BAP027 Larry Ferlazzo & The ELL Teacher’s Toolbox

The PD in your pocket is off the charts this week, friends!  I have Larry Ferlazzo on the podcast plus my reflections on the interview.  You can listen on Soundcloud, on other podcast apps, or right here:
Listen to “BAP027 Larry Ferlazzo & The ELL Teacher’s Toolbox” on Spreaker.

Also, we are kicking off #ELLChat_BkClub around his new book, The ELL Teacher’s Toolbox.   If you want the video version, I have it here without my reflections:

Larry is currently teaching newcomers and IB classes at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, California. He also blogs for Education Week and he writes for the New York Times. If you aren’t following him… go ahead and leave this post and follow him here immediately.  You can subscribe to his blog, follow him on Facebook and also follow him on Twitter.  Many of us do all of these because he will better your life as an educator, no matter what you teach.

I have lots of great take-aways from this episode. My favorites are when we talk about how this new book honors our time (NONE of these strategies take much prep time) and how Larry & his co author, Katie Hull-Sypniepski go out of their way to honor people who have shared these strategies. Of course, Katie & Larry share the things they have developed on their own but there are many techniques they learned from others. Larry is right when he says that you can’t copyright a strategy. But how wonderful that they cite the PLN members who shared the strategies with them.

Anna Matis and I are honored to be mentioned in the book as I’m sure are so many other members of our PLN.  What a wonderful thing for our profession to have Larry modeling what we want to teach our students – you give credit to others for their work.


In the show we talk about a recent Facebook Live event on Education Week Teacher’s Facebook page.  In that show, Larry and Katie share some strategies  from her classroom.  I’ve watched it a few times now. If you like this show, you’ll LOVE that one.  With a Facebook account, you should be able to see it here.

As we mention in the show, you can access a ton of companion resources, excerpts and tools for free by visiting this post on Larry’s  blog.

In the show, Larry mentions two videos he uses all the time as examples of citing other people and sharing resources from our PLN.  One is this one from Valentina Gonzales.

and this one I made for volunteers and I’m honored that he included it in the book:

Larry also talked about Student Panels for your PD purposes. We should ALL be doing this.  Here is the link to Larry’s post on this including video of his students giving PD. 

Many people are using these videos of Larry’s students as an example and like me and my students, we have taken his lead.  I’ve seen this by Brad Womack and other members of my PLN.  Always the same story – there are amazing the outcomes for teachers, students and everyone involved when you allow your students to give PD to teachers.

I’m on Cloud 9 this week after interviewing such a hero of mine.  I also got to meet and work with lots of folks from my Canada PLN. Thanks to all of you at the Celebrating Linguistic Diversity Conference in Toronto. Special  thanks to Jeffrey Robinson and his  team for all the hospitality and help presenting. Jeff & I enjoyed meeting face-to-face and presenting over our social media collaborations.

Head’s up:  Challenging you all to do more of that!  Find a conference and submit a proposal with a PLN member you’d like to meet.  Win-Win for participants and for you.  Feel free to use our PPT & resources! Copy it, make it your own and all the resources are here including that presentation.

Lastly, big virtual hugs to my family that I am finally meeting in the flesh. I’ve been part of this community virtually for so long and now I get to hug these folks.  It’s PLNmagic, as Jeffery said this weekend!

Thanks for taking time to listen, watch or read this week.

Don’t miss #MADPD coming up on May 6th! It is an all day, online conference!  These are the watch links for my Tech for ELs session (6pm CT) and for my Students’ panel (7pm CT).

Also, join us for the first #AbydosInt twitter chat.  Abydos Learning is a great project with so many literacy teachers involved in giving staff development and now we want to be connected online with others that are passionate about literacy.  Best writing training I. Have. Ever. Had.  So do mark you calendar for 8pm CT May 6th to chat about Free Voluntary Reading.  Chatting with Abydos trainers is a great thing!

Have a great week folks!


PS:  Please reach out if I can help with training or Seidlitz resources.  We are so honored to be adding to the  field and supporting EL’s and the teachers who teach them.

Video: Non Example of Language Experience Approach + QSSSA

I put a student to sleep.  {Sigh} Now you can watch the video & we can all learn from it.

Many of my students have jobs and some have been sick lately so I assumed this was the issue.  But when I watched the film… I WAS THE ISSUE!    

No use trying to pretend I don’t have lessons that are big fails.  We want our students to embrace learning opportunities (failures) and I want that too.

So I offer this video as way to deliver language experience approach.  The pitfalls and the fix-up I did.

