Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

April 13, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

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 13, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Resources For Learning About The Blood Moon

'Blood Moon' photo (c) 2010, Hanzlers Warped Visions - license:

A “Blood Moon” will be occurring tomorrow night, and I thought readers might find this list helpful.

You might also be interested in:

The Best Sites For Learning About A Lunar Eclipse

The Best Images Of The Ring Of Fire Eclipse

The Best Resources About The “Supermoon”

The Best Resources For “Moon Day”

Here are my choices for The Best Resources For Learning About The Blood Moon:

Total lunar eclipse, ‘blood moon’ to be showstoppers in sky is an infographic from the San Francisco Chronicle.

8 incredible images of lunar eclipses is from The Mother Nature Network.

‘Blood Moons’ Explained: What Causes a Lunar Eclipse Tetrad? (Infographic) is from

Here’s a video from

Here’s why you’ll be able to see a “blood moon” tonight is from Vox.

Here’s an “Explainer” video from TIME Magazine:

Goodnight, Moon: Why the Lunar Lights Will Go Out Tonight is from TIME.

‘Blood Moon’ Lunar Eclipse Distilled into a Nine-Second Animated GIF

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April 12, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Grit, Failure & Stuff Like That

'The four capital mistakes of open source' photo (c) 2011, - license:

Hype around “character-building” has escalated to the point that some see building perseverance and pushing students to make mistakes as sort of a silver bullet to cure all learning ills (I’ve written about that problem in my Washington Post piece, The manipulation of Social Emotional Learning).

Of course, every action results in an opposite and equal reaction, in this debate is no exception to the rule. Some attack the whole idea of grit and encouraging failure. I tend to thing parts of this reaction are over-blown, but I can understand it.

I come down in the middle — I believe that many of our students can benefit by developing more grit, and learn that making mistakes while trying their best is okay and, more importantly, learn how to deal with them effectively after they’re made. However, I don’t think we have to put failure on a pedestal.

Here are some recent posts and articles that make some good critical points about the the grit and failure narrative, though I don’t necessarily agree with all of them. They’re all excerpts from Alfie Kohn’s new book (except for the last post):

Ten concerns about the ‘let’s teach them grit’ fad is by Alfie Kohn.

The Downside of “Grit” is also by Alfie Kohn.

Sometimes it’s better to quit than to prove grit is by Alfie Kohn.

Protect Your Kids From Failure appeared in The Atlantic.

Taking a different tack, Grit – motivating students is a good classroom lesson at TEFL Reflections.

I’m adding this post to The Best Resources For Learning About “Grit” and to The Best Posts, Articles & Videos About Learning From Mistakes & Failures.


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April 12, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Around The Web In ESL/EFL/ELL

'English Club led by Merrilyn Andersen, Dover Library' photo (c) 2010, RTLibrary - license:

I’ve started a somewhat regular feature where I share a few posts and resources from around the Web related to ESL/EFL or to language in general that have caught my attention: ESL Teachers in Common-Core Era Need Different Prep, Paper Argues is from Education Week.

Here is a more in depth discussion of the same paper from Colorin Colorado. Marisa Constantinides has collected a number of posts about Sugata Mitra’s recent address to ESL teachers.

I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Videos About Sugata Mitra & His Education Ideas. IATEFL 2014 – Graham Hall: How to get published in an academic journal like ELTJ is from Lizzie Pinard. Picturing U.S. History is a good resource for using photos in lessons.

Thanks to Michelle Henry for the tip. I’m adding it to The Best Ways To Use Photos In Lessons. TESOL 2014 HIGHLIGHTS: Vocabulary Learning and Instruction is from English With Jennifer.

I’m adding it to The Best Sites Where ELL’s Can Learn Vocabulary. My 10 favourite websites of the month is by Adam Simpson. Comparatives and superlatives in English is from Engames. 33 ways to speak better English – without taking classes is from British English Coach.

I’m adding it to The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English. Life Beyond Gap-fill? is from Richmond Share.

I’m adding it to The Best Tools For Creating Clozes (Gap-Fills). Correcting writing: 8 practical ideas is from TEFL Reflections. I’m adding it to The Best Resources On ESL/EFL/ELL Error Correction. How ICT Can Connect Children Around The World is from The British Council.

I’m adding it to The Best Ways To Find Other Classes For Joint Online Projects.

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April 12, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Financial Aid Resources For Students Planning To Go To College — Help Me Find More

'College Fund' photo (c) 2012, Tax Credits - license:

I’ve previously posted three “Best” lists related to students attending college:

The Best Sites For Encouraging ELL’s To Attend College

The Best Posts About Getting Our Students To Attend College

The Best Resources For Showing Students Why They Should Continue Their Academic Career

They all have a slightly different “take” on the topic. However, I’ve realized that, though some accessible financial aid related-resources are including in some of them, there is a lot more out there.

