Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

April 13, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Guest Post: More On Theory Of Knowledge Oral Presentations

'MSc REM geomodelling course, Tomsk 2014' photo (c) 2014, HWUPetroleum - license:

Regular readers know that I teach many different classes, including an International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge class, and share many TOK resources here.

IB has made many changes this year to the Theory of Knowledge course and, along with writing my own thoughts on them, I’ve invited others to write guest posts, too.

Here are some of them:

The Best Commentaries On The New IB Theory Of Knowledge Teaching Guide

The Best Posts On Teaching TOK “Knowledge Questions”

“The Times They Are a-Changin’”…For IB Theory Of Knowledge Oral Presentations

Here Is The Simple Outline I’m Having My TOK Students Use For Their Oral Presentation

Recently, I’ve invited guests to write about the changes to the TOK Oral Presentation. Prof. Crow is writing on behalf of TOK Tutor. He’s a retired teacher specialising in TOK writing & presentation skills:

New TOK Curriculum – First exam 2015

The TOK Presentation

The presentation has always been a highlight of the TOK calendar, allowing students to show off the ideas that inspire them and about which they feel passionate.  The new Guide doesn’t change any of that; it just highlights the key phases that students must consciously adopt in preparing and presenting those ideas.

Here they are:

  1. ‘Extraction’ of the KQ from a real life situation
  2. ‘Progression’ of the exploration that is made
  3. ‘Application’ of the analysis to other real life situations

What does all this mean?

As for extracting your KI, see previous posts on Larry’s blog about the new ‘Knowledge Questions’.

‘Progression’ implies addressing your KQ through a series of arguments and counter arguments.  Students often turn a presentation into a for/against debate.  This is NOT the meaning of ‘progression’.  While you must employ this argument structure in the presentation, you must do so by a) incorporating TOK terminology to build your arguments and c) ground your arguments from a variety of perspectives (eg. individual vs shared perspectives within specific AOKs).

Here’s a snapshot of an example (the underlined expressions highlight specific vocabulary that links to your KQ):

Presentation Title: ‘Miracles’

RLS: The weeping and bleeding Statue of Christ in Bolivia – during Holy Week of 1995

KQ: To what extent is the evidence presented to justify miracles reliable?

Perspective: H Science (Psychology)

Argument: Up to 30,000 people at Traberhof outside Rosenheim near Munich in September 1949, where many mass and distant healings occurred through influence of Bruno Groening.

The frequency of reported spiritual healings by non-believers or atheists suggests that at least some of them MUST be real.

Counter claim: Mysterious disappearances around the ‘Bermuda Triangle’.

Given what we know about human beings and their tendency to experience weird and wacky things, we should expect such miracle healing experiences anyway, so the fact people do have them doesn’t give us much grounds for supposing there is a miracle happening.

You should now be able to see how ‘application’ works: as part of building arguments you can also integrate other real examples, even other KQs that emerge as you analyse them.

Always remember: the presentation must advance your arguments from the first real life situation that inspired you personally to the wider world through the guiding frame of your KQ.

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April 6, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Check Out 1,700 Categorized Theory Of Knowledge Links

'Links by Clips' photo (c) 2010, Keith Ramsey - license:

The online bookmarking tool Delicious no longer provides the number of links that are bookmarked in a particular category, but I guesstimate that I must be up to 1,700 or so categorized ones related to the International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge class.

You can see them all here.

Those are just the ones I’ve bookmarked. If you want to contribute to an even bigger, more “universal” collection, you, too, can use Delicious and add the tag “#TOK” to helpful sites and articles.

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April 3, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Here Is The Simple Outline I’m Having My TOK Students Use For Their Oral Presentation

'ground 1 outline' photo (c) 2012, Elle Ko - license:

I’ve previously posted about my questions and ideas related to the new changes in the required International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge Presentation (see “The Times They Are a-Changin’”…For IB Theory Of Knowledge Oral Presentations), and invited other teachers to weigh-in, too.

In that post, I shared a downloadable version of the new TOK Presentation Planning Document, as well as links to all the materials and timeline I use in my class related to the Presentation.

Today, I’d like to share two other documents that you might want to download.

The first one is an Exemplar Presentation Planning Document that IB has made available if you can navigate its serpentine website. I think it’s very useful for students and teachers alike.

The second is a new simple outline
I’ve developed for my students to use prior to completing the official Planning Document. It takes into consideration my understanding (which, admittedly, is limited) of the new requirements.

Any and all feedback on it is welcome – it’s working well for my students now, but I’m sure it can be made better….

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March 29, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“The Times They Are a-Changin’”…For IB Theory Of Knowledge Oral Presentations

'change' photo (c) 2010, Sean MacEntee - license:

I’ve been writing, and have been publishing guest posts, about how the changes instituted by the International Baccalaureate this year have affected those of us who teach Theory of Knowledge classes.

