Monthly Archives: September 2015

Encouragement Jar

This year at my school we are using Positive Discipline in the Classroom. A very large part of this program is being encouraging: both the teacher encouraging the students and the students encouraging each other. So we made an encouragement jar.

I had the students close their eyes and imagine a really bad day. I asked them to think of how they felt on that bad day. Then I asked them to think about what they wish someone would have said to them to make them feel better. These phrases we wrote down and put in our encouragement jar. That way, when any of us are having a bad day we can pull out an encouragement and read it and soak in the happiness and feel better!

Here are a few of my favorite encouragements that my students came up with:

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The Marble Theory

I really love Paul Solarz’ book Learn Like a Pirate. This is one of the lessons he discusses that I did in my class and I think it’s really going to make an impact on the culture of my classroom. It’s called the Marble Theory. All of this came straight out of Paul’s book, and I am claiming no credit. I just wanted to share it because this mind set has been awesome for my third graders so far this school year.


The Marble Theory says that we are all born with the same number of marbles in our brains. When we are born they are just in a big pile, but over time we put them into cups. The cups represent our skills, talents, and abilities. We can have as many cups as we need and these cups are extremely specialized. For example, we don’t have a cup for reading abilities. Instead, we have several cups for reading: one dedicated to decoding, one for literal comprehension, one for oral reading fluency, etc. But we also have cups dedicated to dribbling a basketball, drawing horses, telling jokes, and playing the flute.

In school, teachers usually spend time evaluating how many marbles students have in their academic cups, causing children to falsely assume that grades determine how intelligent they are. We are all equal in terms of intelligence and intelligence needs to be measured differently. Low grades given fosters disappointment, high grades create extrinsically motivated perfectionists. Take away the focus on grades! We embrace failure as a learning opportunity and as acknowledgement of taking risks.

Jump on the #TLAP Bandwagon!

In the six years I’ve been teaching, I’ve realized that I really enjoy working with, coaching, and teaching teachers. I don’t pretend to know it all or be a master teacher, but I love observing, asking questions, listening, researching, and helping other teachers get better at what they do.

We have a really cool opportunity at our school that we teachers create some of our monthly professional development. So at our next PD day, my teammate Tiffany and I are teaching a workshop about the book Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess. We have been obsessed with this book and are excitedly trying to implement these piracy strategies in our third grade classrooms. You can read more about TLAP here.

We are going to start by having some tlap quotes and pages from the picture book P is for Pirate scrolling on the screen:

IMG_5462 Lessons you could sell tickets for

We are going to use a lesson that we used to teach to demonstrate how we can take a boring-ish lesson and jazz it up. The old lesson was semi inquiry based, sort of. We showed the students this picture from Discovery Education of some fossils and then ask the students to write about what they see and what they think happened. IMG_5474

After our Pirate transformation here is what the same lesson looks like:

The kids walk in to school first thing in the morning and see caution tape everywhere and signs up saying things like T-Rex Crossing and Watch for Low Flying Archaeopteryx. The fourth graders and second graders that were walking by were all in awe wondering what was going on.

Then when students came into the classroom they saw our archeological dig sit all set up. IMG_5471IMG_5472IMG_5473

We were dressed up in our paleontologist outfits and we introduce our new student scientists to the dig site. We talked about what observations are and how they are different than what we think might have happened.  IMG_5480
IMG_5479After our discussion we read our recent issue of Scholastic News about excavating dinosaur fossils. And we finished our lesson off with the music video I am a Paleontologist by They Might Be Giants.

This lesson contains a whole bunch of hooks. Hooks are little things to do in a lesson that get students engaged. Here are all the hooks in this lesson:

The Mozart Hook- I am a Paleontologist

The Kinesthetic Hook- Having the kids up and moving around examining the dig site

The Opportunistic Hook- Using current events in the Scholastic News

The Interior Design Hook- Changing our classrooms to be a dig site

The Board Message- Having signs up outside and in the hall to pique student interest

The Costume Hook- Teachers dressing up like scientists

The Props Hook- Having fake bones and magnifying glasses to examine them with

The Teaser Hook- We told the kids “Just wait till you see what we’re doing on Friday!”

The Backwards Hook- SHowing kids the end of the story and having them figure out the beginning and middle

Obviously this is an extreme example and most of our lessons will not be this interactive or contain this many hooks, but it sure was a fun lesson to teach 🙂 I’m excited to share this lesson with other teachers at my school and help them brainstorm ways they can bring teaching like a pirate into their own classrooms!