Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

November 26, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Learning From The Past To Inform Our Present Response To Refugees

Here are some articles from this week which speak to the present hysteria about refugees.

I’m adding this post to The Best Sites For Learning About World Refugee Day, and I’ll also be adding some of the individual articles to other “Best” lists:

For Japanese-Americans, Resistance to Syrian Refugees Recalls Long-Ago Fears is from The New York Times. Here’s an excerpt:


I’m adding this article to The Best Resources On Japanese Internment In World War II.

Anne Frank and her family were also denied entry as refugees to the U.S. is from The Washington Post. Here’s an excerpt:


I’m adding it to The Best Sites To Learn About Anne Frank.

Syrian and Iraqi refugees seek freedoms cherished by all Americans is from The Washington Post.

Here is an excerpt:


I plan on have students read this piece and respond to this writing prompt:

How does Khalil Tawil suggest the United States should respond to refugees? To what extent do you agree or disagree with what he believes? 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 this resource to The Best Posts On Writing Instruction, where you can find links to multiple writing prompts.

November 22, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Good Quote From Ta-Nehisi Coates On Writing & How I’m Using It In Class

Thanks to Mel Katz on Twitter, I learned about an interview The NY Time just published with Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Here’s an excerpt:


I’m going to share that quote with my students, and ask them to respond to this writing prompt:

What does Ta-Nehisi Coates say is the best part of writing? To what extent do you agree or disagree with what he believes? 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 this post to The Best Posts On Writing Instruction, where you can find many other prompts.

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 4, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Students Can Write A Review For The NY Times Learning Network


In what I think is a great opportunity, The New York Times Learning Network is sponsoring a student contest for writing reviews:

Here’s how they describe it:

Do you have strong opinions about music, art, fashion, theater or books? Are you a cinephile or foodie?

If so, you’re in luck. Between now and Nov. 24, 2015, we invite you to play critic and write an original review for our newest student contest.

What can you choose? Anything that fits into a category of creative expression that The New York Times covers — from architecture to video games.

Check it out!

October 17, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Three Useful Videos On Plagiarism & Citations

I’m adding the first two videos to The Best Online Resources To Teach About Plagiarism and the last video to The Best Resources For Learning Research & Citation Skills:

Paraphrasing from Imagine Easy Solutions on Vimeo.

Citations for Beginners from Imagine Easy Solutions on Vimeo.

October 16, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Resources For The National Day Of Writing


October 20th is the National Day of Writing:

To draw attention to the remarkable variety of writing Americans engage in and to help make writers from all walks of life aware of their craft, the National Council of Teachers of English has established October 20 as the National Day on Writing. It’s important for everyone to share their knowledge about writing, organize participating groups in our schools and/or communities, and transform the public’s understanding of writing and the role it plays in society today.

Here are some useful related resources:

On Oct. 20, Post a #WhyIWrite Message to Twitter is from The New York Times Learning Network.

National Day on Writing is from The National Council of Teachers of English.

Celebrate the National Day on Writing! is from Read Write Think.

And last, but note least, my massive All My “Best” Lists On Teaching & Learning How To Write – In One Place! might be useful…

October 10, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Quote & Video Of The Day: Junot Díaz On Seth Meyers’ Show

Thanks to Giselle Lundy-Ponce, I learned about this Junot Díaz interview on Late Night with Seth Meyers.

You can read about it at The Huffington Post. Here’s an excerpt, and the video of it. You can also read more by, and about, Junot Díaz at A Collection Of Useful Posts, Articles & Videos On Race & Racism.


September 20, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Pope’s Canonization Of Junipero Serra Is A Great Teaching/Learning Opportunity – Here’s What I’m Doing

As many people know, the Pope is going to make Fr. Junipero Serra a Saint this week.

Whether Fr. Serra deserves to be one is a big question that provides an excellent teaching and learning opportunity – particularly here in California. And it’s great timing since we happen to be studying the California Missions this week, too.

I have collected a bunch of accessible resources related to Serra and the Missions at my U.S. History Class Blog for English Language Learners, including a modified version of an excellent article appearing the San Francisco Chronicle this morning.

I’ll be giving students the following writing prompt:

Fr. Junipero Serra Writing Prompt

The Pope is making Fr. Junipero Serra a Saint this week. Please learn about Serra’s life and the work of the California Missions by looking at the materials and videos on our class blog. Then, list the reasons some people support him being named a saint. Next, write about the reasons why some say he should not be made a saint. Then, say which side you agree with and why.

This is a version of:

They Say

I Say

Why I Say It

Let me know if you have suggestions on how I can make this a better project for my ELL students, including suggestions for additional accessible resources I should add to our class blog.