Dear Theory of Knowledge Students

November18

Thank you very much for having me in your IB Theory of Knowledge Class on Tuesday. Here were some of the things that I saw while I was in your class:

  1. You started with warmup which was to write down three main points for creating a good presentation for an upcoming project.
  2. Speed dating was next. You lined up like you would for a line dance and then shared your topic/three points with a partner, listened to the partner and moved on down the line. Then did another more complex configuration. You then shared what was learned.

I noticed that the activities were focused on short writing and speaking assignments, and you moved around a lot. Your teacher seems to make you do a lot of work, and was not doing as much work himself.

This pattern of having students move around in various groupings is common in well run elementary classrooms, I wonder how typical it is in secondary?

Questions:

  1. Do other teachers at Burbank have you move around and do most of the work, or do they do the work?
  2. Does Mr. Ferlazzo ever lecture (read material) to you?
  3. Do you feel like you learned something in speed dating even though you are repeating yourself?

Mr. Ferlazzo then reviewed the project assignment and reminded you about what you learned about “lousy” presentations when you went to the computer lab. Someone asked what you should do to make sure it isn’t lousy, and he said, “the opposite of what they showed.”  A student questioned the assignment about what is a lousy vs. what is a great presentation. Could you do things from “lousy presentation” elements (a web site) and still have it be a good presentation? What about if you learn from it.

Questions:

  1. Would you want to sit through a presentation that had any of the elements in the “lousy presentations” show?
  2. Did some people mention elements you would want in a good presentation during the “speed dating” that might help you?

Mr. Ferlazzo kills a lot of trees in his class. He handed out a paper and asked you to create a two-column organizer with the words, invent vs. discover. He then had you write what you thought they were, and do a  pair/share/report out about it. He then passed out articles on Math and whether it was invented vs. discovered. You read, and then did a pair share discussion about your thoughts.

  1. Someone said discovered because math is like the alphabet, it just is there, but not all alphabets/writing systems are the same. Our alphabet has sounds associated with it (a = “a” sound), but Chinese writing pictographs do not have sounds but ideas associated with them. Are numbers different? Are they always the same?
  2. Is something more “real” if it has a number associated with it. Is an “A” grade for getting 90% or higher on multiple choice tests more “real” than an “A” grade on an essay?

I was very impressed with how seriously you took your work, even though you have a really good sense of humor. Your thinking about the question Mr. Ferlazzo gave was very impressive.

1117091400

Students reading articles

One student made the mistake of saying “I don’t know” and was referred to Mr. Ferlazzo’s poster that says:

I’m not sure, but I think that…

Mr. Ferlazzo made frequent appeals to you being IB students, what does that mean to you? Do you think that you are more capable because you are in IB? Do you think you should be better than that?

There are a lot of diagrams on the walls, many have been made by students. I couldn’t tell which ones the IB class had made, did you make any of them?

1117091321

Thanks for letting me visit and take pictures!

48 Comments to

“Dear Theory of Knowledge Students”

  1. November 19th, 2009 at 1:59 pm      Reply Holly Says:

    Alice, Larry,

    I learn so much from both of you!

    The strongest things I’m taking away from this post:

    1) focus on the learners (love the way you address your post to them)

    2) LOVE this idea: “One student made the mistake of saying “I don’t know” and was referred to Mr. Ferlazzo’s poster that says:

    I’m not sure, but I think that…”

    3) I am sharing this blog post with colleagues I used to work with — they had been struggling to develop a peer observation PD program, and I think this post will give them much to reflect upon.

    Thank you!


  2. November 19th, 2009 at 2:25 pm      Reply Johnny Lozada Says:

    I would not mind sitting through a presentation with some of the characteristics of a bad presentation, because that would give me examples of how not to act.


  3. November 19th, 2009 at 2:27 pm      Reply Johnny Lozada Says:

    Yes some of my classmates did say some useful things in the speed dating session and I am probably going to end up using them.


