“Take Risks,” “Make Mistakes,” “Change your thinking,” “It’s okay to not know it’s not okay to not try.” These are all banners and posters that I have in my classroom where I encourage my students to not look at mistakes as a failure but to look at them as an opportunity to learn. I’ve only just started the Learn like a Pirate book but so far it’s had me thinking about what I preach to my students. While reading about Paul’s experience I hear this voice in the back of my head saying his experience is with 5th graders I teach 1st grade. The thoughts of “but your students can read” “but your students have more experiences” “but….” creep into my mind. So why is the doubt creeping into my mind about can this happen in a 1st grade classroom when I myself tell my students daily to take risks and to change their thinking? It’s not that I don’t try new things, I love trying and implementing new things. I don’t teach the same way I did when I started 11 years ago but the pressures also aren’t the same as they were 11 years ago so it’s just building that comfort level to not abandon ship so fast when new things don’t seem to be going right but to keep adjusting and tweaking until it works. Like the book says, Pirates don’t give up when the wind blows them off course; they adjust their sails and continue toward their destination! I have done student led activities before in my classroom quite successfully in fact but when I think about the opportunities they tended to be more team building or math focused or possibly even more controlled than what Paul talks about in his book. When I think about those opportunities and the conversations that have occurred and the ideas that have been thought up that have gone beyond my own thinking I know the benefits are there. I’m excited to see how Paul sets up his classroom and routines so that I can look at how it can be adapted to a first grade level so that I can provide more of these opportunities on a daily basis. I already have my students work in groups on a daily basis so it’s that tweaking and adjusting to back off a little and allow them to take more ownership.
Taking risks, making mistakes, and small adjustments! I agree!! Too often we subconsciously doubt our choices and make ourselves “walk the plank.”
Teachers worry that they aren’t enough or aren’t doing enough in a game where the demands and stakes continue to rise.
As you said in your post, we need to trust our experience and be flexible so that when the winds do change, we can tack or jibe in accordance, making an adjustment; and it is this adjustment that can lead us to new undiscovered lands!
In my 11 years (10 in 1st grade) I have found students come to school being less and less independent and not having the tools to solve a basic human need issue such as opening a bag of chips when there is pair of scissors in front of them or not knowing what to do or who to ask if a supply runs out or goes missing.
Learn like a Pirate is filled with examples of older students who are in charge of learning and the way they lean using the teacher as an extra resource as opposed to the end all be all of instruction, but just like students don’t enter kindergarten reading students don’t enter school being able to collaborate. There are foundational steps that need to be taught and build upon. Paul’s class didn’t become this overnight and I’m sure he gradually released the learning to his students over.
I have had 1st graders research an animal using a graphic organizer and pebblego, transfer that to an all about book and give an oral presentation with a diorama of the animal in it’s habitat all on their own. I have always found that students will rise to the occasion (some quicker than others) when they realize that I am not going to solve a problem for them and they need to work together or need to use the resources they have. Our students are capable of so much we have to let them have the opportunities.
From, “Teach Like a Pirate,” placing an emphasis on student engagement during the planning phase provides staff with opportunities to develop learning Experiences that can have a transformational impact on the lives of children.-Denise and Mark
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