Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

The Best Sites For Walking In Someone Else’s Shoes


'The guy who lived in his shoes' photo (c) 2009, Ganymedes Costagravas - license:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it” (Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird)

Empathy, it seems to me, is a pretty important quality to have and to cultivate in others. I’d like to a few resources that can help us do just that, and also invite readers to contribute additional suggestions.

Want to know what English sounds like to a non-English speaker? If you do, check out these videos performing Prisencolinensinainciusol . They’re music videos made by Italian actor/singer Adriano Celetano that’s supposed to mimic exactly that…and they’re delightful:

Here’s another Italian song performed in English “gibberish.”

In keeping with that theme, check-out these videos showing what animal noises sound like in other languages:

Here’s a “fake English” dialogue:

If you want to get a sense of what it’s like to have a learning disability, go to the PBS website Misunderstood Minds. It lets you try out having reading, writing, attention and mathematics challenges. (Thanks to Karen Janowski for the tip).

Get an idea of what it might be like to have multiple sclerosis at

Here’s another site and lesson idea:

How Americans See Europe is a funny, accurate (in the sense that I believe it reflects what many Americans believe), and very sad map showing the stereotypes that many people in the United States have about Europe. My first thought was that it would be great to help teach Perception in my International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge class. And I do think that’s still a good idea.

But then I got to wondering if there was any way I could use it with my English Language Learners.

I don’t think the map itself would be very accessible to them. However, I could adapt the idea.

I’ve written in my book, English Language Learners: Teaching Strategies That Work, about having my Hmong refugee students the stories they heard in the Thai camps about the United States (we ate people, etc.). It would be interesting to do a more in-depth lesson with ELL’s the perceptions they think people in their country have of the U.S.– and why. Then they could if they’ve found any to be true. In addition, they could what perceptions they think people here have of their native country, and why.

It could make for some interesting discussions and excellent learning opportunities.

I’m adding several other similar maps to this list:

Mapping European Stereotypes shows many maps of Europe seen through the eyes of people from different parts of Europe. They, too, are funny and insightful.

The World According to San Francisco is another one that can be described the same way.

Anholt-Gfk Roper Nation Brands Index™ tells what a “panel of over 20,000 ordinary people in 20 different countries really think about other countries: the people, the products, the governments, the culture, the education, the tourist attractions and the lifestyle.” It’s pretty accessible.

“Experience The Haiti Earthquake” is an impressive interactive from the Canadian organization, Inside Disaster. It lets you virtually “experience” the quake through the eyes of a survivor, a journalist, or an aid worker.

I’ve mentioned the “Mapping Stereotypes: The Geography Of Prejudice” site earlier in this list. They’ve recently added some new maps. Their maps show places as how other see them — how Germans see the rest of Europe, how the U.S. see Europe, etc. In looking at them again, I came up with the idea of having my IB Theory of Knowledge students study the idea of “perception” by using these maps as model and make maps of our school — looking at it through the eyes of a teacher, a freshman, and a senior. It should be interesting.

“If It Were My Home” is a neat interactive that compares the standard of living in the United States to any other country of your choice. The site also has some other neat features.

I’ve learned about the PBS website and film (available online) titled “A Class Divided” (and I learned about it from the excellent resource “TeachersFirst,” which I’ve described on more than one “The Best…” list).

Instead of reinventing the wheel, I’m just going to reprint the description written by TeachersFirst:

This is one of the most requested programs for effectively conveying the reality of discrimination, what it feels like, and how it can change a person. Frontline, the PBS news-magazine show, produced this gripping piece that tackles the controversy, complexity, and consequences of discrimination that have shaped our society. This film and collection of activities are based on the 1970 documentary of the daring lesson that teacher Jane Elliott taught her third-grade class to give them a firsthand experience in the meaning of discrimination, immediately following the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. The film shows what she taught the children and the impact that lesson had on their lives. It includes three major segments: the footage of the original documentary of Jane Elliott’s third-graders, (approximately 20 minutes), the reunion of those third-graders 14 years later who talk about the effect her lesson has had on their lives, (approximately 7 minutes), and also Elliott teaching her lesson to adult employees of Iowa’s prison system and how their reactions to her exercise were similar to those of the children, (approximately 20 minutes). A Teachers’ Guide, as well as an abundance of supplementary materials that allow students to wrestle with realistic ideas, are available on this site.

“The World of Useless Stereotypes” is from The New York Times.

Lindsey suggested this two-part film called “Babakiueria.” As she describes it, it ” is a satirical portrayal of white and Aboriginal interactions in Australia, through a role reversal in which whites are the minority.”

What’s it like to be 75 years old? Try this on is an intriguing article about a suit for designers so they get a sense of what it feels to be…75 years old. Here’s the video that goes along with the article:

Here’s a fun music video shot with a camera on a dog. It’s a light-hearted addition to this list.

Johnny Neon ‘Hearts’ from Dave Meinert on Vimeo.

