Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

February 18, 2018
by Larry Ferlazzo

Diversity Of Our School’s IB Program Highlighted In Sacramento Bee

The diversity of our school’s International Baccalaureate program – and the work of Katherine Bell, our IB Coordinator, in making it so – is highlighted in an article in today’s Sacramento’s Bee.

Here are some excerpts:

“If I have a student who wants to take an IB class and they are a straight ‘D’ student, I will let them try,” she [Katherine Bell] said. “I think it’s an amazing model of how you can have an inclusive yet academically rigorous program that doesn’t put itself off as being defined as something everyone else isn’t.”

…At Burbank, there are 394 juniors and seniors taking IB classes this year. Fourteen percent are African American and 37 percent are Hispanic. Forty-one percent are Asian, the majority of those Hmong. White students make up less than one percent of the program.

But 48 percent of kids in the overall population of the school take an IB class, Bell said.


I like the article a lot.

However, there is one error in the online edition (though it’s not present in the paper version).

The captions for one of the photos says, in referring to our school, Luther Burbank High School:

In a high school of predominately African American students, only 12 % of black kids are in the IB program.

However, our school population is 22% African American.  That does not mean we can’t do more to increase that percentage in IB classes, though.


February 14, 2018
by Larry Ferlazzo

Telling Stories In Class Like Abraham Lincoln


One of the challenges I face every year in IB Theory of Knowledge classes is getting students to learn about and practice the art of story-telling when they do their Oral Presentations and write their TOK essays.

In the past, I haven’t done much with that until it was actual time to do those two projects. One of the activities we do then is review a lot of the materials I have on The Best Digital Storytelling Resources.

Once I saw the article To Improve Your Storytelling Skills, Use Abraham Lincoln as Inspiration earlier this week, though, I decided to try an experiment.

There’s been a lot attention lately pushing scientists to tell stories about their work. And I have a vague memory of seeing a short piece in some TOK book about having students tell science stories, too.

So, after briefly telling students about the importance storytelling would have in their upcoming presentation and essay, I had them read the Lincoln article. It suggests that the key to his storytelling success was using a four-part series:

(Part 1) In the past…

(Part 2) Then something happened . . .

(Part 3) So now . . .

(Part 4) In the future . . .


I had students apply that sequence to telling the story of a scientific discovery of their choice (we’re studying Natural Sciences right now):

1. How was life  prior to the discovery? What did people believe?

2. How was the discovery made?

3. How did the discovery affect the world when it occurred?

4. How has the discovery affected the world of today?


Students worked in pairs, created a poster, and made very short presentations “speed-dating” style.

It went very well.  Ask me in a month-or-two how effective it was in helping them formulate stories for their oral presentations…


February 9, 2018
by Larry Ferlazzo

Guest Post: Template For Making Teacher Comments On TOK Essays

Editor’s Note: As everyone who teaches International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge classes knows, it’s getting time to upload TOK essays and oral presentation documents, along with teacher comments. My talented colleague John Perryman offers what I think is some great advice in this guest post.

John Perryman has taught honors and pre-honors material to low income inner city students in Sacramento for the past 30 years in course content ranging from the physical sciences to economics, from game theory to design tech. Both he and the students love the Theory of Knowledge course content.

For most of our many years of IB moderation, our essay scores were affirmed on average with very few essays varying by more than 1 pt from the instructor’s estimate.   In the last few years, our scores have been reduced by about 1 pt on the 10 pt scale on average, with occasional wild swings (Top scoring essays to middle mark band, 0 (essay on another topic) upscored to  3 /minimally passing).    It is possible that merely affirming or denying the student comments is no longer perceived as adequate.   I am going to try this tactic this year on the teacher comment section to see if affects our score affirmation rate.

