Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

February 4, 2017
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Good Judgment” Is A Site Where Our Students Can Showcase Their Forecasting Skills

I’ve written some past posts about the work of Philip Tetlock (Quote Of The Day: “beliefs are hypotheses to be tested…” and The Best Resources On The Importance Of Knowing What You Don’t Know).  He’s particularly known for his work in developing a science of “forecasting.”

He recently unveiled a site called Good Judgment where users can forecast an answer to a question and, when and if the action takes place, is “scored” on their forecasting ability.  Users make a prediction, then share their reasoning, and you can link directly to individual’s forecasts.

Some of the questions are bit obscure, but others are very relevant.  The site says there is, or will be, a feature that allows users to submit their own questions (but they won’t be scored). However, that doesn’t seem to be operating yet.

This seems to me to be an excellent way for students to write for an authentic audience, which is why I’m adding it to The Best Places Where Students Can Write For An “Authentic Audience”

December 26, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

The Best Professional Development Resources On Writing Instruction

As regular readers know, in addition to teaching high school full-time I also teach credential candidates at California State University about English Language Learners.

I’m also now preparing to see how sane it is for me to fit in teaching a class on content literacy for credential candidates at the University of California at Davis.

As part of that class, I’ll be having students in different disciplines review the resources at these “Best” lists:

The Best Resources For Writing In Social Studies Classes

The Best Resources For Writing In Science Class

The Best Resources For Writing In Math Class

In addition to credential candidates from those three disciplines, I’ll also have English and Agriculture student teachers.  I’ll give the agriculture candidates their choice of which of the resources they think fits best, and I’ve also prepared the following list of resources for English teachers.  They’re taken from my much more extensive Best Posts On Writing Instruction.

Here they are (let me know if you think I’m missing something):

I did a series on writing instruction for Education Week Teacher: See Part One here, Part Two here, Part Three here , Part Four here and Part Five here.

Five ways to get kids to want to read and write is an excerpt from one of my books and appeared in The Washington Post.

Excellent Review Of Writing Instruction Research is a summary of an article at The Hechinger Report, along with a link to the original article.

The Best Scaffolded Writing Frames For Students is a “Best” list I compiled with lots of useful hand-outs.

Supporting Good Writing Instruction is a simple diagram from The National Writing Project.

What Motivates A Student’s Interest in Reading and Writing is an excerpt from one of my books and appeared at KQED MindShift.

Here Are Some Examples Of Using “Concept Attainment” In Writing Instruction

“They Say, I Say” Is A Great Writing Resource

Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High Schools (I think reading the Executive Summary is sufficient)

New Study Says Emphasize Quality Over Quantity In Teaching Writing, But I Don’t Think That’s Most Important Finding

Yet Another Study Finds That Having An “Authentic Audience” Impacts Student Learning (this post includes a number of links that are worth exploring)

Two New Useful Resources On Teaching Writing – And An Old One

December 15, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Three Excellent Guides To “Writing Frames”



Two weeks ago, I published a very popular post titled The Best Scaffolded Writing Frames For Students.

I can understand why it has been so popular — I’ll be referring back to it regularly myself!

Today, Antoine Germany, another very talented colleague at Luther Burbank High School and the head of our English Department, shared three very helpful documents he developed about writing frames. He’s given me permission to share them on this blog.

The first two are on PQC (Point, Quote, Comment) and on PEE (Point, Evidence, Explain). You can download them here.

The third document is on ABC (Answer the question, Back it up with evidence, Comment with an explanation). You can download that document here.

Thanks Antoine!

December 11, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Guest Post: “Inquiry” vs. “Diagnostic” Frameworks For Writing Assessments


Lara Hoekstra is a very talented colleague whose work has appeared frequently in this blog and in my books. Her previous guest post, “Instead of seeing students as Far Below Basic or Advanced, we see them as learners,” discussed the annual writing assessment process we use at our school and is also on The Best Posts On Writing Instruction list.

Here’s a new post on our school’s writing assessment process that she’s written:

This is my eleventh year at Luther Burbank High School.  For most of this time we have been administering a school wide writing assessment in the fall and spring.  We developed this writing assessment process in conjunction with the Area 3 Writing Project, using the University of California’s writing assessment and an improvement rubric developed by the California Writing Project.  Each time we do it I am amazed by my colleagues and where it leads our thinking, our conversations, and our teaching.  But, as many of us have been together for ten or more years, we had fallen into a routine with the grading process and we had begun to stagnate as a department in terms of the writing assessment.  

This year, under our new department chair, Antoine Germany, our norming/scoring process was different than before.  The focus was not on scoring all essays within the given time frame, but more on setting the tone for the year and figuring out how we were going to use the information we gathered.

