Learn Like a Pirate: Chapter 1

1. What is a Student-Led Classroom?

Hi everyone! The summer is quickly approaching and I am tired but excited to start thinking about how to improve my teaching and my classroom. I know many of you have started your summer vacation, but I still have 16 days left!

Last summer, I was part of a math book study by Laney Sammons. This summer, we are reading Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz.

So what exactly is a Student-Led Classroom?
According to Paul Solarz, “A Studen-led classroom is one in which students make decisions and choices throughout the day without consulting the teacher.”

OH MY!! I Got so ANXIOUS just reading that statement made by Mr. Solarz. Students that make their own choices and decisions without consulting the teacher???

As I continued to read chapter 1, I became less anxious!!! YES, this is exactly how I want my classroom to run.

* I want my classroom to be a safe learning environment where every student is engaged and enjoys learning.
* I want my classroom to be full of productive talk. What teacher doesn’t?
* I want my students to become more responsible and more independent. This happens to be a big concern for me in my classroom right now.
* I want my students to be able to resolve their own problems and not constantly come to me with little arguments.
* I want my students to lead discussions and share their opinions.
* I want my students to become risk takers and try to do something that others are not doing.
* I want to facilitate more and listen more to my students and have less teacher led lessons.

I already have my students working in groups for a good portion of the day. My kiddos are in reading and math groups everyday. They also work in small groups or partners in writing, social studies, and science. They reflect on their work and work on peer reflections. They discuss their ideas and their work with each other. My class is often loud with productive talk (not always, but usually.)

I am really excited to take the next steps and have my classroom become student-led. Join us next week for chapter 2 of Learn Like a Pirate.

Thanks for stopping by and saying hi,

Teaching with Intention: Chapter 4

Hi everyone! Welcome back to our book study on Teaching with Intention by Debbie Miller.

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Sorry I missed you last week in our discussion on chapter 3. Last Thursday was my first day back with my kids. You know how that goes. I am now a full week into the new school year and I am exhausted!!

Chapter 4 is about having a classroom culture that promotes and supports student thinking.

According to Debbie Miller, we should put our thinking on display. By showing our kids our thinking, we are teaching our kids how to be thinkers. We are showing our students how to be curious and reflective.

We need to show our students what we are curious about and what things interest us.
For the most part, I think that I show my kids what I am curious about. I often use the phrase, “I wonder why..” My students love when I stop and and ask questions.

We also need to show the students that we are open minded and willing to consider alternate perspectives.
After reading Teaching with Intention, I started to reflect and realized that I didn’t always keep an open mind when looking for an answer. There were many times that I was only looking for a specific answer. It wasn’t that I was doing it on purpose, it’s that I am always rushing because I have so much to material to cover and so little time. I learned that I definitely need to slow down!!

We also want to model seeking the truth and understanding.

So, I think that I do model and show the students that many times I have one thought in the beginning but as I continue reading, I realize that my idea has changed. I have a chart with prompts in my room. One of the prompts is;
At first I thought… but now I think…

According to Debbie Miller, we should also model what it means to be reflective.
I realized after reading this chapter that this is not something that I do a lot, so I have made it a point of modeling how I reflect on things said or learned in the class.

We should show kids what it means to have healthy skepticism for the written and spoken word.
I have to be honest…I am not good at this at all. This is one area that I definitely have to work on!

As I was reading chapter 4, one thing that stood out for me was when Debbie Miller was giving examples of Teacher Talk and how we use language in the classroom.

The example that stuck in my head was “Sometimes children say things that seem so bizarre (to us) that we wonder if they have been listening at all.”


This almost describes at least one conversation in my classroom everyday. Especially when one of my students blurts random things to try to get my attention. While I was reading aloud, my one student shouts out random thoughts. So now I say, “What from the book makes you think that?” After a few, and I mean a few (5 or 6 times that day) the boy stops making comments.


My mind was racing after reading chapter 4. To be honest, every chapter had me thinking and reflecting on my classroom and my teaching.

I plan on trying to write down things my kids say that are insightful during a lesson and write those ideas on chart paper to display in the room. I’m sure my kids will be really excited to see their thinking displayed for everyone to see.

Thanks for stopping by and saying hi. I’ll see you next week for chapter 5.


Teaching with Intention: Chapter 2

Hi everyone! Welcome back to our book study on Teaching with Intention by Debbie Miller.

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Chapter 2 is about beliefs and practices in the classroom. So I stopped and thought about what my beliefs are.

1. I believe that every student should feel safe and be able to take risks. I want every one of my kids to feel like they are in an environment where it is safe to be wrong. I don’t want my kids to feel like they can not ask questions or afraid to give a wrong answer. That’s how I felt when I went to school. As a result, I never participated in class and become very anxious when I was called on.

2. I believe that the students should be working collaboratively and talking with each other. Again, when I went to school we sat in rows and really were not allowed to talk. (Did I mention I went to Catholic school?)

