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? 🙂



One thought on “Arrrgh! The Pirates of Rm. 202

  1. Pingback: Rm. 202 Pirate Update | 20somethingkids and 1kookyteacher

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