You can see some of those posts at:

The Best Commentaries On The New IB Theory Of Knowledge Teaching Guide

The Best Posts On Teaching TOK “Knowledge Questions”

Of course, you can also see all my TOK-related posts here.

There are also changed in the required Oral Presentations. And since it’s that time of the year when many of us are doing that in our classes, I thought I’d share a few thoughts and invite others to contribute their own….

I’ve previously shared the brand-new IB TOK Presentation Planning Document and, last year, I published all my IB Theory Of Knowledge Oral Presentation & Essay Resources, which included a day-to-day schedule we use for a month leading to the presentations and two good examples of videotaped presentations from my students.

Based on the new materials from IB that I have read, and based on the conversations I’ve had with my teaching colleagues, here are what I view as the most important “takeaways” — please let me know if you have others or if you think I’m sharing misinformation:

* For oral presentations done in groups, there needs to be one main Knowledge Question. In the past, I’ve always had groups pick an common overall topic and the same real-life incident, but each has had their own related Knowledge Question.

* Groups can not have over three people in them. In the past, they could be as large as five.

* There needs to be several explicit attempts through-out the Presentation to connect what’s being said back to the real-life incident. In other words, the real-life incident plays a bigger role in the Presentation.

* There is no longer an explicit requirement to use linking questions to connect to multiple Areas of Knowledge. There do, however, need to be multiple “perspectives,” which could also include contrasting claims.

* Of course, there is a new rubric for assessing the Oral Presentations, and you can find it in the new TOK Teaching Guide at one of the above links.

* Presentations no longer have to be videotaped. Instead, each school will send examples of the Oral Presentation Planning Document in to IB for review.

Practically-speaking, these changes are not having a major impact on how I do Oral Presentations (at least for this year — I’ll revise my approach if I receive negative feedback from other TOK teachers and IB itself).

I found that having my students follow the same format I’ve done in the past — identify a topic and real-life incident of genuine interest, and then have each student in the group formulate a knowledge question and a linking question — has worked out very well as a first step. Then, each group reviews those knowledge questions to determine which might be the main one, and the others, including the linking questions, can function as “subsidiary” ones. That worked out to be a fairly easy process.

Apart from that added step, the other difference from past preparation has been creating some extra time for students to complete the Planning Document, which can’t exceed 500 words.

I’ve invited specific TOK educators to provide guest posts on this topic, and am eager to also hear from others. Let me know what you think!

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March 26, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“The Certainty of Donald Rumsfeld (Part 2)” Is As Good As Part One!

'Donald Rumsfeld, painted portrait _DDC6746.jpg' photo (c) 2008, thierry ehrmann - license:

Yesterday, I posted about Part One of Errol Morris multi-part series in The New York Times on The Certainty of Donald Rumsfeld (see “Unknown Unknowns” & The Potential Of An Exceptional Theory Of Knowledge Lesson).

Part Two just came out, and it’s as good as Part One.

Here’s an excerpt:

The known known, the known unknown and the unknown unknown seemingly have straightforward interpretations. Or do they? Things we know we know — like the name of the president of the United States or the capital of France. And things we know we don’t know — like the exact population of Kathmandu. (I know I don’t know it.) Things we know we don’t know but we can look them up, say on Wikipedia. Like the atomic number of tungsten. (It’s 74. I just looked it up.) Or things that we know we don’t know but need to be investigated. (Who killed JonBenét Ramsey? I don’t know, but someone probably does know — the killer? — although I know I don’t know who that person is.) Things that our enemies know but may not be known to us. (How many atomic warheads are there in North Korea?) And then, of course, there are the things I once knew but can’t remember. It goes on and on and on. It begs us to answer the question what does it mean to know something? Or to know that we know something? Or to know that we don’t know something? Doesn’t it depend on evidence?

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March 25, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Unknown Unknowns” & The Potential Of An Exceptional Theory Of Knowledge Lesson

'Donald Rumsfeld' photo (c) 2011, Gage Skidmore - license:

One of Donald Rumsfeld’s most famous – if not his most famous – utterance was his “unknown unknowns” response at a press conference related to Iraq (you can see a video of it at the end of this post).

Now, filmmaker Errol Morris has just published The Certainty of Donald Rumsfeld (Part 1) over at The New York Times, the first in a four-part series.

I don’t know what the next three parts are going to look like, but this first one is full of great ideas for use in IB Theory of Knowledge classes.

In fact, between the Rumsfeld video and the abundance of insights in Morris’ column, I’m not even sure how or where to begin.

