Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

December 20, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

New Sesame Street Video On Self-Control: “Imagine It’s Something Else”

I’ve previously shared Sesame Street videos that have been emphasizing Social Emotional Learning Skills like self-control, and you can see them all at The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control (of course, earlier this week Cookie Monster also decided he was tired of delaying self-gratification).

They just published a new one that models a classic self-control strategy:

September 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Self-Control, Grit & All That Stuff

Marshmallows from Flickr via Wylio

© 2007 rjp, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Regular readers know that I’m a big advocate of teaching Social Emotional Learning skills in the classroom (see The Best Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Resources), but that I also am wary of how it is being viewed by some as almost a cure-all (see my Washington Post piece, The manipulation of Social Emotional Learning).

There have recently been some interesting articles and research about the topic that I thought readers might want to know about…

The MindShift blog writes about a new study by “grit” researcher Angela Duckworth that has tried to update the famous self-control marshmallow experiment for the digital age. She calls it a “diligence test” and you can read about it at Measuring Students’ Self-Control: A ‘Marshmallow Test’ for the Digital Age. You can see a demo of the online test here, though it won’t make much sense until you read the MindShift post. The post says she’s going to put the test online for people to take for free, and that might be useful. The key point to remember, though, is to tell students what I tell mine before they take her online “grit” test — it’s just one more piece of information they might or might not find useful and they should feel free to ignore the results if they don’t agree with them.

Speaking of her grit test, I was prompted by the post to see if her diligence test was online yet and found that, other than the demo, it wasn’t. However, I did find that she upgraded her website, and the online grit test is now better designed. In addition, multilingual versions are available.

And, speaking of The Marshmallow Test, The New York Times has published an article about its originator, Dr. Walter Mischel. It’s headlined Learning How to Exert Self-Control.

I’ve previously written a lot about Dr. Mischel, and you can read my interview with him on Sunday in Education Week Teacher.

I’m adding this post to The Best Resources For Learning About “Grit” and to The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control.

September 10, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

How Can A Parrot Help Students Develop Self-Control?

Previous readers of this blog and my blogs are familiar with much of my writing about helping students develop self-control, including lessons using the famous Marshmallow Test (see The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control). In fact, in about ten days you’ll be able to read at my Ed Week Teacher column an interview I recently did with Dr. Walter Mischel, originator of that experiment.

One of the key elements of any of my self-control lessons is highlighting the different techniques that children used to avoid eating the marshmallow (looking away, etc.) and how students can apply them in class. In that “The Best” list, you’ll be able to see a fun Sesame Street video where The Cookie Monster demonstrates those same successful strategies, and my high school students love watching it as a refresher later in the school year after we learn about the Marshmallow Experiment in September.

And this leads me to parrots….

Researchers have found that some parrots, unlike other non-human species, also have a capacity for self-control, and created a version of the Marshmallow Experiment for them. You can read more about it at a Slate article titled A Parrot Passes the Marshmallow Test.

It’s very interesting but, as far as I’m concerned, the most useful part of the article is this short video. I plan showing it to students later in the year as another fun “refresher” — students can watch and identify the strategies used by the children and the parrot to reinforce their self-control.

I’m adding this info to my Best list on self-control.

August 26, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Two Of The Most Student Accessible Articles I’ve Seen On Self-Control

I’ve written a lot — both on this blog and in my books — on strategies to help students motivate themselves to develop self-control.

Here are two of the most accessible, if not THE most accessible, pieces I’ve seen for students to read on the topic (both are from Fast Company):



I’m adding both to The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control.

July 9, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Video: Donald Duck On Self-Control

I’ve previously shared the videos Sesame Street has done this year promoting the virtue of self-control. They’re pretty creative and entertaining.

I just learned that Walt Disney apparently had similar ideas in 1938, and put out this cartoon of Donald Duck teaching and learning about self-control — in his own unique way:

July 3, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Can You Help? Looking For Stories Of People Learning Self-Control Or Grit From Challenging Circumstances

Regular readers know I’m a big believer in teaching Social Emotional Learning (see The Best Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Resources) and that I also have a healthy skepticism of how it’s sometimes used (see The manipulation of Social Emotional Learning).

Readers also know that I have a particular interest in focusing on the assets students bring to the table rather than their deficits (see Get Organized Around Assets and A Lesson Highlighting Community Assets — Not Deficits).

I’m preparing a new lesson that I’m going to try-out in the fall, and student assets are going to be a key part of it. Of course, I’ll be writing more about it…

I’m looking for stories of students/adults sharing particular instances when growing-up in challenging circumstances helped them develop grit (perseverance) and/or self-control.

