Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

May 24, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Another Study Finds That Poverty Helps Create Lack Of Self-Control – Not The Other Way Around

I’m obviously a big believer in Social Emotional Learning (see The Best Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Resources).

At the same time, however, teaching SEL skills to students isn’t enough because of broader soci-economic issues (see The Best Articles About The Study Showing Social Emotional Learning Isn’t Enough).

We also need to recognize that many of our students actually have a lot of the skills traditionally considered in Social Emotional Learning, such as “grit,” in other aspects of their lives, and the challenge to us teachers is to help students feel that school is important enough to them that they want to apply those skills there.

Part of SEL is helping students develop the ability to control themselves (see The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control). And previous studies, and a new one, have found that it might be a skill that some in low-income communities might not demonstrate because they just haven’t found it in their self-interest to do so.

Here’s what I wrote about one research paper in 2013:

The research paper, Poverty and Self Control, takes issue with a common belief that many low-income people are poor because they don’t have traits like self-control. Instead, it finds that that poverty causes a loss of self control:

“…the chain of causality is circular, and poverty is itself responsible for the low self-control that perpetuates poverty….policies that help the poor begin to accumulate assets may be highly effective…”

Even though a large portion of the paper is highly technical, and not particularly accessible to a layperson like myself (and its PowerPoint presentation is not that much better), here’s my understanding of what they found….

If you don’t have many assets, and you’re used to the environment of living on the edge, then self-control really doesn’t offer that many benefits — as Janis Joplin sang “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” — you might as well give in to your whims because not giving into them doesn’t really pay off based on your experience (instead of Joplin, the researchers quote Bob Dylan, ” When you ain’t got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose.”)

Now a new study has just come out with similar findings.


The use of the word “maladapted” seems a bit weird to me just because I’ve never seen that used to describe students who don’t show self-control. But the broader conclusion of the study does make sense, and seems to reinforce the earlier study.

I don’t think it negates the importance of doing whatever we can to support our students to develop more self-control (though let’s not grade them, please).  It does seem to me, though, to possibly alter the lens we use to look at the issue.

What do you think?

April 22, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Another Study Finds That Gratitude Increases Self-Control

I’ve previously written a blog post titled Study: Gratitude Increases Self-Control that I think readers might want to re-visit.

Now, a new study has reinforced those findings.

Here’s an excerpt from The Emotion That ‘Vaccinates’ Against Impulsiveness and Poor Self-Control:


I’m adding this info to:

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

The Best Resources On “Gratitude”

December 30, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

No Big Surprise: Having A “Sense Of Purpose” In Life Enhances Self-Control

A new study finds something that comes as no surprise to teachers — those who have some kind of sense of purpose to their life exhibit more self-control.

Here’s an excerpt from the article about the research:


I’ve previously posted about related research, which also includes suggestions for class lessons to help students develop a “purpose for learning” (see The Power Of Having A “Purpose For Learning” In The Classroom).

Another connected piece of research can be found at A Sense of Purpose Increases Comfort With Ethnic Diversity, also from The Pacific Standard.

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

November 2, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Video: “Secret Life Of Pets” Trailer Has Great Scene For Teaching Self-Control

Removing yourself from temptations is one of the best recommended self-control strategies.

This hilarious trailer for the upcoming “Secret Life Of Pets” movie has a great scene that could be used to demonstrate the importance of doing just that…

Watch the whole clip, if you haven’t seen it before, but pay particular attention at about 1:05 into it.

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

September 23, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Quote Of The Day: Poverty & Self-Control

I’ve written a lot about the benefits of teaching Social Emotional Learning (see The Best Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Resources), as well as the pitfalls of a “Let Them Eat Character!” strategy (see The manipulation of Social Emotional Learning and The Best Articles About The Study Showing Social Emotional Learning Isn’t Enough).

Thanks to my colleague Katie Hull, I just learned that The New Republic has republished a good article giving an overview of research reinforcing the dangers of viewing SEL as a magic pill. It’s titled Poor People Don’t Have Less Self-Control. Poverty Forces Them to Think Short-Term.

Here’s how it concludes:


August 14, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Study: Remember A Couple of Past Instances Of Self-Control To Increase The Odds Of Repeating In Future

Scientists have found a new trick for completing your goals is an article in Quartz discussing a new study on self-control.

The research found having people just remember a couple of prior times they were successful at exhibiting self-control increased the chances of them being able to do so in the future. They found that people would get frustrated if they asked them to remember more than two, and they’d get discouraged if they were asked to remember their past self-control failures.

In the self-control lessons I’ve discussed in my books and here in my blog (see The Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control), I always have students share on prior example of success. I also ask them to share one example of failure. I think the benefit of the laughter that comes from students sharing those stories outweighs any potential negative consequences that this study found.

But it is a good reinforcement to periodically invite students to remember a past instance when they were successful.

Here’s an excerpt from the study:


August 12, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

New Studies Show, Unsurprisingly, That Stress Reduces Self-Control & Metacognition

In an unsurprising development, on recent study has found that experiencing stress reduces self-control and another research report found that stress has the same effect on metacognition.

These findings reinforce why it’s important to help our students develop strategies to cope with stress (see The Best Resources For Learning About Teens & Stress).

I’m adding this info to:

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

The Best Posts On Metacognition

May 21, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Update On My “Practical Example Of Trust, Self-Control & Choice In The Classroom” & What I’m Doing Next

Earlier this week, I published A Practical Example Of Trust, Self-Control & Choice In The Classroom. It described a process I used in my Theory of Knowledge classes where students volunteered if they would or would not have the self-control needed to just use their phones to work on an essay while I was gone for a couple of days. Fifteen students from the two classes said they would not and asked to be put on a list for the sub saying they could not use their phone and had to watch a movie. The rest said they could be trusted.

Well, I came back today and had students who said they had enough self-control to use their phone only on their essay respond anonymously if they were able to keep to their word.

The results: 70% said yes in one class; 90% said yes in the other one.

Now, it’s time for the really interesting part of the experiment. I’m going on another field trip next Thursday and, again, taking the following day to recover. I’m going to use the same process, and this time ask students to first reflect on their experience from this week. Will those who were not able to stick to their word learn from what happened this week and realize they should be put on the “no phone list” next week?

I’ll let you know….

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