Thursday, January 1, 2015

Teaching Resolution for 2015 - The Right Hook for the Right Kid

Michelle Davies @LovesSummerSun 2h

Teaching resolution for 2015: make this year's lessons for this year's students! Know these kids, and find their "hooks". #bookclubED #tlap

I love book club conversations, and found two on twitter discussing David Burgess’ Teach Like A Pirate.  So, finally I got around to reading it.  I’m glad I did, and even happier that I found a group of teachers who want to talk about this creative endeavor or ours.  The slow chat of #bookclubED is perfect.  I love that questions come slowly and we have an entire 24 hours to respond.  There is no time zone to worry about.  I am talking with teachers in New Zealand and Australia, Spain, Canada… and all across the United States!  What an opportunity for diversity of thought and opinion.

To be honest, I resisted reading this book for awhile.  I had heard about it.  I’ve seen it mentioned and found it quoted.  But, I have long been a resister of education as entertainment (sorry Mr. Burgess).  I just don’t believe that teaching needs to be gimmicky.  I don’t like the idea that I need to put on a show for my kids.  I’ve mentioned before on my blog, that in my family my sister was the comedienne and I was the bookish one.  I have always found entertainment in thinking, in learning.  I’ve spent years trying to convince my sister that reading is fantastic.  It took 35 years, but finally something clicked and now she is a reader.  She must have found the book with the hook (a nod to you Mr. Burgess), it sure wasn’t me jumping up and down and waving a novel under her nose.  

I want my students to discover that learning itself is entertaining. 

I want them to know that they can spend hours in a book; imagining, learning, thinking… and it’s fun!

I want my kids to find joy in hard work, to feel pride of accomplishment.

I want my children to understand that sometimes you need to pursue a boring or tedious task to accomplish a goal, and the result feels great.

Once I got past the title of Teach Like a Pirate, and turned a few digital pages (I love the page turn feature on my iPad) I discovered that the gimmick is there to bring them in… it’s there for the kids, and the teachers, who have lost the native joy of creativity and innovation and discovery that they were born with.  It’s just to spark interest, to re-ignite the passion.  

When David Burgess started talking about hooks, he had me on the line.  This I could identify with.  Because, I don’t need to put on a pirate suit…or any other costume (but I can if I am so inspired).  It is actually about what I find inspiring… because enthusiasm is catching!  I’ve been known to fill the trunk of my car with props (I might have called it my box of realia or artifacts) and I have tossed out an afternoon of lesson plans to sing, to play my guitar and make up songs with my kids.  So… hooks, Mr. Burgess I’m good at!  My goal though, my resolution, is to get better at it.  I will go outside of my comfort zone and look for hooks that come from the kids (for them I might even wear a pirate suit).

In case you haven’t read the book (but I recommend you do, because there are tons of ideas to go with each of these hooks), and in case I don’t have my bookmarks handy when planning my lessons, here are my reminders:

students as props to illustrate concepts and ideas
go outside
student interests & hobbies
demonstrate real world relevance
authentic interaction with the world
an inspirational message
essential questions
student reflection
student autonomy & choice
current events & hot topics
transform the environment (the room)
spark curiosity
audience (student) involvement
a captivating story
break down barriers between teacher and students (all are in this together)
power of silence
build anticipation by promoting the lesson in advance
active student participation
a hidden object
vary the sequence of instruction
present a mystery to be solved
add ideas of reality tv
utilize technology
create a contest
demonstrate an amazing principle
food & drink
use mnemonics
high-interest or motivating challenge

Looking back at this list… I am reminded of a comment I made to my husband once or twice.  I have said that I couldn’t write a book. I couldn’t fill so many pages with unique ideas because every brilliant idea I have had has been inspired by something I learned or heard or saw somewhere else.  I look at the list of pirate hooks above, and I think about classes I’ve taken, books I’ve read, and theories I’ve encountered. 

Howard Gardner and Multiple Intelligences
Gerome Bruner and Discovery Learning
John Dewey and Learning by Doing
Lev Vygotsky and Social Development Theory
Maria Montesorri and Creative Play
Waldorf Steiner and the Humanistic Approach
Grant Wiggins and Habits of Mind, Essential Questions
William Glasser and Choice Theory
even Pavlovian Conditioning !

I have shared my ideas with colleagues or discussed inspirations with peers. I could write about them and talk about what goes on in my classroom, but I can’t match the idea to a particular theorist or sometimes even name the colleague or teaching partner who initated the idea or inspired the approach.  I couldn’t do the work of giving credit where credit is due.

David Burgess does a very nice job of summing up his knowledge and theory, in a way that can easily be referenced and is fun to read.  The presentation of all these ideas is his.  The educational philosophy of Michelle Davies is my own, but like that my favorite pirate at the moment it comes from many places!

My favorite quote from Teach Like a Pirate, by David Burgess:

“The risk faced by anyone who has achieved a high level of skill and polish in any particular field is that since they make it look so easy, some will assume it was.”

I love his response to the teacher friend who says "you're creative."

“What is she implying by that?  She is implying two things.  First, she is implying I have some sort of inborn character trait known as creativity.  Secondly, and more importantly, she is implying she is not creative.  She wasn’t given this particular trait, so she is excused from doing the same hard work I put in!”

So… my goal, my resolution is to always be a learner, to use what I know and connect it to the kids that I know in order to do my very best for them!