BOOK REVIEW: Teach Like a Pirate

I look forward to reading on plane rides. I have family on the West Coast so I fly frequently and like to make use of air time. This summer, one of the books that renewed my motivation the most was Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess. His candid, honest passion provided the perfect prelude to begin the new school year.

While I never had the honor of meeting and attending one of Mr. Burgess’s seminars, I imagine he writes like he speaks because the book reads as if he were standing in the room enthusiastically cheering on his readers. I bookmarked, highlighted and noted a number of his sentences that I’ll undoubtedly refer to throughout the year ahead.

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The book is divided into three parts: In Part I. Burgess defines his philosophy, what the difference between passion and enthusiasm is to him, and how teachers can best utilize both to motivate students to learn. In Part II, Dave offers hooks to add to any content to raise student interest along with brainstorming questions to help teachers elevate engagement for even the most mundane lesson plan. In Part III, final instructions and thoughts are given to translate the words in this book into our own classrooms.

One thing that Dave Burgess advocates is to incorporate your personal passions into the classroom as much as you can. This got me thinking, “What am I already doing to share my personal passions to model learning enjoyment, and what more can I do for students to see that class content connects to real world interests?”

Supplementary text, articles, videos and artifacts I am constantly on the lookout for new supplementary material for my students to study in conjunction with our main curricular units. Common Core advocates the use of mentor texts, and I cannot agree more. I recently started new Diigo and Feedly accounts to help me curate and keep track of resources.

Blogging in the classroom. I enjoy blogging as a venue to share my own writing. This year, in fact, I was hired by my podiatrist to write professionally on his website. In class, this will be the fourth year incorporating blogging into the curriculum for my students. Each school year is a bit different, depending on the kids and what we are reading, but students always appreciate and benefit from writing for authentic audiences along with gaining those digital skills. See a previous POST on my blogging in the classroom experiences.

Fitness: I frequent the gym five or six times a week, and believe mental cognition is connected to our motor abilities. I sometimes have my students stand up and warm-up with arm circles, knee steps, even jumping jacks to get the blood and brain waves flowing as we begin class. I also use ‘building brain muscle’ analogies frequently as we learn new ideas. Here’s a post I recently wrote about “Fitness for Educators.”

Cooking – Preparing new recipes in the kitchen is therapeutic to me, and I read cookbooks from cover to cover as if they are novels. Over the summer, I purchased an Easy Bake Oven that looks very different from the one I owned as a child. I’m either giving it to my five-year old niece OR – if I get brave enough – bringing it to class to bake cookies during writing or reading sessions, to give students that fresh-out-of-the-oven comfort as they work. I originally spotted this idea in Alice Keeler’s blog post, “10 Easy Things to Try in Your Classroom in 2015.” Alice Keeler is a professional development educator I connect with on my PLN.

These are just a few of the many new ventures I’d like to try this year. Reading Teach Like a Pirate renewed my sense of wonder and excitement as I contemplated new things to try in class to continually improve myself as a teacher. Educators, if you are looking for a book to renew your inspiration or energy, this is the one to read. I have yet to read a professional development book as passionate as this one. Go ahead, dare to walk the plank and teach like a pirate! The water below is with a school of eager souls who truly WANT to learn and be inspired.

BOOK REVIEW: 50 Things You Can Do with Google Classroom by Alice Keeler and Libbi Miller, Ed.D

Two years ago, my school district began using Google Apps for Education (GAFE). Teachers are successfully using the suite of tools under various innovative capacities.

I’ve been using many Google applications with my students for the past couple of years – mostly, to collaborate with student essays along with organizing my own documents. See HERE for materials from a beginning-of-year session I held at my school last August. For this upcoming school year, I’ll be setting up Google classroom for three of my five classes (for the other two, I will use iTunes U as I continue to have success with this platform tool). Alice Keeler and Libbi Miller, Ed. D.’s book, “50 Things You Can Do With Google Classroom” couldn’t have been published at a more opportune time. Google launched Google Classroom at the beginning of the last school year and, while I know many teachers had success with this from the start, others like me had some questions before initiating a brand new platform.

My copy is already doggy-eared everywhere!

My copy is already doggy-eared everywhere!

What I like best about Keeler and Miller’s book is that it offers at-a-glance tips to do everything from setting up a classroom to utilizing advance features such as polling and linking to virtual office hours. Each of the 50 things to do include a clear, concise synopsis coupled with a screen-shot type illustration that visualizes the steps needed to execute the work in one’s own class.

As stated in the introduction of the book, “Adding technology to our classrooms isn’t optional; it’s a must if we’re to equip our students for their futures” (xi).  It’s books like this one that makes adding technology that much easier. This is a book I will refer to again and again. This is a book I’ve already referred colleagues to. This is a book any teacher using GAFE in the classroom will not want to be without. A+ for inspiration to incorporate more student-centered technology and effective instructional strategies!!

