Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

March 22, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Adam Grant On Failure & How I’m Using What He Says In Class


Adam Grant has written an excellent short piece on Medium titled To Overcome the Fear of Failure, Fear This Instead.

I’m going to have students read it (after first making sure the understand what the word “entrepreneur” means) and then have them respond to this writing prompt:

What does Adam Grant say about failure? Do you agree with him? To support your opinion, 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, Articles & Videos About Learning From Mistakes & Failures

The Best Posts On Writing Instruction (I collect all my writing prompts there)

March 19, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Another Good Idea via Adam Grant: Seniors Writing Letters To Freshmen


Earlier this week I wrote about the latest great idea I learned from Adam Grant (see Great Idea From Adam Grant: Student Mini-Talks That Challenge “Conventional Wisdom”).

I just learned another today from his email newsletter:

Last fall, a Wharton student named Lauren McCann came to me with a wonderful idea: what if seniors wrote letters to freshmen about what they wish they had known earlier in college? She took the initiative to make it happen—the website had over 10,000 hits in the first 24 hours alone, and other schools are now adopting it. Join me in congratulating her, and feel free to check out the letters here.

He’s talking about college seniors and freshmen, but the idea could easily be applied to high school.

I have students at the end of the school year write letters to students who are taking my classes next year, and I’ve had my Theory of Knowledge students write about how they’ve handled self-control issues so that other students could read them.  However, with the proper scaffolds, something like what they’re doing at Adam’s school could be used to great effect in a school like ours.

I’ll certainly be talking to our teachers about it.

Have any readers done this at your schools?

I’m adding this post to The Best Posts On Writing Instruction.

March 15, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Great Idea From Adam Grant: Student Mini-Talks That Challenge “Conventional Wisdom”


Adam Grant is one of my favorite writers and thinkers (see my Ed Week interview with him, Teachers As “Givers, Takers & Matchers”: An Interview With Adam Grant).

He has a new book out now on creativity, and you can read two interviews with him about it:

Educating an Original Thinker appeared at the Atlantic.

How Adults Can Encourage Kids To Be Original Thinkers is at NPR.

I was particularly struck by some ideas he shared for teachers in the NPR interview, including this lesson he does in his university class:

I assigned them to work on their own mini TED Talk in pairs. Every student had a partner. They were supposed to film a video of five minutes or less on an idea that they believed in that went against the grain or challenged conventional wisdom.

They can pick any topic in the course, but they had to champion a message that was counter-intuitive, and you know, bring some evidence and experience to bear on it. And I was blown away by how interesting and novel their ideas were.

I do some assignments already in my IB Theory of Knowledge classes that I think promote creativity, like having them do a “What If?” History Project (see The Best Resources For Teaching “What If?” History Lessons) and asking students to write and talk about a time when they challenged a widely accepted assumption or rule.

I think Adam’s idea would be another great one to add, and I think I’ll try it as a year-end assignment.  I’ll let readers know how it goes, including sharing some of the videos.

I’m adding this post to The Best Sources Of Advice On Helping Students Strengthen & Develop Their Creativity.

April 12, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

How Adam Grant Just Made Teaching More Complicated

I’m a big fan of Professor Adam Grant’s work (see my interview with him at Education Week, Teachers As “Givers, Takers & Matchers”: An Interview With Adam Grant).

And I was very excited to see his must-read guest column in The New York Times today, Raising a Moral Child.

It’s geared towards parents, but just about everything he says is also extraordinarily useful to teachers, too.

He discusses recent studies identifying effective ways to help children become “kind, compassionate and helpful.”

Developing these kinds of qualities are being identified more and more as an important part of our work as educators (see my Ed Week series, ‘Character Is Not Compliance Out Of Fear,‘ and The Best Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Resources).

There’s so much substance in his short column that I’m not even going to try to summarize it — just read the whole thing.

I do, however, want to highlight one part of it where I think he just made our job more complicated (obviously, I’m talking tongue-in-cheek):


Many of us who are familiar with Carol Dweck’s work on praising action instead of intelligence might find a contradiction in this finding.

I know I was a bit confused.

So I sent an email to Adam asking about this apparent contradiction and he was kind enough to respond right away. Here’s what he said:

In “Mindset”, Carol Dweck describes her famous body of groundbreaking research demonstrating that when we praise children for their intelligence, they develop a fixed view of ability, which leads them to give up in the face of failure. Instead of telling them how smart they are, it’s wise to praise their effort, which encourages them to see their abilities as malleable and persist to overcome obstacles. Some parents and teachers have stretched this idea to its logical conclusion: always praise actions, not fixed qualities. In the domain of moral character, though, this might be the wrong approach. If we want children to become caring and generous, the evidence suggests that there’s value in helping them see these as stable dimensions of their identities.

That said, even in the moral domain, there may be some risks of praising character. Research on moral licensing suggests that when we see ourselves as good people, we sometimes feel greater freedom to engage in unethical behaviors. This is captured in chilling detail in Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, and in The Honest Truth about Dishonesty by Dan Ariely. I’d love to see more research on how to instill a sense of moral character without leading people to say, “I’m a good person, so I can do a bad thing”—or worse yet, “I’m a good person, so this clearly isn’t a bad thing.”

So, now, based on this research, we might need to be aware of which character quality we want to teach and employ contradictory instructional strategies for some of them.

Teaching is complicated, ain’t it?

November 19, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Three Links About The World’s Different Cultures



Here are new additions to The Best Sites For Learning About The World’s Different Cultures:

In Pictures: These Children In War Zones Are Still Attending School is from BuzzFeed News.

