Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

September 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Two New iPad Resources That Look Intriguing


Here are two new intriguing resources I’m adding to The Best Resources For Beginning iPad Users:

The Library of Congress has published a series of interactive ebooks:

The new Library of Congress Student Discovery Sets bring together historical artifacts and one-of-a-kind documents on a wide range of topics, from history to science to literature. Interactive tools let students zoom in for close examination, draw to highlight interesting details and make notes about what they discover.

The first six Student Discovery Sets are available now for the iPad, and can be downloaded for free on iBooks. These sets cover the U.S. Constitution, Symbols of the United States, Immigration, the Dust Bowl, the Harlem Renaissance, and Understanding the Cosmos.

The second resource is an app called FiftyThree – Mix. I’m on a waiting list to get access to it, but you can read about it at TechCrunch. You can also watch this video, though it isn’t very informative:

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September 14, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Great Video: Tavis Smiley On Daily Show Talking About M.L. King’s Final Year

Tavis Smiley has a new book out titled “Death of a King: The Real Story Of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Final Year.”

He did a terrific interview on the Daily Show, and I’m adding this video to The Best Resources To Remember Dr. Martin Luther King’s Death (& Life).

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September 13, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Video: Potentially Useful TED Talk – “Why ordinary people need to understand power”

TED recently shared a TED Talk by Eric Liu titled “Why ordinary people need to understand power.”

I’ve embedded the video below, and you can access it and the interactive transcript at the TED site.

He says some good things in the video the demonstrates he has an understanding of at least a few community organizing concepts, including:


He’s creating something called Citizen University, which “works with a national array of partners to help Americans cultivate the values, systems knowledge, and skills of effective citizenship” — whatever that means.

More useful, however, is a curriculum Citizen University is creating. Here’s how they describe it:

What is power? How is it exercised in civic life? Who has it and why? Such questions go to the heart of self-government — but most people are fundamentally illiterate in power. That’s why we’ve created an accessible, free curriculum on civic power. Coming soon.

I’m not ready to add any of this to either The Best Posts & Articles On Building Influence & Creating Change or to The Best Websites For Learning About Civic Participation & Citizenship, but I might in the future – depending on what Citizenship University comes up with in the future.

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September 13, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Useful Resources On Race & Racism

September 12, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

A Beginning “Best” List On Domestic Violence Resources

With the Ray Rice video bringing attention to the tragedy of domestic violence, I thought it would be useful to bring together a few related resources. These are particularly accessible to English Language Learners, but can also be useful for all students. I hope readers will contribute more:

Domestic Violence: A Global Crisis

The Most Brutal Domestic Violence Awareness Ads is from BuzzFeed.

Here’s a video to use in an ESL lesson on the issue. It’s one in a series. If you click on it and go directly to YouTube, you’ll see the others:

The Minnesota Literacy Council has a unit accessible to ELLs.

Breaking News English has a lesson on violence against women.

Picture Story Four at this link is on domestic violence.

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September 11, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Wondering How To Handle A Controversial Topic In Class? What We Did This Week Worked Out Very Well

As all teachers know, controversial topics can be very tricky to handle in class. Here’s a process I used in my International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge classes this past week they went far better than I had expected, and I think this series of lessons might be able to be applied to other classes.

FIRST DAY: I introduced The Belief-Knowledge Continuum from our IB textbook. You can find it the continuum online in many places and it just so happens that our textbook’s version is available at Google Books. I’m not sure who originated it, so I’m wary of reproducing it in this post. But it’s really very simple — a number scale from negative ten to positive ten, with a few labels including impossible, probable and certain. “Probable” is also labeled “Belief” and “Certain” is labeled “knowledge.”

TOK’s definition of knowledge is “justified true belief.” This continuum doesn’t mean that belief is worse than knowledge. It just means that though we might believe something, we just don’t “know” for sure.

Then, our textbook lists a few items asking students to place them on the continuum (Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492, Murder is wrong) — you can see the list here.

I have students work in pairs to create their own poster plotting each of those items and providing an explanation of why they placed it there. Students then share their charts and discuss where they agree and disagree.

SECOND DAY: Students read an excerpt from the philosopher Ruben Abel’s book “Man is the Measure.” In it, he lists the different kinds of “evidence” people use to justify their knowledge. You can find that excerpt here (I only use the section following the heading “Good Reasons”). In groups of three, students make a poster ranking the types of evidence from the one they think is most convincing to least convincing; they have to provide an example; be prepared to defend their ranking; and draw a picture representing each type of evidence.