You Are Blind is a site designed to give the user the experience of having vision loss. It’s received a lot of praise, though I think it may be over-hyped a bit.

Here’s how the creators of this video describe it:

Some people with autism have difficulty processing intense, multiple sensory experiences at once. This animation gives the viewer a glimpse into sensory overload, and how often our sensory experiences intertwine in everyday life.

Created as part of Mark Jonathan Harris’ and Marhsa Kinder’s “Interacting with Autism.” Coming in January 1st 2013, IWA is a three-year transmedia project funded by the federal Agency for Health Research and Quality (AHRQ). University Professor Marsha Kinder, the Executive Director of the Labyrinth Project at USC, and Mark Harris are heading a team of filmmakers and artists working to build an interactive, video intensive website that will focus on the best available treatments for autism.

Here are a few useful links on empathy:

Barack Obama and the ’empathy deficit’ is from The Guardian.

Understanding How Children Develop Empathy is from The New York Times.

Empathy vs. sympathy is from The Grammarist.

What is it like being a dog chasing tennis balls in a pool? Here’s a lighthearted addition to this list:

What does it look like to be played from a trombone’s perspective:

The Colour Blindness Simulator does what it says.

Here are two important commentaries on U.S. Senator Rob Portman’s recent changing of his position on gay marriage — one is very serious, and the other makes a serious point very humorously.

Auti-Sim describes itself like this:

The player navigates through a playground as an autistic child with auditory hypersensitivity. Proximity to loud children causes sensory overload for the player, impacting cognitive functions. This impact is represented as visual noise and blur, as well as audio distortion. Participants described the experience as visceral, insightful and compelling.

Here’s an ABC news video clip a portion of the game.

Here’s another example of how English might sound to non-English speakers:

Depression Quest is an interactive text fiction game (or choose your own adventure) where the player plays the part of someone who is suffering from depression. I learned about it at Richard Byrne’s blog.

The WolframAlpha search engine has a widget that lets you pretty much choose any object and see it through a dog’s eyes (you can read about why they have such poor vision here).


I’ve embedded the widget that lets you do it here:

This Strange Suit Simulates the Weight of Old Age is from The Smithsonian.

See Second Wind for more information about the dementia experience.

These images show just how differently cats and humans see the world is from io9.


created by Abstruse Goose

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

How Animals See the World is from Nautilus.

A British non-profit has created a Facebook app that puts you in the shoes of a person suffering from dementia.

Here’s how the BBC describes it:

The FaceDementia app, by Alzheimer’s Research UK, “takes over” personal Facebook pages, and temporarily erases important memories, mimicking how dementia affects the brain.

Users can watch their personal photos, important details and status updates disappear before their eyes.

Their real page remains intact.

The app does not hold on to any data or scramble a user’s real timeline or Facebook information, instead presenting an overlay to show the effects of dementia.

People can also watch short videos featuring people affected by dementia explaining what impact the symptoms, simulated by FaceDementia, have had on them or their relative.

Here’s a video from the view of a Polar Bear. You can see and read more about it here.

Video: Experience A Little Bit Of What Someone With Autism Feels….:

From Laughing Squid:

In Don’t Look Down on Me, little person filmmaker Jonathan Novick used a button camera to demonstrate how people in New York City react to his appearance. The resulting footage, which included inappropriate questions, offensive statements and surreptitious picture taking, along with some very insightful first-person narration make up this wonderful short documentary.

The most powerful part of the video begins at the 4:00 mark.

Two film-making students:

created an animated simulation of life through the eyes of a non-verbal child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) “and her constant struggle to cope with the world around her,” as they write in their artist statement.

That description comes from an article in the New York Times headlined Look At Life Through Autistic Eyes.

Here’s the video:

The Ad Council and the organization Understood have created resources to help us begin to experience what it might be like to have learning and attention issues.

First, here are a couple of PSA’s developed by the Ad Council:

Next, here are some interactive online simulations created by Understood.

Here’s what it might be like to have OCD:

Here’s a “Virtual Dementia Tour”:

World News Videos | US News Videos

What Reading Really Looks Like When You’re Dyslexic is an infographic from GOOD.

A designer has created a typeface to simulate the experience of having dyslexia:

“It simulates the frustration and the work and the outright embarrassment of reading with disability,” Daniel Britton says.

Check it out at:

A powerful design project shows what it’s like to read when you have dyslexia appeared in The Washington Post.

Powerful images show what it’s like to read when you have dyslexia is also from The Washington Post.

New typeface simulates reading with dyslexia is from CNN.

You Haven’t Left The Building But Your Brain’s On A Virtual Reality Trip is from NPR.

Try out this constantly changing dyslexia simulation, which you can read more about at Reddit, Website Aims to Simulate What It’s Like to Be Dyslexic.
This exhilarating virtual reality film is designed to make viewers more empathetic is from Quartz.

A suit has been unveiled that lets people get a sense of what it feels like to be 85-years-old.

