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?

March 25, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

March’s Top Posts From This Blog



I regularly highlight my picks for the most useful posts for each month — not including “The Best…” lists. I also use some of them in a more extensive monthly newsletter I send-out. You can see older Best Posts of the Month at Websites Of The Month (more recent lists can be found here).

You can also see my all-time favorites here.

Here are some of the posts I personally think are the best, and most helpful, ones I’ve written during this past month (not in any order of preference). There are a lot of them this month:

“Collaborative Writing, Common Core, and ELLs” Is Excerpt From Our New Book

Excellent “Listen & Read” Nonfiction From National Geographic

Another Flaw In Using Value-Added Measurement For Teacher Evaluation

At Second Look, Wizer Looks Like A Fabulous Way Create Virtual Classrooms & Track Student Progress

Harvard Business Review Publishes Best Arguments Against “Performance Pay” – Can Be Applied To Teachers & Students

“Ed Tech ‘has Over-Promised & Under-Delivered’”

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

“‘For White Folks Who Teach In The Hood…’: An Interview With Chris Emdin”

My Latest NY Times Interactive For ELLs Is On Stephen Curry!

New Study Reviews 25 Years Of Research Into What Helps Students Graduate – Here’s What They Found

“‘Be Patient’ When Dealing With Ed Tech Problems

Neat Online Exhibit On “Discoveries That Changed The World”

“Unfiltered News” Visualizes Most Popular News Topics In Different Countries

First Excerpt From Our Book On ELLs & Common Core Appears In Edutopia

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

“Census Names Explorer” Is A Cool Tool For Exploring Name Popularity Through Time & Place

“ReadTheory” Lets Teachers Create Virtual Classrooms For Students To Read & Answer Questions

My Latest NY Times Interactive For ELLs Is On Daylight Saving Time

Zootopia Movies Highlights Importance Of Grit, But Also Its Limitations

What Are Creative & Effective Ways You’ve Used Multiple Choice Exercises?

Guest Post: “Walk & Talks” Are Extremely Effective Way To Connect With Students – Here’s A “How-To” Guide

‘Teacher Leadership is the Lifeboat to a Better School’

Amazon Is Setting Up A Free Site For Educational Resources – Here’s Where You Register For Access

Carol Dweck Makes Strongest Statement Yet On Growth Mindset Misuse

New “Volley” App Looks Like A “PhotoMath” For…Everything

Do Your Students Slouch Back In Their Chairs? Here’s A Writing Prompt On It I’m Using In Class

“US News Map” Lets You Track Word Frequency In Historical American Newspapers

“Pindex” Is A New “Pinterest For Education” That Also Lets Teachers Create Quizzes & Monitor Student Progress

“Teaching English Language Learners With Special Needs”

Smithsonian’s “Our Story” Is A Valuable Resource For Teachers & Parents

How Many Repetitions Do You Need In Order To Learn A New Word?

My Latest NY Times Interactive For ELLs is On Citizenship

Quote Of The Day: Caution On Celebration Of Failure

Try Out This Dyslexia Simulation

“Ways to Support ELLs With Special Needs

“Radiooooo” Is A Cool Music Site That Crosses The World & The Decades

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

California Voters Will Vote On Important “Multilingual Education Act” This Fall

“Perspecs” Gives You Three Different Perspectives On Same News Topic

Part Two: A Community Organizer’s Definition Of Leadership – How Can It Be Applied To Education?

NY Times Reports On Social Emotional Learning Run Amok

“The Life of a Refugee” Is Topic Of My Latest NY Times Interactive For ELLs

A Community Organizer’s Definition Of Leadership – How Can It Be Applied To Education? (Part One)

Study: Extrinsic Rewards Reduces Long-Term Learning Of New Languages & Other Knowledge

Oral Presentation Suggestions For IB Theory of Knowledge Classes





December 24, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Theory Of Knowledge Resources In 2015 – Part Two


It’s time for another “Best” list to add to All My 2015 “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

Here are my picks from the past six months:

The National Review tweeted out this incredibly misleading chart on climate change:

It’s perfect for when we study misleading statistics and graph. You can read more about this at The Washington Post’s Why this National Review’s global temperature graph is so misleading.

