Here’s the premiere episode of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s remake of Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” (thanks to Alexander Russo for the tip).
March 10, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
As regular readers know, in addition to teaching Beginning and Intermediate English Language Learners English and Social Studies, I also teacher mainstream ninth-grade English classes and an International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge class (and it looks like I’ll be teaching two TOK classes next year!).
In addition to IB Diploma candidates, I heavily recruit other students that are not taking other IB courses, including students who have previously been in my ELL classes.
I thought readers might be interested in some recent projects we’ve done there, and you can see more at our TOK class blog.
After we study each individual Way of Knowing and Area of Knowledge, small groups create posters and make short presentations that usually include:
* What they think the three most important things they’ve learned are and why they’re important.
* A picture they draw along with an explanation of how it’s connected to the WOK or AOK.
* A favorite quote from our textbook or materials we’ve studies and why they think it’s important.
* A Knowledge question.
Here’s a photo of one poster after we studied Human Sciences:
As TOK teachers know, IB added several new Ways of Knowing and Areas of Knowledge to the curriculum this year. I’m finding it difficult to fit them all in, so, for two of the new ones — Religious Knowledge Systems and Indigenous Knowledge Systems — we just spent three days each studying each one.
Taking some questions directly from the new TOK Guide, I had students work in small groups, providing a number of links to resources, and had them develop a short slideshow and presentation using this outline:
What is this Area of Knowledge about?
What practical problems can be solved by applying this knowledge?
What makes this Area of Knowledge important?
Show the connections at least three Ways of Knowing have to this Area of Knowledge.
Here are some slidedecks and you can see more on our class blog:
I’d love to hear ideas on how I can improve these assignments, so feel free to leave a comment!
My latest New York Times post for English Language Learners is on art — students complete an interactive about an artist who uses chewing gum for his creations, and I share teaching ideas using online art apps.
You might also be interested in The Best Art Websites For Learning English.
You can see all my previous New York Times posts here.
The 2014 World Cup begins on June 12th in Brazil.
I created a very long “Best” list for the 2010 World Cup, and have selected sites that would be useful this year and added them to this new list. Of course, I’ll be adding a lot more as time goes on, and I hope that readers will contribute many.
You might also be interested in The Best Sites For Learning About Brazil.
Here are my choices for The Best Sites For Learning About The 2014 World Cup In Brazil:
Fox Sports has a special section on this year’s World Cup.
Of course, there’s the official World Cup site.
ESL / EFL Lesson Activity on Brazil World Cup is from News English Lessons.
TES Connect has a collection of related lessons.
World Cup Tech: Fine-Tuning the Beautiful Game is from Gizmodo.
Best Soccer Documentaries is from EFL Classroom 2.0.
Learn about The Birth of The World Cup.
A Brief History Of The World Cup is a TIME Slideshow.
The Evolution of The World Cup Ball is a NY Times infographic.
The BBC has nice visual tutorials on playing soccer.
You might also be interested in my other 1,300 “The Best…” lists.
I have a huge backlog of resources that I’ve been planning to post about in blog but, just because of time constraints, have not gotten around to doing. Instead of letting that backlog grow bigger, I regularly grab a few and list them here with a minimal description. It forces me to look through these older links, and help me organize them for my own use. I hope others will find them helpful, too. These are resources that I didn’t include in my “Best Tweets” feature because I had planned to post about them, or because I didn’t even get around to sending a tweet about them.
Here are Week’s “Links I Should Have Posted About, But Didn’t”:
The Vocabulary of Test Directions is from Vocabulary.com, and provides links to help students learn the academic vocabulary list that Jim Burke has developed. I’m adding it to The Best Websites For Developing Academic English Skills & Vocabulary.
Lex for EFL has created some interactive academic vocabulary activities that are useful. I’m adding them to the same list.
Can 10,000 hours of practice make you an expert? is from The BBC. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About The 10,000 Hour Rule & Deliberate Practice.
