Pirate Book Study Group

Session Ten of #wmstlap
My husband helped spark my creative idea for our PIRATE graduation with the mention of eye patches.  With those two words, I created my final unique professional development session and agenda for this book study.

As I searched for eye patches on the Internet, I could only find expensive or cheaply made ones that didn't fit kids' heads.  I came across pirate foam masks from Rhode Island Novelty with great reviews and inexpensive.  While deciding to buy the masks, I realized I would make this about a final transformation into a PIRATE teacher.  

I went to Lowe's to buy an 8' by 10' plank of wood.  I had them cut it down to 6 feet to fit the words "Teach Like a Pirate".  I purchased one can each of black and gold spray paint and one can of polyurethane.  My final purchase was a blue plastic table cloth.  By now, you may know what I had in mind.  

Once the participants transformed into pirates via the masks, they would receive their diplomas just before "walking the plank" and jumping into the sea of Pirate knowledge.

For the diplomas, I found antique paper on Amazon.  Even though the edges were rounded with divots, they printed easily and didn't jam.  I pillaged the wording from diploma images I found online.  (click here for diploma document)

After a graduation, there must be a graduation party with a cake!

Dave Burgess was gracious enough to have a Q&A with us at the beginning of the session via Skype.  I projected the video onto the whiteboard and used the surround sound speaker system for all to hear.  He held us captive with his ideas and knowledge of how to easily keep pirating each day and how he built his repertoire of lessons.

After our Skype session, I explained about #tlap Twitter chats on Monday nights at 9 pm Eastern time.  Using Twubs, I showed how they can watch the chat at their own pace which makes it easier than right on Twitter.  Luckily, we have technology professional development teachers who are running an informational session about Twitter so I was able to keep it short so the graduates could take the plunge.  Everyone, in their own unique way, walked the plank and dove into the sea of pirate knowledge.

"tied up" by ye cap't
before taking the plunge

I was ecstatic when all participants readily worn their transformation masks for our group graduation picture.  

#wmstlap's first graduating class

All Smiles in Becoming Pirate Teachers
Since I will be running a second session, I asked all participants to complete a quick survey on SurveyMonkey about the entire experience.  The final question was 

In one sentence, write a summary of your feelings about your experience as part of the TLAP study group.

Some of the response were:

"It was an eye-opening experience to realize how easy it can be to improve student engagement in learning!"

"Being a part of this professional development study group inspired me to have more confidence to develop lessons I thought I wasn't "creative" enough to put together for my students."

"The first time in 10 years, I did not dread professional development - the book was a great read and with some small tweaks my lessons are better than ever! Small successes have really helped spark my creativity for future lessons."

Thank you for following our voyage in transforming ourselves and classes.  Throughout my future book study sessions, if I create any new ideas or lessons I will update this page.  I wish you as much fun and success as we've had.

Session Nine of #wmstlap
I decided to use what I was currently doing in my class as the topic for this session with the focus on English.  I told the story about Sadako and the 1000 paper cranes and then demonstrated how to make one.  Click here for the agenda.

To create the feel of Japan in my room, I had all my students' cranes hanging from the ceiling, zen music playing as they entered, and sushi (made by yours truly) as the snack.

We used the rest of the time to review our hooks flip books and discuss with each other ideas for upcoming lessons/unit.  Amazing ideas were flying all over the room.

  • Percentages - create a restaurant where students order and have a bill
  • Create different stores for students to shop using flyers from newspaper and find out which one has the best buy
  • use math rap songs as much as possible
  • for financial literacy class - use "The Apprentice" show contests
Social Studies/English
  • Interdisciplinary unit on historical fiction - students will dress up as the characters who were real in history and act out their parts
  • While doing research and drawings pretending to be Andy Warhol, music from the 60s will be playing
  • WMS Worse Cooks (a spoof of America's Worse Cooks) - students will be shown a meal and will have to take notes and figure out the ingredients and then cook it themselves to feed to judges
  • WMS Next Food Star (a spoof of Food Network Star) - students have to make a dish and present it on camera as if they were doing their own cooking show
  • Cupcake Wars - students create a single cupcake and is judged on taste and originality of design
  • use videos from Flocabulary to learn about story parts while singing along and dancing your heart out
  • for descriptive writing unit of a criminal dress as a police officer and project a picture of a police station on the board as students become sketch artists (check blog for upcoming post about this one) 
Don't miss our final session information where we will skype with our head pirate, Dave Burgess, and will have a pirate graduation that you will have to see the pictures to believe it!