  4. November 19th, 2009 at 2:31 pm      Reply Donovan So Says:

    I wanted to answer the question about if other teachers in Burbank have us move around when trying to teach something, and well no, teachers usually either teach us the lesson and for us to practice it, we would just turn to our neighbor and share our work. Otherwise Mr. Ferlazzo does have us to move around, which I like a lot, which makes his class unique compared to my other classes.


  5. November 19th, 2009 at 2:32 pm      Reply Johnny Lozada Says:

    hahahahahahahaha I still think that math is discovered and not invented just as everything else is, and I believe this because even in Chinese writing pictographs there was a discovery whether it be discovering the objects that are being described or it be the way to make the symbols.


  6. November 19th, 2009 at 2:33 pm      Reply Ray Singh Says:

    Dear Ms.Mercer
    Thank you for coming to our class and writing this blog about us as an example for students everywhere. It was a pleasure to meet you and show you how we work in our TOK class.

    The Question I would like to address is:

    Would you want to sit through a presentation that had any of the elements in the “lousy presentations” show?

    It matters how the presentation is set up is it just one flaw in the whole presentation or is the whole presentation lousy. Either way i will listen to the presentation lousy or not. In our T.O.K class we are doing exercises to help make our presentations fun and educational at the same time.


  7. November 19th, 2009 at 2:35 pm      Reply Johnny Lozada Says:

    Mr. Ferlazzo does sometimes lecture but he keeps us intrigued by saying funny things and having us talk voice our opinions on the topic.


  8. November 19th, 2009 at 2:39 pm      Reply Donovan So Says:

    In the question if I would sit through a lousy presentation, I would becasue then i can experience an see a a lousy presentaiton and determine the affects of it to the audience.


  9. November 19th, 2009 at 2:42 pm      Reply Pelly Says:

    Dear Miss Mercer,

    1. Yes, other teachers in Burbank make use do group work where we share the large amount of works.
    2.Yes, Mr.Ferlazzo lecture most of the class time. This is to provide us the skill necessary for the Theory of Knowledge IOP.
    3.Yes, I learn from the speed date that two of my important points was very basic when compare to those of my classmates.


    • November 19th, 2009 at 5:53 pm      Reply alicemercer Says:

      I’m glad you find it worthwhile. I asked, because I don’t like to assume that what I’m seeing is effective without asking you, as the students who should be learning, if you thought it was effective.


  10. November 19th, 2009 at 2:45 pm      Reply Ray Singh Says:

    There are a lot of diagrams on the walls, many have been made by students. I couldn’t tell which ones the IB class had made, did you make any of them?

    The pictures/diagrams in the picture shown above are not from us but from the English learners class that Mr.Ferlazzo teaches. The posters we made were in the front of the classroom. Our posters had knowledge issues that explained obstacles that prevent us from gaining knowledge.


  11. November 19th, 2009 at 2:46 pm      Reply Emily Xayavong Says:

    Ms. Mercer,
    Thank for visiting our classroom. It was very nice meeting you.
    Some questions that i would like to answer are questions:

    1. Do other teachers at Burbank have you move around and do most of the work, or do they do the work?
    My response: Well not all teachers have us move around and do all the work, it mostly depends on the teacher because in my opinion i think that some teachers have us interact with our fellow students in class to help us understand our assignments better and also they may believe that students learn better by other students.

    2. Does Mr. Ferlazzo ever lecture (read material) to you?
    My response: Well there are times when Mr. Ferlazzo would give lecture but most of the time we would do activities or read a paper and discuss or thoughts about it.

    3. Do you feel like you learned something in speed dating even though you are repeating yourself?
    My Response: After the speed dating activity I feel that I did learn something, even though we were basically repeating ourselves to one another. What I learned was the many ways of how to present an oral presentation well and key tips of when using a power point what not to do and what to do to.

    Once again Thank You Ms. Mercer for visiting our class.


  12. November 19th, 2009 at 2:46 pm      Reply carrie Says:

    Dear Ms. Mercer,
    While switching off partners for speed dating I learn many interesting elements on how to perform a good presentations. For example don’t use too much colors because it leads to disasters such as, it can distract or annoy the audience and it is hard for them to read your power point. Overall i learn that the most important thing is don’t lecture them because that is banal and unimpressive.


