Explore Like a Pirate: Chapter 5


Hi everyone,

Welcome back to our book study on Explore Like a Pirate, by Michael Matera. Thanks to Rachael over at Sweet Sweet Primary for putting this book study together.

Today we are looking at Chapter 5: From the Helm: Getting to Know Your Crew. This chapter is all about the tools that will help us to create game inspired course design.

When designing game inspired courses, we have to determine what type of player your students are. According to Richard Bartle’s theory, there are four groups of gamer personalities: Achievers, Socializers, Explorers, and Killers (griefers). By knowing the type of gamer each of your students are, you can be sure to include something for all types of gamers.

I found the different types of personality fascinating. I can think of many of my students who fall into these personalities without giving the Richard Bartle test.

Achievers are those students who want to earn points and show a level of mastery. In our classroom, Achievers are the kids who want to know they are doing well. They like to show off how they are doing and their position or advancement in the game. To motivate an Achiever, you can include daily quests and leader boards.

Socializers play games because they enjoy interacting with others. In our classroom, often time the Socializers are our talkers. To engage Socializers while designing game inspired courses, we should think about making a team challenge that requires out of class networking. Socializers would also like the aspect of trading with others.

Explores enjoy an open game where they can discover new areas on their own. According to Michael Matera, Explores move at their own pace and are not too concerned with mastery of the game. To motivate an Explorer, you can include locked areas or levels.

Killers enjoy playing high action games and look to battle or beat something quickly. If the reward is worth it, Killers will take the risk. To motivate Killers, you can include collecting things or a protection aspect. Like protecting a person or a house.

Matera also talks about Jon Radoff’s four key components of game design. Aspects of his game design are: Immersion, Achievement, Cooperation, and Competition. By looking at the four categories, we can think of ways to deliver our course objectives.

When thinking about immersion, we design a game course that allows the students to grow and explore. this is where the students become the heroes of their own stories.

We want to give the students multiple times or opportunities to practice a skill. We have to be sure to make the work challenging but not too difficult where the kids want to give up. The more opportunities the kids have to reach a level of proficiency in the game, the more practice they get at a skill.

Just like in anything, we want our students to work together. When developing game inspired courses, we need to make sure that we include ways for our kids to work together toward a common goal.

Competition is a great way to have students interact with each other and work together on a team.

Michael Matera uses The SAPS Model in his course design. This helps to include different motivating factors for all students. Some kids are motivated by status. This is where leaderboards, badges, and daily quests come into play. The students are given feedback on how they are doing and are motivated when others see how well they are doing. Another motivating factor is access. Students become more motivated and engaged when they have access to new material or things they didn’t have before, like being able to find secret areas. When designing game inspired courses, we also want to include power. You can give the students power by giving them choice. The last thing we want to think about when designing the coursework is what Michael Matera calls stuff. We want to include game related things, like a small sword or a power shield. We want to include “stuff” that is related to the game. This will keep the students instrinsically motivated.

I can’t wait to read what comes next. Join us next week for a look at Chapter 6.

Thanks for stopping by and saying hi,

Click on the picture below to go back to Sweet Sweet Primary’s blog and read about what others have to say about Chapter 5.


Explore Like a Pirate: Chapter 4


Hi everyone!

Today we are continuing to read “Explore Like a Pirate”, by Michael Matera. Thanks to Rachael at Sweet Sweet Primary for putting this book linky together for us.

Today we explore chapter 4: Ahoy Mate! A New Language of Learning.

How many times have you heard…Is this being graded? Does this count as a grade? I know I can’t be the only one! My second graders are always asking me those questions. According to Michael Matera, “Layering the game over my entire course encouraged collaboration and offered a ton of self-exploration. Learning was no longer about earning a grade; it was about discovery and growth.”

There are 10 words used to define and drive Purpose-Driven Learning.
Those 10 words are; confidence, creativity, enthusiasm, focus, resilience, initiative, curiosity, dependability, and empathy.

By using these 10 words repeatedly throughout class, comments, and report cards students understand the words and use them to describe their own learning.

When students explore, they become more confident and become risk takers. Once a child is confident, they know how to begin and are willing to begin a task without asking, “But how do I start?”

It is important to assign open ended questions so that students can be creative in their answers.