Session Eight of #wmstlap
I absolutely love the show, The Amazing Race, and knew that a session in the library would be perfect for it!  For this session, I had many goals for what I wanted the participants to learn:
    • their way around the library
    • that we have a professional collection of professional books for teachers
    • how to access the OPAC from home to review what books the library has 
    • how to make The Amazing Race for any subject using QR codes
I'm thankful that the librarian worked with me to map out where all the groups would go and the themes for the groups.  We matched the themes to the subjects that the teachers taught.  We made sure to hit fiction, informational, reference, and professional books.  Also, we made sure that we wouldn't have too many people in an aisle or section.

Each group had to collect seven books and hit two road blocks.  Teams were given their first two QR codes (link to a picture of the book and the call number) and directions in an envelope.

From there, they had to find the books.  The next codes were hidden in the book and many times there was more than one copy of the book to search through. 

For the first road block, they learned about it from scanning the QR code which sent them to a picture of the road block logo and then directions on where to go.  The librarian manned the computer stations.  We only had two computers up so that if there were more groups they would have to wait just like on the show.  She ended up helping them some because they were having great difficulty looking for how many books the library had of their subject on the OPAC (online public access catalog).

For the second road block, they were sent to a book in the reference section.  Inside was a road block envelope waiting for them.  This road block was a hands-on activity: 
  • making a timeline of Dr. Seuss's editorial comics 
  • making logic gates using Legos 
  • building a pyramid our of oaktag and tape
  • drawing several important landmarks of California
  • drawing and labeling a map of Belgium 
  • making a camera obscura out of oaktag, tape, string, and toothpicks

The group that finished first won a Hershey's candy bar.  We didn't have a fancy snack table since we shouldn't even be eating in the library!

For the second half, we finished making our flip books of the second half of the hooks.  Thanks to the 2 Smart Wenches blog.  Here's our agenda and link to my folder of all the teams' routes with the opening route, two road blocks, and all the QR codes.  

I loved how it turned out, but this idea imploded on itself and became bigger than I ever expected. These templates will help you save time but you will have to make new codes for the books since your school library most likely doesn't have the same ones.

Session Seven of #wmstlap
It took me the last six sessions to finally figure out a way to TLAP math class and come up with the agenda for this session.  Thanks to Umizoomi and my daughter loving the show, I had an epiphany on how to set up this session.  Umizoomi had a one-hour rerun special this weekend that showcased the Shape Bandit.  Ding! The light went on, and my geometry activity was born.

I decided that I would be Shape Bandit.  I wish that I had photographed all the participants' faces when I greeted them at the door.  Shock. Surprise. Laughter. Many thought I was a superhero.  I let them know I was the opposite, a bandit.

shape belt made out of felt and velcro (shapes are removable),
cape from plastic table cloth, mask from blue paper plate
I made two parts to the geometry activity.  The first part had everyone leave my room and go on a hunt through the school for all the shapes that I, the Shape Bandit, stole and put into new places.  The second part had them make angles using the iCamera Protractor app and colored popsicle sticks to create the five different angles.

A visit to the Dollar Store and looking at all snacks as shapes increased the snack variety.

Notice Shape Bandit trying to steal some of our snacks!
Instead of a book discussion today, everyone made the first half of their hooks flip books thanks to the 2 Smart Wenches blog.  I copied them onto card stock so they would be durable.  After they cut out the cards, we used hole punchers to make one hole in the top left corner.  We fed each card onto loose-leaf rings.  I purchased colored ones so everyone one could choose a color they liked.  Next session, they will get the second half for the second half of the hooks that they read about.

Favorite quote from participant:

"I was thinking that I would need to type up all the hooks so I could have them near my computer for quick access.  This flip book is awesome!"

Session Six of #wmstlap
For this session, I focused on music and making research more fun.  The idea first came to me when looking at the app of the week awhile ago.  We used the Stop Motion App.

Our school library has a set of hip hop artist biographies for quick facts.  I used LL Cool J book to create my example.

