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

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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.


Summer Stock Up Sale!

Summer Stock Up Blog Logo

Hi everyone! Can you believe that it is summer already. Even though we are on “break”… you know, and I know that teachers never rest. We are always thinking about how we can improve, what we can do next, what activities we need for next year, or of course what our rooms will look like when we go back to school.

Never fear…the Summer Stock Up Sale is here to help you get started! I am teaming up with a bunch of awesome bloggers and TpT sellers to get you started on the new school year.

First, we have interactive notebooks. My kiddos love interactive notebooks, don’t yours? Part of my curriculum is to read Charlotte’s Web. My second graders have such a hard time with the book so I created an interactive notebook to help them.


Check out some of the Charlotte’s Web IN in action below.
Character's reaction

Character's reaction

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Point of View

Setting of the Zuckerman's farm

All of my interactive notebooks are 20% off. You can check them out here.

What is a Summer Stock Up Sale without task cards?
Take a look at my Back to School Task Cards. It’s perfect for the first few days of school.

Back to school Task Cards

My students absolutely love task cards. Task cards can be used in so many different ways. They can be used independently, in small groups, and played as a Scoot game.

task cards

Thanks for stopping by and saying hi.


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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 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,

What Works: Best Seller

what works well

Hi everyone! Today is day 2 of our link up to show how much you are appreciated. Today I am sharing my best seller with you. My kids absolutely love interactive notebooks. The first book my reading curriculum uses is Charlotte’s Web (in 2nd grade, in September!!!) My kids were so lost until I made this interactive notebook. It gives my kids a more hands on experience and we all know how much any kid loves to cut, glue, and color.

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works well dollar

So now to the good part. Who doesn’t love $1 deals. Check out below to see some great dollar deals to help celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week!

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Thanks for stopping by and saying hi. Don’t forget to check out some other best sellers and dollar deals.


Teacher Appreciation: What Works for Me!

Hi everyone! Well, it’s that time of year again…Teacher Appreciation. In case you haven’t heard it yet, I APPRECIATE YOU and all of the hard work you do day in and day out. There is so much more that you do that people do not see or know about. You are teacher, nurse, counselor, social worker, and mom (just to name a few! 🙂 )

Sometimes we are feeling burned out and just need a break. It’s times like these when I am so glad that I found this great community to talk to and to share ideas.

We all know that a teacher never really stops learning, working, or looking for ideas. That’s why todays link up is so great! It is a time to relax and see what works for others in their classrooms.

So…what works well for me??

I absolutely love the metal oil drip pans. My old school had magnetic boards so when I transferred schools I was devastated to learn that the boards were not magnetic. I used my boards and magnets for everything. So to fix the problem and to simplify my life, I found the largest size oil drip pan that I could find and used the Command Picture strips to stick them onto my blackboard.

Then I used my new metallic boards 🙂 to display my homework club, job chart, and my flow of the day with my teaching points.


This might seem really simple, but using a homework club with a reward of having Fun Friday works really well for me. Each student is given a number and if homework is missed, they are moved out of the homework club. I give my students a chance to be placed back into the homework club if the homework missed is made up during the week.
I have to tell you, Fun Friday goes a long way in motivating my second graders to get their homework completed.

If you look at the picture below, you will see my oil drip pan with my Homework Club and my job chart. I also love my job chart this year. We were not allowed to put the job chart onto a bulletin board so I had to get creative. I bought some ribbon and printed out the job cards. I hot glued everything together to make the job chart. Then I used clothes pins with blue or purple tape to differentiate between the boys and girls.


To help display my groups I have a clip chart. The students can go and move their clips if they move groups. I have three different groups during reading and math.

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What else works for me?
I use a checklist or spreadsheet for everything! At the beginning of every unit (or really over the summer) I create a spreadsheet to record my observations or my data. I then use the checklists to help me grade, have conversations with parents, and to form my small group instruction. It might seem like a lot of work in the beginning, but it is so worth the time when you can see all of your data and observations at a glance.

Have I mentioned that I have been called the Spreadsheet Queen. I guess it really it true! 🙂

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Running Records Checklist

What else works for me?
I love using reward cards in my class. My kiddos get so excited when they get to choose a reward card. They love sitting in my desk, using my chair, or bringing in a stuffed animal. This year I am using my iPhone Reward Coupons but I change them every year. You can take a look at some of my reward cards by clicking here

iPhone Reward Cards

Thanks for stopping by and saying hi.

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You won’t want to miss out on all the other great secrets being shared by successful teachers!  Be sure to check out all the other great posts below.

Educents Market Place Launch


Have you heard the news?? Educents is launching their new store! Now, not only can you find awesome deals on Educents but you can also follow the stores of your favorite sellers.

To help celebrate, Educents is giving away $50 in Edubucks. Can you believe it? Not only do you get to follow some fabulous stores, but you can enter to win $50 in Edubucks. Imagine all of the great products you could buy from Educents with that money! EEEKKKKK!

You can go to my store now and grab some great freebies. Don’t forget to follow me while you are there!

One of my favorite freebies is the Force and Motion Cootie Catcher or Fortune teller.

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But wait!!! There’s more! 🙂
Check out my April Showers Bring May Flowers Sampler Multiplication Pack for free.

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Thanks for stopping by,

Educents Marketplace $50 in Edubucks Giveaway #7 – Second Grade Stores