As educators, it is our job to create work that the students can be enthusiastic about. We also need to remind students that they need to be enthusiastic about all task, challenging or not.

Students need to be taught to also put forth 100% effort. Not only effort important in the classroom, but in all areas of life.

Focusing is extremely important. We all have trouble focusing at one time or another. Students need to be reminded to focus on the task at hand and to control his or her thoughts.

It is o.k. to fail. We want to teach our students that we not only learn from our successes, but also from our failures. When we do fail, we have to keep on going and not give up. According to Michael Matera, once students know it is ok to fail and they are not being graded on the first or second attempt, their confidence grows and they learn the material or concepts. Resilience is about adapting and overcoming challenges, not just perseverance.

Michael Matera talks about how by using games in the classroom, students develop the habit of initiative. They become better problem solvers and overcome obstacles and challenges.

The more curious our students are, the more they want to learn. The more they want to learn, the more passionate they become. The more passionate the students are, the better they learn the concepts or material.

Students learn to depend on others and that others depend on them. Students come to class better prepared because they know that their teammates are counting on them.
This helps to promote a sense of community.

We need to establish a safe environment where students can take risks. Students need to be taught how to listen to others and how to answer other’s questions. We need to set rules to develop respect of each other and each other’s opinions.

I can’t wait to share chapter 5 with you!

Thanks for stopping by and saying hi,


Explore Like a Pirate: Chapter 3


Hi everyone!

Today we are continuing to read “Explore Like a Pirate”, by Michael Matera. Thanks to Rachael at Sweet Sweet Primary for putting this book linky together for us.

Today we explore chapter 3: New World, Old World.

I love how Michael Matera begins this chapter.
He states, “As an educational explorer, you have creative confidence to forge out into the unknown. Trust in the process, and believe in yourself.”
This first sentence of chapter 3 really made me think. I think one reason that so many teachers do not try new strategies or playing games because there is the fear of the unknown. I know I have definitely been there? Have you?
There have been times when I wanted to to try something new and I stopped, unsure and not believing in myself or that something would work. Michael Matera is absolutely correct when he says that we have to “trust in the process, and believe in yourself.” Without those two things, we can not begin to gamify the classroom and bring our teaching into the New World!

According to Michael Matera, using gamification in the classroom will bring us from the Old World of teaching into the New World of teaching. Instead of controlling, we have have freedom and flexibility. Instead of producing followers, we will produce risk takers. Instead of a plotted path, there will be a sense of exploration and discovery. In the place of quiet compliance, there will be creative confidence. In the Old World, there was an automations of knowledge but in the New World we have independent artistic thinkers. We will also create heroes and a sense of wanderlust, spirit, and passion. These are all ways that every teacher wants to connect and inspire their students. I AM SOLD! 🙂

Another line that stood out for me was, “We are not teaching standards, we are teaching students-children who have passions, questions, and the drive to make a difference.” Too often, teaching the standards are thought of first. How can I teach the standards? What standard does this lesson teach? We have to remember that we are teaching students first. By gamifying the classroom, students become self motivated and overcome challenges. The children are invested in their learning. What teacher does not want his or her children to be self-motivated and invested in their learning?

As I continued reading chapter 3, I realized how once the children are familiar with the game setting or levels, it is easy to make a change. Often times we learn something new in at a conference, a meeting, or at staff development and we don’t implement it right away. We say, “I’ll wait for next semester, or next year.” Once our classroom is gamified, we don’t have to wait to make a change or to introduce something new that we learned. We can do use that strategy or new material the very next day! YES! I don’t know about you…but I know I am definitely guilty of not implementing something new until the next year. Do you do the same?

I love Michael Matera’s example of his scavenger hunt while studying Egypt. I never really thought of doing a scavenger hunt. I’m already thinking about how to incorporate a scavenger hunt with my kiddos. Have I mentioned that I am STILL in school. I have 5 days left. This might be a perfect time to try something new!

Any thoughts on how I can incorporate a scavenger hunt maybe in geometry with my 2nd graders? Maybe a shape is missing to construct a building and I can have riddles for the students to follow… HMMMM.

I can’t wait to share chapter 4 with you!

Thanks for stopping by and saying hi,


Click below to go back to read what others have to say about chapter 3.

