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 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!