One of the most important things to establish at the beginning of a school year is comradery among pupils. Several years ago I came up with a story idea that focused on this concept. It introduces my classroom theme of #ThePolitePirates as well as giving us a shared purpose.
The story has grown over the years, as I come up with more themes and invest more time into it. I usually share it with my students in a Google Doc through Google Classroom, so each kid has his/her own copy to practice connecting with the text via leaving comments. This year, for the first time, I plan to publish the chapters in this blog, so anyone can read the story and leave comments.
Feel free to “pirate” my tale. Change and tailor the idea to fit your classroom. I usually read it out loud to the students before having them access it in Google. I try to do a chapter a day for the first week of school. There is a bit of vocab and figurative language to explain, but it is a good tool for introducing all kinds of classroom expectations and future academic tasks.
Without further adieu, are you ready to be shipwrecked?
Chapter 1: “The Island”
Once upon a time there was an island; not any old island; but a special, helpful, resourceful, maybe magical island. This island was home to many plants and animals. However, humans had never set foot upon its shores, until, one day…
There was a massive storm. It was not a big storm, or a strong storm, or a severe storm, but all three of these adjectives rolled up into one humongous, scary, powerful, and seriously damaging storm. It began so suddenly that several ships were caught off guard. Some sailing vessels survived the storm, but many were shipwrecked.
The storm may have started suddenly, but it did not end for days. Wind and rain pounded the water, while sailors, passengers, and pirates bounced like buoys on the sea surface.
That’s right. You read that correctly: pirates! If passengers and sailors were scared of sharks, they were petrified of pirates.
Being shipwrecked at the same time, in the same storm and sea, though, found sailors, passengers, and pirates alike thrown together into the same boat…
Did the island sit there while sailors, passengers, and pirates washed up onto its shores? Or, did it, as so many of the survivors came to believe, reach out its long shallow sandbars to save the poor sailors from certain peril? Either way, about thirty people found themselves safely sunning on silky sand when the wind and rain finally ceased. Of their ships, nothing but memories survived.
Two or three persons from each ship made it to the island, so everyone knew at least that many survivors. At first the people who knew each other formed small, tight groups that did not talk with, help, or share with the other survivors. But, that did not last long.
Some will tell you that the island brought them together. Some say the storm purposefully plucked each person from his or her ship to make up the population of the island. Others think the beauty and elegance of the island forged a bond between the survivors. But, everyone would agree that the savory smells from the campfire of Captain Iron Knee and his small crew of pirates was the most memorable element of that first night.
Perhaps it is just human nature to want to join together and work as a team. Any way you slice it, though, each small band of two to four survivors of six or seven different ships eventually came to live, eat, work, play, practice, build, and therefore survive together as a team, unit, band, group…
I hope you enjoyed chapter one. Tune in for chapter two, where we explore some character traits of Captain Iron Knee.
What do you think the message or theme from chapter one might have been? What was the author trying to get across? Why was it written?
Raise your hand if you’ve ever had something like this happen to you, as a learner.
It’s my freshman year in college. I don’t remember if it was 1st or 2nd semester, but I DO remember that it was 7:30 in the morning, Monday, Wednesday, Friday! [Seriously, who was in charge of that decision: A mandatory, first-year class that early! Clearly, the college was trying to weed out the non-morning-people… with a vengeance.] It was intro to something or other, and I had to take the class as a prerequisite for future necessary courses. So, I’m stuck in this pedagogical prison with what seems to be a brilliant professor who is trying as much as he can to wake us all up with exciting anecdotes.
The thing is, there is this one rose among us weedy, thorny freshman who has grown beyond the bramble to sing in the early morning sunlight. This student probably already had a higher education, or at the very least was well-read on the topic. I don’t know. I never conversed directly with the guy. He would raise his hand, and the rest of us would lay down our pencils and pens. The lecture was over, as far as the rest of us were concerned. This star student would ask the professor a question. I never even understood the inquiry, let alone the lengthy response the professor clearly loved providing, complete with gigantic vocabulary that drifted like cirrus above our cerebral sleepiness.
I don’t know how I passed that class. What was I supposed to do in the moment the lecture unexpectedly derailed to plow through the wilderness? Should this naive novice to higher education raise his hand and suggest the conversation steer back toward the original topic, where the rest of us are still stuck in mental mud? …And, while you’re at it, can you use verbiage the rest of us pion-pupils can understand? Should I have left the lecture hall, to go back to the cocoon that was calling me: my bed? It WAS 7:30AM!!! Or, perhaps I should ignore the nonsense (that’s what it was to me), and read the enormous, expensive textbook that I drug around with me, but hadn’t cracked?
That really happened to me. Another thing that happened was my very own participation in derailment, back in highschool. I remember glorying in getting teachers off topic to discuss some random recent event. The class was happy to rest note-taking hands and enjoy some cognitive freetime.
And, lastly, as a teacher, I have found it fun to discuss something off the cuff that a kid brought up, assuming that he or she was invested in this divergent topic. I’ve thought that the spontaneity of switching gears to something that mattered, personally, to my students would be engaging. It very well could be, for that one student. But, what about the rest!?