This week's chapters were focused on enthusiasm and the third circle.  There were many book discussion questions I created for the agenda, but I left them since the teachers were filled with enthusiasm in creating their stop motion video on a hip hop artist they chose.  

I made music note sugar cookies on top of sheet music for the snack table.  

From this session, I learned to have groups choose only 3 facts to make a video out of it in order to have enough time for the book discussion.  Making each session a different subject has helped the teachers.  The music teacher in the class was excited to know that both middle schools had these hip hop books.  Teachers were thrilled to get the Stop Motion app for themselves since it was still free.

Session Five of #wmstlap
My other mad scientist self greeted participants as they entered the room for the brain dissection lab.

As soon as I thought of the idea, I knew I needed to find an excellent brain mold.  I found it on Amazon.  I loved it because it was very detailed with even a brain stem.  I picked up the wig at Party City and borrowed the lab coat from the science teacher I work with.  The Dollar Store was a score for the "surgical masks" and gloves.

Follow the recipe and use peach/watermelon,
 and you'll get it to be gray.
I decided to do a brain dissection lab to show how you can take lessons where students need to learn information but make it hands on instead of just reading about it.  They learned the different parts by dissecting it using a diagram.  For part two, they had to choose five parts and search online about what those parts do.  For part three, I gave them a brain disease to research and explain the effects it has.  Click here for my Brain Dissection Lab assignment.

Dissected and Labeled Brain

For the book discussion, I had them write two reflective letters on the back of the agenda. One from the point of view of a student and what they wished they would say about their class.  The second one was a diary entry about things in their classroom that would hinder the transformation of making their lessons adventures and not just lessons.  

The Snack Table's Brain Cheese
I was disappointed that I forgot to put out all the participants' names I made out of the periodic table that printed and cut out using the website, Lmntology!

Session Four of #wmstlap
When I emailed our class reminder this week, I told all participants to bring a beach shovel.  Little did they know that on the agenda was for them to turn into Indiana Jones trainees.

Thanks to @OneifbylandMike for sharing his Jamestown QRchaeology lesson with me.  After reading about it on his blog, I knew it would be perfect for these sessions.  It allowed me to show teachers how to enhance their lessons by changing rooms, using QR codes, music, and props.

I personalized it by inserting my passion (and my husband's) for the Indiana Jones movies.  Luckily, he saved a picture of Indy (quite old; I'm lucky that my husband saves everything) that I could put outside my door.  I bought myself the hat and whip.  I used a hieroglyphic online typewriter to make the welcome sign and name plates for all the snacks.  The snack table had cheese curls (fried caterpillars), grapes (snake eyes), malt balls (boulders), and gold foiled chocolates (treasure).  I printed pictures of the Indiana Jones Lego guy and made homemade holders to prop them up on the table.

Upon entering, the Indiana Jones music was playing.  To enhance the mood of spooky, I kept the lights off.  Once all had arrived, I informed them that we were moving to the large group room for the activity and that we'd be using new iPad minis.

Luckily in my district, we have two teachers who help to teach/give PD on technology so I had one in the room waiting to help us.  I hurried ahead of everyone to bring my laptop to have the music from the Temple of Doom playing as they entered.

In the room, I had two skeletons set up and two trash pits.  There were QR codes with either photos or information.  Using these codes, they had to make numerous inferences to complete the assignment.  After a brief introduction to the iPad minis and what QR codes are all about, I had them work in groups of threes.  It was amazing and wonderful to see the lesson working and hearing all the accountable talk and inferencing that they were doing.  It made all the hard work of putting it together so worth it!

We returned to my room to finish the hour with our book discussion.  I wanted to give time to share units to start to get ideas from each other, but time ran out.  I will be sure to save time after reading the hooks to get back to this.

A couple of weeks ago, Dave Burgess was interviewed on the Bedley Bros show. I tweeted about it with #tlaploot to have my name put into the raffle.  To my amazement, I won! I chose the t-shirt and decided to use it as a give away at the end of this session.

In order to win it, you had to play pin the hook on Cap't Hook.  Participants were blindfolded, spun around three times, and sent towards the picture of Hook.  I'm thankful to my sister and brother-in-law who decided to have a Jake and the Neverland Pirates birthday party for my nephew.  They created the game and let me keep it since I knew I'd find a way to work it into these sessions.