  13. November 19th, 2009 at 2:53 pm      Reply carrie Says:

    Dear Ms. Mercer,
    During the speed dating i do feel like I’m jotting down notes in my head of what to do and not to do for a good and lousy presentations. It’s obvious that i never really care that how good my presentation, but i did really put effort in them expect how I’m i going to present it to the class. I feel like after speed dating it got me thinking about how to make my future presentations more successful.


  14. November 19th, 2009 at 2:53 pm      Reply Maleny Caldera Says:

    Ms. Mercer, Thanks for visiting our classroom and observing the activities and work we do during our Theory of Knowledge class. I would gladly answer several of your questions.

    For the first question you ask, other teachers in my class do not make us move around as much as we do for this class. Every time we come into this class we do a warm up, answer the question, and then he puts us into groups so we can discuss the warm up among ourselves. I think this is a great strategy because we have te opportunity to talk to our classmates and get to know each other a little bit more. My other classes are different, we mostly listen to the lesson and do the work the teacher gives us. Its an equal amount of work that the students and teachers do because they teachers teach and answer questions while students listen, understand, and practice the work.

    For the second question, yes he does lecture us in the different topics of knowledge. But he doesn’t talk for the whole entire class. What he does is, he introduces the topic and hands out a sheet of paper so that we can go along with him and understand where he is getting the information from. He will explain the topic to us and then we discuss a couple of questions with a partner. After we share our thoughts of what we have heard from Mr. Ferlazzo, we discuss the topic as a whole class and we have the chance to listen to the different opinions of our classmates and see if we share the same the same thoughts.

    For the third question, I did learn something. I talk to most of the people in my class, but I’m closer to some students than I am to others. To the students that I’m close to, I had no trouble telling them my three main points for a good presentation, but to the students that I don’t share much time with, I took longer to share my ideas and I talked more seriously. The voice I used to explain my three main points depended on who I was talking to. That is why I feel that the discussions of warm ups that we have everyday help alot because it makes me feel more comfortable with the people in my class.

    Hopefully I answered your questions and again, thanks a lot for coming by to our class to observe our work.


  15. November 19th, 2009 at 2:54 pm      Reply carrie Says:

    Dear Ms. Mercer,
    While switching off partners for speed dating I learn many interesting elements on how to perform a good presentation. For example don’t use too many colors because it leads to disasters such as, it can distract or annoy the audience and it is hard for them to read your power point. Overall i learn that the most important thing is don’t lecture them because that is banal and unimpressive.
    During the speed dating i do feel like I’m jotting down notes in my head of what to do and not to do for good and lousy presentations. It’s obvious that i never really care that how good my presentation, but i did really put effort in them expect how I’m i going to present it to the class. I feel like after speed dating it got me thinking about how to make my future presentations more successful.


  16. November 19th, 2009 at 2:54 pm      Reply Gená Hoggard Says:

    Hello Ms. Mercer,
    I’m one of the students from that Theory Of Knowledge class. Thank you for coming, it was very fun to see a new face instead of that same ‘ol Mr. Ferlazzo. I’ve come to answer a couple of your questions, because you were so nice as to ask them and I don’t want to just ignore you. Ha, ha, ha.

    1. Does Mr. Ferlazzo ever lecture (read material) to you?

    Mr. Ferlazzo knows that lecturing isn’t a fun thing for any of us students. He knows all about how boring lectures can be to students and what kind of effect it has on us (from great personal experience, quite recently actually). I think it’s a good thing that he doesn’t do all of the talking, because from what I’ve learned from being in this class, this is a class more for the students than the teachers to just stand there and sweat. I think it allows us to have more control over our brains and allows us to think better because we’re not babied through it.

    2. Would you want to sit through a presentation that had any of the elements in the “lousy presentations” show?

    If you mean “lousy presentations” as in what my peer meant to say about it, then yes. Of course, why not? But, if you mean horrible presentations, then why would anyone want that? How can they stomach that?

