Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

February 27, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Resources On “The Dress”

You may be puzzled by the headline of this post just as I was when I went on Twitter yesterday afternoon and saw tons of people tweeting and arguing about the color of a dress.


The whole hullabaloo still seems bizarre to me, but I think it does offer an opportunity, especially for International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge classes, to use it for discussing Perception.

Here are a few quick links that I think TOK teachers might find useful:

What color is this dress? Weigh in on the photo everyone’s talking about is from NBC News.

12 fascinating optical illusions show how color can trick the eye is from The Washington Post.

Though I do think it’s useful in class, and I’ll be talking about it there today, I still do tend to agree with Paul Bruno here:

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February 20, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

New Scientist’s “Explanimations” Is A Useful Animated Video Series

New Scientist has a series of short videos that call “Explanimations”:

Ever wondered if space is actually infinite? Or what exactly reality is? Our animation series explains big ideas and abstract concepts in just a few minutes.

You can see the entire playlist here, and I’ve embedded an example below:

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February 18, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Student Examples From Theory Of Knowledge Project

Regular readers of this blog know that, in addition to teaching several classes of Beginning and Intermediate English Language Learners, I also teach two International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge classes.

TOK teachers know that IB has made a number of changes recently (see The Best Commentaries On The New IB Theory Of Knowledge Teaching Guide) that has, among other things, increased the number of “Ways Of Knowing” (how we learn knowledge) and “Areas of Knowledge” (categories we use for that knowledge). Though it’s not required that we teach them all, it’s still important that we at least touch on them.

In fact, it’s impossible to adequately teach all of them — there just isn’t enough time in the school year. One way I have “touched” on two of the additional Areas of Knowledge is provide this assignment for Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Religious Knowledge Systems (clicking on those links will lead to the simple instructions and links, and you’ll find student presentations in the comments — most of my students will be uploading them to the blog on Friday but there are a few there now).

Basically, students are given three days to prepare short presentations covering these points:

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.

There are usually (I did a version of this last year) ten-to-fourteen groups (I use this as an opportunity for students to “try-out” if they want to do their major TOK oral presentation with their partners). I get the laptop cart, form and inner and outer circle with groups facing each other, and then groups have about five minutes each to present to each other, ask and answer questions, and then the outer circle groups move clockwise. We do this during a class period, evaluated the next day, and then begin to immediately start working on the formal TOK Oral Presentation.

It’s worked out well last year and this year — we cover to Areas of Knowledge, it’s a warm-up for the formal Oral Presentation, and people are fairly intrigued and engaged.

I’ve embedded a couple of examples below. I’m all ears for how I can make this assignment better….


More presentations from PAK


More presentations from PAK
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February 11, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Video Of The Day: “Mathematics: Invented or Discovered?”

The question, “Was Mathematics invented or discovered?” is discussed in almost every IB Theory of Knowledge class.

I’ve previously posted about a a TED-Ed video on this topic that I didn’t think was a very good one.

The World Science Festival has just published a much better video responding to this question, and which I’ll definitely be using in class:

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February 9, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Special Edition! Classroom Instruction Resources Of The Week

Usually, I just publish a post in this series once a week. This week, though, since I’m trying to catch-up, here’s a special second edition!

Each week, I publish a post 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 (And Blog Posts) Offering Practical Advice & Resources To Teachers In 2014 – Part Two.

Here are this week’s picks:

Genius Hour: An Avenue to Better Teaching is from My Own Genius Hour. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Applying “Fed Ex Days” To Schools.

History Matters offers a good suggestion about using photos in Social Studies classes. I’m adding it to The Best Ways To Use Photos In Lessons.

Using Classroom Skits to Alter History Perspective is from Middleweb, and offers a creative twist on using skits in the classroom.

Teaching Vocabulary in Word-Rich Classrooms is from Middleweb and offers some good instructional ideas. I’m adding it to The Best Sites Where ELL’s Can Learn Vocabulary.

That’s Not a Rubric, and You’re Using It Wrong: 5 Ways to Clean Up The Mess is by Angela Stockman. I’m adding it to The Best Rubric Sites (And A Beginning Discussion About Their Use).

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January 25, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

“What If?” Projects From My Theory Of Knowledge Class


I’ve written a lot about annual “What If?” history projects I have my IB Theory of Knowledge students create (see The Best Resources For Teaching “What If?” History Lessons).

We only spend three days on it, and then students share their presentations with the class. Afterwards, I make arrangements for my TOK students to help my Intermediate English Language Learner history students to create their own. You can see lots of examples from both types of classes at my Best list.

I’m also sharing one from my TOK class at the bottom of this post. First, though, I thought readers might be interested in seeing what my TOK students wrote in their evaluation of the activity. They had to answer three questions:

1. What did you like about the project and why?

2. How could the activity be improved?

3. What did you learn about the idea/concept of history by doing this project?

Here are some of their responses. Obviously, the most important question is the third one.

1. What did you like about the project and why?

The responses here emphasized liking to be able to pick partners and events.

2. How could the activity be improved?

The responses here all focused on wanting more time. Also, some suggested they’d rather make a video than a slide deck.

3. What did you learn about the idea/concept of history by doing this project?

I learned that small events throughout history had a major impact and affected how things are today.

I learned that sometimes historians tend to believe something in history and have to go back and look for evdience in order to confirm if it is true or not.

From this project I learned that while many things are incorporated into history just one change could have made a dramatic impact on our lives today.

I learned that every event was caused by another event which was caused by another event. Therefore, history is a never-ending cycle, and that everything happens for a reason. By changing the course of history we better understand the course that history actually took.

I learned that history is very boring but has a huge impact on our present and future.

History wouldn’t be as harsh if we made better choices back then.

I learned that maybe things were meant to go the way they went because most of the alternate histories were bad.

The world could be completely different because a simple event did or did not happen. Those simple events can actually change the world.

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January 19, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Videos Of The Week

'Video Clutter' photo (c) 2006, John Pannell - license:

In yet another effort to get at my backlog of resources to share, I recently began this feature to share useful videos. I’ll still periodically highlight certain ones on their own, but the rest will be found on this regular post (you might also be interested in The Best Videos For Educators In 2014 – Part Two):

I’m adding this first fun and wild video to The Best Geography Sites For Learning About Europe:

I’m adding this next video to The Best Ways To Teach About The Paris Massacre – Please Contribute More:

This third video is going to The Best Sites To Learn About Pandas:

This video would be great to use in IB Theory of Knowledge classes when we discuss language:

This last one is also great: Neil deGrasse Tyson explains the meaning of life to a six-year-old:

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January 13, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Video: The Most Unusual Representation Of Plato’s Allegory Of The Cave You’ve Ever Seen

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is a staple of IB Theory of Knowledge classes, and you can see many videos on our class blog — some made by professionals, some made by my students.

Here’s a version of it explained as an old-style video game. You can see other philosophical explanations done in the same way at 8-Bit Philosophy.

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