Keeler, Alice and Libbi Miller Ed.D. 50 Things You Can Do with Google Classroom. San Diego: Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc., 2015. Print.

NEXT REVIEW: Dave Burgess’s Teach Like a Pirate 

My summer reading list keeps growing!!

BOOK REVIEW: If Only by A.J. Pine

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“She grabs happiness by the collar and yanks it into her life.” This line from If Only describes the protagonist’s best friend but it echoes the mood of the entire story. This is the story of Jordan, a junior in college who’s spending her year studying abroad in Aberdeen Scotland. Like many girls her age who venture far from home, she hopes for excitement and adventure; what she ends up getting is wisdom and love. Jordan’s journey spawns interest from the start, right from the train to Aberdeen when she meets two completely different gentlemen she is attracted to in different ways.   Along the way, she learns which of the two men is sincere as she learns what is sincere commitment and love. Watching Jordan juggle her own insecurities while working through friendships and learning responsibility drives the reader to the relatable heart of the main character.

I am lucky to be able to call the author, A. J.  Pine, my colleague.  Like her character, Jordan, Amy grasps her dreams and turns them into reality. The author’s own wit and natural humor shines through within the words on the pages. I give If Only an A+ for soulful reality that makes the reader empathize when Jordan agonizes over love lost, rejoice when Jordan proudly endures thoughtlessness of her peers , and claps when Jordan exclaims she “wants it all – the good, the messy and the spectacular.” Interspersed with quotations from E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View, to poignantly open sections of the story, this book is filled with fabulous lines that make the reader nod, smile and say, “You go, Girl.” Life does not disappoint . . . as this story portrays. I really like this genre, NA, – new adult, because it speaks to a wide audience of young adults just trying to find themselves along with those a bit older who think they already have but still need affirmations along the way.

BOOK REVIEW – THRIVE: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching

Thrive by Meenoo Rami

“What you fear to do is the very thing you need to do”  (Rami 70).  I’ve flown to California nearly 50 times since family members relocated there 16 years ago but the four-hour plane ride during this particular spring break flew by more swiftly because I had the pleasure of reading so many lines like the one above in THRIVE:  5 WAYS TO (Re) Invigorate Your Teaching by English teacher and Twitter colleague, Meenoo Rami.  I find it to be the perfect read for teachers, coaches, and mentors of all experience levels.  Meenoo’s words provide motivating ideas to create and collaborate in new ways.  Her book should be required reading during a teacher’s first year of teaching and would make a great “one book” read for any school’s professional development program.

Sufficiently supplementing a busy educator’s schedule, the brisk 94 pages provide just the right amount of invigorating inspiration to leave the reader ready to roll out new strategies within and outside of the classroom walls.  Meenoo shares both what she does to empower her students, such as her class teen magazine as a research paper alternative, as well as what she does to help empower her colleagues, such as her origination of the now very popular and productive #engchat on Twitter.  I remember well when Meenoo first started the #engchat in 2010 and was honored when she asked me to host one of the earlier chats.  I wasn’t quite versed yet in TweetDeck or other Twitter applications but walked away thoroughly inspired by the connections made that day and continue to be amazed by the number of resources acquired during those chat meets.

The book is logically organized into five chapters on mentoring, networking, challenging, listening and empowering.  Meenoo’s friendly tone helps us young and old realize we are not alone in our uncertainties and anxieties we face as educators along the way.  She shares her early feelings of isolation, poses targeted questions for each of us to ask ourselves as we initialize each new school year’s goals, and tirelessly emphasizes the importance of connection in and out of our school building.  Noting Daniel Pink, Rami outlines the three most important things teachers need to maintain motivation as they pass through classroom doors for perhaps decades at a time.  I don’t want to give away all of the valuable points and ideas laid out in this book;  but please know this is definitely worth your time and dime.  My book is highlighted, annotated and doggie-eared.

Meenoo most definitely deserves an A+ for sharing her knowledge, fears, and hopes.  She inspires all the teaching souls like myself who have a number of books in our heads that we need to stop making excuses for not writing.  I can’t wait until her next book and thank her for the inspiration!!

P.S.  As I’m writing this, my Twitter PLN is showered with National Poetry month ideas for approaching and analyzing poetry.  Meenoo has a great idea in her book to emphasize the point that “we all use language to convey complex thoughts and feelings in playful ways” that I can’t wait to try (Rami 76).  Manipulating language in various ways is more exciting than ever thanks to technology; check out Meenoo’s ideas to see how.

 Rami, Meenoo. Thrive: 5 Ways to (re)invigorate Your Teaching. Portsmouth: Heinemann,  2014.