I hope readers will contribute many more.

Here goes:

Questions About Financial Aid? is from The New York Times.

What You Don’t Know About Financial Aid (but Should) is also from The Times.

Avoiding the most common financial aid application errors is from The Washington Post.

Applying to College With The New York Times

Comparing College Costs: A Primer is from The Washington Post.

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April 12, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Simple “History Of Anything” Project

Teacher extraordinaire Diana Laufenberg shared a simple and useful series of tweets about a project she’s doing with her class

She calls it the “History of Anything” Project.

Diana is planning on doing a more extensive write-up of what she does (and here it is – you can ignore the rest of this post and just go to read what she has now written), but I think the info in these four tweets can be useful right now for just about any teacher:

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April 12, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

This Week’s Round-Up Of Good Posts & Articles On Education Policy

'OUR KIDS MATTER' photo (c) 2008, William Murphy - license:

Here are some relatively recent useful posts and articles on education policy issues:

As California standardized testing gains steam, help center ‘inundated’ with teacher calls is from Southern California Public Radio. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About The “Next Generation” Of State Testing.

Students are test-driving new Common Core exams. You can too is a post from The Hechinger Report. It includes links to practice tests from the two testing consortia. The ones from PARCC have an answer key, though, at first glance, the SBAC ones do not (let me know if I just missed it). I’m adding this info to the same list, and I’m also adding it to A Beginning “The Best…” List Of Free & Decent Online Practice Sites For State Tests.

If Economists Studied Education Research, Would They Still Promote Value-Added Evaluations? is by John Thompson. I’m adding it to The Best Resources On California Court Case Attacking Teacher’s Rights.

Guest commentary: Teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions is from The Contra Costa Times. I’m adding it to the same list.

Teacher of the Year to Union President is a good profile of the next President of the National Education Association.

Top 5 Myths and Lies About Teachers and Their Profession is from NEA Today.

Koch brothers help Kansas lawmakers strip teachers of tenure is from The Washington Post.

How ‘colorblind’ education reform policies actually ignore racial inequality is also from The Washington Post.

What’s The Evidence on School Devices and Software Improving Student Learning? is by Larry Cuban. I’m adding it to The Best Research Available On The Use Of Technology In Schools.

David Berliner on PISA and Poverty is from Diane Ravitch’s blog. I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles On 2012 PISA Test Results.

CPS fails to nurture a true vision for charters is from Catalyst. I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles Analyzing Charter Schools.

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April 12, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

How Adam Grant Just Made Teaching More Complicated

I’m a big fan of Professor Adam Grant’s work (see my interview with him at Education Week, Teachers As “Givers, Takers & Matchers”: An Interview With Adam Grant).

And I was very excited to see his must-read guest column in The New York Times today, Raising a Moral Child.

It’s geared towards parents, but just about everything he says is also extraordinarily useful to teachers, too.

He discusses recent studies identifying effective ways to help children become “kind, compassionate and helpful.”

Developing these kinds of qualities are being identified more and more as an important part of our work as educators (see my Ed Week series, ‘Character Is Not Compliance Out Of Fear,‘ and The Best Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Resources).

There’s so much substance in his short column that I’m not even going to try to summarize it — just read the whole thing.

I do, however, want to highlight one part of it where I think he just made our job more complicated (obviously, I’m talking tongue-in-cheek):


Many of us who are familiar with Carol Dweck’s work on praising action instead of intelligence might find a contradiction in this finding.

I know I was a bit confused.

So I sent an email to Adam asking about this apparent contradiction and he was kind enough to respond right away. Here’s what he said:

In “Mindset”, Carol Dweck describes her famous body of groundbreaking research demonstrating that when we praise children for their intelligence, they develop a fixed view of ability, which leads them to give up in the face of failure. Instead of telling them how smart they are, it’s wise to praise their effort, which encourages them to see their abilities as malleable and persist to overcome obstacles. Some parents and teachers have stretched this idea to its logical conclusion: always praise actions, not fixed qualities. In the domain of moral character, though, this might be the wrong approach. If we want children to become caring and generous, the evidence suggests that there’s value in helping them see these as stable dimensions of their identities.

That said, even in the moral domain, there may be some risks of praising character. Research on moral licensing suggests that when we see ourselves as good people, we sometimes feel greater freedom to engage in unethical behaviors. This is captured in chilling detail in Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, and in The Honest Truth about Dishonesty by Dan Ariely. I’d love to see more research on how to instill a sense of moral character without leading people to say, “I’m a good person, so I can do a bad thing”—or worse yet, “I’m a good person, so this clearly isn’t a bad thing.”

So, now, based on this research, we might need to be aware of which character quality we want to teach and employ contradictory instructional strategies for some of them.

