Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

December 14, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

December’s Infographics & Interactives Galore – Part Three

There are just so many good infographics and interactives out there that I’ve begun a new semi-regular feature called “Infographics & Interactives Galore.”

You can see others at A Collection Of “The Best…” Lists On Infographics and by searching “infographics” on this blog.

I’ll still be publishing separate posts to individually highlight especially useful infographics and interactives, but you’ll find others in this regular feature.

Here goes:

How Your City Influences Your Spending shows the major ways people living in different cities spend their money. It’s from The New York Times.

Here’s a collection of Infographics and Lesson Sheets from Kids Discover.

What really happened in the Christmas truce of 1914? is an interactive from The BBC. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About World War I.

Biodiversity: Life ­– a status report is an interactive from Nature. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For World Biodiversity Day (& Endangered Species Day).

Here’s how democracy, autocracy and colonialism fared over the last century is an intriguing Washington Post infographic.

Frankenplace is a map-based search engine for Wikipedia. You can read more about it at Google Maps Mania.

I’m adding this next infographic to The Best Sites For Learning About The World’s Different Cultures:

Here’s a useful infographic for IB Theory of Knowledge classes when they’re studying perception:

Ways Companies Use To Increase Sales

Designed by: Author: Kate Stephens

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December 7, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Ways Of Knowing” Final Projects By My IB Theory of Knowledge Students

Last year, I shared what my students did for a final “Ways Of Knowing Project” in our International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge course.

This year’s students did something similar. You can see many PowerPoints, along with several videotaped short presentations, at our class blog.

Here’s a sample PowerPoint:

TOK presentation

More presentations from Raquel Palma
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December 7, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Video: Jon Stewart On China’s Decision To Crackdown On Puns

Jon Stewart at the Daily Show did a very funny segment this week on the Chinese government’s crackdown on the use of puns in the media.

Except for a bleeped out expletive near the very beginning of the segment, the rest of it would be appropriate for classroom use. It would be ideal for an International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge class when language is being studied.

Here it is:

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December 6, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Two New Good Writing Prompts For My Students

I’ve collected various writing prompts (and links to the texts that go with them) at The Best Posts On Writing Instruction. Here are a couple of more I’m adding that are based on recent New York Times columns.

One is a piece by Roger Cohen headlined Mere Human Behavior. In it, he talks about examples of courage needed to speak up and act in the face of injustice instead of just “avert[ing} one’s gaze.”

Here’s the prompt I plan to use with Cohen’s column:

In his column, what is Mr. Cohen saying about how people should respond when they see an injustice? To what extent do you agree with what his position? To support your opinion, be sure to include specific examples drawn from your own experience, your observations of others, or anything you have read, including this column.

This next column is an interesting “take” on the value of saving endangered languages. “In Why Save a Language?” John McWhorter questions the typical reasons used to support endangered languages and offers different ones.

Here’s the prompt I plan on using with this piece. It’s perfect for IB Theory of Knowledge classes:

What reasons does Mr. McWhorter say he formerly used to try and convince people about the value of saving an endangered language and what does he say now? To what extent do you agree with what his position? To support your opinion, be sure to include specific examples drawn from your own experience, your observations of others, or anything you have read, including this column.

I’m also adding this prompt The Best Resources For International Mother Language Day.

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November 20, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Here’s The Form I Have Students Complete When They’re Listening To Their Classmate’s Presentations

There are many benefits to having small groups of students make presentations to their classmates, including the fact that the presenters have an “authentic audience” beyond the teacher.

But how can we maximize its benefit to both speakers and listeners?

One strategy I use, particularly in my International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge classes, is have listeners complete this form anonymously sharing what they liked about the presentation and suggestions for improvement.

Listeners complete the form and I collect them for each group until all the presentations are complete. If the presenters are given them prior to that time they are obviously tempted to read them instead of listen to the other presenters.

I’ve used different versions of this form in other classes and it’s generally been pretty successful, though in ninth-grade classes some students don’t take it as seriously as I would like.

In addition to that form, students also have to write down the name of each group and one thoughtful question they would like to ask. Then, the group chooses one student to ask their question and then the group responds to it. I collect the list, and it functions as an effective form of accountability.

What are your suggestions for how I can improve the form and this process?

I’m adding this post to The Best Ideas To Help Students Become Better Listeners.