A Life Well-Lived is a short, and good, video on the first American who reached the Everest summit. I’m adding it to the same list.
I’m adding this video to The Best Resources For Lessons On Trayvon Martin:
Comcast Indefinitely Extends Low-Cost Broadband for Poor Families is from The New York Times. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About Schools Providing Home Computers & Internet Access To Students.
Unexpected Africa: Investigating New Ways to Think About the Continent is from The New York Times Learning Network. I’m adding it to A Beginning List Of The Best Geography Sites For Learning About Africa.
I often write about research studies from various fields and how they can be applied to the classroom. I write individual posts about ones that I think are especially significant, and will continue to do so. However, so many studies are published that it’s hard to keep up. So I’ve started writing a “round-up” of some of them each week or every other week as a regular feature.
By the way, you might also be interested in My Best Posts On New Research Studies In 2013.
Here are some new useful studies (and related resources):
Our quick guide to literacy research for teachers is a useful summary from The Guardian.
Socialization technique helps in academic achievement, trial study finds is from The Washington Post, and describes results from a study on using Social Emotional Learning in the classroom. I’m adding it to The Best Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Resources. Here’s more info on the same research.
Does Stymied Educational Attainment Lead to Depression? is an interesting article about new research, and appeared in the Pacific Standard. Here’s an excerpt:
Reynolds and Baird conclude that there are no long-term emotional costs to aiming high and falling short when it comes to educational aspirations. This contradicts decades of research that holds that unmet educational expectations lead to psychological distress. In fact, not trying is the only way to ensure lower levels of education and increased chances of poor mental health. So, go ahead and shoot for that moon.
The way a room is lit can affect the way you make decisions is from Science Daily. Here’s an excerpt:
The next time you want to turn down the emotional intensity before making an important decision, you may want to dim the lights first. A new study shows that human emotion, whether positive or negative, is felt more intensely under bright light. under bright lights emotions are felt more intensely.
This is probably a good classroom management tip to keep in mind. I haven’t been that intentional about it, but I think — in my experience, at least — overly-enthusiastic classes tend to be a bit calmer when the lights are off (I generally have them off when I have something on the document camera for students to see — it’s more clear with less light in the room). I’ll have to more conscious of it to see its effect on behavior. Of course, we also have to balance it out with the potential tendency among some who might become more drowsy with the lights out. What has been your experience?
Common Core is Focus of New AERA Site on Newsworthy Research Topics is from Education Week. It shares some useful information:
The Trending Topic Research File provides free online access to Common Core-related articles appearing in the six peer-reviewed journals of the American Educational Research Association. (The “free” part is important because, typically, nonsubscribers pay $30 to download a single article.)
Retention leads to discipline problems in other kids is the title of a new report on research coming out of Duke University. Here’s an excerpt:
When students repeat a grade, it can spell trouble for their classmates, according to a new Duke University-led study of nearly 80,000 middle-schoolers.
In schools with high numbers of grade repeaters , suspensions were more likely to occur across the school community. Discipline problems were also more common among other students, including substance abuse, fighting and classroom disruption.
Public debate typically focuses on how retention affects an individual student’s academic performance, said lead author Clara Muschkin. So she and her colleagues decided to take a wider view and consider how holding students back may affect the school as a whole.
“The decision to retain students has consequences for the whole school community,” said Muschkin, an associate director of the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy. “That wider effect is an issue worth considering as we debate this policy.”
The Ed Tech Researcher over at Education Week provides an overview of research on what the best length of a video is to show to students. There’s some disagreement, but is sounds like six minutes is best. That sounds right to me….
I’m lucky today to publish an excerpt from a top-notch book, Kidding Around: Connecting kids to happiness, laughter and humor, by education consultant and veteran school principal Sue Stephenson.
Sue Stephenson has over 40 years of experience as a teacher, principal, staff developer, instructional consultant, author and speaker. She has written four books that focus on building trusting relationships and positive methods to cope with stress, including Kidding Around and Laughing Matters. Her keynotes and workshops focus on a passion for happiness & laughter and teamwork & trust. Contact her through her website, SueStephenson.ca, and follow her on Twitter @sue4stephenson.