I’m going to ruminate a lot more on it, but I’m also hopeful that other TOK teachers will take a look at it and offer suggestions in the comments. Some of you may already be using the Rumsfeld video in your classes, and I can’t believe I haven’t thought about it prior to today!

Here’s the video:

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March 23, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Do You Teach IB Theory Of Knowledge & Are You Looking For The New Presentation Planning Document?

'Grade 12 IB Celebration of Learning Night at Shekou International School' photo (c) 2012, Thomas Galvez - license:

There have been lots of changes in IB Theory of Knowledge classes this year, and they are not making it any easier to cover everything in two semesters.

These changes include ones related to the required Oral Presentation. The old TOK Planning Document is no longer the one we’re supposed to be using.

Chris Coey, one of my colleagues at Luther Burbank High School, fortunately went to a TOK training this past summer and came back with the new version. We couldn’t find it online, and he was kind enough to retype it exactly the way it looks, including the format. You can download it here.

And, while I’m posting about TOK, here’s another useful resource:

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March 17, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“The Long Reach Of Reason” – It’s A Safe Bet That This New TED Talk Animation Will Be Shown In Every TOK Class

'Logic Lane' photo (c) 2003, Anders Sandberg - license:

TED Talks has just unveiled a new animation titled “The Long Reach Of Reason.”

Here’s how Chris Anderson at TED describes it:

Two years ago the psychologist Steven Pinker and the philosopher Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, who are married, came to TED to take part in a form of Socratic dialog. Steven Pinker and Rebecca Newberger Goldstein: The long reach of reasonSteven Pinker and Rebecca Newberger Goldstein: The long reach of reasonShe sought to argue that Reason was a much more powerful force in history than it’s normally given credit for. He initially defended the modern consensus among psychologists and neurologists, that most human behavior is best explained through other means: unconscious instincts of various kinds. But over the course of the dialog, he is persuaded by her, and together they look back through history and see how reasoned arguments ended up having massive impacts, even if those impacts sometimes took centuries to unfold.

They turned it into a “talk in animated dialogue form.” I’ve embedded it below, and you can read more about it here.

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March 10, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Recent Student Projects From My Theory Of Knowledge Class

As regular readers know, in addition to teaching Beginning and Intermediate English Language Learners English and Social Studies, I also teacher mainstream ninth-grade English classes and an International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge class (and it looks like I’ll be teaching two TOK classes next year!).

In addition to IB Diploma candidates, I heavily recruit other students that are not taking other IB courses, including students who have previously been in my ELL classes.

I thought readers might be interested in some recent projects we’ve done there, and you can see more at our TOK class blog.

After we study each individual Way of Knowing and Area of Knowledge, small groups create posters and make short presentations that usually include:

* What they think the three most important things they’ve learned are and why they’re important.

* A picture they draw along with an explanation of how it’s connected to the WOK or AOK.

* A favorite quote from our textbook or materials we’ve studies and why they think it’s important.

* A Knowledge question.

Here’s a photo of one poster after we studied Human Sciences:


As TOK teachers know, IB added several new Ways of Knowing and Areas of Knowledge to the curriculum this year. I’m finding it difficult to fit them all in, so, for two of the new ones — Religious Knowledge Systems and Indigenous Knowledge Systems — we just spent three days each studying each one.

Taking some questions directly from the new TOK Guide, I had students work in small groups, providing a number of links to resources, and had them develop a short slideshow and presentation using this outline:

What is this Area of Knowledge about?

What practical problems can be solved by applying this knowledge?

What makes this Area of Knowledge important?

Show the connections at least three Ways of Knowing have to this Area of Knowledge.

Here are some slidedecks and you can see more on our class blog:

Indigenous Knowledge Systems

More PowerPoint presentations from Sabreena

Religious Knowledge Systems

More PowerPoint presentations from Thien Y Huynh

Religious Knowledge Systems

More PowerPoint presentations from Pratishma

I’d love to hear ideas on how I can improve these assignments, so feel free to leave a comment!

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February 22, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Great Video For Language Development (& For Ethics Discussion): “Would you give your jacket to Johannes?”

Here’s a great video created by an organization in Norway to raise awareness of the plight of Syrian refugee children. English Language Learners can describe what they see happening the video and discuss what they would do….

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February 15, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“Emotions Of Sound” Is A Great Interactive For ELLs & For IB Students!


Emotions Of Sound is a neat interactive that plays different sounds, along with images. You’re then show several different “emotional” words and have to pick the one that the sound and image elicits from you. After each answer, results are shown for how many people have chosen each word. At the end of the all the questions, the site tells you, overall, how alike or different your responses were from others visiting the site.

It’s a great site for English Language Learners to use for learning feelings-related vocabulary, and would be a fun interactive for IB Theory of Knowledge students to use when studying perception.

