Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

May 10, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

My Next Project Is Revising & Making Public My IB Theory of Knowledge Curriculum – Feel Free To Contribute


After writing eight books over the past eight years, I’m giving my self two years to complete my next one (the manuscript deadline is September 2017).

However, that doesn’t mean I’ll be lounging around :)

This summer, I plan on completely revising my International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge curriculum. And, once it’s done, I plan on making it available freely here on this blog.

In fact, I’d love to create an even bigger free resource of TOK materials than I already have (see All Of My Theory Of Knowledge “Best” Lists In One Place!).

So, if you’ve got some great stuff you’ve created that you’d like to share with TOK teachers, let me know and I’d be happy to add it to the list – giving you full credit, of course!

March 26, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

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

As regular readers know, in addition to teaching various classes to English Language Learners and to mainstream ninth-graders, I teach the International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge course. I also regularly share TOK resources here on the blog, and I think it’s pretty popular among TOK teachers around the world.

This post is my regular “quarterly reminder” that, in addition, I accumulate links to articles and resources on the Delicious bookmarking site, and now have over 2,500 categorized into the all the TOK “Ways of Knowing” and “Areas of Knowledge.” I typically add about twenty or so new ones each month.

However, they don’t necessarily include all the resources I share in my regular Best Theory Of Knowledge Resources posts.

You can find most of them here.

However, for some weird reason, not quite all of the “tags” are visible at that link. Here are direct links to the WOK and AOK resources not listed in the above link:


Logic and Reason (They’re separate, but all related. I think I first started using the logic tag and later switched to reason)

Indigenous Knowledge Systems


Intuition (though most are still in the Emotion category)

Human Sciences


March 4, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

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


My post last week, Oral Presentation Suggestions For IB Theory of Knowledge Classes, turned-out to be fairly popular.

In it, I explained my process for working with students on their Oral Presentations, and shared a sample of what I called “primary” knowledge questions. As I shared there, I have students first come-up with a topic they’re interested in, then develop a related primary question and, then, develop three more “secondary” ones whose answers would help them answer the primary question. Since most of my students work in groups of three, it works out quite well, and serves as my new versions of the old “linking questions” that used to be used.

This year’s students (and I have about sixty of them – as regular readers know, I recruit many non-Diploma candidates to join Diploma candidates in my classes) have now chosen their topic (which they convert into their real-life example), primary knowledge questions, and secondary knowledge questions. I thought readers might be interested in seeing a few of them all-together. Some are obviously better than others, but I think all are viable.

Take a look, and please give me any feedback. I found the comments left in the previous post very helpful:

Topic: Bullying
Primary Knowledge Question: How does power influence how we treat each other?
Secondary Knowledge Questions:
* Under what circumstances does the way others perceive you affect the way you value yourself?
* How can culture and religion influence our ethical interaction with others?
* To what extent does a intuition control the way we treat others?

Topic: Euthanasia
Primary Knowledge Question: What informs a society’s decision on what limits or expands human freedom?
Secondary Knowledge Questions:
* What role does intuition play in making decisions about what is ethical?
* In what ways are language and one’s actions limited by history?
* To what extent do religious beliefs influence our perception on the world?

Topic: Society’s view on various sexuality and whether it is accepted or not.
Primary Knowledge Question: Why and how does society view different sexuality as being a part of nature or nurture?
Secondary Knowledge Questions:
* To what extent do/did indigenous communities accept different sexuality compared to modern society/communities?
* For what reasons does dominant society sometimes view heterosexuality as normal but other sexuality such as homosexuality not normal?
* How does sexuality affect society and our identity?

Primary Knowledge Question: To what extent does belief in the afterlife benefit or hinder our society?
Secondary Knowledge Questions:
* How is our society’s perception of the afterlife affected by our knowledge of natural science?
* How does our perception of religion affect our faith in the afterlife?
* How do languages in the indigenous cultures speak of the afterlife differently compared to the western industrialized countries and how do those differences shape their actions?