It was just published by Powerful Learning Press. John Norton, one of the people I most admire in the education world, is its managing editor (I’ve written a lot about John over the years).
I asked John to write a short description of the Press because I think both readers and potential authors would be interested in learning about it. Here’s what he contributed:
Powerful Learning Press was launched in late 2012 with this mission: We want to provide an alternative to mainstream education publishers — both for educators interested in reading about connected learning and student-driven teaching models — and for classroom practitioners ready to share what they know without having to run the gauntlet of traditional publishing.
Our digital products are concise and priced well below typical professional education books. We share profits 50/50 with authors, who retain the copyright to their work. Relying heavily on social media, PLPress (a project of Powerful Learning Practice LLC) markets eBooks through our online store that are (1) works we develop through editorial partnerships with educator-authors; or (2) self-published or out-of-print works that we feel are a good fit with our mission.
In addition to the eBook release of Sue Stephenson’s Kidding Around and Laughing Matters, PLPress will publish two original works later this spring: Passionate Learners: Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students by Pernille Ripp; and Digital Student Portfolios: A Whole School Approach to Connected Learning and Continuous Assessment by Matt Renwick. Last year we published books by primary teacher Kathy Cassidy and middle school teacher Marshal Ratzel.
For more information, contact John Norton, managing editor: john/at/plpnetwork.com
And, now, here’s the excerpt from Sue’s book:
Kidding Around: The Power of Positive Psychology
Excerpted from Kidding Around: Connecting kids to happiness, laughter and humor, by education consultant and veteran school principal Sue Stephenson.
“For every one hundred articles on sadness, there is just one on happiness.”—Martin Seligman
The Happiness Movement brought with it a new field focused on an interest in well-being and living better lives. Psychologist Martin Seligman coined the phrase “positive psychology” and provided a refreshing way to look at our feelings, especially happiness. He said in 2005, “I realized that my profession was half-baked. It wasn’t enough for us to nullify disabling conditions. . . .We needed to ask, what are the enabling conditions that make human beings flourish?”—“The New Science of Happiness,” Time, C. Wallis, Jan. 9, 2005.
Let’s think about happiness and sadness in a slightly different way by using the Happiness Line from 0 (extremely unhappy) to 10 (extremely happy). The bottom of the line (zero) represents people with feelings of sadness, depression or being “down”. This can happen for many reasons. Some people (called “happy-chondriacs”) feel they are not meant to be happy, and live in fear of happiness.
If we feel just OK or neutral (not particularly happy or unhappy), we are in the middle of the line (at 5). When we are feeling extremely happy, ecstatic, joyous and fantastic, we are at the top end of the Happiness Line (at 10). Research done by Ed Diener, the author of 240 scientific publications on the topic, reports that most people are mildly happy most of the time.
It can help to assign numbers to places along the line, so we could say, for example, “I am at 7 today,” to help ourselves and others figure out what kind of day it is in “our world.” Teachers and parents could use a large wall chart of the Happiness Line on the bulletin board or on the fridge so children can start putting words to their “place on the line.”
It’s normal to move up and down on the Happiness Line daily or weekly, because our moods or emotional states change and things happen to us and our families that are sad or happy. You don’t want children to pretend to be happy. That would be phony and artificial and would cause more stress. We all have to deal with anxiety, anger, frustration and sadness. The Happiness Line helps children start to think more deeply about this range of feelings.
It’s important to know that, if you end up stuck at zero for more than a few weeks, you need to reach out and get some help.