THIRD DAY: In a “speed-dating” style (groups facing each other, and then when one group is done one of the lines moves to the next group while the other line remains where they are), students share and discuss their “evidence” poster. However, they use a specific process for their discussion.

Teach Thought has published a nice “26 Sentence Stems For Higher-Level Conversation In The Classroom.” I adapted them and created a shorter list just showing their “Clarifying,” “Agreeing,” and “Disagreeing” questions. Students used them to guide their discussions with each group. I was the timer, and was flexible in both speeding it up and slowing it down:

  1. First minute: each group read and reviewed the other’s poster
  2. Second minute: one group asked clarifying questions from the sheet
  3. Third minute: the other group asked clarifying questions from the sheet
  4. Fourth minute: one group using the agreeing stems
  5. Fifth minute: the other group used the agreeing stems
  6. Sixth minute: one group used the disagreeing stems
  7. Seventh minute: the other group used the disagreeing stems

Students would then switch to discuss with another group (we did it about three or four times). In addition, I had asked students to keep in mind which poster they liked the best, and which disagreement they found most interesting.

After “speed-dating,” students met in their groups for a few minutes to discuss their favorite poster and which disagreement they found most interesting, and each group then gave a very short report.

After providing the group with the “winning” poster a dried fruit prize, I then gave students a half-piece of paper to write anonymously if they liked the use of the question/sentence stems and to say why or why not. I hadn’t tried using them before and want to get honest reactions. In both of my 35 student classes, everyone except for one or two students like them a lot and felt that without them the discussions would not have been productive.

FOURTH DAY: The warm-up activity was students writing down their response to:

Should we respect people’s racist or sexist beliefs? Why or why not? What might be the reasons they are using to justify those racist and sexist beliefs?

After a short discussion, I introduced a sheet developed by TOK teacher Remi Vicente called “Problems of Knowledge.” Basically, it’s a list of many of the reasons why people often confuse their “beliefs” with actual “knowledge.”

In their same groups of three, students reviewed the list and identified which ones they felt were the five most common “problems of knowledge.”

FIFTH DAY: In their same groups of three, I gave each a first section of that day’s daily newspaper (in one class, we also had access to computers) and distributed these instructions (here they are as a downloadable hand-out):

1) Take out the Belief knowledge continuum and your types of evidence poster.

2) Get with your group that developed the types of evidence poster.

3) Look at newspapers, news magazines and online news sites to identify current events – between two and five of them

4) Where are your chosen current events on the continuum – what is guiding the action of the primary person/people involved in the current events you chose. There may be more than one, and they might need to be “plotted” differently. Explain your decision.

5) Look at the types of evidence poster. Identify what evidence each of the primary people are using to justify their actions.

6) Look at the problems of knowledge sheet and poster you made. What flaws, if any, are the primary people making?

7) Make a simple poster for each current event showing where on the continuum you placed the current event and why, they type of evidence and flaws. Be prepared to share with class.

Students chose a variety of events, including President Obama’s de facto declaration of war against Islamic militants, the Ray Rice controversy, and the killing of Michael Brown. Because of the activities we did earlier, the quality and tone of the discussions was at an incredibly high intellectual level — examining evidence, points of view, and reasoning.

I also have to say that, perhaps for one of the few times in my years of teaching Theory of Knowledge, students really “got” how what they were learning could be applied to the world outside of school.

Admittedly, it took a lot of time. But, with this background, I think we can approach future discussions of current events in similar vein without all the days of preliminary build-up.

Let me know what you think of this series of lessons, and how you think I can make it better!

Coincidentally, Luis Vilson has just published a good post over at Edutopia with additional ideas on how to handle controversial topics in the classroom.

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September 11, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

New Hans Rosling Video: “How not to be ignorant about the world”

TED Talks just released a new Hans Rosling video (done with his son) called “How not to be ignorant about the world.”

You can see it on the TED Talk site with all its bells and whistles, including a transcript, but I’ve embedded the YouTube version below.

I’m, of course, adding it to The Best Hans Rosling Videos:

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September 11, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Updated UNESCO Infographic On World Literacy

September 8th was International Literacy Day, and I have a lot of related resources at The Best Resources For International Literacy Day.

There’s an infographic from UNESCO on that list from last year, and they’ve published this new one with updated statistics, which I’ll be adding there:

Literacy for Sustainable Development
by unesco.

