Thursday, July 9, 2015

Learn Like a Pirate: Active Learning

Hi everyone! Welcome back to our Learn Like a Pirate book study hosted by the one and only Primary Gal! I am so excited to be linking up today for our discussion on chapter 6: Active Learning. This has been by far the most applicable chapter to my classroom and my teaching beliefs. So, without further ado, let's talk about active learning in the classroom.

Paul starts out this chapter by saying, "When students actively participate in class, they are more likely to take on leadership opportunities." Throughout the chapter, he talks about five different ways he brings active learning into his classroom. 

Today, I am going to be talking about the three I plan on incorporating into my classroom this upcoming school year.


The first topic Paul talks about is simulations. He explains that many students struggle with history because it doesn't always feel relevant to them when they are listening to lectures or reading out of textbooks. Instead, we, as educators, need to make the subject come alive by having students participate in simulations. Instead of listening and reading about history, the students actually EXPERIENCE history. Throughout this section, Paul discusses three of the simulations he does in his class: the Revolutionary War, Learning Law in Outer Space, and the Westward Movement. 

Next Year's Goals:
As I read about how Paul actively engages his students during these units, my mind began racing. I started asking myself: "When could I do simulations in my classroom? What units would be appropriate for this type of learning?" As I thought more about it, I realized that I could do simulations when we learned about Utah geography, plants, and animals, Utah's Native American tribes, the Mormon Pioneers (Paul's Westward Movement unit, which is on his website for FREE!), the Transcontinental Railroad, Utah's immigrants, and so much more!

Now that I have a better understanding of how do simulations in the classroom, I am going to start planning my units. My first unit will be on Utah geography, plants and animals, where the students will be asked by our Natural History Museum to create a new wing in the museum that will have exhibits on Utah's regions, biomes, plants, and animals. Throughout the unit, students will answer questions by reading, discussing, researching, and through inquiry events. They will reflect each day on what happened, what the group/class decided, and the results of that decision using their Chromebooks. (I am going to have my students start creating ePortfolios just like Paul suggests!)

One of my main goals throughout these simulations is to integrate my Chromebooks in all of our daily lessons and to get students familiar with using different types of web tools during the lessons and in their reflections.


The second topic Paul discusses using debates in the classroom. He states, "Debates are a fun way to get students researching, planning, and speaking in front of others." However, he also cautions that debates need to be set up properly to be a success. Paul walks you through his process step-by-step by showing you how his students did the Alternative Energy Debate. 

Next Year's Goals:
As I thought about how I could use debates in my classroom, my first thought went to the Native Americans. I am thinking that my students could research, discuss, and, finally, debate on which tribe had the best survival methods based on several factors. 

Project-Based Learning:

Another topic Paul talks about in this chapter is project-based learning. He starts off this chapter by stating, "I strongly believe in the value of learning through projects, rather than learning about a subject and then doing a project." This quote really resonated with me. Too often, I teach my students all about the subject and then ask them to do the project; instead, of giving them the opportunity to learn the content by doing a project. 

Next Year's Goals:
One of the first things I did this summer was sit down and create a scope and sequence for my year in all of the subject areas that I teach. I decided that each month we have a major science and/or social studies topic to discuss. For example, in August and September, we will be focusing on Utah geography, plants, and animals. In October, we will be studying Native Americans. In November, it will be about the other settlers, such as explorers, Mormon pioneers, and immigrants.

After doing some research, I have decided that one of the literacy centers my students will do each month will be a project-based learning activity that is centered around our monthly topic. I will be doing a future post about how I have set this up in my classroom because there is a lot involved with it, but it is definitely worth it!

I am so excited to start using more active learning in my classroom. These were three of my favorite ways to bring active learning in to the classroom. What were yours? How do you turn passive learning into active learning? Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Hi Alley - I love how you have a concrete plan on how you will use some of the ideas from the book! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for devoting time to reading "Learn Like a PIRATE"!

    1. I cannot even begin to express how excited I was when I saw you stopped by to read my blog! Thank you so much for writing such an inspirational book and sharing all of your great ideas with teachers. I have enjoyed it so much and know it'll make me a better teacher!