“ For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Our Happiness Range
Our total amount of happiness can be divided into three parts:
a) our genetic set range—about 50 percent
b) our life circumstances—about 10 percent
c) our voluntary choices—about 40 percent
Each of us has a certain emotional range or area on the Happiness Line where we “hang out” most of the time. Seligman calls this our “set range” and says that 50 percent of our happiness potential is predetermined, inherited through our genes from our birth parents. In fact, studies conducted on the personality development of twins and adopted children show that “the psychology of identical twins turns out to be much more similar than that of fraternal twins, and the psychology of adopted children turns out to be much more similar to their biological parents than to their adoptive parents” (Seligman, 2002, p.47.)
Life circumstances include the country we live in and the family we have. Circumstances can improve happiness for the better, although it may be difficult or expensive to do so. They make up about 10 percent of our happiness. Surprisingly, education, race, financial income, gender and climate don’t affect happiness a great deal.
The really good news is that the third category of voluntary choices, the way we act and think, is largely within our control. The effort required may be great, but the result will be more lasting. What type of and how many friends do you want to have? What will you spend your money on? How will you deal with the sad times you encounter? What type of language do you use? Are you pessimistic or optimistic? Do you reach out and help others in your community? These voluntary choices are the basis of my book Kidding Around.
“We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.” —Carlos Castaneda
Let’s use a trampoline to represent the amount of happiness we inherit from our birth parents. It’s a given weight and size we cannot change—like the weather, where we live and our own level of energy. Yet we have so many choices—how often we use the trampoline, if we ask friends to join us, how high we can jump—and how safe we are while we use our trampoline.
These positive effects are a dramatic argument for studying and understanding happiness.
ACTIVITY: My Happiness Line Survey
Study the range of feelings on the Happiness Line with children and students so they become familiar with the levels from 0-10.
• Take a quick happiness survey. Ask children to select their own current happiness point on the line. Talk about their decision. What range is normal for them—for example, between 4 and 8?
• Ask kids to start to think about how often they feel happy (6 or above), neutral (at 5) or unhappy (4 or below). Where do they hang out the most?
• Ask kids to think of a time when they were at 10, 5 and 0 on the Happiness Line. Can they describe a situation for each one in a drawing or in a few sentences? What was happening? Can they recall specific details?
• Ask a wider group of kids where they are on the line. There is always a range of feelings in any group and it will be interesting for kids to experience this.
Kids could get to know the feelings associated with different points on the line and start to refer to them by number. Teachers could place Happiness Lines on each desk so that students could nonverbally indicate where they are when they arrive in the morning and where they move during the day.
Make a larger chart or poster for the house or classroom so the Happiness Line becomes a visual aid for everyone to use on a daily basis. This would help teachers and parents know when to press and when not to interrupt.
When Kids Don’t Feel Happy
It’s natural for kids to experience a wide range of feelings. No one feels happy all the time. All feelings are acceptable and valid. It is important to get support around more challenging feelings. No one can prevent “stuff” from happening. Kids Help Phone in Canada says that “(e)very young person will experience disappointment and sadness. What’s important is how they deal with these powerful feelings.” Often the only way to get past a troublesome difficult situation is to just go through it. Having someone for help and support can make all the difference.
In my book Kidding Around, I go on to talk more about what we can do “when kids don’t feel happy,” including five easy-to-remember steps kids can take when faced with intense emotions. I also talk about the important differences between sadness and depression and when mental health issues may require professional help.
Among the most important things we can do is to simply remove barriers and start conversations — to be sensitive to the emotions of kids around us. Watch for kids who never seem to laugh. Try to find out more about them and start a relationship. Some may come from homes where they are taught to act “maturely.” Some come from homes where there is no laughter. Some may be abused or bullied. Some may have eating disorders or have harmed themselves. Each one has his or her own story.
Let kids you are concerned about know they can talk with you about anything. Listen to what they have to say. Help them to feel more in control of their feelings instead of being controlled by them.
Every year, my Beginning and Intermediate English Language Learners class do a neighborhood comparison project as part of learning how to write a persuasive essay.
You can read all about it at A Lesson Highlighting Community Assets — Not Deficits. In summary, students identify the qualities important to them in a neighborhood, compare their neighborhood with the richest neighborhood in Sacramento, and then write about which area one they like best. Almost all students choose their present one.