Explore Like a Pirate: Chapter 2


Hi everyone!

Today we are continuing to read “Explore Like a Pirate”, by Michael Matera. Thanks to Rachael at Sweet Sweet Primary for putting this book linky together for us.

Today we explore chapter 2: Tall Tales: Dispelling the Myths of Gamification.

According to Michael Matera, before we can begin gamification in our classrooms, we must first dispel the myths. This will ensure that teachers, students, parents, and administration have a positive experience with gamification.

Myth 1: Games are just for play. There is no challenge or educational rigor.
-Michael Matera writes about how by playing games, students learn from their mistakes, practice short and long term planning , and develop informational literacy skills. It is our job to create games that are engaging and rigorous. When sitting down to create games, we must consider the 3 Cs (content, choice, and challenge.) We want to think outside the box when planning and creating games for our students. First, we must think of the content that is being taught or that needs to be taught. Choice is the open-ended game model that students love. We need to challenge the students, just like the twists and turns in video games.

Myth 2: If I give them a badge or points, my class will be gamified.
Many times, teachers play games in the classroom where the students earn points or badges as they play. We think that this is enough, my students are playing games and having fun. I have also been guilty of this. Giving points or badges is simply not enough. When planning a game, there must be a purpose, goals, micr-goals, risks, challenges, and of course socialization.

Myth 3:It’s easy for you. It won’t work for me because I teach ______________.
Let’s be honest. I hear this statement all of the time. This statement can be heard in all schools and for any topic. Whenever something new is introduced or admin wants teachers to implement a strategy, I hear teachers say, “It won’t work for me because…” Often times, frustration or being overwhelmed leads to this statement. Sometimes it is the simple fact of a teacher not having the appropriate training.
According to Michael Matera, saying that it won’t work for you because of a grade or subject you teach is untrue. Teachers should be asking themselves how to connect to their students, not can I connect to my students.

Myth 4: You need to be a gamer to gamify your class.
According to Michael Matera, you do not need to be a gamer to gamify your class. He says you should download some apps and start playing them. As you play the games, keep a notepad handy so you can write down the structure, goals, and challenges.

Myth 5: Students should want to learn; I shouldn’t have to dress it up!
I have heard many people say “Students should want to learn.” I have heard this said by teachers, parents, and by administrations. I’ve heard counselors and psychologists say that children should want to learn and shouldn’t need to be extrinsically motivated. Don’t we all wish that we had a full class of students who were instrinsically motivated. That all students showed up to school everyday ready to learn and wanting to learn. My son, who is 10 hates school. He constantly asks, “Can I stay home from school?” He hates school and completing work, but is reading on an 11th grade level. I wish that some of his teachers had read this book and at least attempted to gamifiy their classroom. I’m sure he would have been engaged and it would have made a big difference in his attitude towards school.

Myth 6: Gamification is just playing games…
Gamification is not just playing board games. When planning, you take the game elements like challenges and goals and layer them over your content and standards being taught.

Myth 7: Girls don’t game.
I don’t even think I need to address this myth. Many of my girls play video games and many adult women I know also play video games. Maybe if I played more video games I would be more relaxed, like my husband. 🙂

Myth 8: My classroom doesn’t have enough technology to make this work.
I love how the author explains how you do not really need technology to gamify your classroom. Gaming is a lot of socialization, which is tech free and costs nothing. He mentions that you can have a bulletin board dedicated to the game.

Myth 9: Games in the classroom are too much about competition.
I agree with the author when he states that a little healthy competition is good. Children learn to work together and work towards a purpose or to achieve their goal. I think part of the problem with society now is “Everyone is a winner” mentality. Children feel that they should be given something for everything they do. They should automatically get a ribbon or an award just for participating. Schools don’t want a child to feel bad because they did not win. As a result, we have children who do not know how to cope with failure.

I can’t wait to share chapter 3 with you!

Click on the picture below to go back to Sweet Sweet Primary’s blog and read what others have to say.

Thanks for stopping by and saying hi,


Explore Like A Pirate: Chapter 1


Hi everyone!

Today I am really excited to be part of a new book study. We just started to read “Explore Like a Pirate”, by Michael Matera.

