Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

March 5, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Value Of Students Creating Their Own Evidence

Earlier today I published Yet Another Study Finds Constructivism Tends To Work Better Than Direct Instruction, and this afternoon I saw, once again, why that research funding is accurate.

As regular readers know, in addition to teaching several classes of Beginning and Intermediate English Language Learners, I also teach two International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge classes (it often makes for an interesting transition — I’ll go from, let’s say, teaching “The Vowel Song” to teaching Plato’s Allegory of the Cave seven minutes later).

In addition to a final essay, TOK students have to develop an present a major oral presentation in their second semester on a deep and substantial topic (you can see examples here).

Yesterday, as part of helping students prepare, we viewed an excellent presentation from one of my previous classes, one that I know is used by other TOK classes as a model. The presentation explores “What Is Madness?” and one of its most intriguing parts is a survey the presenters used to have participants evaluate their own levels of sanity. You can view the video here and it’s cued up to that point.

Today, I showed the class that one-minute segment again and asked them to start thinking about if they could think of anyway to “create their own evidence” to use in the presentations — in other words, keeping in mind what we had previously learned in studying the human sciences, could they create surveys or do experiments that would be applicable to their topics?

As they were thinking, I then showed them two short video clips from Dan Pink’s excellent National Geographic Channel show titled Crowd Control, which I have previously posted about several times. Here are the engaging clips I showed the class:

You can’t go wrong showing a high school class about a human science experiment involving dog poop!

After I showed them the clips, I again asked them to continue thinking about what kinds of surveys or experiments they could incorporate in their presentations.

Then, I explained briefly explained an experiment NPR discussed last year about a scientist comparing countries based on how many drivers went forward into parking spaces to get to their destinations quicker and those who showed the ability to delay gratification by backing into spaces so they could leave quickly.

The key point of the story, however, was this quote:


Up to this point, the entire activity had taken less than ten minutes.

I then told students to get into their presentation groups and discuss for three minutes possible experiments they could use as part of their presentations.

The room quickly buzzed with excitement.

After three minutes, I called on students to report back with their preliminary ideas, and there were some great ones. One group exploring the question of what is reality and who gets to define it said they’d like to use some smartphone virtual reality apps and have people test them out. Another that is considering the role of imagination in art talked about their creating various items and having people evaluate them using an imagination “criteria.” One other group taking on the topic of if technology is truly necessary in order to “advance” society said they might come up with a list of technology achievements and ask people which one they think would be most important if they had to choose one for a brand new country they were creating.

The list could go on and on, and that was just in one class after a three minute discussion following a ten minute activity.

We then went to the library where they worked on their presentation and could choose to watch more clips from Dan Pink’s show, which most did.

The level of energy about the Oral Presentation has never been higher, and it will be fun to see what students come up with…

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February 28, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Watch 41 Clips From Dan Pink’s TV Show, “Crowd Control”


I’ve previously written posts about Dan Pink’s great National Geographic series, Crowd Control.

You can now watch forty-one short clips from the show on National Geographic’s YouTube Channel.

Here’s one sample:

They’re excellent for use in many lessons, particularly for IB Theory of Knowledge when we study human sciences.

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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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