Here’s a slideshow of the field trip we took walking around the school’s neighborhood on Friday, which I’m still recovering from….
Also, I’m doing one thing differently this year. Sometimes, when I’m feeling ambitious, we also take a field trip to the wealthy neighborhood, known as the Fabulous Forties. When I don’t have it in me to do it (like this year — usually I can only handle two field trips a year — one to our surrounding neighborhood and another a twenty hour trip to San Francisco. Visiting the Fab Forties also requires additional stress because sometimes residents call the police to investigate what we’re doing on their street), we take a virtual tour using Google Maps. But that’s a bit problematic because sometimes it’s a bit slow and cumbersome.
So, this year, I’m using Google Street View Hyperlapse. It lets you pick point A and a Point B, and then takes you on superquick tour (which you can slow down by clicking the space bar). You can see three maps of different sections of the Fab Forties here that I’ve created.
Finally, students created some videos at the end our field trip. You can see them here. They’re okay, but I was too exhausted to put much energy into them by that time. Here are the instructions I gave them.
The SAME day The Washington Post republished my piece on the potential misuse of teaching Social Emotional Learning Skills, Education Week reported on new research titled Study Links Teacher ‘Grit’ with Effectiveness, Retention.
My Washington Post piece had only referred to SEL and students — I’m embarrassed to say I hadn’t even thought about how it could be misused against teachers.
Here’s what the study found:
novice teachers in high-poverty school districts, higher levels of “perseverance and passion for long-term goals” (aka “grit”) were associated with higher rates of effectiveness and retention.
The researchers evaluated applicants’ resumes on grit by apparently giving points for extracurricular activities and measured teacher “effectiveness” on student test scores.
Come on, now. It’s pretty clear that using Value-Added Measurements to rate teachers is wrought with errors — can you imagine some district trying to incorporate pretty arbitrary grit scores into evaluations?
I met with a staffperson from Angela Duckworth’s new Character Lab on Friday. I shared with her, as I’ve written before, that I strongly believe that these kinds of character assessments can be useful for self-assessment purposes, with the clear explanation that they might or might not be accurate. In fact, I have students take Professor Duckworth’s online “grit assessment” — but only after I caution that it might or might be accurate, they should take it with a grain of salt, not share it, and only use it if it meshes with their own self-assessment.
I’ll end with a quote that is often erroneously attributed to Albert Einstein when, in fact, it was said by sociologist William Bruce Cameron. That doesn’t detract from its wisdom:
Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.
March 8, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
Every month I make a few short lists highlighting my choices of the best resources I through (and learned from) Twitter, but didn’t necessarily include them in posts here on my blog.
I’ve already shared in earlier posts several new resources I found on Twitter — and where I gave credit to those from whom I learned about them. Those are not included again in post.
If you don’t use Twitter, you can also check-out all of my “tweets” on Twitter profile page.
You might also be interested in The Best Tweets Of 2013.
I use Storify to “curate” my best tweets:
Reducing Attrition In Urban Schools ‘By Listening To Our Teachers’ is the last post in my Education Week Teacher three-part series on teacher attrition in high-poverty schools.
Today, Liam Goldrick and David Orphal are contributing responses, and I’m featuring many comments from readers, too. I also throw my “two cents” into the discussion.
Here are a couple of excerpts:
Here are new additions to The Best Resources On The Protests (& Crisis) In Ukraine:
Breaking Away is a useful map from The Wall Street Journal.
Teaching with the News: Ukraine, Russia and Crimea is by Diana Laufenberg.
News and teaching resources round up on the Ukraine crisis is from The Guardian.
Russia’s Goal In Ukraine: Three Scenarios is from NPR.
Crimea and the Hysteria of History is from The New Yorker.
It’s that time — we all lose an hour’s sleep tonight.
You might be interested in The Best Sites For Learning About Daylight Savings Time.
