Is your class fun? Is your class rigorous? Before we proceed, stop to watch this video if you haven't already. It's hilarious only because it's so true. I recently finished a book study of Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess with our district. I'd heard about and was intrigued by the read, and it came at a very applicable time. Dave (we Skyped, and I feel certain he'd want me to call him Dave), seeks to exposed the false dichotomy between fun and rigor.
We all know that engaged students learn more. Yet, sometime "fun" seems frivolous, something to be cut if presented with a lack of time or resources. I like to be hospitable. The thrill of people coming over, setting a table, and preparing an obscene amount of food gets my blood pumping. For this reason, his 'Welcome to the BBQ' example spoke to me. He talks about the effort he would put into inviting you over for a BBQ- asking if you like steak, how you'd like it seasoned and cooked. He'd prepare all the fixins' to go along side it, drinks to wash it down with, and dessert to top it all off. He absolutely would not serve a rare steak- how embarrassing! However, this is how too many educators approach the goings-on of their own classrooms. He writes, "Teachers like this walk into class with their raw, unseasoned content, plop it down in front of their kids and say, 'Eat it!'...No wonder their students act as if learning is a form of torture that must be endured as they choke down their lessons."
The key he finds is in asking good "hook" questions in the planning process. These questions drive creativity and innovation and, ultimately, engagement.
Questions to consider to "hook" your students:
- How can I incorporate movement into this lesson?
- How can I get my class outside my four walls for this lesson?
- What can my students draw or make that would help them understand and retain this information?
- What would be the perfect song or type of music to create the right mood or atmosphere?
- How can I provide opportunities for autonomy and choice in this lesson?
By appealing to student-centered learning styles this "reinforces the value on their unique talents and allows them additional chances to see school as a place that encourages rather than stifles creativity".
This book came along when I needed an instructional pick-me-up, and that's just what it did. I love the idea that creativity is everyone's responsibility and these questions help up plan for student engagement and success.
You can follow Dave on Twitter for more pirate booty.