Today we explore chapter 1: The Call of the Explorer: Discover the Adventure that Awaits.

I don’t know about you, but I am always looking for new ways to engage my kids. I already have my students do tons of projects, partner work, group work, and play some games. But I started to think ask the question, “What more can I do?”

I have been teaching for 18 years in a New York City Public School. Over the years, I have seen curriculums, teaching methods, and whatever happened to be the fad at the time come and go. It really is heart breaking to look at your kids and see that glazed look in their eyes. That look that tells you… I am not paying any attention to you. One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is student engagement. The trick is finding what will engage your students. What worked well last year might not work this year.

This is why I turned to the book, “Explore Like a Pirate”. I am ready to really sit down and reflect on how I can better engage my students and still show my administration that the work happening in my class is “rigorous” (by the way, I really hate the word rigorous. Any time someone asks admin what it means, they can’t even give an answer.)

In chapter 1, Michael Matera speaks about how gamification is possible because all you need is creativity. We don’t have to worry about buying extra material or spending money out of our own pockets. YES! We can take our curriculum and the content we already teach and just an add extra layer to the top.

I have to be honest, I am a bit worried about the creativity part for myself and the students. I think the current education system has really stomped out any creativity. I find when I am planning lessons, I really have to sit down and think about being creative. My students…they are a totally different problem. There is very little play and creativity in our education system. Just look at our poor kindergarden students who really don’t get to play anymore. By the time they reach me in 2nd grade, the joy of learning is already on it’s way out of the door. When I tell my kids to use their imagination or be creative, they really struggle. They want to be told what to do. This is one reason that I picked up this book. I need to become more creative and engaged and so do my students.

My mind is already in a whirlwind and I have only read the first chapter. I am already thinking about how I can use gamification in my classroom in September. I am glad that I have the entire summer to read this book and reflect on my own teaching and engaging my students. I can’t wait to discuss the next chapter with you next Tuesday.

Thanks for stopping by and saying hi,


Check out what others are saying about Chapter 1 by clicking the picture below!


Learn Like a Pirate: Chapter 6

6. Active Learning

Hi everyone. Welcome back to our book study of Chapter 6 of Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz. Chapter 6 is about active learning.

According to Mr. Solarz, When students actively learn, they are engaged and take on leadership roles.

There are different ways given to help promote active learning.
*Stimulate thinking with simulations (create experiences)
*Getting fascinated with fairs
*Science fairs
*Project based learning
*Using technology
*Reader’s Theater

I like the idea of creating experiences instead of lessons. I can definitely see how the students get more out of an experience than just sitting through lessons. I think that I will really think about creating some experiences for my kiddos. I’m glad I have the summer to work on it!

I have to tell you, I love having debates in my classroom. Not only do I love having debates, so do my second graders. It is fascinating to watch the students gather together and discuss a topic. In the beginning, when I introduce debates, I really want to pull my hair out. It is a long process for my seven year olds to be able to debate a topic. We start off slow with a topic we have been studying. Many times I use the question “Would you rather live in a city, suburb, or rural area?” After the unit of study, my kids get together with groups of students who have the same opinion. We work on looking for facts that support their opinion. I spend a lot of time coaching the students and modeling. By mid year, my babies are doing it on their own and loving it! Throughout the year, my students then come up with ideas for debates around topics of study or books we read in class. It’s very surprising to listen to some of their thoughts and ideas and how they try to persuade others to change their opinion.

Mr. Solarz also brings out the importance of science fairs. I think Mr. Solarz, is 100% right about completing projects in class instead of at home. Often times Science fair projects are assigned for homework. The students see it as tedious and many times don’t really care. I also know many parents who will actually complete the project for his or her child. It would be better to have the student complete the project in school and have fun with it. I know many times we are crunched for time and don’t want to “waste” our time with a science fair project. Let’s be realistic, science and social studies have really gone to the side. I have 20 minutes for science and social studies in my classroom. Instead of skipping it, I work on projects in the classroom during reading and writing that incorporate the content areas.



We work on a lot of projects in my classroom. I’m still working on project based learning and am no expert. As my kids work on their projects, I walk around and facilitate. I try not to get involved in their work and ask questions like, “What are you working on”?, “Where are you getting your information from?”, “Why did you decide to…?” I find that many of my students lack creativity. This is something that I want to work on come September. My students need to know that it is ok to be different, to think outside the box. I think that the schools are killing creativity and want all of the students to be the same.

