cAsTa Ways: An Interview with Larry Ferlazzo

Posted By on March 24, 2011

Prior to becoming an ESL and social studies teacher, Larry Ferlazzo served for almost two decades as a community organizer. “Organizing,” Larry told us in our interview, “is just another word for relationship building.” Good teaching anchors learning through relationships—relationships with our peers, with our mentors, with members of our close and extended communities. We do not learn in isolation, but rather in communities of practice. As Etienne Wenger describes it, “Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” And it seems that is how Larry, to a large extent, structures his students’ learning experiences and how he approaches his own reflective practice.

What particularly interested Kevin and me were the ways in which Larry has used his community organizing experiences and expertise to support students at the largest inner-city high school in Sacramento, CA. Those skills are particularly germane to language teachers; according to a 2008 survey conducted by Anna Chamot and Sheila W. Cockey of the National Capital Language Resource Center, members of our profession indicated they found the Communities and Connections standards of our National Standards for Foreign Language Education the most difficult to implement with their students.

In this interview Larry shares with us concrete and helpful insights, suggestions and resources to help us make the kinds of connections and develop the kinds of communities that these two standards address. We think the information you’ll find here and in the podcast applicable to all language teachers.

You can find out more about Larry’s work at the following sites:

Larry Ferlazzo on Twitter

Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day. While here you can navigate to his English website that has over 8,000 curated links for use with English language learners, his Best of Series posts, his published books (clicking on their pictures will provide you with more information and an excerpt), his In Practice posts and his most popular blog posts.

Engaging Parents in School… a blog that serves as a follow up to his 2009 book about engaging parents in school.

The Huffington Post, The Washington Post and Education Week.

We’ll end with a few of our favorite posts by Larry that we think do a great job of addressing connections and communities.

The Best Resources For Learning The Advantages To Being Bilingual

The Best Places Where Students Can Create Online Learning/Teaching Objects for An “Authentic Audience”

The Best Ways To Find Other Classes For Joint Online Projects

The Best Reflective Posts I’ve Written About My Teaching Practice—2010

My Post-Thanksgiving Letters To Students

English Language Learners and the Power of Personal Stories

What Makes a Good Neighborhood? (in our interview Kevin suggests how we could make this an international project.)

Getting Our Students & Their Families Thinking About College (this could easily be adapted to getting our students to think about how they could use languages in their future.)

Here’s What I’m Doing For My Class Final Exam

Family Literacy, Computers, and ESL

As always, if you know someone who is doing great work integrating technology into the language curriculum or have a tool to share that would be of interest to our readers, please let us know!

Creative Commons License
cAsTa Ways: An Interview with Larry Ferlazzo by Barbara Lindsey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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Music for our podcasts is courtesy of George Wood and is called Travelogue. You can find more of George Wood’s music at

About the author

Barbara Lindsey currently serves as director of the Multimedia Language Center at the University of Connecticut. She has given numerous presentations and workshops on Internet-based language instruction at the state and national level. Barbara has twelve years experience teaching German language at the university level, and for the private business sector as well as after school enrichment programs. She has served as project director on three federally funded grants and is a past president of the Connecticut Council of Language Teachers (2004-2006).