Category Archives: Piracy

If you can’t beat them, join them!

There are so many pop culture things that our kids (and adults) are obsessed with right now. I say, don’t try to swim upstream, just go with the flow! If your kids are into Pokemon Go, try Aurasma and do some augmented reality. Here are my kids showing their science and technology learning doing a mannequin challenge!


These are a few of my favorite things…

a-few-of-my-favorite-things-jan-7-2011(Sing this to the tune of My Favorite Things)
Students on iPads and mixed up math classes, comfy class couches, teaching in sunglasses, fostering students to all love reading, these are a few of my favorite things!

Every teacher has their own unique style. Mine is comprised of several pieces, all contained in my song parody above 😉

IMG_0181.JPGFirst of all, for the parody itself, Music: I’ve always thought that music is a powerful teaching tool. You could go up to any 9th graders at my school and ask them how far the sun is from the earth and most of them would sing you “The sun’s about 93 million miles away, and that’s why it looks so small” from the They Might Be Giants Song I taught them way back in third grade. Music sticks in your head better than just about anything.

img_2529Technology: I’m a tech guru. I love trying new tech tools and apps and websites. If I could have a class set of iPads, I’d be in seventh heaven. Google apps are amazing and Tiny Bop Human Body is the most fun science app I’ve found.

Flexible grouping: I’ve come to realize over the years that I am a middle and high kid advocate. Yes, our low and struggling students need our support, but I refuse to believe that I should sacrifice 24 students for the benefit of 1. So I love flexible classes. I’ve taught the high math class at my school for the last five years and I love it! We finish concepts quickly and then I get to show my students how cool it would be to become an engineer one day. We build Mars rovers and landers, we play Simple Physics, we research careers in math fields, web build structures out of straws. In flexible classes it’s easier to give all the kids what is best for them.

Flexible learning environments: I call this my deskless classroom. My research on this comes from The Third Teacher. It says there are three teachers of students, adults, their peers, and the physical environment. Our classrooms set the tone for their education, why not use that to the best of our advantage?


img_2089.pngTeach like a Pirate: my parody teaching in sunglasses line was a bit of a stretch, in rhyme and content, but I can make it work. Teach like a Pirate is all about doing what it takes to engage students authentically. So that might be wearing a silly costume (or sunglasses,) or playing a song, or going outside for a lesson. If kids could choose whether they go to school or not, would they go to your class?

Reading: This is my favorite thing to do in the whole entire world. I love to read. My goal for 2016 is 125 books. I’m currently up to 95 as of the end of September. It’s unfortunatley a subject I have a hard time teaching becuase so often too much curricula and programs and stuff gets in the way of learning to love to read. I’m working on that.



Science Day!

Our school has a K-12 Science Night every year. This year in third grade we decided to also do a science day to get the kids excited for science night.  We have just finished astronomy and just started the human body in science, so we did a combination of activities from both units. Here are some picture highlights of science day:

IMG_7176My preparation of supplies the day before. I was definitely piquing my students interest by having this out during the school day before.

IMG_7181Special guest speaker, Dr. Ken Rooks. He is an emergency room doctor and he is speaking to our kids about broken bones and x-rays.

IMG_7208 IMG_7209

We build models of the hand to see how the ligaments, joints, and bones worked together to allow us to move.


Lee Carlson came to present about his work on the Mars Curiosity Rover.

IMG_7207 We made flip books about how eclipses work.


This was probably the highlight of the day: making our own “Mars Rovers.”


They were powered by balloons. It was very much a problem solving process of “why is it not working? How do I fix it? What can I change?” IMG_7189IMG_7195

Then at science night we got to see which pairs of third graders were awarded ribbons for their science fair projects.


Her shirt has it right: Science Rocks!

Ancient Rome Day

I really dislike Halloween at school. It’s a candy crazed day where the kids are in costumes and not paying attention to anything. I’m really glad that at our school we don’t celebrate Halloween. But we do still have a learning celebration, and around this time of year we are learning about Ancient Rome. So instead of dressing up for Halloween, we dress up as ancient Romans (3rd grade toga party!) So it’s not Halloween, but it still is usually a chaotic day. That is, it was chaotic until we decided to embrace the chaos and teach like pirates and go all in!

We have a new teacher on our third grade team this year, Jason. He has a history background so we gave him this unit and this day and he ran with it! We planned activities all day long.

First thing in the morning we did our normal social studies lesson about Pompeii. We read textbook pages, took notes, and watched a few short videos. This one is really cool.

After that we built our own city of Pompeii.


Then the kids created comic strips of what happened when Mount Vesuvius erupted. While they were doing that I pulled kids and did interviews pretending as though they had escaped from Pompeii in time.


Then we erupted a paper mache volcano and filmed it from multiple angles.

Then the highlight of the day; running for our lives! We got all hundred third graders together on the playground, we had them run and scream as though Mount Vesuvius was exploding right behind them. It was so much fun!

The rest of the afternoon was the tradition holiday “party” part. We had apple juice, grapes, cheese and crackers. I took pictures of this as our “before Vesuvius erupted.” And we also made paper mosaic art.

IMG_2933 IMG_2940

Because we were doing different fun activities all day, the kids were not that crazy at all! I think it was my best ever Halloween as a teacher! 🙂

Finally, Jason put all of our pictures and videos into one epic third grade adventure video. It’s amazing!


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!