Let me give you an example, I had my students work on group projects. We were studying heroes in class. I gave my students a list of people they could present on. I gave my students paper and told they could present their project any way they wanted (without technology because we have none.) All of the groups decided to write an essay and draw a picture. I walked around and asked the students what they were doing and why they decided to present the information in essay format.

Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson

sitting bull1

Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull

So next year I plan to do more PBL and to incorporate Reader’s Theater into my classroom. What are some ways you will promote active learning in your classroom?

Thanks for stopping by and saying hi. I’ll see you next week for Chapter 7.


Learn Like a Pirate: Chapter 5

5. Responsibility

Hi everyone! Welcome back to our book study on Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz. Today we are looking at chapter 5.

Chapter 5 is about responsibility. You might be thinking… responsibility? I am already responsible for so much that happens in and outside of my classroom. I don’t know how much more I can take?! Every time we turn around, we have more heaped upon us and we become so overwhelmed with everything we have to do.

In Chapter 5 of Learn Like a Pirate, Paul Solarz reminds us how important it is for our students to be given responsibility in the classroom. Think about everything you do in the classroom… Now think about those things and which of them could become jobs of your students. One way to give your students more responsibilities is by assigning classroom jobs. I think most of us have a classroom job chart in our room. We have door monitors, light monitors, paper collectors, sweepers, and so on.


According to Paul Solarz,While it is important for students to have jobs, we can not assign every single job needed to be done. It takes away from the responsibility sharing as a class. I agree with Mr. Solarz. If we assign every task, and something doesn’t get done the students tend to blame each other instead of helping out.

I love how Mr. Solarz talks about how there should be collaborative responsibility, in which all students are taught different roles so that each student can take an active role in the classroom. By having collaborative responsibility, the kids don’t blame others when a job is not done. We have to teach the students to take an active role and be responsible. When a job is not done, we have to remind the class of what needs to be done. Mr. Solarz tells us that he might do the job the first time, but then uses “Give me Five” and announces that it will be someone else’s turn next time.

In my class, if a student doesn’t do his or her job I often have a few students who will remind them to complete the job. If the job is still not done, many of my other students will take the responsibility and complete the job. I have to remember to spend more time in the beginning of the year focusing on being responsible and hopefully creating a classroom with collaborative responsibility.

I love the idea of giving my students more responsibility, but at the same time I am already asking myself, “Can I really do this? Can I really give up so much control?” Reading Mr. Solarz’s book, is giving me the confidence of creating a student led classroom.

What are some ways you will give your students more responsibility in the classroom?

Thanks for stopping by and saying hi. Don’t forget to come back next week to read Chapter 6 of Learn Like a Pirate.


Learn Like a Pirate:Chapter 4

4. Improvement Focus vs. Grade Focus

Welcome back to Chapter 4 of Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz. How many times a day do you hear your students ask, “Are you grading this?” Or “What’s my grade on this?” Not only do I hear that from my students, but also from my students’ parents. It seems that all that is really important in our society is testing and grading. Just look at the importance put on standardized testing. I think giving the kids a grade, or test score is beaten into us. It’s so bad, that our new evaluation system, I’m in New York City, is based on two different components. The first being standardized tests (50%) and the second component being observations.

So, I was excited to read chapter 4: Improvement Focus vs. Grade Focus. As I read this chapter, I couldn’t help but scream in my head, “YES!! This is exactly how it should be!” I try so hard to do activities or projects during the year that do not get graded but the students and the parents have difficulty processing that the work is not being graded.

Mr. Solarz explains that we should really focus on improvement. YES, YES, Yes! We need to give students immediate feedback and let them know how to improve their work. This is how the students really learn. The student’s learning does not continue once they get a grade, instead the students just stop thinking about the content was graded.

Even though I have to grade my students, I try to still give my kiddos the opportunity to revise their work. In my school, we have to grade the students and give glows (strengths), grows (weaknesses), and next steps. I give my students the opportunity to revise their work and improve. Some of my students take the opportunity, but others do not.