I’m preparing a collaborative blog post with Mountain Buddha, author of “The Write Inspiration” on the topic of controversy. I was reading an article about using political controversy (oh my!) in a Social Studies classroom, when I came across an idea that stopped me dead in my tracks.
It may seem classy and fun to allow a spontaneously surfacing idea to infiltrate a lesson, but this can isolate, marginalize, disengage, and feed in to a powergame.
One of my favorite books is “The 48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene (2000). Law number 30 (page 245) states “Make Your Accomplishments Seem Effortless”. When a professor or teacher spontaneously expounds on an idea that wasn’t previously advertised, he or she is showing off his or her power. Unbeknownst to the pupils, the teacher has done loads of research, reading, and thinking on the topic. He is older than they and has had some life-experiences that have added to his breadth of knowledge, as well. It may seem like he is speaking off the cuff, but there is a muscular arm of mental muscle under that sleeve. By not explaining how much he prepared for this seemingly surprise question, students are left in awe of his god-like knowledge.
The goal of a classy teacher should be to empower or “put power into” students.
What would be classier to do, when a student brings up a topic that lies outside the given lesson, is encourage the thoughtfulness by affirming the question; “What a great question. I love how much you are clearly thinking about this topic.”
You could further support her participation in discussion with, “It’s great for you to ask a question that could really further our thinking.”
And, rather than hording the power, share the keys to it by telling the class, “I have read and thought a lot about that, and would be ecstatic to share the information with you. Let’s do that early next week. Why don’t you talk to your parents and peers, and think up some questions that you might have. If you want to really participate, you might want to see if you can find something to read about the topic. Sound like a plan?”
In this way, the classy teacher will pull all of his pupils into the pedagogy, rather than marginalizing most and exclusively speaking to only one or two who share interest and/or experience/knowledge on the spontaneous subject. If there are students who choose to ignore the challenge of preparing for the future discussion, they are electing to disengage from learning. They are rejecting the power of meaningful discussion. For those who are interested, they can fill their coffers with copious particulars for engaging classroom participation.
This could very well be a controversial subject. I always enjoyed spontaneity in my teaching. I will likely need to work at this classy practice of empowerment. Do you already do this? Do you disagree with my thoughts? Can you suggest an alternative way of handling the questioning student, tempting off-topic discussion? Please share your thoughts.
Greene, R., & Elffers, J. (2000). The 48 laws of power.
I wish there were more time for it. And, time is my enemy. I have a lot to teach in a very limited amount of time.
Time is against me in another way, as well: I constantly ask myself, “How will this learning stand the test of time? Why would my students remember any of this?”
One answer to this question:
It was the first day of ELA standardized testing. I still had several math concepts to teach before students took the Math PSSAs (Pennsylvania’s standardized tests for elementary schools).
How would I present math when students’ brains were fried?
Serve them up for Zombie hors devours!
I wonder, now, if it was the metaphor of brain-eating, zombie-creating testing that got me on this kick. Either way, everyone loves a good apocalypse theme… And, I delivered. As soon as I got rid of my PSSA tests and dropped my students off at lunch, I recovered my stowed away phone and went to work.
Earlier in the year a student had shown me the app Chatterpix. I used this to snap a pic of our classroom spider and make it talk. This spider, EEKK, named after the way students are supposed to sit on the carpet while pair-sharing; Elbow, Elbow, Knee to Knee; has been hanging out in our third grade classroom since his introduction early in the year. I was moving him every now and again, suggesting that he wanted new vantage points from which to witness students’ good behavior/sharing skills. The students love pretending things are alive, and we had fun with it. When I wasn’t moving him for a while students began grumbling and commenting, so I hid him away. Now, 5 min. away from kids, I took a picture of EEKK who was in a cabinet next to the squirt bottle I use to mist the plants. When students watched the video, they exploded in predictions of where EEKK was hidden!
The message of the video was simple: There are zombies lurking, and we need to learn capacity.
Just as I had predicted, my third grade students didn’t care that a toy spider wasn’t alive; that, if it were, it wouldn’t be able to handle a squirt bottle; or that a tiny squirt bottle of water wouldn’t be enough to fend off zombies! They were thrilled to learn about standard liquid measurement and copy my Gallon Guy drawing from the board. I got out containers, and we discussed capacity.
The next day, was Tuesday, the second day of standardized ELA testing (PSSAs) in the morning. As per law, I put all electronic devices away, until I had rid my room of PSSA materials. While the students were at lunch, I made a new movie. This time, I got fancier. I took a snapshot of EEKK on red tile and used Apple’s Keynote App to erase all of the red background with Instant Alpha. Then I stuck him on top of a pic of a moat.
Chatterpix was used to make EEKK present a new problem of creating a perimeter to protect the classroom spider from zombies while he rested. He couldn’t be on guard 24/7!
With each passing day, I added increasingly difficult problems to EEKK’s predicament. After digging a moat, EEKK had to fill it with water. If it took him 5 minutes to get one gallon, and each linear foot of moat required two gallons, how long would it take to completely fill the moat? Was this question real-world? Well, minus the zombie theme, yeah, I think so;)
EEKK wasn’t completely secure, surrounded by only a moat. He decided to build a fort on
the land he had partitioned from the zombie-infected outside. Luckily Amazon was still going strong and available to drone-drop an order of lumber on EEKK’s land square. But, we needed to figure out how much it would cost us. While the outer perimeter of the moat was a 10′ X 10′ square, the moat took up some of the inside space. If the moat was exactly one foot wide all the way around, what would the perimeter of the inner square be? Students needed some perception help with this one. I even had to break out the clay and make a moat to demonstrate the inside square being smaller than the outside one.