As regular readers know, I am continually adding to Over 2,000 Categorized Resources For IB Theory Of Knowledge Classes.

Neil deGrasse Tyson published a short piece in The Huffington Post titled What Science Is — and How and Why It Works. It’s a very safe bet that it will be used as required reading in many IB Theory of Knowledge classes when the definition of “knowledge” is discussed. And I’d bet dollars to donuts that many teachers will be using this accessible column in many other classes, too.

Here’s an excerpt:


The Virtue of Contradicting Ourselves is the headline of a column by Adam Grant in The New York Times. It’s a great piece to use when discussing “knowledge” in IB Theory of Knowledge classes, and I’m going to use in one of the upcoming lessons for English Language Learners that I write for The New York Times Learning Network. Plus, it offers wisdom that’s good for all of us to keep in mind.

Here’s an excerpt:


One assignment I learned about at my original IB Theory of Knowledge training was having groups of students invent a classroom appropriate product and have them create a short commercial four of the fallacies that we have studied. I have each group show their video, and then they call on people to identify the fallacies used in it.

Here’s an example of one from this year:

Fallacy Video – Tape

I’m adding it to The Best Multimedia Resources For Learning About Fallacies — Help Me Find More.

I have my IB Theory of Knowledge students work in groups to prepare weekly presentations on our textbook chapters that they read for homework. When we were discussing the role of emotion in the search for knowledge, one of the presentation groups was asked if emotion is sometimes like a voice in our heads that we have to control. I then showed this clip from the National Press Club, which is a perfect example of that in action.

Grammar, Morals & History

This post will be useful when studying history: The Best Posts & Articles On The Textbook That Calls Slaves “Workers”

NPR published A Discoverer Of The Buckyball Offers Tips On Winning A Nobel Prize. It’s a good piece, with a great quote that’s ideal for IB Theory of Knowledge classes:


TOK teachers might be interested in this post and the accompanying comments:  Calling All Theory Of Knowledge Teachers: How Did You Feel About How IB Examiners Scored Essays This Year?

Here are some useful resources I use in my IB Theory of Knowledge classes, and they are also applicable to other classes:

First, many teachers are familiar with the Jigsaw cooperative learning activity. You can learn more about it at The Best Sites For Cooperative Learning Ideas. It’s a regular activity I use in my IB Theory of Knowledge classes (and my ESL courses, too). With my TOK classes, I’ll often print out articles related to the Way Of Knowing or Area of Knowledge topic we’re studying (you can access my Over 2,000 Categorized Resources For IB Theory Of Knowledge Classes here). Then, I distribute these instructions, which pretty much explain how the Jigsaw activity is organized.

Secondly, we spend a few days studying Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. You can see many of those resources at our TOK class blog, along with examples of student videos – they have to create modern versions of it. This year’s students will be showing their own creations on Monday, and I’ll be adding some of them to that class blog post. Students viewing the videos will be using this anonymous evaluation form, which will be completed after each video is viewed, collected, and given to the video’s creators.

“8-Bit Philosophy” Is A Useful Series of Videos

TED-Ed released this excellent video and lesson — perfect for IB Theory of Knowledge classes when studying language:

This video would be a useful one to show when discussing indigenous knowledge systems in IB Theory of Knowledge classes:

In IB Theory of Knowledge classes we examine in both math and human sciences how people taking polls/surveys can manipulate the answers. Here’s a video that would be a nice introduction to the topic (after first explaining to U.S. students the definition of “National Service”):

This video is from PBS, and is a great one for IB Theory of Knowledge teachers when exploring the arts:

Here’s A Writing Prompt I’m Using With My TOK Students On The First Day Of Class

Here’s a good video on perception for teachers of IB Theory of Knowledge classes:

Tons Of Resources On Both The Milgram & Stanford Prison Experiments

“Don’t Judge Too Quickly” Is A Great Series Of Videos For TOK & ELL Students

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