Topic: Racism
Primary Knowledge Question: Under what circumstances is hate stronger than love?
Secondary Knowledge Questions:
* To what extent can verbal abuse be able to separate friendship?
* How do racial perceptions affect communication?
* How does emotion play a role in making decisions?

Topic: Money & Happiness
Primary Knowledge Question: What does it mean to be happy?
Secondary Knowledge questions:
* How do people relate money and happiness?
* How do indigenous society view happiness as compared to western industrialized society?
* What is the role of imagination in happiness and how people relate it to themselves?

Topic: Ghosts
Primary Knowledge Question: To what extent does belief in supernatural benefit or hurt our society?
Secondary Knowledge Questions:
* How can imagination affect our minds?
* How does our perception make illusions?
* To what extent does faith and religion make us believe in what we see?

Topic: Religion
Primary Knowledge Question: In what ways are humans affected by the possibility of non-human existence?
Secondary Knowledge Questions:
* To what extent does faith in religion make you weak or strong?
* How does the history of alleged extraterrestrial evidence affect humans emotions about alien life?

February 27, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Oral Presentation Suggestions For IB Theory of Knowledge Classes



Check out Part Two in this series, too!

An Oral Presentation is a big component of IB Theory of Knowledge classes and, based on what I hear from TOK teachers, there continues to be a fair amount of confusion about how to do them, which is not particularly helped by ongoing changes that IB makes in their guidelines and rubrics.

I’m confident in the fairly high marks that many of my students receive in their Oral Presentations, and thought that readers might find it useful to see what I, and they, are doing. That does not mean I don’t think I can do better – I hope to hear critiques from other teachers and would love to hear how you do it.

You can see a whole bunch of materials at our class blog, including student-completed outlines, downloadable planning templates official Presentation Planning documents, and videos of presentations themselves. In addition, as I’ve shared before, here is the typical schedule I use.

I first have students pick a general topic they are interested in exploring. Then comes the hard part — their identifying a “primary” knowledge question. Student groups develop this primary knowledge questions, and then three “secondary” knowledge questions that will help them develop an answer to their primary one. Since most groups are comprised of three students, this kind of division works fairly well.

As I mentioned, though the tricky part is always identifying the primary knowledge question. At first, students almost always come-up with a terrible one – very literally connected to their “topic.” For example, one group yesterday had chosen bullying as their topic and began with a primary knowledge question of “How can we stop bullying?” I pushed them to consider that bullying was a symptom of something, to talk among themselves about what might the “disease” or “cause” might be, and to base their primary knowledge question about that. Ultimately, they developed this excellent one: “How does power influence how we treat each other?” They will then develop their secondary ones, and they will be able to use bullying as an example in their exploration of all of their questions.

You can also see a model that I use with students showing initial drafts of knowledge questions and claims alongside students’ final versions.

Here is a sample list of “Topics” and related “Primary Knowledge Questions” that some of my students have used, or are using now:

Bullying: How does power influence how we treat each other?

Morality: What are the major factors that influence humans deciding what is right and what is wrong?

Ghosts: To what extent does belief in the supernatural benefit or hurt our society?

Online Privacy: To what extent should we sacrifice our freedom for security?

Religion: When we have faith in religion, does it demonstrate weakness or strength?

Mystery: What role does mystery play in human existence?

Childhood: How does one ethically raise a child?

Society’s Standards: What determines the standards of being “normal” or “accepted” by society?

Morality: How does our view of the world influence what we consider to be cruel?

Media Censorship: How does language allow people to manipulate information to their advantage?

Human Sexuality: There are plenty of differences between people, but what determines which ones are upsetting to large numbers of them?

Madness: Does madness exist?

ADDENDUM – Here are a few more from this year’s students:

After-Life: To what extent does belief in the after-life benefit or hinder our society?

Child Abuse: What drives some people to want to use power for good and others to use it for bad?

Technology: How do human relationships with technology affect society?

Abortion: Who decides morality in society?

Money and Happiness: What does it mean to be happy?

Transcendence: What are the factors that allow people to “spiritually transcend” to what some call a “higher realm?”

