Friday, October 28, 2016

"Yo ho ,yo ho a pirates life for me." As I read "Learn Like A Pirate: Empower Your Students to Collaborate, Lead, and Succeed" by Paul Solarz, I couldn't help but think of this famous Disney Song.

Why would I recommend this book? It is perfect for those wanting to start or fine a Student-Led classroom. It helps you achieve the higher level of proficiency on the Charlotte Danielson Evaluation Model. For those of you willing to step away from the traditional A - F means of reporting success, it offers a suggestion for an effective means of reporting student growth. ("A" seems like such a final destination and what does it really mean anyway.)

Paul shares the experiences he provides for his students.  They are in an environment for continual growth in their Twenty-first century skills with the belief they will transfer those skills to situations long after they leave his classroom.

Photo was taken prior to copyright laws
and /or has not been renewed.
Arr, did ya know that pirates had to share responsibilities on the ship to be successful for all? They set the rules such as who would be responsible for required chores and how they would divvy up the loot. They weren't even allowed to fight (until they reached land). In essence, Paul instills in his students the foundation that; "A crew that works together wins together."

Truthfully, I connected this reading more to The Little Rascals (Old Gang), but not sure who would remember this show as it is from the early to mid 1900s. You rarely saw adults and these kids were always having meetings to problem-solve their way to whatever they wanted to accomplish - together.

Top   5  6 (PIRATE) Takeaways:

1.  P = Peer Collaboration: Teachers must continually provide students with learning experiences on how to have empathy, resolve conflicts, and be responsible for each other; not just the self, in order to be successful.

2.  I = Improvement Focus: The goal is for "incremental improvement" (continuous quality improvement) based on reflection, self-assessment, and effective feedback. (Not in discovering what it takes to get an A and be done.)

3.  R = Responsibility: Provide opportunities for students to take leadership roles through jobs, rituals (such as REARJMCL), and problem-solving where they can be self-sufficient. A substitute would be quite impressed.

4.  A = Active Learning: Most of us have heard of students being able to remember 90% of what they teach. Debates, simulations, and especially mini-lessons are just some examples of "plans for learning" (rather than lesson plans) teachers can provide.

5.  T = Twenty-first century skills: This is the most transforming item of them all. We have all heard of 21st century skills; or the "soft" skills required for college and especially career readiness. However, if these transferring skills are part of our vision for students, why are we measuring their "success" through A - F letter grades based on content standards? Students need to be reflecting and growing on these skills.


6. E = Empowerment: Don't we all feel good when we are able to rise and meet a challenge. We are also feeling accomplished because we were trusted to be a leader and responsible in being able to do the project in the first place. (Not just delegated to make someone else's job easier.) Therefore, giving anther reason for the importance of having Student-Led (not just student-centered) classrooms.

Created by me (a first so be kind) using Paper by 53 as recommended by Matt Miller.

My Actions:

As my classes are definitely noisy and bustling with student conversations and activity (annoying others around me) I will be adding a few things into our routines.

1.  I do believe in the power of reflection for continual growth (thanks for reading this blog). Our district does see the value of student reflection on data for growth (why else do we take all of those assessments). I would like to take student reflection to a different layer and that on some of the Twenty-first century skills. They need to reflect on where they think they are (as compared to my observations) and where they would like to go. Using a SMART goal tweaked for their purpose would be the ideal instrument.

2.  I will let go of more "jobs" in the classroom. Letting students say "Give me Five", rather than me saying, "Oh Me...., Oh My". They can easily recap the day, remind each other of the objective and activity, pass out papers without my direction, and teach each other things they know which I do not. I am looking forward to what we all can learn from mini-lessons that are a result of "Passion Time".

3.  In a few of my reflections I have seen and written on the value of seeing growth through blogging. I must begin giving opportunities for my students to blog or journal. We are piloting Blackboard which has a blog (for class) or journal ( for private) options. Students must reflect on what they learn and how they can relate to it. Or reflect on what they valued the most in the day's activity, why, and how they can improve on their least favorite item. Also important is to reflect on how they can help others in class so that we all can succeed.

Thanks for sharing Paul!


  1. Thanks so much for writing this post Valerie! An excellent summary and reflection! :)

  2. This confirms so much of what I'm thinking and blogging about this morning. And it gives me an idea of which book I need to read next! Thanks!