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September 10, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Interactive Map: “100 Years of Unrest”


100 Years of Unrest is an interactive map that has:

tried to gather information on social unrest throghout last century. Protests, uprisings, rebellions and revolts, civil wars, wars for independence, revolutions were mapped. Mapping events in time has enabled to follow hotspots or temporal trends of civil disobedience across the globe.

It’s based on information from Wikipedia.

Thanks to Google Maps Mania for the tip.

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September 9, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Teaching Tolerance Releases Ambitious “literacy-based, anti-bias curriculum”


Teaching Tolerance, the organization justifiably well-known for developing very good social-justice oriented teaching resources, has just unveiled: “Perspectives for a Diverse America… a literacy-based curriculum that marries anti-bias social justice content with the rigor of the Common Core State Standards.”

It’s a very ambitious site, and I think most teachers will find the highlight to be 300 great texts, often from larger works, all set-up to print out and copy for students. Those are a gold mine!

I hate to say it, but I generally found the site’s set-up to be fairly convoluted and confusing to navigate, though others may very well feel differently. But, whether you agree with me or not on that, I’m sure you’re going to agree that the texts are a wonderful resource.

You do have to register in order to access the site, but it takes a minute to do so.

I’m adding the site to The Best Teacher Resource Sites For Social Justice Issues.

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September 7, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Even More Useful Articles & Videos On Race & Racism

September 6, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Teaching History In The News!

Boy, the teaching of history is in the news!

First up, Bill Gates, who thinks we should all learn math through the Khan Academy (see The Best Posts About The Khan Academy) because he likes it, now has a way in mind he wants us all to learn history. Read about it in today’s New York Times story, So Bill Gates Has This Idea for a History Class …

Apparently, Gates was watching this history video about history while running on his treadmill, and now has created a course he wants high schools to teach using this methodology. It’s called The Big History Project and, after a quick perusal, I wouldn’t put it on any of my “Best” lists. However, I am adding the piece to The Best Resources For Learning About The Role Of Private Foundations In Education Policy.

You’ll want to read the article, which provides a fair amount of space to valuable criticisms about education philanthropy, including this one:

“I just finished reading William Easterly’s ‘The Tyranny of Experts,’ ” says Scott L. Thomas, dean of the School of Educational Studies at Claremont Graduate University in California. “It’s about philanthropists and their effect on the poor globally. It’s this exact idea that here you have this ‘expert’ in the middle” — that is, Gates — “enabling the pursuit of this project. And frankly, in the eyes of the critics, he’s really not an expert. He just happens to be a guy that watched a DVD and thought it was a good idea and had a bunch of money to fund it.”

Here are some other interesting comments:

And here’s another excerpt from the article:


On the other hand, here are some more useful recent resources on teaching history:

Does It Help to Know History? is from The New Yorker.

American History-American Story is from Chris Lehmann

The New History Wars is from The New York Times.

Don’t Know Much Revisionist History is from Slate.

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September 5, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

September 17th Is U.S. Constitution Day — Here Are Related Resources

Federal legislation requires schools in the United States to offer lessons related to the U.S. Constitution on U.S. Constitution Day — September 17th of each year.

You might be interested in The Best Sites For Learning About The Constitution Of The United States.

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September 4, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

170,000 Library Of Congress Images Put Online At Unique Interactive Site


Yale has just unveiled a unique interactive site of 170,000 images from The Library of Congress taken during the Great Depression, and it includes over 3,000 photos taken by the legendary Dorthea Lange, including the famous one at the top of this post.

The Library of Congress states:

Most photographs in this collection are considered to be in the public domain; however, labels on a few images indicate that they may be restricted.

The photos have been available at The Library Of Congress for quite awhile, but Yale has done something really special with their Photogrammar site, which has organized them in some very intriguing ways.

One of the most useful features is a map coded by counties in the United States — click on a county and you can see all the photos taken there. It also have a very effective “Search” function, and a super-duper categorized “Tree Map” of all their photos that I’m trying to figure out how to use for history and language development with my English Language Learners.

I’m adding it to The Best Online Sources For Images.

Thanks to Open Culture for the tip.

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September 1, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Two Valuable Labor Day Resources

August 31, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Great “Animations & Explainers” From The Guardian


The British newspaper The Guardian publishes a neat series of video “animations and explainers” that you can find on their YouTube channel.

I’m adding it to The Best Online “Explainer” Tools For Current Events.

Here’s an example:

I’m adding that example to The Best Resources For Learning About World Toilet Day & The Issue Of Public Sanitation In The Third World.

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