So often in the past we would get sidetracked by just trying to score all the essays, and then after scoring what felt like millions of essays, our conversations would become more focused on what we were seeing and not seeing.  It became a diagnostic tool and we were left with little time to focus our talk around how we would take this information into our classrooms and our teaching.  (And in case anyone thinks I’m criticizing the former department chair, I am, as I was the former chair.)

This year I began to see our assessment differently because of the changes Antoine brought to the two day process.  It occurred to me that our fall assessment really is about setting a tone of inquiry for our year and not a diagnostic tool. So often, when we used it as a diagnostic tool, we would slowly slip into judgments.  We used terms like students don’t know how to or they aren’t able to; although we have always used an improvement rubric and we have had multiple discussions around avoiding deficit language, we would still go there in our reflections.

It makes sense; scoring assessments is difficult work and by the end everyone is mentally exhausted. So often in education, we get tunnel vision when looking at tools, processes and strategies.  We want clear answers or trajectories.  Assessments become formative or summative, when in reality many assessments can be used as both; but that can be a difficult conversation to have because it is complex and messy.

Because Antoine kept talking about how we needed to focus more on figuring out how this would inform our teaching, I began thinking about it differently.  Our teaching becomes much richer when after norming and scoring we look at the results and begin to formulate questions.  Instead of thinking, “Our students aren’t doing x,” or, “Our 9th graders are doing y,” we develop questions around what we are noticing.  My thinking went much deeper when I would look at papers and state observations as questions.  My questions would range from, “Why am I seeing x?” to “How could I teach y?”  For me, just stating it differently allowed me to think about our students’ writing, and my teaching, in a deeper way.  I left those two days with a sense of excitement about the year and a feeling of wonder about what will happen when our spring assessment rolls around.  

December 1, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Scaffolded Writing Frames For Students


I’ve written a lot about the value of scaffolded writing frames for students – English Language Learners and those who are proficient in English – to use when they are responding to prompts. As my colleague Lara Hoekstra says, “As long as we’re clear that these are some ways to write, not THE ways to write, they can be helpful.”

Some of the teachers at our school met today, and shared the different writing frames we use. They’ve given me permission to share them here, and I’m also including links to previous posts where I’ve shared different related ideas (you can lot of other resources at The Best Posts On Writing Instruction). Please share your own in the comments section:

“Point, Quote, Connect”

Helping Students Respond To Writing Prompts

“They Say, I Say” Is A Great Writing Resource


Here Are Some Examples Of Using “Concept Attainment” In Writing Instruction

“RACE” Looks Like A Useful Writing Strategy

The Text-Evidence Strategy That Changed My Classroom is from Scholastic and is also about RACE.

I’ve previously shared an example of how I scaffolded an ABC writing prompt (Answer the question, Back it up with a quotation, make a Comment & Connection). Based on the conversation we had today, I made some minor, but important changes. I have a picture of the revised version here, and you can download both the old and new versions here (the new version is the second one in the file).


This next one is from my talented colleague Nichole Scrivner – the well-known PEE frame is simple and effective:


Here’s a short excerpt from “They Say, I Say” (see a link earlier in this post) that Lara Hoekstra gives to students so they can use it as the “Back it Up With A Quotation” part of the ABC writing frame (or as the “Q” in the “PQC” – Make a Point, use a Quotation to back it up, and make a Comment):


Nicole Simsonsen shared a strategy called T-BEAR:

T- Topic Sentence

B- Brief Explanation/Bridge to Examples

E- Examples\Evidence

A- Analysis

R- Recall/Reflect/Relate

You can find lots of examples and graphic organizers illustrating T-BEAR online. Here’s an image of one she uses:


You can download the next three examples here.

Jen Adkins shared her own version of an ABC response:


Jen also adapted an excellent strategy from our colleague Chris Coey to help students develop an “analytical paragraph.” Also note the strategic way they have students highlight different parts of their paragraph to help them self-analyze if they are placing a higher priority on the “commentary and context”:


Mary Osteen shared a sheet her students use to provide peer feedback. However, she gives it to them as they are writing, so it functions as a writing frame scaffold, too:


Antoine Germany, another very talented colleague at Luther Burbank High School and the head of our English Department, shared three very helpful documents he developed about writing frames. He’s given me permission to share them on this blog.

The first two are on PQC (Point, Quote, Comment) and on PEE (Point, Evidence, Explain). You can download them here.

The third document is on ABC (Answer the question, Back it up with evidence, Comment with an explanation). You can download that document here.

As you can see, I’m pretty luck to be able to work with such talented and generous educators!

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 18, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Mannequin Challenge, ELLs & A Frozen Tableau


Yesterday, I saw this tweet from Mary Ann Zehr (look for her upcoming contribution to my Education Week Teacher column):

Readers might be familiar with the use of a Frozen Tableau, where students design and “act-out” a frozen scene from a text. You can read more about it here.