Once we figured out the perimeter of the inner square, which would be the length of fence that EEKK would construct, we had to calculate how much this material would cost. Each foot of lumber was going to require $1.25.
The #ZombieApocalypseRoom207 was so much fun that more characters wanted in on the action! Enter the #PolitePirates. Now, #CaptainIronKnee, Mary (pronounced “muh-ree” for a different story), and Zeus want in on EEKK’s pristine perimeter project. They are a little picky, though. They each want their own space. Now, we must figure out how much more lumber we will need in order to build walls within our fort to partition individual spaces for each of the four inhabitants. Plus, they need a “Common Place” for all of them to eat and converse together; a shared space.
For this part of the project, I had students use the geoboard app on their iPads. They had to make the perimeter of the fort, 8 units by 8 units, with one “rubber band”. Then they could create any size spaces within that for the four characters, leaving an additional, fifth space, for the common space. The only parameter was that all of the corners must
be right angles. (This was so that the linear measurement of perimeter was more accurate. It was enough to figure out the cost and time to construct our forts. I didn’t need to teach the pythagorean theorem on top of everything else!)
Once they designed their fort interiors, they had to figure out how much the materials would cost. “Keeping linear units at the price of $1.25/each, how much money are we looking at spending for your fort?”
One thing that was very difficult to communicate clearly was the fact that you didn’t have to count a unit that functioned as two walls twice: If a room inside the fort shares a wall with the outer perimeter or another room, you only count that structure once. (It is tricky, even, to write about this.)
Self-Reflection: What I would do differently
The apocalypse began in fantastic form. The students loved it. The theme was fun and the problems were challenging and engaging. They quickly became overwhelming, however. There needed to be more teaching. I sat with some struggling students and walked them through the use of geoboard. I had them make the same exact shapes as me, and we figured out the perimeters together. This worked well.
Also, the idea of shared walls was very tricky. Two things could remedy this confusion. Make the parameters so that not walls would be shared, or have kids use popsicle sticks to actually build model forts. I wanted to do this last idea, but Wegmans didn’t have any sticks, and I was out of time. Teams could use clay bases and even fill the moat with water. Manipulative money could be used to “buy” the materials from a Zombie store. Students could earn the money by doing chores or figuring out other problems.
Another lesson-learned: Don’t overdo the theme. I am guilty of this. I tried doing a data lesson using the zombies, and not only did everyone grown, but it didn’t even make that much sense without teaching data-analysis, first. The video is cute, and I’ll use it in the future. Plus, students did love the game of throwing zombies at the school.
Self-Reflection: AWESOMENESS and things to grow
Even though the data lesson was not perfect, it gave us Zombie puppets. I had the students use the puppets for an ELA lesson. They made their own Chatterpix videos where their zombies told stories.
The creativity and open-ended practice was unparalleled.
The teaching moments were limitless. I never even got into the cost of carpeting the inside of the fort with different flooring styles! We discussed and figured out area, but it was enough to reteach/learn fractions with four quarters equaling one dollar and division with 12 being broken up into groups of four (quarters) to see the money problem different ways.
And then there is the artwork. In addition to coloring in the zombie puppets, some students drew illustrations for their videos. I had given the class the premise for their zombie stories: The zombies didn’t really want to eat brains. They just wanted to be smart, and they thought that eating brains would help them. The Polite Pirates explained the problem of this misperception to the zombies and everything was fixed. Each student made up his/her own rendition of the story.
The Future of #ZombieApocalypseRoom207
In the future I’d like to incorporate some supplemental reading and ELA components. My friend, Julia Dweck has written a couple of cute kid books about zombies that I would love to incorporate.
I was going to title this blog “The Building Blocks of Math Construction” because I liked the play on building/constructing learning from material things. Really, though, I think the most important thing about this lesson was plain old ACTION. Yes, it was creative and fun, but rather than teachers reproducing the exact lesson, I want to share the philosophy behind it. It is a difference between building a beautiful, popular burger joint that everyone in a region admires and franchising the concept all over the world.
In preparing a blog, I thought, what I really want is for Ts to benefit from these ideas… I want them to pirate them… Ting is the most open-source thing in the world… #PleasePirate
This is what I did. In thinking about teaching money, I was imagining setting up some kind of store in the classroom. In stead, I brought my daughter’s old school, wooden building blocks into the classroom. I thought I would have the students compete to construct the tallest structure while using the least amount of supply: They would stack blocks of value to create vertical towers and add up what it cost them.