For the podcast version and all the show notes and links,  please see last week’s post. I added it there because all of this is tied together from the same lesson.

Stay awesome, eduheroes!

I’d love your feedback on what else I could improve or any comments on this lesson!  We are all getting so much #BetterTogether.

Virtual Hugs,



BAP026 Language Experience Approach, QSSSA and Filming

This week I have a video of my teaching. At first I thought I had pulled off a great lesson.  Later I realized it was a non-example!

If you’d just like audio, the podcast version is here & in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts:
Listen to “BAP026 Language Experience Approach and QSSSA (complete with non-example)” on Spreaker.

There is always room for improvement so we might as well embrace the fact that lessons will not go as planned. The video I embed for this podcast has a teaching “fail” in it.  That makes me cringe but reflecting on the way we teach is what will help us improve.  So instead of beating myself up, I tried the lesson again with strategies that I know offer the students more opportunities to speak.  This show is primarily about Language Experience Approach and also the QSSSA questioning strategy that John Seidlitz put together for us.

To read more about Language Experience Approach, check out this article from the Center for Adult English Language  Acquisition on the website:

In the show I mention Abydos International several times.  I recommend their training to everyone who teaches writing.  You can’t go wrong bringing them to your campus for the summer institutes.

I have a trainer’s certification that I like to keep current because the program is so never let it lapse.

So on to Language Experience Approach (Co-Creating Text) and QSSSA:

I used to be uncomfortable with watching myself teach, but I started doing it so frequently, that the benefit outweighed any negative feelings I have about the errors that I see when I review the footage. ** Be sure to get the proper permissions for any filming you may do in class.

So yes, I’ve gotten quite comfortable with the fact that no lesson will ever be 100% perfect.  That’s just impossible because we are human beings.

There will always be room for improvement. So why not embrace that? Why not challenge ourselves the way we challenge our students every day? “Put yourself out there.” We tell them.  But how are they supposed to believe us when we say that failure and errors are part of improving?  That they are opportunities to learn and get better?

I feel strongly that if we want our students to develop a growth mindset about their learning, we need to model that ourselves in our own craft.

This all happened in a super busy semester so I’d been periodically filming myself teaching but hadn’t had as much time as I would like to review the films.    That changed when I made a conscious effort to do a Language Experience Approach lesson so that I could show it to another teacher. I was so happy with how the lesson went until I watched the film.  Now I’m actually using it as a non-example! Ha!

I got some great advice from a former instructional coach, Curtis George.  It was something like “When you watch the film, don’t rip it apart for everything. You will see many errors because you are your own worst critic. Hone in on one thing and keep filming & tweaking your instruction to do your best to improve that one thing. Don’t show the film to anyone until you think you can’t  improve any further on your own.”  That was very freeing advice and has served me well.

After watching my Language Experience Approach lesson, my “one thing” is obvious to me. I needed to give the students more opportunities to speak.

And I live and breathe this stuff!!

The point is, I know I’m decent at sheltered instruction.  For example,  I know the benefit of students speaking and I value the 10-2 strategy where I don’t speak for more than 10 minutes before I allow them to speak for 2 minutes. But sometimes even that is just too long! I’m an ESL teacher for goodness sakes.  I saw a few missed opportunities for them to practice the language or talk about what they think. I saw many opportunities where I could have stopped sooner.

What I realized was that it’s important for me to watch myself teaching more frequently. Seeing myself on film is always going to give me a different perspective. That perspective is valuable and I would highly encourage everyone to give it a try.

The great news is that of course, I started putting things in place so that I gave my students even more opportunities to own their learning. And if you watch the video, you’ll see that it really did pay off.  The student that fell asleep is super engaged when I repeated the lesson with more student talk.

I used QSSSA and it never fails.  Watch the video to get an idea of how that technique goes. Essentially, you provide a sentence starter for answering the question.  But you first offer wait time with a signal.  Then you offer a low stress opportunity to talk/share before you randomly call on someone or have students write something (formative assessment).  QSSSA is widely used and extremely popular among content and ESL educators at every grade level.

QSSSA was definitely the answer for engagement and it was KEY to making this lesson more meaningful.  Newcomers, SLIFE or any EL will improve their decoding skills with more reading.  Their fluency improves as they gain more language and have more exposure to text.  But if they are bored, they are often fake-reading.  But when we co-create text, they are engaged because as a class THEY are the authors.  We just need to be sure they all had a chance to talk about it before we write about it.

Hope this was helpful.

Thanks for reading!