These five statements are mostly from the TOK Essay Rubric:

The student had a (sustained A*, some C ,  very limited F) focus on knowledge issues connected to the prescribed title

<I am very tempted to list knowledge issues that the student addressed here>

The student (explored multiple perspectives or counterclaims B, identified counterclaims C, ignored D counterclaims)

The arguments were (always clear B, sometimes clear C, unclear D, not supported F)

Supporting examples were (real life and relevant B, sometimes real life and relevant C, hypothetical or ineffective D, not present F)

*A = top mark band 9-10, B= 7-8, C=5-6, D = 3-4, F = 0-2,

Holistic Descriptors from the rubric (this is not a complete list, but these are the words I would most likely use):

A:  accomplished, lucid, compelling,

B:  relevant, thoughtful, organized, coherent

C: typical, acceptable, adequate, competent

D:  basic, limited

E:  descriptive with no analysis, incoherent, ineffective


Given the wildly inappropriate process used by IB for TOK  oral moderation, I don’t really have high hopes.   Given the general lack of guidance from IB, on these now all important forms, we are forced to use “guess and check” to try to figure out what IB wants.   It saddens me that IB has decided to score forms rather than basing scores on comparisons of the student’s work to the published rubric.

February 8, 2018
by Larry Ferlazzo

Problems Of The Scientific Method

We examine the advantages of the Scientific Method in IB Theory of Knowledge classes, as wells as its problems.

The TOK textbook, however, doesn’t do a very good job (I think, at least) in explaining its potential problems in a very accessible way.

I’m finally getting around to creating a new list. Typically, after learning about the Scientific Method and its benefits, I have students analyze of its problems, make a poster, create an oral presentation and perform a skit – all taking no more than two minutes.

In addition to the TOK textbook, here are the resources I’m using to create my own list. Feel free to suggest more:

The Scientific Method from Get Revising

Advantages and Disadvantages of the scientific method

Limitations of the Scientific Method

February 8, 2018
by Larry Ferlazzo

Classroom Instruction Resources Of The Week

Each week, I publish a post or two containing three or four particularly useful resources on classroom instruction, and you can see them all here.

You might also be interested in The Best Articles (& Blog Posts) Offering Practical Advice & Resources To Teachers In 2016 – Part Two and The Best Resources On Class Instruction In 2017 – Part Two.

Here are this week’s picks:

I really like the instructional activity the video in this tweet shares:

Love Lessons is from Edutopia. I’m adding it to The Best Sites To Learn About Valentine’s Day.

Should I Tell on My Cheating Classmates? is from The NY Times Ethicist. It would go great with my Theory of Knowledge project, Here’s My Absolutism/Relativism Project For TOK – Help Me Make It Better.

February 1, 2018
by Larry Ferlazzo

Very Useful PBS NewsHour Segment On If Viewers Should Separate Art From Artist In Light Of #MeToo

I’ve previously shared a lesson I do with my IB Theory of Knowledge classes when discussing art, Important NY Times Column On Separating “Art & Artist” – Here’s The Writing Prompt I’m Using With It.

The PBS NewsHour aired a video segment tonight on the same topic – this time related to the #MeToo movement.

It’s a perfect complement to the article and writing prompt included in my older post.

I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Teaching About Sexual Harassment.

January 30, 2018
by Larry Ferlazzo

Immigration Reform, Ethics & TOK


We’re in the middle of our ethics unit in my Theory of Knowledge classes, and students are in the midst of exploring different sources of morality and determining the sources of their own moral code (see Here’s A Nice Lesson I Did On Ethics In My Theory Of Knowledge Class).

I haven’t thought it all the way through yet (and would love to get feedback), but I’m thinking of having students read this good Voice of America review of “chain migration and then read today’s Washington Post article, How ‘chain migration’ brought us the Trump White House.

Next, they would write a response to this question:

If you have benefited from a law or rule, is it ever ethical to then seek a change in that law or rule so others cannot gain a similar benefit? Why or why not? To support your opinion you may use examples from your own experiences, your observations of others, and anything you have read – especially what we have examined in our ethics unit.

I think it would be interesting to see how deeply students explore the question – would some try to distinguish the benefits gained from obviously immoral activities like slavery and discrimination from those gained by changing rules governing policies where lines might not be as clearly drawn?

Either way, it seems to me the reading and writing could lead to a rich discussion.

What do you think?

Skip to toolbar