I told the students of my plan. They were ecstatic. I assigned value to the blocks, dividing them into four categories: Many of the blocks were around 14cm. Those would cost 80¢. Any block that was less than 13cm would cost 40¢. (I did less than 13cm, because the 14cm blocks were a tiny bit under 14cm.) Now, the fun part. Many of the blocks had round edges that would make it
difficult to construct with; Those were on sale. They were half off. Here the kids would be using their recently acquired fraction skills. Lastly, there were two gigantic 28cm blocks in the box. Those were $2 each. Why? Because that’s the number that popped into my head. Also, these are super valuable because they are so solid and long. The kids can evaluate the price of these versus the others.
After talking cost, I started centers and left my top kids to figure out constructing cost-effective building on their own, while I conducted guided reading. The buzz from the back corner was electric. Everyone in the class was dying for their chance to add up the cost of blocks!
Halfway through the first center, I stepped away from my guided reading group to check on my little architects. How were they doing?
Rather than constructing a tall tower, this group of three boys and three girls were designing the most beautiful condominium complex you ever saw. They were finding a way to use every single block they could! At first, I was like, “That wasn’t the objective.” But, I caught myself.
I forgot to mention: I had introduced the whole idea through telling the class that they were going to be designing high rises in an urban area. We would have Lego people rent space in our sky scrapers.
This group was not making a cost-effective creation. Was that wrong? No. No, it wasn’t. “Okay,” I managed to say. “This is going to be pricey,” I told them. “You’ve built a Five-Star resort, here,” I joked. “Let’s add up how much it will cost to construct.” They jumped on taking it apart, putting the blocks into piles, categorizing by the characteristics I had assigned, earlier. I told them that they could reconstruct their building after figuring out the price tag for it. Amazingly, there wasn’t a breath of complaint. I’m pleased to report 100% success, albeit after quite some time.
After this experience I realized that the rest of the groups would probably need some guidance with this project. I decided to use math time to teach how to evaluate constructions. While students did some online work, I brought groups over to the construction corner of the room. I went over the prices of each of the four styles of block. We analyzed similar blocks and categorized them according to cost. Then I built a simple structure with one of each price. Students used dry erase boards to add up the cost. I also had manipulatives (plastic coins) there to help. It took a few tries, and as students showed success, I let them build a four block building. They had to add up the cost before moving on. With each success, they were able to build more.
I grouped students with like abilities to work together. There was a group that did so well so quickly that I let them work in teams with more than four blocks. None of my builders cared too much about making their towers tall, even though the example that I gave them was straight up, as tall as could be with one of each style of block. I did not emphasize this, either.
Students had a blast building their block structures. One group built a road. Why not?
One thing I would change, and I was tempted to change this halfway through the lesson, is the pricing. I didn’t like that half the price of the 80¢ block was the same cost as the smaller one. The smaller blocks should have been 50¢. Then there would have been more variation in the numbers and coins. Kids would be counting with quarters.
This was solved the next day. We revisited our building blocks motif, but this time with the vertical challenge. I explained that they were constructing in the inner city. I had actually looked up the price of the average urban block. “A city block in Manhattan is worth ONE BILLION DOLLARS!”
“What?!” Screamed the class with gasps of horror.
I had them use my vinyl chess mats as city plans. Each block or square would cost them 75¢. The trick is that for every inch of vertical they could collect 25¢. I formed a bunch of groups and spread students out all over the room, dividing up the blocks. In seconds the room was a buzz with builders. It wasn’t about how tall their building was, so much as how much money they could make.
My students were on fire. They had no idea they were even doing math! I am planning on putting together an elaborate assessment involving an urban plan where city block prices vary, depending on proximity to highway exits. I’ll redo the price of blocks. I’m even thinking about including fractions or weight! We love a challenge.
My head is swimming in a storm of figurative language, ideas, memories, and desires to share stories right now. Room 207 is a buzz with homonyms. Twitter is popping with robust vocabulary that is inspiring existential, pedagogical philosophies. I have stumbled across a heretofore unknown superpower, asking “Why?” –Soon to be blogged.
And finally, have you ever had the experience of someone seemingly reading your mind? There are those friends who know you so well, or the two of you have shared so many of the same experiences that he/she can tell what you are thinking throughout a conversation. The idea of completing one another’s sentences is the costume for this super power. But, have you ever met someone who simply shares many of the same interests, experiences, life values, and goals; so many in fact that you seem to have known each other far longer than you actually have?
It is frightening how “same page” we are getting! As I was thinking through my blog 📝 just this morning, I was also having some coffee questions bouncing around in my 🧠. Ode to follow. 🧐🤣 pic.twitter.com/YupPmHVot2
I only just met Kate Lindquist, and that only virtually on Twitter, a few weeks ago. But, the way she is tweeting things that are right up my alley reminds me of the relationship between Rodion Raskolnikov and Porfiry Petrovich from the godfather of dual personality psychology thrillers, “Crime and Punishment” (Dostoevsky, 1927). Petrovich, the local detective, has no idea Raskolnikov committed murder, but the latter feels like Petrovich is on to him through the entire novel. The recent tweet is a perfect example.
The picture at the top of this blog is from my very first year teaching. Those kids are in high school, now. I was doing all kinds of culture-building activities, mixing in art, philosophy, and story-telling. This was the year that I dreamed up “The Polite Pirates”. One of the special days throughout the year was “hat day”. This theme spurred all kinds of ideas, one of which, as you can see by the picture, was making pirate hats that did the opposite of filling strangers with fear and dread; They were to spread cheer and peace. We also came up with new classroom roles: The Peace Pirates.
