Learn Like a Pirate {Chapter 3}

3. Peer Collaboration

I’m joining The Primary Gal for her Learn Like a Pirate book study and it’s time for chapter 3!

There were so many things I loved this chapter, I’m going to try and pick just my favorites so that my post doesn’t seem like a book itself!

This chapter focuses on Peer Collaboration, which is necessary for a student lead classroom to be successful.  I love collaboration with other teachers (it’s the reason I love blogging and social media!)  I get so excited about sharing new ideas and hearing what’s happening in other classrooms.  I actually left my first school partly because of a lack of experienced teachers to collaborate with and learn from and I recognize the value for my students, too.

I enjoyed this chapter because there are some things I’m doing, some things I believe in but I’m not necessarily doing actively in my classroom and some that I’m going to add.

I always spend time at the beginning of the school year building the classroom community and focusing on the fact that we are a family, a team, in the classroom.  It’s not just one person’s job to make our classroom a great place to learn – it’s everyone’s.  I do think this makes school a happier place and makes the students invested in coming to our classroom each day.  Their classmates and I need them to be there.

I love the explanation Paul Solarz gives about his classroom as a company: “We’re not a boring factory cranking out widgets; we are an innovative organization working together to create something amazing.”  I see this not only being about how the students interact, but about how I create a classroom culture.  I can’t give the students a job on the widget assembly line and expect them to produce something innovative.  I have to give them the freedom to be innovative.

Paul also talks about how he lets his students interrupt class with “Give me five.”  When I read this section I thought, “Well that makes perfect sense, how is it not something I’m already doing!” I think I’m not doing it because no one ever made it sound like a reasonable idea (Thanks, Paul!)  Why does the teacher have to own getting the class attention?   Honestly…the kids interrupt to help anyway (they’re first graders, they can’t help themselves if they have something they need to share!)…so why not structure this a part making students responsible in the classroom.  It would probably curb the unnecessary interruptions because it is clearly defined.

My plan is to start small.  My kiddos will be coming from part time kindergarten and adjusting to school and first grade takes time.  I think giving them full freedom right away might be challenging (read: might just be more than I’m personally ready for right away).  In my room we use a call and response to get attention: “Class, class” and the students respond “yes, yes.”  I’m going to start with letting the students use this for two of the purposes outlined in this chapter…to ask the class a question and to make a suggestion about class behavior.  I’m thinking specifically about literacy center time.  At the beginning of the year I spend so much of what should be my guided reading time answering questions about center procedures and giving behavior reminders – there is no real reason that the kids can’t do this (with guidance).

I love the idea of letting the students watch the clock.  I’m terrible at this.  I’ve been known to be late for specials and recess.  Whoops!  But…my kids will need to learn how to tell time first.  🙂  So, I’m thinking about adding a small clock next to our classroom clock.  I could set it to the time we need to stop for music and the kids could match the times (and start thinking about a math standard, too, if I’m careful to tell them the actual time and not just show the model).   Maybe…


(to break up this long post, here’s my little pirate steering the ship…and no I don’t usually let them play outside in their pjs, but it’s summer vacation, right?)

Going along with giving students some of the classroom responsibility, it is important to provide different ideas about what a “leader” does in the classroom.  They can’t all be the ones to call for the class’s attention.  I am a firm believe in what Paul describes as “active” and “passive” leadership.  I see this in myself.  I think I know (I hope my colleagues agree) when to sit back and play on the team and when to step up and lead.  I think many students naturally understand this, but I like the idea of defining  passive leadership as leadership.  It validates an entirely different group of students who are not outspoken leaders but who consistently make great choices for themselves and our class.

The other change I’m walking into my classroom with for the first day of school is “random” responsibility partners.  Since I only teach half the day in the classroom and most of that is literacy centers, this is where most of my management comes in.  I am asking 6 year olds to work on their own for an hour.  They can do it and they always get there, but it takes a lot of time in August!  I’m going to pair my students with a partner for centers.  At first, I think I will encourage them to sit together and complete the tasks together, though this might evolve depending on the mix of kiddos.  I’ll begin by assigning them.  Partly so the students can get to know each other and work with students who were probably not in their kindergarten class and also (selfishly) so I don’t end up with trouble.

My building is focusing on “GRIT” for the upcoming school year and I loved the thoughts on internal competition.  I’m planning an anchor chart about the questions Paul posed:

How can I do better next time?

Where can I make changes to this in order to make it better?

How can I help my peers do it better?

They tie in perfectly with the “growth mindset” and honestly, we would all be better off if we asked these questions more often!

I’ll end with two things I loved:

I am a big believer in developing “work ethic” in my students.  I have high expectations of myself and my own two kiddos and honestly, sometimes I just forget that not everyone feels the same way (not meant to sound unkind…just a personal assessment).   I expect things to be done well.  I tend to go above and beyond the basic expectations to “do the right thing” even with it’s not the required thing to do and expect others to be willing to do the same. Thankfully, I work with teachers and that’s part of our nature.

Anyway…I love this quote and these are the type of students I want to support.

“I want my students to work hard because they choose to, not because they fear negative consequences.”

and here’s the other favorite quote from the chapter…

“Kids learn how to compete through video games, sports, clubs, school and everyday life!  I want to make sure they learn how to work as a member of a team that looks out for, supports and helps one another continue to grow and improve over time.”

Yes, yes, yes!

Be sure to check out these other fabulous teachers!

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4 Responses to Learn Like a Pirate {Chapter 3}

  1. kellys3ps says:

    There are so many good quotes in this book, and I love the ones you chose to highlight! I agree – sometimes you just need someone else to tell you that something sounds like a reasonable idea. I love how you are posting about how you will use it in the classroom as well. And… last but not least, your little pirate is too adorable for words!


  2. Rachael says:

    I love what you said about using the “Class/yes” as a means for the kids to ask a question or remind each other about behavior. I was thinking the same thing. (I am not a “give me five” teacher, but I am a “Class/yes” teacher) We do partners in our classroom already, but I like your idea for designated partners for reading centers.


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