Arrrgh! The Pirates of Rm. 202

Arrgh!  How rrrrrr you?  Well…in Rm. 202 we rrrrrr great, but we have been taken over by pirates!  No worries, though, it’s a good thing. Let me tell you about it. 🙂

A couple of weeks ago, about the same time that we started our Little Red study, I also brought in a big pile of books about pirates and just left them laying around.  Kids noticed them and started reading them but didn’t really say anything.  Then, as my next pick for read aloud, I chose Pirates Past Noon (a Magic Tree House book) and the questions started flying. “Is this that pirate thing you were talking about?”  “Are we going to start talking like pirates?”  “Arrghh?” “What are all these pirate books about, Mrs. Bearden?”

Gotcha.  That’s exactly what I wanted. 🙂

It goes back to a little after Thanksgiving when I finally got my hands on the book Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess.

The book has been around for a few years now, and wasn’t new to me (I mean, come on, I am on Twitter after all LOL), I just hadn’t had a chance to read it yet. I liked the whole premise of the book, and much of it resounded with me. I also was exited because I felt like I do much of it already (and no, I don’t mean I have it all figured out–that will NEVER happen!).

Around the same time I learned about this pirate book, I saw that there was also a student version, likely named Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz.

This one was more up my alley. It’s the piece I have wanted to tackle but hadn’t yet figured out to do. Reading it was so fun and really got my juices flowing about how to take the structures and ideas he used in his class (which was 5th grade) and adapt them for our community of 2nd grade learners. The suggestions he gives in his book are centered around the acronym PIRATE like this:

He told amazing stories about how self-sufficient his class is with the day-to-day running of the room.  His students are in charge of EVERYTHING, including transitions, lunch count, attendance, signing up and bringing down the laptop cart, even teaching mini-lessons!  They work towards a Silent Day in the Spring when Mr. Solarz isn’t allowed to speak for the entire day.  What a testament to the way the class works together that that is possible!  Obviously, this scenario is not exactly replicable in our room (for many reasons), but we are surely capable of implementing many of the big ideas to help encourage and engage us as a learning community.

As with many other things, we based our conversations around books, have discussions along with our read aloud.

We started with our schema about pirates.  Not surprisingly, kiddos had many ideas to share about what they already knew:

Screenshot 2016-01-20 21.01.19

It was a pretty good list, I’d say.  We agreed, though, that many of the things on the list could be seen as negative traits/descriptors and perhaps not things we wanted to model ourselves after (which was something I had explained at this point we were going to do–be like pirates!).

I asked them another question:  If the things we know about pirates are mostly negative, then what might it mean to LEARN LIKE A PIRATE?  They talked with their partners first (which is typical in our class), and then shared out their first thoughts.  We agreed that this “chewy” question was one that we’d come back to again and again, as we learned and discovered more:

Screenshot 2016-01-20 21.01.03

It was really great to hear the explanations behind how they had spun the bad into some good, something admirable that we would want to emulate.  I’m excited to share this list once it’s finally finished (whatever “finished” means!?).

As I reflected on the book and considered our first steps, I quickly knew what we’d try first: an attention-getting protocol Mr. Solarz’s class calls “Give Me 5.”  In 5th grade, students have learned (by trial and error, as well as encouragement and modeling) how to stop the class, get their attention by saying, “Give Me 5!” and then asking or telling what they need.  We already have a universal attention signal at Robinson that our kiddos know (“May I have your attention, please?”), so it made sense to use this one instead of creating something new.

I introduced the idea slowly, more individually than corporately.  When a situation came up where a kiddo was asking a question that perhaps would be answered more quickly or more easily if it was asked to everyone rather than one person at a time, I’d encourage that friend to use our classroom mike to ask it out loud.  Sometimes kiddos figure things out while we’re working (on our iPads, a writing piece, in a game, etc.) and it seems like something that could benefit everyone–I encourage them to share their new discovery with the classroom by getting everyone’s attention.  It’s been really great to watch how kiddos have stepped up and started to use this new structure to solve problems, figure things out and help each other.  I haven’t really had to do much coaching past the initial suggestions, as they’ve figured out how to use this protocol for really meaningful reasons.  My favorite thing, I’d say, is that they’ve started using the attention signal to request that the class work more quietly when our voices get too loud during partner or group work.  It’s amazing how much more meaningful and effective this is when it comes from a classmate instead of me!  I think the kiddos have truly internalized many of our expectations and rules, too, as they can better monitor their following of them on their own, without input from me.  This is a life skill.  Started here in 2nd grade.

Even small things have been “taken over” by kiddos recently, too.  For instance, I don’t have to change the calendar anymore.  When we came back in January, our calendar (which has Velcro numbers that we add the new day to each morning) still said December.  Very early on, someone pointed it out to me and said, “We need to change the calendar.  It’s still last year!”  Instead of giving that friend the job, or doing it myself, I simply asked, “What do you think we should do about that?”  I think I remember this friend just shrugging and going on with his morning, not really addressing the issue at that moment.  But eventually, when 3 or 4 days had passed and I had asked the same question, or on very much like it, I noticed that that same kiddo was changing the calendar!  I guess he figured out it was a task that he could take care of, and that it wasn’t my job to do it.  Since then (which I think has been at least 2 1/2 weeks) our calendar has been correct–with no input from me. 🙂  Lunch count happened that way, too.  I think I did originally ask a friend if he could take care of it for me, but then he automatically came in the next day and recorded everyone’s orders again.  Voila! It’s no longer up to me to do it.  Beautiful.   It’s funny how much time that frees up for me in the morning to spend with students instead!