One boy and one girl would be chosen each week to be incharge of making sure that the classroom was manageably quiet. They were given a “Peace Tool”, which is a little plastic drum with beads in it. When tilted slightly, the beads spill, simulating a beach-like sound. The class whispers “So peaceful” in chorus. They love it. And, it works.
The next year I added to the theme by making two “Peace Hats” that the Peace Pirates may wear. These were made of gigantic cardstock fronts that every student added some peaceful idea to, decorating the front with color and peaceful symbolism. There were words, pictures, cartoons, etc. I had to readjust the band that held it onto the students’ heads each week, but that was part of the formality of picking new Peace Pirates.
It was the following year, year three of Peace Pirates, that I finally wrote a story for the Peace Hat policy. [This is wear (get it;) Kate’s tweet comes in.] The story is about the power of the hat. I wrote it to bring power to the Peace Hat, but it is about hats having meanings or messages.
While the story was only okay, it took on new life when it was changed into a play to be read during a readers theater for parents. I love engaging top notch students’ help with projects as a way to differentiate through enrichment. The year that I made “The Peaceful Hat Story” into a play I had a student named Brandon help a little. We were learning Google Docs that year, and I had Brandon reformat some of the text, separating paragraphs into speaking parts. Honestly, I did most of the work, and had to fix some of
Brandon’s help, but he felt like a million bucks, having participated in the project. As a reward and payment for his participation in the project, I put his name on the bulletin that I printed out for parents. Of course Brandon was in this play during the readers theaters performance! Some of his crew congratulated him with comments in the shared Google Doc. My favorite thing about this experience, though, was the ending that Brandon gave the play. I have left it just as he typed it all of these years, explaining to future classes that a student wrote that. It cracks me up, and I can’t think of a better way to end the thing!
The Peace Hats are not worn as much anymore. This year’s haven’t even graduated from artwork to hat! But, the Peace Pirates get to sit at our classroom island. Looking out over our classroom from their peaceful perch, they still use the Peace Tool to encourage a quiet environment. In this way, none of my Polite Pirates will need to dawn the invention explained at the end of the Peaceful Hat story.
And, here it is in play form.
A Peaceful Hat Story Readers’ Theater
by Mr. Weimann
Captain Iron Knee
Narrator 1: (in a gruff old piraty tone) Behold, ye landlubbers be sittin’ in on the finest collection of courteous kids these here parts have ever known. We have a tale to share saving shenanigans for silly sailors and piraty persons performing peaceful feats!
Narrator 2: (in a normal voice.) Oh, good grief that pirate talk is hard. And, I’m pretty sure it didn’t make much sense, either. What my friend meant to say was that this class of students has a story to convey through one last readers’ theater. And, guess what! It is a polite pirate tale.
Narrator 1: Yeh, there be some strange personages patroling these planks. Watch out for the disease. It be catchin’ ye off guard, and shir ta frighten ya.
Narrator 2: My friend is referring to Onomatopoeia, which is no disease, but rather the literary term defining words that represent sounds.
Onomatopoeia: Grrrrrr. Argh!
Narrator 1: There she is! That was thee disease. She roams these waters. Be plenty oh pirates ‘fraid of her.
Narrator 2: Sure. If you are unaware of Onomatopoeia, you may be frightened by…
Onomatopoeia: Wham!!! Slam!!! Bam!!!
Narrator 2: But I just told everyone who Onomatopoeia is, so we’re good here. Let’s get on with our talel.
Narrator 1: If you insisteds. You be the boss, with yer fancy talkin’ and profesionalies explainin’.
Iron Knee: (bursts in on Zeus stirring a pot) What’s for dinner!? I’m starving!!
Onomatopoeia: CRASH! (pot falls to the floor) SPLAT! (Sauce lands on Zeus’ hat.)
Zeus: Oh, no. Look at my hat. What a mess. I cannot cook with such a messy hat.
Iron Knee: I’m so sorry, Zeus. I did not mean to be such a distraction. I should have walked quieter and closed the door gentler.
Onomatopoeia: Sob, sob
Zeus: I forgive you, captain. I just don’t know what to do.
Iron Knee: Well, you could wear my hat, if you must have one. I’ll have one of the swashbucklers clean up yours.
Zeus: I couldn’t possibly! Your captain’s hat doesn’t belong in the kitchen.
Iron Knee: Nonsense. What does it matter where it is worn? It will cover yer head. That is all.
Narrator 2: It did not require much persuasion for Zeus to dawn the captain’s illustrious hat.
Narrator 1: There was much need, those, for the young piraty cook to be wearin’ many dishtowels on his little roundish head. For the captain, he be havin’ a rather largish head, so his hat be hugish on top oh the cook’s.
Zeus: This feels better… pretty good… almost too good… powerful… Back to that sauce.
Onomatopoeia: Swish, slosh, splirt… (Zeus stirs the sauce.)
Narrator 1: Every stir that cook took made the hat-wearin’ rook look… power caused him to shook…
Narrator 2: Are you a poet now? I don’t think shook is even a word.