These could be passages from books, articles,movies, videos, stories your own students have written, etc.

Any ideas?

April 17, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Study: Gratitude Increases Self-Control

'PATIENCE' photo (c) 2009, Gemma Bardsley - license:

I’ve written in the past about my use of “Reflection Cards” in the classroom, including the research behind them (you can download a copy of the card and read the research at my post, Giving Students “Reflection Cards.”

Research shows that self-control can be replenished by both self-affirmation exercises and by remembering better times.

So, I created cards that I sometimes give to students when they are having behavior issues in the classroom to complete outside and come back in after they’re done. The cards just take a couple of minutes to complete and include these instructions:

1. Please write at least three sentences about a time (or times) you have felt successful and happy:

2. Please write at least three sentences about something that is important to you (friends, family, sports, etc.) and why it’s important:

They’ve worked pretty effectively.

Now, new research written about in the Harvard Business Reviews suggests that having people write what they are grateful for can also increase patience. You can read about their experiments in the short article, Gratitude Is the New Willpower.

Here’s an excerpt:


I guess it’s time to add another instruction to the card (this is what the researchers had participants do):

Briefly write about an event from your past that made you feel grateful:

I’m adding this post to to lists:

The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control

The Best Resources On “Gratitude”

February 14, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Some Very Interesting Info On Self-Control Research

'Marshmallow Nightmares!!' photo (c) 2010, Kate Ter Haar - license:

I’ve written a lot about helping students learn about self-control (see The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control).

Walter Mischel’s famous marshmallow experiment obviously plays a role in that work. I also wrote about a recent study (see Marshmallows and Trust) that raised a question about if that experiment truly measured self-control, or if it really measured the children’s trust in the researcher — would he/she really return with a second marshmallow. I and others thought that was intriguing, though also thought it was far too soon to jump to any conclusions.

Nevertheless, it raises — again — the issue that Social Emotional Learning is not enough, and that, in addition to teaching SEL skills, attacking some of the potential root causes studies have found for SEL challenges facing many low-income people must also be made a priority in our society (see The Best Articles About The Study Showing Social Emotional Learning Isn’t Enough).

I was prompted to write this post after seeing a tweet from Kevin Washburn, who’s at the Learning and the Brain Conference in San Francisco this week. He was reporting on what sounded to be a great talk by Kelly McGonigal there, including pointing out (I assume based on this recent study) that having a caring teacher is likely to promote self-control. In other words, if trust does indeed play a key role in self-regulation, students feeling that they can trust the teacher is likely to increase the odds of students developing it.

I hadn’t made that obvious connection to that “trust” finding, and thought it was worth sharing — not that we educators don’t have enough other reasons to encourage students to trust us!

I also thought Kevin tweeted out some other useful information, and embedded them below. I also am using this opportunity to try out TweetDeck’s new “custom timeline” feature, and will be comparing it to Storify, which is the tool I usually use to curate tweets.

Speaking of the Learning and The Brain conference, I’ll be there on Friday and Saturday leading workshops, so posts at this blog will be fairly minimal over the next day or two..

September 5, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

These May Be Some Of The Most Important Passages About Self-Control That I’ve Ever Read

'Self-control (fruit of the Spirit)' photo (c) 2012, Sarah Joy - license:

It’s no surprise to readers here that I’m a big believer is helping students develop self-control (see The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control) done in the context of helping students develop intrinsic motivation in a student-centered classroom. My posts, my practice, and my books reflect that perspective.

I’ve also been very critical of those who — in the name of “character education” — would twist the idea of using the idea of self-control into a harmful class discipline strategy (see my Washington Post column, “Why schools should not grade character traits.”

It’s this kind of misuse, I think, which generates over-the-top diatribes against teaching self-control like the one that appeared in The New Republic this week (American Schools Are Failing Nonconformist Kids. Here’s How In defense of the wild child).

Fortunately, Sarah D. Sparks over at Education Week, as she is prone to do, has unearthed some new research and insightful analysis to bring important clarity to a controversial issue.

In her new post, Is Self-Regulation Lost in Translation?, Sarah shares the yet unpublished research of Joanne Wang Golan, who studied character education at a “no excuses school” that sounds like a KIPP or KIPP-like institution. Here’s an excerpt:

During months of observations, Golann found “self-control was the topic I heard most about: The teachers talked about self-control, the students talked about self-control.”

In practice, though, Golann found “self-control” was primarily taught through classroom discipline practices, involving many detailed rules and rapidly increasing sanctions for breaking them.