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November 18, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Two Great Resources On Language

Two great (and fun) resources on language came online today:

23 maps and charts on language is from Vox, and is a “must-read.” I’m adding it to The Best “Language Maps.”

Why do pigs oink in English, boo boo in Japanese, and nöff-nöff in Swedish? is from The Guardian. I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Learning About The World’s Different Cultures.

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November 3, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

This Week’s “Links I Should Have Posted About, But Didn’t”

'forged link chain (5)' photo (c) 2009, Kirsten Skiles - license:

I have a huge backlog of resources that I’ve been planning to post about in blog but, just because of time constraints, have not gotten around to doing. Instead of letting that backlog grow bigger, I regularly grab a few and list them here with a minimal description. It forces me to look through these older links, and help me organize them for my own use. I hope others will find them helpful, too. These are resources that I didn’t include in my “Best Tweets” feature because I had planned to post about them, or because I didn’t even get around to sending a tweet about them.

Here are This Week’s “Links I Should Have Posted About, But Didn’t”:

The Importance of Project Based Teaching is from The Buck Institute, and provides a unique historical perspective on Project-Based Learning. I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Cooperative Learning Ideas.

Wake Your Class Up with Simulations! is from Ingenious Teaching. I’m adding it to The Best Online Learning Simulation Games & Interactives — Help Me Find More.

The Berlin Wall in the cold war and now – interactive is from The Guardian. I’m adding it to The Best Sites To Learn About Walls That Separate Us.

10 Tips for Delivering Awesome Professional Development is by Elena Aguilar at Edutopia. I’m adding it to The Best Resources On Professional Development For Teachers.

Ask For Evidence is a very interesting new site based in the United Kingdom. Here is how it describes itself:

Ask for Evidence is a public campaign that helps people request for themselves the evidence behind news stories, marketing claims and policies.

We hear daily claims about what is good for our health, bad for the environment, how to improve education, cut crime, treat disease or improve agriculture. Some are based on reliable evidence and scientific rigour. Many are not.

How can we make companies, politicians, commentators and official bodies accountable for the claims they make? If they want us to vote for them, believe them or buy their products, then we should Ask for Evidence.

People come here to share their experiences of asking for evidence and to use the hub of resources and expertise to making sense of the evidence they receive.

It has potential to be an authentic audience for student projects, particularly for IB Theory of Knowledge classes.

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October 19, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Pearls Before Swine” Shares Its Own Version Of “Who’s On First?”

The old Abbott and Costello “Who’s On First?” routine is used by Theory of Knowledge teachers around the world to illustrate how language can be used to discourage understanding.

The comic Pearls Before Swine shared its own version (I’ve pinned it below). In addition, I’ve also embedded a Jimmy Fallon version, as well as the original Abbot and Costello one.

I’ve embedded both the remake and the original below:

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October 5, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Teaching Plato’s Allegory of The Cave

I, and just about every other International Baccalaureate teacher in the world, teaches Plato’s Allegory of the Cave to our Theory of Knowledge classes.

I spend quite a bit of time on it, beginning with students first reading the actual allegory to each other other and then having them read a more accessible one with simplified language. We then watch the various animations of it on line (you can see all my links and related resources at our class blog post). Then we connect it to clips from the Matrix (also found on that blog post) and watch “The Truman Show.”

Finally, students create their own modern versions of the Allegory on video. Here’s one example, and you can see quite a few more on our class blog:

Students really enjoy it all, and easily figure out why we’re spending so much time on it. They “get” the idea of our being in our own “caves” and how we need to look outside it. The Allegory is a perfect lesson near the beginning of a school year with a TOK class and, I think, with other classes, as well.

Do you teach the Allegory in your classes? If so, how do you do it?

BONUS: Text to Text: Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and ‘In the Cave: Philosophy and Addiction’ is a lesson plan from The New York Times.

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October 3, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Videos: Here’s The Simple Theory of Knowledge Lesson On Perception I Did Today

As regular readers know, in addition to teaching classes for English Language Learners, I also teach International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge courses.

One of the “Ways Of Knowing” in the class is Perception. Today, I did one of my regular lessons, and thought I’d bring all the videos together in one post for readers who might be interested (though the truth is that I wanted to put them all in one post so it will be easier for me to teach again).

I begin by having students number a sheet of paper one-to-six, with several lines for each number. I explain that we’re going to watch six short videos. After the first five videos students will be given a couple of minutes to answer this question:

What does this video have to do with perception, and what does it say about how perception can help or hinder our search for knowledge?