And if you’re not familiar with the frozen tableau, you might very well know about the Mannequin Challenge, which has been a viral sensation of groups remaining motionless for a short video scene, accompanied by music. You can see the best known examples here.

After I saw Mary Ann’s tweet, Mary Stokke, one of my two talented student teachers, and I had a conversation about adapting the combo idea to the unit on Problem/Solution essays we’re doing with Intermediate English Language Learners.

Here’s her guest post description of what she then did, followed by one student example:

1. After reading and annotating Problem/Solution essays, my class began to prepare skits about new Problem/Solution prompts that had to include a problem, a solution and a resolution.

2. Some students were engaged while others were more shy or bored with skits, so Mr. Ferlazzo suggested using something to do with the viral “Mannequin Challenge.”

Here’s what we did:

*Small groups of students completed a 4-frame storyboard that had to include 4 aspects of their prompt, as well as a caption for each frame.

*Students took photos of themselves in tableau for 3 of the scenes. Some students were actors, some were photographers.

*I plugged those photos into a frame using the free version of the “Pic Stitch” app.

*For a fourth scene, students picked a song, posed as mannequins, and then I shot a 20 second video of them using an iPhone on a selfie stick.

*For now, I took a picture of some text to fill one of the Pic Stitch frames, but it would be great to do something similar where you can embed a video in one of the frames.

Here is the result:


Of course, I’m sure The Mannequin Challenge will be “jumping the shark” at some point but, for now, I think it can be a nice addition to an instructional repertoire…

November 2, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Two New Useful Resources On Teaching Writing – And An Old One


This week, two new useful resources on teaching writing became available, and I learned about one that had been around before – but I just didn’t know it…

The first new piece is an excellent article titled This Is How To Improve Your Writing: 7 Easy Expert Secrets from Barking Up The Wrong Tree. It’s very accessible, and I think would be great to have students read and respond to it – either all at once or in sections over a series of days.

The old piece is Teaching Elementary School Students to Be Effective Writers from the Institute of Education Sciences What Works Clearinghouse. It’s a “practice guide” based on multiple research studies that have passed muster by the What Works staff.

The new piece is brand new – as in yesterday – an accompanying guide for secondary students: Teaching Secondary Students to Write Effectively.

I did a quick review it and, though I don’t think many teachers are going to find anything particularly new in it, it’s always good to find research support for the practices that many effective writing teachers use, and I count myself in that category.

Here are some of the practices in the guide that stood out to me, along with links to posts, articles and resources I’ve shared on this blog related to each one and how I apply it in my classroom (you can find many more links at The Best Posts On Writing Instruction):

* Using K-W-L Charts as a pre-planning practice for writing (see The Best Resources For Learning About The Importance Of Prior Knowledge (& How To Activate It) )

* Other graphic organizers (specifically Venn Diagrams) – see Not “The Best,” But “A List” Of Mindmapping, Flow Chart Tools, & Graphic Organizers and you might be particularly interested in my New York Times post on a lesson where students Study the 9/11 terrorist attacks through a K-W-L chart and Venn Diagrams that lead to writing a compare and contrast essay.

* Strategies to dissect writing prompts (see Helping Students Respond To Writing Prompts).

* Peer editing (see the excerpt from our book Edutopia titled Peer Review, Common Core, and ELLs).

* Helping students understand “rising action/climax/falling action” (I primarily teach that when writing stories – see The Best Sites For Learning To Write A Story).

* Writing blog comments (see The Best Sources For Advice On Student Blogging).

* Mimic Writing (see The Value Of “Mimic Writing”).

* The guide also discussed the importance of mentor texts/exemplars, along with the strategy of having students color-code different parts of an essay, both which I use.

* It talks a lot of various cute writing mnemonics.  I use a lot of them (see Here’s An Example Of How I Scaffold A Short Writing Prompt “They Say, I Say” Is A Great Writing Resource and Exploratree).  However – and this is not very clear to me – I think they might consider those more writing “formulas” and they might, instead, be talking about using them for more metacognitive planning (like what I write about in A Pretty Darn Good Lesson — If I Say So Myself and Another Lesson Combining Metacognition, Writing, Speaking, & Listening) .  I’ll send that question off to them to see what they have to say about it.

* It talks a lot about using rubrics, which I have mixed feelings about (see The Best Rubric Sites (And A Beginning Discussion About Their Use) ).

*And, to my surprise and disappointment, I think it gives short shrift to the importance of formative assessment (see The Best Resources For Learning About Formative Assessment).

* It is nice that they give a shout-out to the National Writing Project!

There’s a whole lot more there – check out the guide and feel free to leave comments here about it and/or my comments.


Skip to toolbar