Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Teach Like A Pirate: The Third Circle...Consider Presentation!

Gotta love a Pirate Girl... especially one designed by Nikki from Melonheadz
So excited. So excited. So Ex.Ci.Ted! Today I'm a Pirate Girl! (Truth be told, I'm not really a pirate-kind-of-girl, but today I get to blog like one!)

I have been on vacation for a week... and my biggest worry wasn't whether our camp site had running water or whether there would be a Starbucks in between stops--it was whether I would get home in time to blog about Teach Like A Pirate, a wonderful book by Dave Burgess. And while the sunlight is beginning to wane a bit, I am here on my assigned day to share some details about my "chapter" in the book--the one called "The Third Circle."

Mr. B.  (do you like the way I have made him my new good buddy?) explains his opening premise with this nifty diagram. I added the star to reflect that when all is right in the universe, all three circles meld together and the magic happens...

I think that most teachers are well-versed in their grade level content (although as Common Core takes a tighter hold, I am a bit fearful that this circle will get even more attention until our "instructional comfort" returns again. This is my fear, however, not one shared by Dave Burgess.)

The techniques and methods that most teachers use are selected almost intuitively based on the content they are teaching. For example, teachers seem to know, without much thinking, that small group work is a good match for math remediation or that watching a debate might help students strengthen their thinking for persuasive/argument writing. They know that hands-on experiments help convey information in science and that compelling reading passages will spur discussion in a literature lesson.

So, we know WHAT to teach. And we know HOW to teach it. Still I am certain that I am not the only teacher to have taken a step back and pondered: I taught the material... but, somehow, the students didn't learn it.

This is where that Third Circle comes in. In the next few sections of the book, Mr. B. will offer a variety of strategies to help engage students so that the teaching AND learning will happen. It's all about presentation.

I put a technique from his chapter to use when I served dinner this evening. Mr. B. talks about barbequing. I am not the talented, but you'll get the idea! I could have thrown it all on the plate (that's my usual style) especially since (as is also my style), dinner was purchased elsewhere. Instead, I arranged the bread in little slices surrounding the dipping sauce and threw in an little greenery for color. It certainly looked pretty... and I can't helped thinking it tasted better. The audience was impressed and happy.

It was the presentation that made a difference. Sometimes I think we would like to believe we are strong, capable, caring teachers and that kids are going to like what what we teach so much that we don't have to think about engaging them. Ah, if only it were so!

I teach sixth grade. I used to think that I had to turn cartwheels while dressed like a cave woman to get them to be engaged! I bet you think I am going to now add that this is not necessary, but sometimes it helps...

I have not yet attempted cartwheels, but I have dressed like a cave woman. In fact, I do so every year when I teach "early people" in social studies. As the day begins, I invite students to address me as Waheela, Huntress. A few defer to Ms. Waheela, but most of them get into the spirit. They observe my clothing as I comment about how I need to consider the environment in every decision I make. I tell a tale about chasing woolly mammoths, and talk about my desire to be a huntress at a time when most of those doing the hunting were men. I end the lesson with a sketch on my cave wall (inked over a lightly drawn outline...shhhh... trade secret!)  Once, as an end-of-the year gift, a family bought me a walking stick that had "Waheela" carved into the wood. Kids DO remember those impossible-not-to-be-engaged lessons.

I don't have a lot of stellar lessons in my magic backpack, and I have begun having visions of myself cartwheeling as an igneous rock. But, I am truly thinking of more ways to draw kids into learning. And this is where Mr. B. says it best: When you are designing lessons, everything is a choice. Even our non-choices are choices. The next several sections in the book offer lots of ways to "spend" our treasure--our choices--as we craft our lessons. It ALL matters!

I adore this quote from Teach Like a Pirate...

Pirate Boy designed by Nikki from Melonheadz www.melonheadzillustrating.blogspot.com

I am so inspired by what I have read in this book! It's like finding some unexpected gems and jewels that you knew existed, you just didn't have enough details marked on the map to help you find it.

As I think ahead to September, I am conscious that presentation must always be a consideration, and that ALL of the choices I make will matter, not only in my teaching, but in my students' learning.

If you haven't read Teach Like a Pirate, get a copy quickly and dive in! The book is filled with adventure and wonderful discoveries.

Be brave... Treasure awaits!
Pirate Girl and treasure designed by Nikki from Melonheadz www.melonheadzillustrating.blogspot.com
Want to read more about The Third Circle? Head on over to Rowdy in First Grade. Jennifer has some wonderful (and funny!) sentiments about this chapter that you won't want to miss!

PS Pirates by Melonheadz HERE and pirate maps by Teacherscrapbook HERE ...both on TpT!


  1. I am reading Teach Like a Pirate right now as well. It's such an incredible book! Thank you for your post!

  2. Thank you for your insights. I am truly enjoying this book!


  3. ok, now I want to read this book! You are so right, presentation is everything! Sometimes you have to put on your tap shoes and top hat, but if it gets the kids interested....it's what we have to do!! thanks for the recommendation..happy summer!

  4. Hi Kim! Thank you for blogging about Teach Like a PIRATE and the Third Circle chapter...what a fantastic post!!
    I don't think I'm the only one who thinks you should add a picture of Waheela!!! I want one to add to my collection of teacher costume ideas! That lesson sounds amazing and I'm sure it is one of those never forgotten moments for your kids. I like to put it this way, "Don't just teach a lesson...create an EXPERIENCE!" You have definitely created an experience...lucky students!
    Thanks again for your wonderful post...we will wait to hear stories of cartwheeling igneous rocks!

  5. ^^^wow! ^^^ You are rocking it out girl! Fantastic post! I miss you and your wonderful insights! Hope all is wonderful for you. sipping coffee on the patio with this computer...just like last Summer when we "met"!

  6. I always knew you were a pirate :) I love this post! I'd love to see you in action :)


    Fun in Room 4B

  7. I love your story of being a cave woman! That sounds so fun! I'm really trying to come up with some great presentation ideas too! Love your whole post!

    Rowdy in First Grade

  8. I ditto everything your new friend Dave said ... and add that you AmAzE me!! Can I come with Elizabeth when she comes to watch you inaction??? Pretty please ....


  9. I can relate with just don't teach the lesson but create an experience. When I share the bill of rights - constitution...I create a whole set of engaging lessons to go along with it. We begin with a Susan B Anthony voting activity that excludes girls. Boy does that rev's up the students. They brainstorm new laws for our classroom and then narrow it down to 15. Those 15 are put on a ballot for the students to vote for the top ten . A classroom constitution is created with ten laws. We write it up and for a full week abide by those laws. However I need to point out ammendments to laws as problems come up. Boy do the students remember the process of law making and all that ties into it....engaged!


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