Narrator 1: It most certainly is! The cook shook with might. And, maybe. Maybe I will be the Poetic Pirate!
Narrator 2: You might shook with…
Onomatopoeia: Clank! (Zeus drops the stirring spoon.)
Zeus: Sauce, I am tired of stirring you round and round, round and round. I want you to thicken, and I don’t think that I should have to slave over you to make that happen.
Narrator 2: As if in answer to the person wearing the captain’s hat, a humungous bubble rose up from the surface of the brown goo.
Narrator 1: (with gusto, like a professional actor) Zeus grabbed a knife from the counter, and held it like a cutlass high above his head.
Narrator 2: Don’t steal the show. You’re only a narrator.
Zeus: Insubordinate gelatinous mutineer! You shall pay dearly for your rebellion. I will have no rivalries on my ship!
Onomatopoeia: POP! Splat.
Narrator 1: (with a flat boring voice) Zeus removed the captain’s hat.
Onomatopoeia: Utter silence.
Zeus: Oh no, what have I done? Captain’s hat is covered in mutinous muck.
Onomatopoeia: Creek, click. (the door opens)
Swashbuckler: Hey, what are you doing with the captain’s hat? I have yours right here, all cleaned up and ready to go for you.
Zeus: What?! The captain gave this to me! I did not steal it. You can go stick your nose in someone else’s business!
Narrator 2: Now, the swashbuckler, who had returned with the chef hat that he just washed as a favor to both the captain who had asked him to, but also as a courtesy for his good friend the chef, could not help but laugh out loud. Little did the chef realize, but he looked ridiculous with a pile of dishtowels still atop his head. As he yelled, the pile swayed to and fro like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.
Onomatopoeia: Ha, ha, ha, chuckle, chuckle, chuckle
Narrator 1: (incredulous) A Dr. Seuss book? Really? This story is so far removed from Dr. Seuss, that…
Narrator 2 : (cutting off the other narrator) Rather than experience the wrath of his friend, who was turning as red as a beet at this point, the swashbuckler backed out of the kitchen still clutching the chef hat.
Onomatopoeia: Step, step, step
Swashbuckler: I wonder what got into him. Where should I leave Zeus’ hat? I’ll just wear it until I find a place.
Narrator 1: (back to a piraty voice) Well, my mateys, this fine friend of a fellow forgot all about the look shook cook’s hat he took.
Narrator 2: (to himself) Oh brother. (to the audience) Even when another sailor asked him…
Sailor: What’s cookin’?
Narrator 1: (piraty) He be still forgetin’ he be dawning that puffy white hat!
Swashbuckler: Nuttin’ much.
Sailor: Tis that a new dish?
Sailor: What we be havin’ for mess mate?
Swashbuckler: What mess? I cleaned this deck this morning! It’s as shiny as your bald head!
Sailor: (a little hurt) Hey. I just be wonderin’ what’s the eats we be slavin’ aways fur.
Narrator 1: (still piraty) Look here. This sailor fella be thinkin’ that a regular old swashbuckler be the chef o’ the ship. He be thinkin’ this ‘cause the swashbuckler be keepin’ that chef hat on top of his dare head.
Narrator 2: Are you going to keep talking that way throughout the entire play?
Narrator 1: (piraty) It be startin’ to grow on me. That there be an idiom, if ye not fir-mill-yaaarrrrrrJ
Swashbuckler: I can’t take this anymore! I’m outta here. (throws chef hat on the ground)
Performed on “International Talk Like a Pirate Day”, September 19th
Onomatopoeia: Kirr whop!
Sailor: I wonder if he realized he was wearing the chef’s hat. I think…
Onomatopoeia: Churn churn churn
Sailor: I think I might be able to have a little fun with this.
Onomatopoeia: Slosh, swish, swoosh, ring, slosh, swish, swoosh, ring
Swashbuckler: Hey chef, I’m starved. What grub we got for supper?
Narrator 1: (no longer piraty, but kind of confused) Wait a minute. Is that the same swashbuckler from before… like two minutes ago?
Narrator 2: Yeah, that’s right. We should probably infer that some time has lapsed. You’re a narrator; why don’t you tell everyone?
Narrator 1: (still regular voiced) Could it be that the chef hat has some kind of magical power, so that it transforms the appearance of anyone wearing it?
Narrator 2: I think you are over-thinking it. These are pirates. They probably just see a chef hat and assume a chef is wearing it.
Narrator 1: (a little hurt) Oh, so pirates are less intelligent than other people, huh.
Narrator 2: Not this again… Look, this whole tale is about hats. I think it is safe to say that there is something going on with the whole who wears a hat, and what hat it is matters business. Let’s find out how the tale ends.
Narrator 1: (piraty again) I be hearin’ correctly? Somebody mention themselves some grub?
Narrator 2: Here we go…
Swashbuckler: You ignorin’ me man?! What grub we be eatin’?
Sailor: Grubs, man.
Swashbuckler: I asked you what grub. Why you be askin’ me what grub? You is bein’ the cook ain’t ya? What you doin’ foolin’ me dis way?
Sailor: We be eatin’ grub my matey!
Narrator 1: (normal, and out of piraty character) Is he saying “grub” like the animal, or grub, as in the slang term for food?