I'm so excited that a participant who is really tlapping it up won.  Today for her heavy metal cafe, she came all dressed up as Iron Maiden with wig and all.  She even wore it while we had our advisory students doing fall clean up outside and during her after school crosswalk duty! I can just imagine what people driving by us during the fall clean were thinking while looking at her as Iron Maiden and me in my chef costume.

Pin the hook on Hook game behind me

TLAP is spreading like wild fire!
With only three sessions done, many attendees are already taking the ideas and tlapping their classrooms.  One teacher is doing a crazy cafe like me, but she's doing the different decades of music.  Yesterday she dressed up like a hip hop star with a sideways baseball hat, basketball shorts, baggy t-shirt and a jersey.  At the end of the day, she realized that she had a dentist appointment and had no idea what she was going to do since she came to work that way.  Her co-teacher has dressed as Lady Gaga and Bob Marley.

Two other teachers who co-teach have created a spooky room for their scary story unit.  They were dressed with scary masks and had spooky music when the students entered the room.  They were awesome to share a photo with me!

Session Three of #wmstlap
Cap't Skele greeted my "crew" as they entered the grave yard along with the song from the Goonies when they are trying to play the "bones" piano and "Blackbeard's Ghost" by Chase Rice.

The snack table, I mean the graveyard held 30 skeleton brownie cupcakes.  I saw two different ideas online and put them together to create mine.  While at Michael's, I found pirate cupcake holders with pirate flags for $1.99! I was sold because I knew these would make the atmosphere perfect.  I used brownie mix instead of cake mix.  I put 3 to 4 Flips pretzels on a lollipop stick.  I topped it off with a marshmallow head with a face I drew using candy piping/icing. My skelecakes disappeared as fast as a ghost.

While looking around on Pinterest, I saw skeletons that were made by using your name in cursive.  I loved the idea and wanted to use it with this TLAP study group.

I wanted to do a mini-activity with art as a focus since I have two art teachers in the group.  Also after the latest Twitter TLAP discussion about how can you fit special occasions and holidays in your class, I knew this would be the perfect fit.  The best month for skeletons is October.

As an introduction, I showed the Schoolhouse Rocks video, "Them Not-So-Dry Bones".  I downloaded it from Youtube using the website Keepvid.  While art was my focus, I explained how it could be used for science or during our advisory classes.  While they worked, I played skeleton themed music.

How to Make a Name Skeleton:
You will need black construction paper, white paper, glue stick, and scissors.
1.  Fold a white paper in half horizontally.
2.  In pencil, write your name in a bubble cursive handwriting along the folded edge being careful to keep your letters connected.  Be sure to make the letters fat along the edge.
3.  Cut out your name making sure to not cut the page in half.
4.  Put glue on the side where you can see your pencil marks.
5.  Center it on the black construction paper.
6.  Cut out a skull.  It's easiest if you fold a paper in half and cut a silhouette.  Cut out the mouth and nose before unfolding.  Cut out eyes.
7.  Cut out arms and legs.
8.  Glue the skull, arms, and legs onto the construction paper.

Some of my "crew's" works of "art"!


Using the discussion questions on the agenda, we focused in on the key aspects of the Immersion and Rapport chapters.  I included a small list of books for further reading about brain-based teaching and multiple intelligences since they were mentioned in the chapters.

  •  Do you agree that misbehavior usually indicates boredom, overwhelm, or lack of connection to the material? Why?
  • What are ways you/we can find out what they are interested in and try to connect it to your/our material?
  •  How can rapport help create “buy in”?
  • How can we get our students to feel like doing the outrageous?
  • Do you feel your students “feel beaten up by school” and come to you the first day knowing they will not be successful? What can you do to change that right on day one?

Next Thursday, we have our parent/teacher conferences at after school/night so we will not meet.  I left them with a hook that they will be getting a top secret email.

This email will:
  • Ask them to watch the latest interview with Dave Burgess by the Bedley Bros #EdChat Ep 32.  
  • Inform them about a contest at the end of the next class.
  • Inform them that we will be focusing on TLAPing music class using new iPad minis and the app of this week, Stopmotion Studio.
Check us out in two weeks to find out what I mean by the last two bullets!