She recalled one 5th grade student, “Darren,” who explained his view of it this way: “Self-control is when you’re able to talk, when you know to talk at the appropriate time. And it’s important because you can get a really bad consequence, and I do, I really show self-control, because I don’t talk at all in class. When the teacher tells me to talk in class, I do, to answer a question, and otherwise I don’t talk at all in class.”

Overall, Golann found the school’s approach to teaching social-emotional skills led to orderly classrooms and students with good study and work habits associated with high self-regulation—but not the sort of autonomy, self-motivation, and goal-setting also associated with self-regulation and grit.

In other words, they taught the words, but not the music….

February 19, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo

Study: More Power Equals More Self-Control & Less Power Equals — You Guessed It!

A new study finds that the more power people feel they have, the more self-control they exhibit. Researchers:

…speculated that power holders may be willing to wait for the larger rewards because they feel more connected with their future selves, a consequence of experiencing less uncertainty about their futures along with an increased tendency to see the big picture.

This is just more evidence backing up recommendations I make here and in my books to share power with students in the classroom. It’s also connected to other recent research I’ve written about that has found poverty tends to contribute towards the loss of self-control and not the other way around.

I’m adding it this info to The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control.

November 24, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo

Self-Control Resources

October 9, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo

More Self-Control Resources

September 26, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo

Video Addition To Marshmallow Lesson On Self-Control

I’m teaching my lesson on self-control and the famous marshmallow experiment this Friday (you can see an early version of it here and I have the full lesson plan in my student motivation book).

Near the beginning of the lesson I do a little fun playacting of wanting to throw a something at a student but I restrain myself, and then share real-life examples of when I have, and have not, shown self-control. I then ask students to write down examples from their own lives.

Valerie Strauss just posted this video at her Washington Post blog, and after I shared it with Lara Hoekstra, one of my talented colleagues at Luther Burbank High School, she suggested it would be a good addition to that part of the lesson plan. It would be an example of a teacher who was not able to restrain himself, and would certainly grab students’ attention. I’m going to give it a try….

I’m adding this to The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control.

August 6, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo

New Study Reaffirms Marshmallow Experiment Findings On Self-Control

I often write about strategies to help students develop more self-control and how important that is to their future (and my book shares specific lessons on how I do that).

Dr. Walter Mischel’s famous marshmallow experiment is integral to lots of those writings, and there have been plenty of studies that have supported his findings.

Another one just came out . Relations between preschool attention span-persistence and age 25 educational outcomes found (this next quotation is from an article reporting on the study — the research itself is behind a paywall):

Young children who are able to pay attention and persist with a task have a 50 percent greater chance of completing college, according to a new study at Oregon State University.

Tracking a group of 430 preschool-age children, the study gives compelling evidence that social and behavioral skills, such as paying attention, following directions and completing a task may be even more crucial than academic abilities.

And the good news for parents and educators, the researchers said, is that attention and persistence skills are malleable and can be taught.

I did purchase access to the study, and that excerpt is a good summary (in fact, I’d encourage you to go to the report on the study and read it all — it’s good). I was struck by a few things in reviewing the study itself:

First, I appreciated a paragraph in it that tried to explain — in a common sense way — the cause of the negative long-term consequences to young children who don’t show self-control:

According to this view, children with poor self-regulation have difficulty navigating classroom settings, which can lead to teachers becoming frustrated and expecting poor behavior and school performance from these children, which can then lead to children having poor perceptions of themselves as students. Over time, this pattern can lead children to be increasingly disengaged from school and to experience academic failure as they get older. Although we did not directly measure teacher–child relationships or children’s disengagement from school, the results from the present study support this possibility and suggest that children’s ability to focus their attention span-persistence, attend to relevant information, and persist through difficulty, can be very helpful as they progress through school and into early adulthood, compared to children with poor attention span-persistence skills

I was surprised, though, that they don’t appear to acknowledge (maybe they do and I just missed it) that Professor James Heckman has found that adolescence is also a prime time when children can learn these skills — not just in early childhood.

Sharing these kinds of studies with our students is, I believe, an important responsibility that we have, as well as sharing Dr. Mischel’s comment:

July 8, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo

Prof. James Heckman Says Adolescence Is Key Time To Teach (& Learn About) Self-Control & Perseverance

James Heckman is an American economist and Nobel laureate best know for his research about and advocacy for investment in supporting early childhood interventions (thanks to Alexander Russo for the tip about his website).