There are just so many good infographics and interactives out there that I’ve begun a new semi-regular feature called “Infographics & Interactives Galore.”
You can see others at A Collection Of “The Best…” Lists On Infographics and by searching “infographics” on this blog.
I’ll still be publishing separate posts to individually highlight especially useful infographics and interactives, but you’ll find others in this regular feature.
This next one is very well done. You’ll have to click it to go to its original location in order to explore it extensively:
I’m adding this next infographic to The Best Websites For Students Exploring Jobs & Careers:
Here are two new additions to The Best Sites To Learn About The Internet:
5 Fascinating Graphs That Show How We Use the Internet is from TIME.
25 years of the World Wide Web – An infographic by the team at CWCS
I’ve started a somewhat regular feature where I share a few posts and resources from around the Web related to ESL/EFL or to language in general that have caught my attention:
Getting to grips with project based learning and I’m interested in project based learning but I don’t know where to begin! are two good posts by Adam Simpson discussing PBL and English Language Learners. I’m adding them to The Best Sites For Cooperative Learning Ideas.
Pupils with English as a second language ‘outperform native speakers’ is an intriguing article in The Telegraph.
Helping language learners become language researchers: wordandphrase.info (part 2: 3 activities) is a two-part post by Lizzie Pinard about using an interesting website called WordandPhrase.
ELLs’ Literacy Improved Under Popular Instructional Model, Study Finds is from Education Week. I’m adding it to The Best Websites For Developing Academic English Skills & Vocabulary.
Using Centers and Stations to Teach World Language is from Calico Spanish, but very applicable to ESL/EFL classrooms. I think it’s a very helpful post.
March 7, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
In yet another attempt to get at the enormous backlog I have of sites worth , I’ve recently begin a regular feature called “The Week In Web 2.0.” (you might also be interested in The Best Web 2.0 Applications For Education In 2013):
Teacher Training Videos has an excellent video tutorial on using Google Docs/Google Drive.
I recently posted Getty Images Has Just Become The Number One Source For Images In Social Media — Choose From 40 MILLION! Here’s a useful piece in The Atlantic giving more information about it: Why Getty Going Free Is Such a Big Deal, Explained in Getty Images.
Common Core, Book Trailers, and Three Good Tools for Creating Them is a helpful post from Richard Byrne that shares several web tools. Though it’s obviously Richard’s post, and not mine, I’m going to add it to the section of My Best Posts On Books: Why They’re Important & How To Help Students Select, Read, Write & Discuss Them where I have several other book trailer-related posts.
Tumblr Now Lets You Dial A Toll-Free Number To Post Audio To Your Blog is a TechCrunch post. I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Students To Record Audio By Phone.
March 7, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
Over the past two weeks, I’ve seen several exceptional posts and articles on teacher and student assessment, and thought I’d bring them all together in one post.
I’ll be sharing to which “Best” list I’ll be adding each one, but you can also find all my lists on assessment at A Collection Of “The Best” Lists On Assessment.
I’ve got to start off with a series of exceptional posts on assessment that Marc Tucker has been writing over at Education Week. I’m adding them to The Best Resources For Learning About Effective Student & Teacher Assessments:
I’m eagerly awaiting his next post, where he says he “will describe accountability systems for education consistent with the ideas of McGregor, Drucker and Pink—systems embraced by the countries with the best education records in the world.”
Here are excerpts from his first two posts:
Testing To, and Beyond, The Common Core is by Linda Darling-Hammond is another important new article on assessment. Though I’m not thrilled with her apparent position that test results from next generation of state tests should be included in teacher evaluation (see The Problem With Including Standardized Test Results As Part Of “Multiple Measures” For Teacher Evaluation), it’s an important article to read, nevertheless.
I’m also adding that piece to The Best Resources For Learning About Effective Student & Teacher Assessments.
Performance Assessment Re-Emerging in Schools appeared in Education Week. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About Performance Assessment.