Ok, loyal blog readers, I know you know how hard it is for me to step away from this story and leave it unfinished, but I look forward to updating you on another pirate celebration soon.  Thanks for continuing to embrace the messy with me!

By the way, if you read this and you’ve tried to Learn Like a Pirate with your kiddos, could you leave me a note and tell me how it’s going for you?  What had you tried?  How have your kiddos amazed you?  What suggestions do you have for us on our own journey of learning? 🙂



Over the River and Through the Woods

Little Red, Pretty Salma, Petite Rouge, Little Roja, Lon Po Po. The list goes on and on.  And it’s a pretty good list, eh?  Rm. 202 thinks so!  (Do you know what it’s a list of?) We have just begun a study much like one (only better!) that we did last year.  And you know how I told you about this thing I have the other day?  Yeah…well I am afraid that because of that thing I didn’t tell you about that awesome study last year.  UGH!  Luckily things have changed, though, and I’m starting this story much earlier. 🙂

This quarter we’re studying culture, and because of the unit I found last year (I used a variation of this Cinderella unit from First Grade Wow.  It went SMASHINGLY and was a great combination of literature, non-fiction text, culture AND geography.  It was also tons of fun to boot, which increased the engagement with a topic that is already generally interesting for first graders.  Win, win, win all around!

So this year when we came to this culture/geography time of year again (which in our curriculum usually happens in January), I knew I wanted to try something similar to what we had done last year.  The big idea of the unit is that folktales and fairytale can tell you something about culture.  When talking about culture, it is also important to understand the geography related to that culture; where the people live and why they might do the things they do there is essential to the puzzle.  Makes sense then, that all of those things would be connected–integrating subjects gives students multiple ways to make new information fit in with old knowledge and therefore make for stronger pathways to memory and understanding.  And honestly, making the unit include multiple subjects and topics helps time-wise.  Fitting it all in is always a concern for teachers, and this helps me get it all in.

Starting with framework from last year, I collected books.  The Cinderella theme worked so well and I knew I had to find another fairy tale or folktale that both had multiple versions, as well as a story that would interest my students.  There were obviously many choices, but I went with Little Red Riding Hood.  This story was familiar enough (like Cinderella), but also had many variations, and had interesting characters we could study, as well.

Our focus is to be using the fairy tales and folktales to analyze story structure, characters and main idea, as well as compare and contrast different versions.  Eventually we’ll probably write about our favorite version, trying to convince our readers why it’s the best with strong evidence from the text.  We will also study geographical concepts like continents, countries (and how they’re different from states and cities, as well as what our country is), bodies of water and regions–this one is new this year.  Besides just studying cultures of other places (which was our main focus last year), we’re incorporating the idea of regions of our own country this time; there are stories from both different countries and US regions in this unit.  We’ll analyze maps, talk about how they work and what information they give us, put stars on the places from where our stories come, color and label maps and talk about the places we know about (as well as places we wonder about).  Eventually then, students will choose one culture to learn more about, and research it.  This will incorporate with our next writing unit, and then will still touch reading and social studies skills and concepts, too.

And here’s the part where the “messy” of writing about this starts.  Previously, I would have waited until the very end of the study, hoping to include all the details and pictures, including fabulous videos of us presenting our final products.  Like I mentioned earlier, that often meant that I then didn’t even get around to writing about ANY of it–usually because I either forgot the details, ran out of steam or just didn’t have time.  And yeah, it makes me sad that it’s missing on the blog.  So here we go.  You might want to wear gloves.  Or a poncho.  Maybe goggles or a raincoat?

First let me share our booklist. I compiled it from a variety of places online, as well as just by standing forever in front of the fairytale section of my library with a crooked neck reading books spines.  I know–I’m a glutton for punishment.  It’s really not so easy, either, by the way, because they’re organized not just by story, but by author and by country.  Oh, and then they’re the ones that aren’t so obvious because they don’t have ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ in the title.  Anyhow…

We are using stories from Germany (the original), China (we have two from this culture, actually), Ghana, Spain, as well as from at least 4 regions in the US (and maybe another one that I’ve forgotten.  Told you this was messy!!!).

  1. Little Red Cap by the Brothers Grimm and Little Red Riding Hood by Sam McBratney
  2. Lon PoPo by Ed Young and Auntie Tiger by Laurence Yep
  3. Pretty Salma by Niki Daly
  4. Little Roja Riding Hood by Susan Middleton Elya
  5. Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood by Mike Artell
  6. Little Red Riding Hood: A Newfangled Prairie Tale by Lisa Campbell Ernst
  7. Little Red Cowboy Hat by Susan Lowell

 While those are the “official” titles, we are also going to enjoy some others that will be specifically for the reading part of the study, where we can study version, point-of-view and character.  Those include (at least for now!):

  1. Ninja Red Riding Hood by Corey Rosen Schwartz
  2. The Wolf’s Story: What Really Happened to Little Red Riding Hood by Toby Forward
  3. Very Little Red Riding Hood by Teresa Heapy

  4. Red Riding and the Sweet Little Wolf by Rachael Mortimer
  5. Honestly, Red Riding Hood Was Rotten!: The Story of Little Red Riding Hood as Told by the Wolf (The Other Side of the Story) by Trisha Speed Shaskan

  6. Super Red Riding Hood by Claudia Da′vila

I’m excited to share more pages to our story as we go along! 🙂