I was surprised, though, to learn that his research and recent talks have focused on the importance of helping young people develop “non-cognitive” traits, which he also calls “soft skills” (perseverance, self-control, etc.). Many others may know this, and it could be just another reminder of how much I don’t know…

I have embedded below a video of a talk he gave in the United Kingdom last year. The whole talk is interesting, but I would especially draw your attention to its last six minutes (starting at about the 39.30 mark). Here’s how a reporter from the Guardian summarized that section:

The good news is that while character was once thought immutable, there is now evidence that it is more malleable at two key points in the life cycle: the early years and then again in adolescence around 12-15. Probably the most cost-effective policy tackling inequality would be interventions at these ages around building character skills….

I obviously write a lot about research on helping students develop these kinds of skills, and apply them in the classroom, but I had never heard about the importance of that three-year window — I think that’s quite an important piece of information. In that video section, he also discusses the positive impact development of these character traits subsequently have on students developing an appetite for learning.

Also, here are two short videos of Professor Heckman discussing soft skills that I found on his own video channel.

I’m adding this post to The Best Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Resources.

June 22, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo

Being Reminded Of The Consequences Of Losing Self-Control Doesn’t Help; Asking About Goals Does

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about a pretty interesting new study that — through brain scans — actually showed what the brain looked like when you are demonstrating self-control and when you are not (see This Is — Literally — Your Brain On Self-Control).

I hadn’t gotten a chance at that point to actual read the study, but the researcher was interviewed on NPR today (it hasn’t been posted at the time of my writing, but should be up in a few hours). Here’s the transcript of the interview.

He didn’t seem to be saying anything new on the radio, but then my ears pricked up near the end when he said that, in the study, reminding people about the consequences of their not losing self-control was not effective at getting them to regain it. The intervention that did work, though, was asking them to take a minute and think about behaviors they needed to exhibit to achieve their goals.

His comment prompted me to go back and read the research, and I found that his comment was confirmed in the paper.

It’s just another reinforcer to what I have found that has worked for me — instead of threatening punishment, reminding students of their goals and asking them if their actions were going to help achieve them. I might try to remember, though, to also ask them to think of (and maybe write down) one action they could take to help them along in that direction.

It’s just another “tool” in the classroom management toolbox, and you can find more at The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control.

June 6, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

This Is — Literally — Your Brain On Self-Control

A new study has reinforced the idea that self-control is a limited resource that needs to be replenished. That’s not really big news, since so many other studies have found the same thing (see The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control).

However, the big news of this study is that it has photos of what is going on in the brain when it is showing self-control and when it is not:

Hedgcock says his images seem to suggest that it’s like a pool that can be drained by use then replenished through time in a lower conflict environment, away from temptations that require its use.

That’s exactly how I’ve applied previous research on this topic, particularly through the use of “Reflection Cards.”

May 12, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

“Self-Persuasion” — A Good Addition To Lessons On Self-Control & Blame

My book, Helping Students Motivate Themselves (and its sequel, which is my summer project), is full of lessons to help students…motivate themselves, including ones on self-control and taking personal responsibility.

I’ve just figured out something that I think might be a great addition to them — the idea of “self-persuasion.”

Two articles on this topic that cover recent research have just been published — How To Encourage People To Change Their Own Minds and Changing Your Own Mind. They discuss various strategies, including imagining that you have to convince someone else about a position that you may, or may not, particularly believe in.

What a great way to combine learning what I call a “life lesson” on a topic like self-control or personal responsibility with developing skills in the genre of persuasive writing. I wouldn’t want to do this with all the “life lessons” I teach, but it seems to me they would valuable in a couple of the most important ones — important being skills and concepts that I think are critical for my students’ future and which, if learned early enough in the school year, would make all of our lives, including mine, so much better :)

I’d put self-control and personal responsibility as two of the most critical ones.

I’ll be giving this a try next school year…

March 9, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo

New Research On Self-Control

There have been a number of recent studies and articles on self-control and willpower. They’re interesting enough to post here, but not useful enough, I think to add to My Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control:

Is Twitter Really More Addictive than Alcohol? The Vagaries of Will and Desire is from TIME, and reports on some recent studies.

Can Teachers Increase Students’ Self Control is by Daniel Willingham and actually was published a few months ago. I wouldn’t say there’s anything in it that will be new to regular readers of this blog, but it does provide a good overview.

Where Does Self-Discipline Come From? is by Wray Herbert. It reports on an intriguing new study on self-control, though I’m not convinced it really provides anything that will be useful to teachers.

Lent and the Science of Self-Denial is from TIME.