Here are some videos and articles about it:

Suit mimics life at age 85 (the video in this Reuters article is the best one, but embedding has been disabled. You’ll have to go to the article to see it.

This ‘Age Suit’ Simulates What it’s Like to Grow Old is from TIME.

Excedrin ‘Migraine Experience’ lets non-sufferers ‘see’ what debilitating headaches feel like

Every Teacher Who Has An ELL In Their Class Should Watch This “Immersion” Film

The See Now Simulator lets you type in any address in the world and see it through the “lens” of three different types of eye diseases.

The New Scientist has a video series titled “How Animals See The World.” You can see the playlist on YouTube here.

Here’s an example of one of their videos:

How Does Your Vision Compare to Other Critters in the Animal Kingdom? is from Smithsonian Magazine.

Do you know of other similar resources?

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. Larry,

    The documentary of a grade 4 classroom in Japan – “Children full of joy” is all about empathy. No greater document that needs to be viewed by teachers than this! It has won many awards and I show it to all my prospective and inservice teachers. This film always makes such an impact. Find it in 5 parts on my institute’s site –


  2. Walking in someone’s else shoes requires of a theory of mind or tha ability to attribute mental states to oneself and the others. People with autism spectrum have serious difficulties in this ability. I would like to find online games for children to help to take the perspective of another. This is an exemple: I don’t know if this reply belongs to this kind of list or to another.

    Rosa Esteve

  3. Here is a great site that talks about how the experience of violence (e.g., bullying, abuse,) affects learning and the ability to function in school. The link below is to some simulations of how learners dealing with violence might react. (spacing out/acting out, etc.)

  4. Great sites! Just the other day I was looking for a resource that provided information about what people in other countries thought about the US. The website you posted does that, and so much more! Any thoughts on where I might find a site with actual quotes and more detailed opinions about America?

  5. “My Brown Eyes” (1994) by director Jay Koh is a short film that depicts a school day in the life of a newly arrived young Korean immigrant. It’s a bit dated: would love to see a more updated film or series of short films like this one.

  6. Here are some great ones that I’ve found: (story of an English-language class in Japan) (Muslim women around the world talk about why they do or do not choose to wear the Islamic head scarf)

    I hope that my own blog lets you peek into the lives of other people as well. International students studying in the U.S. write about what their experience has been like.

  7. I use this site with 7th graders – It is pretty powerful for them to hear a teen talk about living in war, and good practice with primary sources. I have my students write a response to the questions. You can also allow them to post answers on the site.

  8. This ability has been declining fast in our society. With both parents working, children are not getting the emotional support and nurturing they need to emotionally mature. Emotionally immature people lack the ability to feel concern or compassion for others but are thoroughly consumed by their own overwhelming sense of unfulfilled need. As a double damnation, their immaturity and personality inadequacies are later seen as reasons to hate/shun which ensures that they continue to go unloved.

  9. In my opinion, empathy is one of the single most important traits a human being can have. No one knows about someone or why they do what they do without seeing the world from their eyes. I am related to a person who hates just about every group there is, other than her own white, Christian, middle class group. At the same time, I try to see why she is the way she is. She is devoid of empathy, but I can’t let that effect me, even if I don’t belong to her strict approval group. She is a product of her upbringing, lack of education and ignorance. I don’t agree with her outlook. I do still accept her as part of my family and choose to treat her with the respect she fails to give in return. Thank you for putting a spot light on empathy.

  10. Pingback: » ELT news feed » Great resource for lessons on other cultures and people

  11. This brown eyes blue eyes exercise is riveting. Jane Elliott has done this exercise with very young children, young adults and adults in the workplace. All with eerily similar results.

    There is a great facilitator’s package for using with adults called Brown Eyes, Blue Eyes: Linking Perceptions & Performance available from that helps in moving this exercise from awareness into action in the workplace.

    The original version too – Eye of the Storm – has a great subtext message of the pygmalion effect and the self-fulfilling prophesy.

  12. As a pre-service teacher, one of our university classes was about this very topic, and involved discussing prejudices and many types of discrimination. In Alberta, Canada, this involved discussions of Aboriginal prejudice and discrimination in our society.

    As part of that course, we watched a video called “Babakiueria,” which is a satirical portrayal of white and Aboriginal interactions in Australia, through a role reversal in which whites are the minority. It can be found on Youtube and is definitely worth a watch!

    Part 1
    Part 2

  13. The title of this blog caught my attention for two reasons: 1) I love To Kill a Mockingbird and 2) I am in the process of teaching a unit on justice. As I had hoped, many of these resources complement it. My students have been reading books, mostly nonfiction, about various historical injustices, and we have been talking a lot about stereotypes and how they contribute to such injustices; so, for example, “Mapping Stereotypes: The Geography of Prejudice” and your suggestion to have students make their own maps definitely seems relevant. In fact, we recently watched the following TED talk about the danger of the single story that results from such stereotypes:

  14. As a home school teacher of a teen with ASD and a teacher of ESL, I found your website helpful and interesting.

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