    Thanks for coming, it was quite fun. Bye!


    • November 19th, 2009 at 6:02 pm      Reply alicemercer Says:

      Do you think not needing to be babied is an important ability for someone in the IB program?

      Thanks for not ignoring me, and while I love the first graders, their idea of paying attention usually involves poking me, so this is a nice change.


  17. November 19th, 2009 at 2:56 pm      Reply Ruby Her Says:

    Dear Ms. Mercer,
    Thank you for visiting our theory of knowledge class at Luther Burbank. I would be glad to answer some of your questions.

    Question 1
    Some teachers at Luther Burbank do, I think that moving around the class room is very helpful. I also like to interact with my classmate one on one, it very helpful.

    Question 2
    Well Mr. Ferlazzo does give us lectures but he also give us the papers so we can read along with him. He gives lectures on our topic of the week and we listen to him while reading the along. Its really helpful to read along with him because if we were to just listen to him talk, some of the students might wonder off and not pay attention. so the having to paper in front of us and knowing what he is talking about really keep us in track with what he is talking about. We well also understand it more because some of us are visual learners and Verbal learners.

    Question 3
    the speed dating activity is a great help, because we learned things that were useful to us and got to hear what our classmates thinks. I though it was really fun and I enjoyed listening to my classmates thoughts and ideas.

    Question 2
    some element that showed up that helped me a helped me understand how to make a good presentation would be: be passionate and confident, its a really good idea to put in a take home message. When I say take home message, i meant that you should tell your audience that how your topic affects the world around you. Then ask when they go home to think about how its it affecting their life or the people around them. Another good element that some of my classmates said was to have a good humor and have fun with your presentation, also its really good to know your in and outs of your presentation.

    Once again thank you Ms. Mercer for visiting our class.


    • November 19th, 2009 at 6:09 pm      Reply alicemercer Says:

      I see you using some terminology from Gardner about learner types, did you learn that in this class?

      Thanks for you really thoughtful and detailed response. It shows you are very articulate and careful in your thinking.


  18. November 19th, 2009 at 2:58 pm      Reply Kom Vang Says:

    Greetings Mrs. Mercer, I am one of the students in the theory of knowledge class that you had visited the ohter day. I am happy that many people are going to read your post and hopefully be influenced to do these activity in thier theory of knowledge class.

    I would be grateful to answer one of your questions:
    Mr. Ferlazzo made frequent appeals to you being IB students, what does that mean to you?

    A: Mr. Ferlazzo do make a good impression of us being an IB students. He wants the best for us, the students. To me, being an IB student is an honor. It is like being chosen to test out a new complex jet. We will which switch to use, knobs to turn on, buttons to push, and levers to manage. This will prep us for college and further more to come. When that time comes, we will fly our jet to a whole world of opportunity. Being an IB student is not as bad as not receiving a good education. We receive a lot of work to do but we all managed to supass it. It is totally worth it if it allows us to be the fullest we can be.


  19. November 19th, 2009 at 2:58 pm      Reply Denver Vo Says:

    I would like to say that it was a pleasure to have you, Ms. Mercer, in the classroom and it was a nice, as well as thorough, reflection to the classroom. It is also an honor to have us in your post.

    Regarding to the post, I would like to agree that Mr. Ferlazzo do kill a lot of trees. I, too, am amazed by that for my other teachers at Burbank made us do the work, handwritten on paper or one paper copy. Although Mr. Ferlazzo overused printing, he actually reads them to us while we listen, so it is not ‘mere’ waste. I, as well as the students in the IB classroom, have learned new ‘things’ even if we feel doubtfully slow, but nevertheless, we are learning. The pattern of students moving around the classroom tends to make students learn better from their own actions, like myself.

    Again, I do hope that you felt grateful for reflecting this IB classroom as I am grateful of reflecting myself on this magnificent post.


