A few years ago, I attended a session put on by Dave Burgess at a social studies conference. I had never heard of him before, but the description of the session seemed like something I wanted to attend. Upon my arrival at the session, I could tell that many people had recognized his name and that I had picked a popular session. By the time the session began, people were standing along the walls of the very, very, large room in order to hear Dave present. I had learned that Dave was the author of a book entitled Teach Like a Pirate, (and true to his word, he conducted his presentation in a pirate costume), so I had put that book on my mental list of items to read. This year, I finally read that book and it came at a good time!
Now that I am in my 8th year of teaching, it can become very easy to turn to the trusty old manila folders. This is especially appealing when there are small children and a home to be tended to do. When reading this book, I was able to breathe new life into even existing lesson plans without having to devote a lot of time I did not necessarily have. Within this book, Burgess lists many, many, many, questions you can ask yourself when planning lessons. This includes, "How can I use a competition to build excitement and motivation?", "What would be the perfect song or type of music to create the right mood and proper atmosphere?", "How can I most effectively use music as they enter the room?", "How can I get my class outside these four walls for my lesson?" and "Can we get up and act something out?". These were just a few of the questions that inspired me to add a little extra here and there to make my class more engaging. These little touches paid off big time. My students were up moving more often when we used a space besides the classroom and were hooked into the days lesson before the bell rang with the use of music. Not everything was seamless, though. It can be difficult to find space for 25+ kids and still be able to manage them all and using music was easy for me as a history teacher.
In addition to these small changes, I was also able to add in some bigger activities. Burgess mentioned turning his room into something besides a classroom. I had always had simulations throughout the school year, but also looking for new ideas. This year, for the first time, I had turned my classroom into a 1920's speakeasy. Students had to use the password to get in (and everyone wanted in to see what was going on) and once in they were offered otherwise "forbidden" regular pop and chips. It cost a little money, but was a great day. I also received grief from former students on why their classes did not get to do this, a sure sign of a great activity! I highly recommend Teach Like a Pirate to invigorate your lessons!
Post by | Heather Spain | High School Social Studies
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