Narrator 2: Narrators are supposed to supply information, not ask questions. The sailor is playing a joke on the swashbuckler. The word grub can be used both ways, and he is implying that the swashbuckler will be eating actual insect larvae for lunch.
Narrator 1: Wow! The swashbuckler did not seem to appreciate the joke. He just dumped his whole bucket of dirty water on to the trickster sailor’s head.
Onomatopoeia: Wham!!! Bam!!! Slam!!!
(conversation off stage)
Captain Iron Knee: All hands below deck! Batten down the hatches.
Zeus: Where did this hale storm come from?
Swashbuckler: Where is sailor?
Captain Iron Knee: The sails will be ruined.
Swashbuckler: No, I mean where is the sailor who I threw a dirty bucket of water on?
Onomatopoeia: Thwack, thawack, thwack
Sailor: Attack! Attack! Someone is attacking the ship! Man the nine-irons! Jib the sails, or whatever you do with sails.
Narrator 2: As you may have guessed, the sailor was blind with the bucket on his head. The dark, combined with the sound of huge hale hitting his bucket head, disconcerted him to the point that he began running around raising sail and preparing for battle.
Narrator 1: Sailor unknowingly saved the entire ship!
Swashbuckler: You raised the sails yourself?
Sailor: I am a sailor.
Zeus: You had the foresight and extreme intelligence to place a bucket on your head?
Captain Iron Knee: You are the hero of the whole ship! What a brilliant idea! How did you ever think of it?!
Zeus: Yeah how did you come up with that?
Sailor: Well you didn’t let me finish before.
Zeus: Well, then who did it.
Sailor: The Swashbuckler did.
Captain Iron Knee: What?
Zeus: Well then I guess we can congratulate both of them.
Captain Iron Knee: Yeah.
Narrator 1/Narrator 2: And, that’s exactly what happened.
The vision is coming into focus, while it is getting hazier and more illusive.
21st century teaching should less resemble the space race of the 1960’s than take on the attitude of video game designers from the 80’s & 90’s. The space race was meant to show up Russia. Who could touch the moon and return to Earth first? Whomever could cover the distance of the playground, tag the wall, and return to the starting point first, wins. Wins what? Wins the race. For what? Why?
Granted, we learned lots of things through the process of racing to get to the moon. Sometimes it is necessary to have goals. Shooting for the stars will get you off the ground… sometimes. But, what if your goal was to find out what else was out there, other than stars and what we already know? What if your goal was just to explore, in general? There is the whole funding issue.
A friend of mine (Thank you Kate Lindquist @heARTISTatWORK9h9 hours ago)introduced an incredible vocabulary word to me just yesterday. I was of course flattered that she thought of me, especially in connection with such an interesting locution. A Google search, blog read, and some introspection lead to some seriously fun philosophy gymnastics.
The word was coddiwomple. It means to “travel with purpose to an as-of-yet unknown destination”. If you were to boil Western Civilization down to just a handful of concepts, one of the most poignant, I believe, would be “goals”. We are obsessed with them. There have been countless coaches and seminars selling the necessity of setting good ones. A contemporary wave of self-help is focused on washing away the stress of not meeting them; failure.
A recently published blog by Mountain Buddha@mountnbuddhaMar 28about hiking presented a paradigm-shift away from being goal-oriented. It provided the etymology of the word saunter; coming from the word saint. A portion of text from John Muir explains the origin coming from people pilgrimaging to the Holy Land. Now, these travelers had destination goals, but clearly they understood the importance of the process as an experience. Touching down in the center of a holy place in a helicopter so that you can check it off of a list of todos, hardly seems like the end of a pilgrimage. And yet, this is exactly what some educators are teaching their students to do.
“Your mission is to figure out a way to get the robot to deliver something to the cup,” is not an awful way to get kids thinking, tinkering, toying, and trying. What if you said, “Others have gotten this robot to place this ball inside of this cup. What can you have it do?” Now the student will be coddiwomple-ing.
This term takes the goal and shifts it forward. So many times we keep pushing ahead. We have reached the moon. What’s next? Explorers kept pushing on until every square foot of planet Earth had been touched by human toes. I propose playing on the plains, rather than hurrying over hills.
As I prepared to deliver the definition of coddiwomple I was tempted to write some of my own words: I came up with this fun prose, “Meander with meaning.” I erased it, though, because it is inaccurate. To coddiwomple does not mean mess around. There definitely is a purpose to the play. We should teach students to love the wrestling of ideas in addition to showing them how to pin down a problem.
Over the weekend I finally experienced “Teach Like a Pirate”. I listened to the recently produced (Jan. 2019) audio book, read by the author, Dave Burgess. There were tons of great take aways, some of which immediately developed in the first math lesson, Monday morning!
First of all, if you haven’t already gathered, I am one of the “freaks” that Dave mentions at the outset of his book: I bubble with passion, naturally and eternally. I live for teaching and love “bringing it” every day in every way. In addition to this, possibly because of this–There is definitely some cause and effect, here–I am quite creative find it easy to come up with new, innovative ideas. I left my accidental slip of type in the last sentence because it reminded me of one of my favorite points from “Teach Like a Pirate”: The six worst words that Dave Burgess has ever heard (loved that chapter!)