  20. November 19th, 2009 at 2:59 pm      Reply Lucia Says:

    Dear Ms. Mercer,
    Thank you for coming to our T.O.K class on November 17,2009.
    As for your questions:
    Do other teachers at Burbank have you move around and do most of the work, or do they do the work?
    *In most of my other classes the teachers are talking and teaching throughout the whole class period. I like the T.O.K class the most because we can discuss our thoughts and contribute to each others learning process.

    Does Mr. Ferlazzo ever lecture (read material) to you?
    *Yes, he lectures us when we start a new unit, topic, and lesson. He gives us mainly papers to read but he reads them out loud.

    Do you feel like you learned something in speed dating even though you are repeating yourself?
    *Yes, although I repeated myself 15 times I feel like I gained some knowledge. I say this because I heard from other people and I found that I had overlooked some hints that could be useful.

    There are a lot of diagrams on the walls, many have been made by students. I couldn’t tell which ones the IB class had made, did you make any of them?
    *The picture you took of the back board has diagrams from Mr. Ferlazzo’s English learners classes. Our posters/diagrams are on the front board; they consist of knowledge issues and questions we made ourselves. We had recently taken our other posters off the wall; they were taken last Friday.

    Thank you again for coming and I hope you collected all the information needed to write your blog.

    Lucy Escobar


  21. November 19th, 2009 at 3:00 pm      Reply Lee Her Says:

    Dear Ms. Mercer,
    Thank you for taking your time to visit our IB Theory of Knowledge class. We had never have a teacher who visit us, so we were glad that you are the first to visit out class. I have to agree with you because Mr. Ferlazzo’s is killing a lot trees for sample assignments but giving us the paper helps us review the materials that we have already. As an IB students, I am willing to answer your concerns or questions about our IB Theory of Knowledge class.
    The first question I will answer is do you feel like you learned something in speed dating even though you are repeating yourself?
    Yes, speed dating helps me learned a lot because others students may something that is important where i cannot see it. I feel speed dating helps because the important will be into my minds and into other students where it can help them have a better presentation like me.
    The second question I will answer is do other teachers at Burbank have you move around and do most of the work, or do they do the work?
    From what I know in all my classes, my teacher do not make us move around as much. They stand in the front of the class and lecture us with their topic of the days. The teachers will give us work to does as a group or individually where we could only ask our teachers and maybe the person sitting next to us. Most of the teacher I have will not do the work will hand an assignments to us and tells us the procedure or what is being expected. Then we just starts doing the work.
    The third equation I will answer is would you want to sit through a presentation that had any of the elements in the “lousy presentations” show?
    I love this questions because listening to a lousy presentations is boring because I will not reach the purpose of the presentation or the power point is illegiable for reading. For example, Mr. Ferlazzo made us watch two examples of a presentation. So we saw a lousy presentation and a good presentation, where the IB officials gave a better recommendation to the lousy presentation and the good presentation did not receive compliments . The whole class believes that the better presentation should receive good recommendations than the lousy presentation. Overall, the class believes we can do a better job than the two presentations we saw.

    P.S. I hope that you will come back and observe the class more to what a diverse school can do.

    Sincerely,
    Lee Her


    • November 19th, 2009 at 6:14 pm      Reply alicemercer Says:

      Well, my school is diverse too, but it’s much smaller as an elementary school, so there are not a bunch of small learning communities, just one, the 400 students in the school.

      I may be back in your class, I would like to see some of the other classes that Mr. Ferlazzo teaches too.


  22. November 19th, 2009 at 3:01 pm      Reply Steve Says:

    This letter was very interesting for me because it gave me the point of view of a visitor on what she think of my education. I would never thought any of my class where would be thought like this. Mr Ferlazzo class is not the only class that is fun not just for me but for all my classmate.
    Normally we don’t do speed dating in Mr Ferlazzo class instead he ask if we want to share. I don’t know why he didn’t do this on the day you where here but he something rewards us with candy. I wonder what will be your reaction about that!
    All the teachers I meet in Luther Burbank are very nice in their special way. The students and teachers in this school get along with each other and we understand each other. This agreement help the school atmosphere become a friendly and safer.