3. I believe that all students’ opinions are important and are valued.

4. I believe that all lessons should be purposeful and engaging.

As I continued to read chapter 2, Debbie mentioned how the next step is to align our beliefs with our classroom practices.

So I stopped again and wondered whether my beliefs and practices match.
Do my kids feel safe and are they able to take risks?
Yes, I think so. I am constantly reminding my students that the most important thing to in class is to try their best. It is always ok to be wrong.

Do my kids work collaboratively and talk with each other?
Yes, my students are always working in groups or turning and talking with partners. It takes a long time to get this started in my class, especially when other grades do not necessarily work in small groups or in partners. Reflecting back, I know that I need to be more patient with my kids.

Do I value all opinions?
In reality…sometimes. There are times when I have an answer that I want but a student is not giving it to me. I have to remember that there are different answers and opinions and not just one wright answer.

Are my lessons engaging and purposeful?
I definitely know that not all of my lessons are always engaging. I try but sometimes as I am looking over the a lesson, I think “This is boring!” Sometimes I change it, but sometimes I am so tired that I don’t. It’s not that I want to bore the kids, but sometimes I just don’t know how to make something more engaging (especially some science and social studies concepts.)

Know I have to sit back and make sure that my beliefs match my practices. I start school next week, so I am planning to make a little checklist or cheat sheet with all of my beliefs. As I go through the day, I plan on making sure that my practices.

Debbie Miller suggests these questions to think about when thinking about what you believe about teaching and learning.
1. How do you go about teaching kids something new?
2. What principles guide you?
3. How do you know if kids are getting it?
4. What do you do when they don’t?

The author also suggests to reflect at the end of the day and write down what you’ve learned. After reflecting for about a month, then it is time to sit down and write your belief statements.

I know as the year goes on and I reflect, I will change and revise my belief statements and I can’t wait!

What are your beliefs and do your beliefs match with your practices? I’d love to know!

Thanks for stopping by and saying hi. I hope to see you next week for chapter 3 of Teaching with Intention by Debbie Miller.


Teaching with Intention: Chapter 1

Hi everyone. I am linking up with The Primary Gal for our new book study on “Teaching with Intention”, by Debbie Miller.

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All I can say is WOW! Debbie Miller begins Chapter 1 by asking a good question. She asks, “If I were to ask you to close your eyes and envision the perfect classroom scene, what would you see? What would you hear and smell and feel?” Debbie Miller had me thinking about my classroom with her very first line in Chapter 1. I stopped and thought, what do I think the perfect classroom would be like.

The perfect classroom to me is one where the children feel safe, where they are not afraid to take risks. It has a cozy feeling where the kids know they are welcome and look forward to coming into the classroom everyday. It is a noisy place where you can hear conversations going on about what is being learned and where students are engaged. It smells like markers and glue. 🙂

As I continued reading, I compared my class to the third grade class in Ohio. I could see the kids spread out in different areas of the room, some at meeting areas or desks and having conversations about what they were reading. I see a relaxed environment where the kids really take charge of their own learning. My class used to be similar. Before I moved schools and grades two years ago, my school was using Lucy Calkin’s Teacher’s College Reading and Writing program. We had different consultants come in and out of the school. One of my favorites was Colleen Cruz. 🙂 We were trained to have our kids read and discuss. At any point you could walk into my room and hear conversations going on around reading, writing, and math.

Every September, we started with Launching the Reading and Writing Units and the kids were pretty much trained by the time they got to me in third or fourth grade. Oh how I miss this!!

Fast forward to the present. I am now working in a school that kind of works the opposite. Last year was extremely challenging with a new reading program. We started to use ReadyGen with no training. It has a lot of whole class instruction and some small group instruction. It was taking me three days to do a lesson. SO FRUSTRATING!!

So I decided to TC the lessons and they went much better. I made sure to institute Turn and Talk, or partner talk and start small groups. My class was starting to look similar to how it used to be, but still wasn’t the same. The class was still too quiet and had trouble talking for a long period of time.

I start school in two weeks and I am so glad that I have read “Teaching with Intention” because it has reenergized me to get my second graders to how I want them to be. I want them to talk, to take charge of their learning, to be engaged throughout the day, to have productive conversations where they can share their thoughts and opinions and agree or disagree with their peers.

I know that I have to spend a lot more time on routines and getting reading for having conversations in September and October, especially because they have not been introduced to partner talk or group work in previous years. I already have the posters in my head that I am going to create. I plan on creating an anchor chart with conversation prompts such as; I think…because, I agree with…because, I disagree with…because, This makes me think that…, and a few other prompts. I can not wait to begin!

What conversation prompts would you add to my anchor chart? Leave your prompts in the comments. 🙂

Thanks for stopping by and saying hi. I hope to see you next week when we discuss chapter 2 of “Teaching with Intention” by Debbie Miller.