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

point of view1

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!


Makeover Madness!

Hi everyone. This week I am linking up with some fellow bloggers with a Makeover Madness. To kick off the summer, or almost summer (I still have 8 days left) we are looking back at some of our products on Teachers pay Teachers and making over that product.

So for this challenge, I decided to make over 3 different products. I only worked on the cover page and the TOU page. Can you believe that I really did not have Terms of Use page on any of my products?

The first product I revamped was my Character Traits Puzzle. I had to change the cover page. I used a different background, border, and a totally different font. I feel so much better about this product.


The next product I made over was my Math Circle Maps. I cringed when I looked back at my products. This was one of the first things that I made when I joined TpT. I can’t believe that it took me this long to redo the cover.


So, what do you think? I love the red background!

I couldn’t stop at just two products to make over. So, I also worked on my Division Scoot: iPhones. It was just so boring!


This is just what I needed to get off of my butt and start working on the covers of my products. Now that I started, I won’t be able to stop!

Thanks for stopping by and saying hi,

A Celebration and a Giveaway

I’m very excited to be joining some of my fabulous blogging friends to help Stephanie from The Learning Chambers celebrate 1,000 TpT and Instagram followers.  I mean look at all of the FABULOUS bloggers that are involved in this giveaway!!

To celebrate, we are giving one lucky follower an Amazon Gift Card worth $100!!  That is just in time for summer and it would definitely help purchase all of those books that you want to read this summer.

Make sure you enter the giveaway by entering in the rafflecopter below.  Good luck friends!  Fingers crossed!!

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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!


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,

Teacher Deal and Dollar Steal

Hi everyone! Today is my day to post and offer you a $! deal at Teacher Deals and Dollar Steals.

There are only 31 more days of school for me (I’m so jealous of those of you who are closer to the end of the school year!)and my kids were starting to get a glazed look in their eyes during science, which is so not my favorite subject.  You know that look…the glazed over, this is so boring look you get from your kids somedays.

So, I decided to use my interactive notebooks for my living and nonliving science unit. My kids were so excited when I brought out the different pages for them to work on. I mean, what 2nd grader doesn’t like to glue and cut? The kids love to take their interactive notebooks home and color the pages. It also gives my students the chance to show off their work to their parents.

My kiddos worked hard on these pages of the Living Things Interactive Notebook.  They loved it and so did I!

My Force and Motion Interactive Notebook is also on sale for the next three days.

My kids loved creating the mini golf course using the different types of motion to show the path of the golf ball. It is also a great activity for your students to work on at home with a parent.

 Thanks for stopping by and saying hi and don’t forget, these two interactive notebooks are only $1 for the next 3 days.