I explain that students will then share their response with the student next to them; I’ll then call on a couple of people to share; and then alternate rows will rotate so that students switch partners after each sharing.

Here are the videos I show:

Here’s more information on the Selective Attention Test video.

I end with this next video by asking students to “write down what happened in the picture” (which was the original prompt by researchers). After students watch the video, I ask how many told a story and then share parts of this analysis.

The lesson always goes well, though, as usual, I’m interested in hearing suggestions from readers on how to make it better….

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September 27, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Greatest Interactive Video Ever Made For A Philosophical Discussion On The Existence Of Santa Claus

This interactive video, a book trailer for “Does Santa Claus exist?” is an amazing one on many different levels. I’ll certainly be having my IB Theory of Knowledge students watch it:

I’m adding it to The Best Places To Read & Write “Choose Your Own Adventure” Stories.

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September 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Video: “See Eyewitness Testimony Fail”

Studies abound on the lack of confidence in eyewitness testimony, and teaching about it is a staple in International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge classes when we cover “perception.”

The Pacific Standard just published a useful related article titled See Eyewitness Testimony Fail—Right Before Your Eyes that contained this great video I’ll be using next week in class:

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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

1,700 Categorized Links For IB Theory Of Knowledge Course

As regular readers know, I’ve been accumulating teaching/learning resources for the International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge class ever since I began to teach it a few years ago.

The collection is now up to nearly 1,700 links that are categorized by Ways of Knowing and Areas of Knowledge, and you can access them all here.

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September 10, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Author Of Newest IB Theory Of Knowledge Textbook Has Begun A Blog


Eileen Dombrowski is the co-author of the newest IB Theory Of Knowledge textbook, and has previously written guest posts on this blog.

She’s now writing her own blog, which is a “must-follow” for any TOK teacher. Here’s her description:

Eileen Dombrowski, lead author of the IB Theory of Knowledge Course Companion (OUP, 2013), has recently launched a TOK blogsite that complements the course overview of the TOK book with regular fresh comments on ideas and events in the news. In the traditional spirit of TOK educational sharing, the blog and associated resources are free. It’s also easy to sign up to follow the blog by email to receive fresh posts as they are added. Check it out: Activating TOK: thinking clearly in the world

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September 6, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

New “Fillable” PDF Forms For IB Theory Of Knowledge Presentations & Essays

I recently wrote about some new changes for teachers and students in International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge courses (see More Theory Of Knowledge Changes From IB).

Thanks to my colleague, Chris Coey, who braved the IB TOK website to get them, here are the new planning forms for the oral presentation and essay.

They are “fillable.” In other words, you can type and save data directly into them.

TK PPD form for presentations

ToK Essay Planning and Progress Form

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September 1, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

More Theory Of Knowledge Changes From IB

Over the past year, the International Baccalaureate program has been making lots of changes to the Theory of Knowledge course, and I’ve posted about them all.

The changes continue…

IB just sent out a document to all IB Coordinators sharing even more changes around the TOK oral presentation and the essay.

In regards to the presentation, I’ve already published a number of posts about the new planning documents (Here Is The Simple Outline I’m Having My TOK Students Use For Their Oral Presentation). The additional change, though, is for group presentations:

Please note that each candidate must submit a planning and presentation document. For group presentations, each candidate in the group will submit to their teacher, their own form which will be identical to the forms submitted by the other members of the group.

Of course, that’s a bit inconsistent with the actual IB form, which asks for all group member names and then asks for each group member to sign it. But, hey, Emerson did say, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…”

For the essay, IB says students now have to complete something called “Theory of knowledge: planning and progress form” that will be submitted with the essay. I haven’t seen it yet since I find the IB site rather Byzantinian both to log-into and to search.

IB also has now provided a three-part structure we’re supposed to follow in working with students on the essay:

In an initial interaction the candidate and teacher should discuss the prescribed titles with the aim of enabling the candidate to choose the most appropriate title; in an interim interaction the candidate may present the teacher with his or her work (an exploration) in some written form which might resemble a set of notes and ideas once a significant amount of progress has been made; and in a final interaction, towards the end of the process, candidates may present a full draft of the essay, and teachers may provide written comments of a global nature (but is not permitted to mark or edit this draft).

Let me know if you get a copy of the essay “planning and progress form” before I do….

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