Monday morning, I was getting ready for the day and week, when an idea hit me: Have students learn time through using it to plan a party. We have been working on elapsed time for a couple days, and there are lots of ways to use real-life scenarios, but are any of them more fun than planning a party? Definitely not. I’m pretty good at hook-development, but it certainly didn’t hurt me to hear Burgess talk about it in “Teach Like a Pirate”! No more hook was necessary than “Today we will be planning a party.” I didn’t have to count to get kids on the carpet. They came ready to contribute… to their own learning!
Through discussion, I let the hook sink deeper and deeper, so that the students were mesmerized with math. I refused to answer the question, “Are we actually going to do this party?” I upped the ante when a student suggested that rather than include “Set Up/Clean Up” in our 60 minute time window, “We should just set up before the party and clean up when it is all over.” This sounded perfectly reasonable to everyone, but I told the class that “We will be renting a ballroom that costs $250 an hour. We don’t get the room until noon, and if we go over our time, the price doubles. So, we have to squeeze all of our activities within this 60 minute window.” And then I added, “Also, we have to include plenty of time for clean up, because the hotel will charge us extra if we leave it a mess… plus, that wouldn’t be classy.”
Boy, were they hooked. I mean I have never seen a group of students more engaged in discussion and riveted to each utterance! Every hand was shooting up with ideas. Who doesn’t want a party? The first thing I did was facilitate brainstorming of ideas of things to do at our “Math Party”–That’s what I called it; This wasn’t just any ol’ party; It was math-time, and that’s what we are doing; Make no mistake about it; You will learn math by the end of this. Many students were sharing themes. I praised “Pajama Day” and “Electronic Day”, but redirected to coming up with events that actually take up time. “We can make crafts wearing pajamas or with electronics, but it is the building-of-the-craft that takes up time,” I explained. So that the students felt heard, I wrote the theme ideas on the side.
During the brainstorming time I was building rapport. Not between myself and the students–that happened in September, and I had plenty of it–but between my students and the subject matter. Remember, I am teaching them math through all of this! The way I see brainstorming, it is like student ability: Every kid can do the math, some faster, some easier, some needing patience, help, and additional explaining. In my brainstorming sessions, every idea is acceptable. This makes it fun and funny, also. When a kid suggests a water event, I say, “Did you just say No-holds-bar-water-balloon-war!?” The classroom erupted… and the ideas poured in like the water filling those metaphorical balloons. Just as a teacher needs to redirect thought to shape learning, I rephrased student ideas to write a list of potential party events on the whiteboard.
Next, I drew a circle with ticks or lines that made the circle look like a clock. But, I didn’t write any numbers. I pointed out that there were 12 increments. Students mentioned that it resembled a clock. I agreed, but told them that this was a measurement tool, instead. I asked how much each segment was worth, reviewing our fraction sense: one increment was a unit fraction of 1/12. “If the circle represented 60 minutes, how much was each segment worth?”
That being established, we worked together, discussing how long the events might take. Students made suggestions as to which events we would want to have in our party. As students shared ideas, I filled in the pie graph. (I didn’t tell them that this is what the circle was, until afterward.) “Wait a minute, we have a lot of fun things planned, but what about set up/clean up time?” I inquired. “It’ll take some time to fill up enough water balloons to have a 20 minute war! And, we better plan on cleaning up all of the debris.”
As I filled the pie graph I asked questions like, “How much time do we have left?” And, “What fraction of all of our time have we used up?” Here is a tough one: “Of the time that we have planned, what fraction is eating?” This forced them to come up with a new denominator. You better believe we reduced our fractions to their simplest form each time, as well!
When done, I had students analyze our pie chart with questions like “Which two events equal the same amount of time as Water Balloon War?” After several of these, and Turn & Talk partner sharing, I modeled taking the information and turning it into a bar graph. First, I asked, “Why don’t we have to bring the (y axis) all the way up to 60 minutes?” Students knew to only go as high as the greatest amount of the events. After making the graph we did some more analysis: “How much more time will we be soaking each other with water balloons than eating?”
Finally, it was their turn. I showed the class the graphic organizer that I had made for them. They gasped when they saw that it was exactly like what we had just made. Because I presented it screen mirroring my iPad, I could quickly draw all over it. I showed them how they would plan events, fill in the pie graph, and make a bar graph. I told them that they weren’t allowed to use the same exact ideas that we had come up with together. They could have “eating”, but not the same amount of time. In other words, don’t copy, create. They were all cool with that. I stimulated this by writing crazy ideas on the graphic shown on the board: “Picking nose for 5 minutes, followed by washing hands for 20 minutes… because that was gross!” They loved it.
When everyone had their paper the room was abuzz with feaverish creativity. No one, not even my “I can’t think of anything to write” students, was stumped for ideas of things to do at a party, albeit “Math Party.” As students brought me their papers, they continued to ask, “Are we really going to do this?” All I did was raise my piraty eyebrows.
Google slide with graphic organizer for convenient printing and reproduction. Please pirate this to use as much as you like:)
Burgess, Dave. (2012) Teach like a pirate :increase student engagement, boost your creativity, and transform your life as an educator San Diego, Calif. : Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.,