Teaching is complicated, ain’t it?

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April 12, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

LBJ As A Teacher In Texas


I knew that Lyndon Baines Johnson had been a teacher, but had never explored it further.

I’ve been an admirer of much of LBJ’s work (though, obviously, not of his terrible actions in Vietnam). You can read some of my thoughts about him at This Is A Great Passage For Learning How To Make Change.

Today, NPR has a segment about his time as a teacher in a high-poverty school in Texas, and his visit there years later after he became President. It also includes the audio of the speech he gave (the second video below is a report on his visit).

You can read his entire speech here.

This first video is an excerpt of a speech he made to the U.S. Congress where he talked about his teaching:

I’ve used TubeChop to clip the segment on his Texas visit, and the video might not show up in an RSS Reader:

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April 11, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Three Good Resources For Learning About Different Cultures

'World map' photo (c) 2010, Martyn Wright - license:

Here are three new – and good – additions to one of my most popular “Best” lists: The Best Sites For Learning About The World’s Different Cultures:

My remote classroom: online students share their photos is from The Guardian.

What Can We Learn From Pictures of People and Their Trash? is an article in Smithsonian Magazine about an interesting project of taking photographs of people with the trash they throw out in a week. You can see the photos here.

Toys Are Us is a photo gallery of children around the world with their toys.

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April 11, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

April’s Best Tweets — Part Two

'Twitter' photo (c) 2010, West McGowan - license:

Every month I make a few short lists highlighting my choices of the best resources I through (and learned from) Twitter, but didn’t necessarily include them in posts here on my blog.

I’ve already shared in earlier posts several new resources I found on Twitter — and where I gave credit to those from whom I learned about them. Those are not included again in post.

If you don’t use Twitter, you can also check-out all of my “tweets” on Twitter profile page.

You might also be interested in The Best Tweets Of 2013.

I use Storify to “curate” my best tweets:

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April 10, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

April’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 Syria’s chemical weapons will be destroyed – interactive guide is from The Guardian. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About Chemical Weapons.

Which country should you live in? – interactive
is also from The Guardian. This is how it describes itself:

Use the interactive to find where in the world is the best place for you to live based on how highly you rank 12 different indicators – including health, sanitation, shelter, personal safety and access to education

The Most Popular U.S. Tourist Attractions: State by State is from Neatorama. I’m adding it to The Best Sites Showing The Most Popular Tourist Destinations In The World.

A buoy, a fish, and a robot search for Flight 370 is an infographic from The Washington Post. I’m adding it to The Best Resources On The Missing Malaysia Airlines Plane.

How Animals See the World is from Nautilus. I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Walking In Someone Else’s Shoes.

I’m adding this next infographic to The Best Sites To Learn About The World’s Tallest Buildings:

Tallest Buildings in the World
Explore more visuals like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

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April 10, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

Just Published! 40th ELT Blog Carnival: Ideas for Teaching with Technology

'Carnival by the River' photo (c) 2004, Out.of.Focus - license:

Sylvia’s English Online has just published the 40th ELT Blog Carnival (formerly known as the ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival) and it’s a great one on “Ideas for Teaching with Technology.” Teachers from around the world have contributed posts.

I’m adding it to The Best Sources For Ideas On How To Use Technology With English Language Learners.

The next blog Carnival:

41st ELT Blog Carnival hosted by Alex Barboza.  Teaching the culture of English Speaking Countries.  Entries due by May 01. Submit here

You can see all the previous Blog Carnivals here.

And you can express your interest in hosting a future edition of one here.

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April 9, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo

“What Is This Animal Thinking or Saying (If It Could Talk)?” Is A Fun Language Development Exercise

'Totally Tweet.' photo (c) 2010, SEO - license:

Having English Language Learners put words in the mouth (or thoughts in the mind) of puppets, animals, or photographs of people is a common activity in the classroom. It can be fun and less-threatening when it’s something/someone else who’s talking (or, at least, it can feel that way to the student).

You can learn specific strategies to use at:

The Best Resources For Using Puppets In Class

The Best Sites For Online Photo-Editing & Photo Effects, which includes a number of sites where you can choose photos and add “speech bubbles” to them.

The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English, which includes sites you can use online to actually provide audio to images or animations.

Another engaging strategy is show short animal videos and have students develop a dialogue or a series of sentences the animals might be thinking.

There are lots of suitable videos online, and you can start at The Best Video Clips Of Sneaky Critters. Students can simply act them out when showing videos on a screen with the sound turned-off, or you can be more sophisticated and dub the videos themselves.

Here’s an example that an environmental campaign created (several others will play through if you want):

Do you have any suggestions of similar good animal video collections?

I’m adding this post to The Best Popular Movies/TV Shows For ESL/EFL (& How To Use Them).

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