    • November 19th, 2009 at 7:06 pm      Reply alicemercer Says:

      I’m glad you like your teachers at Burbank, and thank you for giving me some perspective on what you classes are like. I’m really glad you feel safe at school.


  23. November 19th, 2009 at 3:03 pm      Reply Pelly Says:

    Teachers not only in Burbank but all around the world make their students do this simple but yet brilliant form of working together. Group work allow students to work together and share their thoughts about the assignment(s). Of how they can improve their work making it better.


  24. November 19th, 2009 at 3:04 pm      Reply carrie Says:

    Dear Ms. Mercer,
    While switching off partners for speed dating I learn many interesting elements on how to perform a good presentation. For example don’t use too many colors because it distract or annoy the audience and it is hard for them to read your power point. Overall I learn that the most important thing is don’t lecture them because that is banal and unimpressive.
    During the speed dating I do feel like I’m jotting down notes in my head of what to do and not to do for good and lousy presentations. It’s obvious that before I never really care how good my presentation would be although I did really did put effort in them, expect how I’m going to present it to the class. I feel like after speed dating it got me thinking about how to make my future presentations more successful.


  25. November 19th, 2009 at 3:08 pm      Reply Ray. Wang Says:

    Q: Do other teachers at Burbank have you move around and do most of the work, or do they do the work?
    A: Other teachers do not make us move around and do a lot of the work of lecturing.
    Q: Does Mr. Ferlazzo ever lecture (read material) to you?
    A: He rarely lectures and usually has the students read texts to themselves or to a partner. He expects us to read the textbook at home.
    Q: Do you feel like you learned something in speed dating even though you are repeating yourself?
    A: I feel that we are learning more because speed dating is to share information with people and learn what others have to say, rather than just focusing only on your own information.
    Q: Someone said discovered because math is like the alphabet, it just is there, but not all alphabets/writing systems are the same. Our alphabet has sounds associated with it (a = “a” sound), but Chinese writing pictographs do not have sounds but ideas associated with them. Are numbers different? Are they always the same?
    A: A lot of Chinese characters have sounds associated with them, but they affect the pronunciation to a lesser degree when different characters are put together to form new characters.
    Numbers and math are similar to language in way that they are communicating information. However, they are different in that they are usually very precise, but it is limited to things that have a quantitative value, such as measurements and money.
    Q: Is something more “real” if it has a number associated with it. Is an “A” grade for getting 90% or higher on multiple choice tests more “real” than an “A” grade on an essay?
    A: I do not think that something is more real if there is a number associated with it. I think it only makes its value more precise and clear
    Thank you for coming to our class and observing us.


  26. November 19th, 2009 at 3:09 pm      Reply Due Vang Says:

    This is Due Vang, one of the IB TOK students form Mr. Ferlazzo’s class. Regarding one of your questions ‘Would you want to sit through a presentation that had any of the elements in the “lousy presentations” show?’ I think ‘lousy’ is different from many perspectives although many can agree on what makes a lousy presentation.

    1. You don’t know your topic very well: stuttering and or long pauses.
    2. You don’t look into your audience’s eye.
    3. You obfuscate your topic and explanations.
    4. You don’t project your voice.
    5. You don’t make your topic sound interesting.


  27. August 19th, 2010 at 7:35 am      Reply Bill Says:

    Dear Ms. Mercer,

    I am a member of ASCD, and there was a link to Mr. Ferlazzo’s article in it recently. I read the article and followed the link in it to your blog. I found your observations informative, and I enjoyed reading the responses of the students from Mr. Ferlazzo’s class. Thank you for pursuing education in the way that you do!

    Bill M.
    Bangor, Maine


  28. June 30th, 2011 at 3:37 am      Reply Marc Azada Says:

    Everybody deserves respect and these kids definitely deserve them them. There are many kinds of learning and teaching methods that can convenient to both teachers and students. Learning does not have to be painful. Children are supposed to enjoy learning and learn effectively at the same time.


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