Session Two of #wmstlap

Today the "crew" was greeted with our own Pirate Island.  For musical ambiance, I had Jimmy Buffet's "A Pirate Looks at 40" playing while the snack table had fresh, homemade mango salsa and a pineapple/orange slushy punch.  I mixed pirate with island by having beach umbrellas and sword toothpicks.  Of course, I was wearing my Hawaiian shirt and beach hat.

I asked "the crew" to wear or bring a Hawaiian shirt or beach hat.  Tons of them did! I'm kicking myself right now because I forgot to take a few photos of the crew to share.  A few even wore it for the day to be in the spirit all day.

I opened with sharing my version of Dave Burgess's day two.  I played the island video I put together.  I had them clapping during the flight, but only a few screamed with me for the crash.  I shortened and tweaked the island assignment to have them save two of five people.  We had a fabulous discussion with their reasons and the inferences they made about the people.

For our teacher evaluations, we have to have a professional growth goal (PGG).  I shared the one that a co-worker and I created to use the Teach Like a Pirate book, this study group, and implementing the ideas into our lessons.  I put it on the back of our agenda and emailed it so that they only have to copy and paste it into their evaluation accounts if they choose to use it.

For the book discussion of the first chapter (passion), I kept it focused with the following questions.
  • Think of your favorite teacher(s). What did they do that made you love their class?
  • What is your professional passion? Personal passion? Content passion?
  • Are there LCLs (life changing lessons) you can incorporate this week/month/year?
  • What's your favorite quote from the reading? Why?
Everyone left with smiles and excitement to read the next sections (immersion and rapport) of the book!

Another professional development opportunity met at the same time as us for their first meeting. One of my crew went at the beginning "to spy". The comment said was that they couldn't compete with the PIRATE book study where everyone is wearing Hawaiian shirts, beach hats, and fabulous snacks! Thank you TLAP for inspiring me to make unbelievable professional development sessions that are being talked about. I hope it spreads like wildfire so that I get another 30 people to join a second session! BTW they decided to switch theirs to another day. I am glad since I wanted to be part of their group, too.

Session One of #wmstlap

The Booty
What a homerun! Our books arrived on time and the participants.  I created this caution area next to my door to greet everyone as they arrived.

 Once they entered, they saw the "booty", me dressed up, and the desks set up with the agenda, a poster with an Einstein quote and a little can of Play-Doh. Of course, the full mood was set by playing a selection of pirate music (Prisoner's Life by Dropkick Murphys; Yo Ho, A Pirate's Life for Me from Disney's Theme Park Ride; He's a Pirate by Hans Zimmer; Drunken Sailor by the Irish Rovers; The Kraken by Hans Zimmer).

I briefly explained to everyone the impact this book has had on my teaching this year, and that my purpose for the study group was show them how the book can have an impact on their lives.  Using a timer, I gave them 7 minutes to create something that had to do with them.  Some of the creations were amazing.  I set up a supersonic speed dating to have them share their creations and explain the connections.  Every 30 seconds, I dinged the deli bell and had them swap partners.

Thinking Outside the Box 

Next they broke into groups of four and rotated around 4 papers to answer the questions:

  • Why did you become a teacher?
  • What do you do when you have to teach a topic you're not passionate about?
  • What can/do you do to overcome the frustrations, trials, and tests of your patience while teaching?
  • What is unique about you? What makes you you?
In order to receive their "booty", I mean book, they filled out a tweet 3-2-1 exit slip (free at TPT).
  • 3 things your excited about for this study group
  • 2 concerns you have about this study group
  • 1 question you still have about this study group
My Pirate Selfie

TLAP PD Interest Taking Off

By the end of first day of school, I filled all 30 spots for the book study.  I learned that September 19th is the International Talk Like a Pirate day.  I used a pirate translator to create my email to all the book study members about the first meeting.  In the hallway the next day, many said that it made their night, and they couldn't believe it was me who sent it (It's so not like me.).   Just wait until they attend our first meeting!


  1. Thanks so much for these wonderful ideas! I will definitely be using some of them!

  2. I'm very excited to know that you will be using some of them!

  3. I love your information and ideas and am wanting to implement many of them as part of a book study at our school. My problem is many of the links you have no longer work. Would it be possible for me to receive information from you or contact you via email to ask you some questions.

    1. I didn't realize my links are broken. I will update this ASAP. In the meantime you can email me at tonyacurt@gmail.com

    2. All of the links have been updated!