Giving students constant feedback is very important. As the students work, I try to circulate and listen in to what is happening. If the students are lost, I try to coach into the activity and give thought provoking questions. We also work on learning how to give feedback to our peers.

In class, we work on many partner or group projects. One activity we work on is Math Exlemplars. Students are paired up based on the math strategy used. I know that this chapter is about not grading students, but I do give my students a rubric (with grades.) This is a 3 day process and gives the students time to reflect on their work, on the work of others, and to go back and revise their work. Students get feedback from me and the other students in the class. You can read about math exlemplars here

I also agreed with Mr. Solarz when he wrote about improving results and retention. In this part of the chapter, Mr. Solarz mentions rigor. We joke in my school about rigor being a curse word. It seems that rigor is the new buzz word, but no one (meaning my administration) can actually show us what rigor is. I love how Mr. Solarz talks about how he does NOT plan rigorous lessons. That he provides the opportunities to find rigor in everyday work. I think this is genious! 🙂
I am always telling my students, “What’s hard for one person, might be easy for someone else.” I love the idea of students looking back and reflecting on portfolios to help improve their work and their retention. Reflecting is very important because it gives the students the chance to really think about their work and what their strengths and weaknesses are in that piece of work. Portfolios are also important because they show growth over time. By using a portfolio, students can see the progress they have made throughout the year.

Thanks for stopping by. I can’t wait to share chapter 5 with you next week.


Learn Like a Pirate: Chapter 3

3. Peer Collaboration

Hi everyone. Welcome back to chapter 3 of Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz. Last week, we looked at common concerns about having a Student-Led Classroom. You can read about some of those concerns here.

Chapter 3 is Peer Collaboration.
According to Paul Solarz, we need to create a student-led classroom by making sure that the students understand that the classroom is a community. The students need to understand that we are a team and work together. Even if you do not try to establish or create a student-led classroom, I think it is very important for the class to understand and feel like one big community. I try to show the class that we are all one team. We should look out for each other in the classroom and outside of the classroom. After all, we spend more time together than with our own families.

It is easy to want to stay in control but we need to give up control and not micro-manage the classroom. One way to ensure that you create a community is by discussing expectations together. We need to provide immediate feedback and everyone should be encouraged to share their voice and opinion.

I know that I am guilty of not always giving immediate feedback to my students. I try to let everyone voice their ideas, but sometimes I have to stop the class because of time constraints. I know that starting in September, these are two areas that I really need to work on while establishing my student-led classroom.

Mr. Solarz gives up some strategies to use to make our lives easier.
The first strategy is “Give Me Five.”
* By shouting out “Give me five!”, the student becomes the center of attention and everyone, including the teacher stops to listen. It is extremely important to model how to use and when to use the phrase “Give me five.” Mr. Solarz also explains how there is a learning curve. I can just picture my second graders in September yelling out, “Give me Five!” every few minutes to get attention. I am sure that I will be a little frustrated in the beginning but after modeling (constantly) I am sure that my kiddos will be just fine. I just have to remember to give constant and immediate feedback to ensure the student understand why “Give me five” was used incorrectly.

Another way to establish a community is by putting responsibilities onto the students. Students need to realize that they have a role in the class and can help you out with everyday things done in the classroom. Have your students answer the phone, set up the laptops, put the homework on your class websight.

Students need to take an active role in the classroom. We need to teach students that the teacher will not be the center of the classroom. The students will come to understand that the teacher will not speak the whole time, but instead will walk around and facilitate. I do a lot of group work with my students. I pull a small group to work on a guided lesson but then I walk around the room and watch and listen. I try not to get involved in the work or arguments going on in the class. Instead, I listen and ask, “What do you think you should do?” or “How could you solve this problem?” I can not wait for my students to realize that they can do things in the classroom, like setting up a sign out sheet or a sign up sheet for read alouds.

How you set up your classroom is also very important. The room needs to be organized so that the students have space and can find material easily. The desks or tables should be organized to encourage talk and collaboration. There also needs to be an area for class meetings and space for students to work around the room. At least this is one area that I don’t have to worry about. My classroom is already set like this! 🙂

Another way to ensure that your class is a community and to have a student-led classroom is to let the students sit at different places in the room. Students should be able to choose other places in the classroom to sit while working. This is something that I did not do this year. In my old school, in previous years I would let the students choose where they wanted to sit during reading and writing. This year I really didn’t do this. I let the kids sit where they want during projects but I haven’t really given them the freedom to sit where ever they want at other times during the day. Again, its about giving up control!