June 23, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Theory Of Knowledge Resources In 2016 – So Far


It’s time for another “Best” list to add to All Mid-Year 2016 “Best” Lists In One Place.

I’ll also be adding this post to All Of My Theory Of Knowledge “Best” Lists In One Place!
Here are my previous TOK-related “Best” lists:

The Best Theory Of Knowledge Resources — 2010

The Best Theory Of Knowledge Resources In 2011 — So Far

The Best Theory Of Knowledge Resources In 2011

The Best Theory Of Knowledge Resources In 2012 — So Far

The Best Theory Of Knowledge Resources In 2012 — Part Two

The Best Theory Of Knowledge Resources In 2013 – So Far

The Best Commentaries On The New IB Theory Of Knowledge Teaching Guide

The Best Theory Of Knowledge Resources In 2013 – Part Two

The Best Movies For IB Theory Of Knowledge Classes – What Are Your Suggestions?

The Best Posts On IB Theory Of Knowledge Oral Presentations

The Best Theory Of Knowledge Resources In 2014 – So Far

The Best Theory Of Knowledge Resources In 2014 – Part Two

The Best Posts On Teaching TOK “Knowledge Questions”

The Best Theory Of Knowledge Resources In 2015 – So Far

The Best Theory Of Knowledge Resources In 2015 – Part Two

Here are my picks from the past six months:

Atul Gawande gave the commencement address at CalTech this month, and The New Yorker published his speech under the headline “A Mistrust Of Science.”

Here’s an excerpt:


The whole piece would be useful in IB Theory of Knowledge classes when discussing science. I especially like his discussion of pseudoscience (you might also be interested in Video: Bill Nye On Pseudo-Science.

TOK Connection: “Pearls Before Swine” Does Another Version Of “Who’s On First?”

Here’s What My Theory Of Knowledge Students Will Be Doing For Their “Finals” – What Are You Doing?

I’ve described in one of my New York Times posts how I use illusions with English Language Learners, and I obviously use them in IB Theory of Knowledge classes when studying Perception. I learned from Michelle Henry about a series of illusions created by Mexican painter Octavio Ocampo who, I’m embarrassed to say, was not familiar with prior to seeing this work. Go take a visit — they’re amazing!

Police Body Cameras: What Do You See? is a new very impressive interactive at The New York Times. After first soliciting the reader’s general feelings about the police, the interactive shows several staged police encounters from different cameras and angles – asking you to judge what you think you saw. Then, those judgments are compared to other what others said and their feelings about the police. It’s extraordinarily useful to just about any class, and will be a superior addition to my Theory of Knowledge lesson on perception,Videos: Here’s The Simple Theory of Knowledge Lesson On Perception I Did Today. That post shares several other videos showing the same event from different angles.

Over 2,500 Categorized Resources For IB Theory Of Knowledge Classes

You may, or may not, be familiar with the BBC’s “A History of Ideas.” It’s a show with 72 one-hour podcasts and 48 accompanying short video animations about philosophy. You can access all the podcasts and videos on the BBC site, which is particularly nice since a lot of the other material on the BBC won’t play in the United States. All the video animations are also on YouTube.

Lesson Plan | I Remember: Teaching About the Role of Memory Across the Curriculum is from The New York Times Learning Network, and is great for IB Theory of Knowledge classes.

NPR Videos On Serendipity In Science

Great Idea From Adam Grant: Student Mini-Talks That Challenge “Conventional Wisdom”

Five Videos Demonstrating The McGurk Effect

Videos On Milgram & Stanford Prison Experiments – Not Blocked By YouTube Safety Mode

A Handy Compendium of 2015 TOK posts, downloadable is a series of posts by Eileen and Theo Dombrowski. Eileen is co-author of one of the most popular IB Theory of Knowledge textbooks.

I think TOK teachers might find these next two links particularly helpful:

Oral Presentation Suggestions For IB Theory of Knowledge Classes

Part Two – Oral Presentation Suggestions For IB Theory of Knowledge Classes

Here’s a new video on the famous ethics “trolley problem.” I’m adding it to The Best Videos About The Famous “Trolley Problem.”

Here’s A Nice Lesson I Did On Ethics In My Theory Of Knowledge Class

Killing Baby Hitler & Student “What If?” Projects

The Best Resources For Teaching & Learning About Plato’s Allegory Of The Cave

My 2014 post, New “Fillable” PDF Forms For IB Theory Of Knowledge Presentations & Essays, has been very popular, with TOK teachers from around the world not wanting to brave the IB website just to download some simple forms. Instead, they’ve just gone to that post, and I haven’t heard any objections from IB about my making them available. In January, though, I heard from TOK teacher Vladi Stanojevic that, in their infinite wisdom, IB  decided to make some changes to the Presentations form (the Essay form appears to be the same):

Here’s the new “fillable” PDF Presentations form.

It’s very similar to the old one, except it doesn’t have space for the candidates names. It does seem odd that they have entirely removed any space for student names, but I’ve given up trying to figure out IB decisions….

I’ve previously posted a lot about the work of Harvard professor Michael Sandel. Here’s an older video clip of an interview he did on NBC. I use it in my IB Theory of Knowledge class when we’re studying Ethics.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

I’ve previously written about the great work of Professor Philip Tetlock, and you can find my past posts about him at The Best Resources On The Importance Of Knowing What You Don’t Know. The Washington Post published an article about his recent work – check out The secrets the world’s top experts use to make really good predictions. As far as I’m concerned, here’s the “money quote” from that piece, and it’s perfect for IB Theory of Knowledge classes:


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