I’m adding it to The Best Sites To Learn “Feelings” Words.

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February 2, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Quote Of The Day: “The Dangers of Certainty”

The Dangers of Certainty: A Lesson From Auschwitz is an excellent (though somewhat meandering) column in today’s New York Times, written by Simon Critchley.

I think it relates a lot to what I’ve written about teaching and “school reform” in a Washington Post piece titled The importance of being unprincipled. I’ll also be using in my IB Theory of Knowledge class — I always begin the course by sharing quotations questioning the value of absolute certainty.

Here’s an excerpt, followed by a video accompanying the column:


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January 19, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Infographic: “Word Science”

As regular readers know, I spend very little time and thought into writing the typically bland headlines in my blog posts. I just figure my reputation for useful content, and the content itself, will do the job of encouraging people to read it.

However, I found this infographic from Short Stack pretty interesting, not so much because I’ll be using it to craft future headlines, but because I think it makes for an interesting part of a lesson on language in my IB Theory of Knowledge classes.

Nevertheless, I’ll still add it to The Best Sources Of Advice For Teachers (And Others!) On How To Be Better Bloggers.

word science
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

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January 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

The Best Videos Documenting The History Of The English Language

'McGuffey Reader illustration n.d.' photo (c) 2009, Miami University Libraries - Digital Collections - license:

There are quite a number of decent videos documenting the history of the English language, and I’m trying to figure out how to use them in my IB Theory of Knowledge class. Ideas are welcome.

Here are the videos I know about:

The Story Of English is a nine-part television series, and I’ve embedded the entire playlist below:

How did English evolve? is from TED-Ed. I’ve embedded the video below, and you can see the entire lesson here.

Here’s an “oldie” from The British Council:

Get the Embed Code to Add This Infographic to Your Site.
‘The History of the English Language’ courtesy of Brighton School of Business and Management.

11 places to visit on a tour of the English language is from The Week.

Let me know what I’m missing….

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January 15, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

More “What If?” History Projects — Plus, What Students Thought Of Them….


Last week, I shared a few of the “What If?” history project my IB Theory of Knowledge students created and added them to The Best Resources For Teaching “What If?” History Lessons.

Students just completed a simple evaluation of the project, and I thought readers might be interested in what they thought of it. As my IB students have done in previous years, they are teaching my English Language Learners how to do it, too, so I’ll also be sharing those presentations in a few days.

But, before I share my IB students’ comments, I thought I’d share one more of their PowerPoints:

Here are their evaluations:

What did you like or not like about the project and why?

I liked doing this project because it led me to imagine the world today with events changed.

I liked it because it was fun.

I didn’t like it because it wasn’t really fun.

I really liked doing the project because it allowed me to work with others I hadn’t worked with yet.

I liked it because it was a great way to see how things would have been different.

I liked it because we had fun and used creativity to create events that never happened.

What could be done to improve it?

Most people said “we could have used one more day to prepare.”

It was pretty cool. I really don’t know what could be better.

What did you learn about history?

I was able to understand the significance of an event and how it plays a role in the way our lives are today. I learned to appreciate and be grateful for these events, because if they never occurred I wouldn’t be here right now or possibly my life may be extremely different.

I did learn about history and how a small event can easily change the future. Anything can change our lives in the future.

I learned that history always has a cause and effect rule to it.

History is built up depending on who writes or sees it.

I learned about many different perspectives of history. Also, what I thought up as a consequence/effect, others didn’t…


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January 14, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Here’s What My IB Theory Of Knowledge Students Are Doing For Their Semester “Final”

'Knowledge is addictive' photo (c) 2006, Beatrice Murch - license:

I’ve previously posted what my ELL Geography students and what my ELL History students (as well as my mainstream ninth-grade classes) are doing for their semester finals next week. I’ve also published what my ELL students are doing for their English “final.”

I thought some readers might also be interested in what my IB Theory of Knowledge students are doing for theirs, too.

I’ve picked what I think are five of the more accessible TOK essay prompts from previous years and have created this First Semester Final. Students will pick one and write their response.

I’ll also be taking them to the Computer Lab for a period to quickly review TOK essay prep materials we’ll be going over much more extensively later this year — just so they can get a taste of it prior to the final.

I’m just telling students to try their best and not get too worried about the final — I’m viewing much more as a formative assessment than as a summative one.

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January 12, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

This Year’s “What If?” History Presentations

As usual, my IB Theory of Knowledge class did “What If?” presentations as part of their study of history, and are teaching my ELL U.S. History students how to do the same.

Here are a couple of examples, which I’ll be adding to The Best Resources For Teaching “What If?” History Lessons. The second one is just a thumbnail and you have to click on it:

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