I love the strategies given for dealing with student conflict. I would never had thought to have the students play “Rock, Paper, Scissors” to resolve a conflict. I am definitely going to use this strategy in my class! Another way to help the students to resolve conflict is to use the conflict as a teaching moment. Again, I plan on doing this is my room next year. You can also teach the students to compromise with each other to help the students deal with conflict. I can not wait until my students are able to handle their own conflicts and help each other out!

Thanks for stopping by and saying hi. Come back next week and join us for chapter 4!


Learn Like a Pirate: Chapter 2

2. Common Concerns about Student-Led Classrooms

Hi everyone. Welcome back to Chapter 2 of Learn Like a Pirate, by Paul Solarz. Chapter 2 is Common Concern About Student-Led Classrooms.

As I was reading chapter 1, my mind started to already jump ahead to so many questions.
-How would I do this in my classroom?
-How would this work?
-What would this look like?
-How in the world will I be able to fully give up control?
-What would my admin say about all of this?

The first concern that Paul Solarz brings up in chapter 2 is “I’m worried about giving up control to my students.”

This was my first concern. I mean what teacher doesn’t have the nightmare where he or she can not control the students and then your admin walks in??
Deep down, I know it’s not the same type of control. I know we are not talking about classroom management, but that is exactly what I thought about.
According to Mr. Solarz, you are not really giving up control. Instead, you are sitting back and letting the students think for themselves. You don’t interfere (well at least most of the time) and let the kids make mistakes. I love that fact that you let the kids know that what you, as the teacher says is final.

The second concern: “I can’t do this. I’m definitely going to make a lot of mistakes and fail.”
I have to say that I am not concerned about failing. I already know that I will make a lot of mistakes and might fail. I teach my kids that everyone makes mistakes and will fail at something so this will be a good model for my kiddos.

The third concern: “There’s just too much at stake. I can’t risk this not working.”
Again, this is not really one of my concerns. I try to teach my students to be risk takers and to think for themselves. I love how Mr. Solarz points out that if the student-led classroom doesn’t work, the worst that can happen is that you have a teacher-led classroom. 🙂

The fourth concern: “This will be too much work. I can’t take on another thing right now.
I think every teacher around the world has had this concern. As teachers, we are bogged down with so much paper work and things to do. It seems like every other week, admin is giving us something new to do or to try. It gets very overwhelming!!
I am so glad that I am reading this book now and thinking about setting up my classroom in September. Making the kids responsible is something we all strive for. By starting in September and teaching our students what our expectations are and their responsibilities, we set the kids up early on in the year to become leaders in the classroom.

Fifth concern: “But, won’t my room get loud?”
Another concern I had was how loud my room would be. But then I started to think…my room is already pretty loud. I do a lot of group work, partner work, and turning and talking to each other. I try to teach my kids that what ever talk is going on, must be productive. So I guess my room might become a little louder, but I think I can handle it.

Sixth concern: “Parents and administrators won’t like it.”
Another concern I had was about what my admin would think about the student-led classroom. After reading chapter 2, I am confident that my admin and my parents would welcome a student-led classroom. They would be happy to see that all students are engaged and are enjoying school. My admin would get to see and hear what the students know and realize that the students are becoming more independent and risk takers.

WOW!! I really had a lot of concerns. As I read chapter 2, I realized that we are all in the same boat. We are all worried or concerned about giving up control, how loud the class will become, what our administrators or parents would think of our classroom, and being overwhelmed.

After reflecting on my teaching, reading Learn Like a Pirate, and reading the other posts by my fellow bloggers, (you can read their fabulous posts below! 🙂 ) I know I can do this! AND IF FOR SOME REASON I flounder and think for a second or two that I CAN NOT do this, I can go back and reread the concerns that Mr. Solarz laid out for us in chapter 2. I can also reach out to my colleagues who are also willing to try starting a student-led classroom for some much needed support.

I can’t wait to share my thoughts on chapter 3. See you next week!