To Being Bilingual.

January 24, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Statistic Of The Day: We Have Eight Second Attention Spans (& How I’m Using This Info In The Classroom)

The Eight-Second Attention Span is a new column in The New York Times, written by Timothy Egan.

Here’s an excerpt:


He goes on to suggest that gardening and reading might be two ways to increase our attention spans.

I plan on having students read it and then respond to this writing prompt:

What does Timothy Egan say has happened to our attention spans, and what does he suggest we do about it? Do you agree with him? To support your opinion, be sure to include specific examples drawn from your own experience, your observations of others, or any of your readings (including this column).

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

January 18, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

A Simple Writing Prompt To Accompany Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Essay, “The Purpose Of Education”


I’ve previously – and often – shared Martin Luther King Jr’s essay, “The Purpose Of Education.”

Here’s a simple writing prompt I plan to use with it:

What does Martin Luther King, Jr. say is the purpose of education? Do you agree with him? To support your opinion, be sure to include specific examples drawn from your own experience, your observations of others, or any of your readings.

I’m adding this post to:

The Best Posts On Writing Instruction (you’ll find many prompts there)

The Best Websites For Learning About Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 14, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Quote Of The Day (& How I’m Using It In Class): “the winner is the person who keeps asking questions”

I’ve previously shared a quote from Ta-Nehisi Coates and how I’m using it in class (see Good Quote From Ta-Nehisi Coates On Writing & How I’m Using It In Class).

Today, Dan Rothstein shared a short interview with Coates that has just appeared in New York Magazine.

Here’s how it ends:


I’m going to share the quote with students, along with this writing prompt:

What does Ta-Nehisi Coates say is the most important lesson he has learned? What do you think he means? To what extent do you agree or disagree in the importance of that lesson? To support your position, be sure to include specific examples drawn from your own experience, your observations of others, or any of your readings.

I’m adding it to The Best Posts On Writing Instruction, where you’ll find a collection of writing prompts.