Gay Marriage: Why and how does society view different sexualities as being a result of either nature or nurture?

If you’re a TOK teacher, please let me know how you think I can improve our work on Oral Presentations!

February 23, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

Three Useful History Links For Theory Of Knowledge Classes (& Others)


When we teach history in IB Theory of Knowledge classes, we need to help our students critically look at it from various perspectives.

Here are three recent articles I’ve used in class that help do just that:

Bay Area schools named for flawed icons weigh fresh starts is from The San Francisco Chronicle.

The architecture of white supremacy still evokes pain is from The Associated Press.

‘Comfort women’ and a lesson in how history is shaped in California textbooks is from The Los Angeles Times.

February 15, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

New Video Series Called “Theory Of Knowledge” Raises Hopes, But Then Dashes Them

A YouTube channel called Wireless Philosophy has produced some useful videos in the past, and I was pretty excited when I saw this week they were launching a new series called “Theory Of Knowledge.”

I thought that they might be using IB’s Theory of Knowledge course content as a guide – after all, who wouldn’t want to influence thousands of teens across the world?

Alas, I was disappointed – at least by this first video in the series. It does have some relevance to what we teach in TOK, but it appears much less connected to real-life relevance and much more connected to the kind of questions people use in their worst stereotypes of what philosophers think and do. I’m hoping future ones are better.

Check out the video and let me know if you think I’m being too harsh in my judgement:

Here’s a great suggestion from another TOK teacher in response to this post:

January 17, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

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


This past week, I did a lesson on ethics that I do every year with my IB Theory of Knowledge students. It went very well, and I thought readers might find it useful to hear what I did.

I borrowed and modified it from the IB Theory of Knowledge Course Book. Though we don’t use that textbook with students, I use some of the ideas in it for lessons.

I introduced students to the idea that there five primary sources from where we derive our personal morality:

1. Human Nature
2. Religion
3. Observation & Reason
4. Emotional Empathy
5. Social & Political

I actually had not heard of this list prior to reading the textbook but, after looking it up, it appears to be relatively common (though I can’t find an original source and would love it if readers could identify one).

I then divide students into five groups and assign one of the sources of morality to each one. They have a class period-and-a-half to work together and research online their “source” and each prepare a poster and two-to-three minutes presentation on it. How they research is up to them – they can divide up parts of it and work on their own. Most divided up parts. The one-page listing in the textbook provides examples for each of the five, and those are very helpful (for example, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for human nature and the UN Declaration of Human Rights for social and political). If you do this lesson, I’d suggest you either get the book or identify your own examples for students to use (you can find additional info online that might be useful here, here, and here).

After spending one period researching the info in the library, students had twenty minutes to meet in their groups and create a poster – each student in their group had to create their own, but it was okay if they all looked the same. I gave students in each group a letter, and then the A’s from each group got together, as did the B’s, etc., to meet and present to each other — in other words, it was a “jigsaw.” I told people to listen carefully because the culminating project would be for them to write an explanation using the info they learned saying what they believe are the sources of their own personal morality and why. Oddly, I thought, the textbook has students doing this prior to their investigations.

It all went quite well with a high-level of engagement.

Here are some of the evaluative comments students wrote:

I found it really interesting because I never looked at my morality from all those perspectives. I didn’t realize that there were as many ways to describe and identify our morality.

This morality project helped me understand the people around us and ourselves better.

I learned a little about myself. This enabled me to reflect upon myself and see how I reason with myself.

It was useful because I did not recognize or think about most of these sources.

I really liked learning about the sources of morality because I had never thought about my morals coming from anywhere other than my parents/family.

I liked this activity because it was individual and group work.

Any suggestions on how to improve it and/or where I can find more examples demonstrating each of those five sources of morality — even the textbook doesn’t offer enough of them (in my opinion, at least).

January 1, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo

NEW “Fillable” PDF Forms For IB Theory Of Knowledge Presentations


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.

Recently, though, I heard from TOK teacher Vladi Stanojevic that, in their infinite wisdom, IB recently 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 since they will be the ones uploading it under their own registration. 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….

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