The 30 Day PIRATE Challenge: Hooks everywhere!

The 30 Day PIRATE Challenge: Hooks everywhere!

Thirty days of hooks from the “Teach Like a PIRATE” book. Engaged students. Energized teachers. Sounds like a winner. Will you try it? (Sketch by Matt Miller)

Passion. Enthusiasm. Excitement. The unexpected.

If you haven’t read Dave Burgess’s book “Teach Like a PIRATE”, you’re missing out on the inspiration and the great practical ideas to create memorable experiences in class for your students — and greater learning.

I was fortunate to hear Dave (daveburgess.com) speak at two conferences this summer and have been working my way through his book. The part I’ve been looking forward to the most are the hooks — tons of ideas for sparking interest and engaging students in your classes. 

After struggling to find time to finish the book (I was a little over halfway through it), yesterday I started looking at it as a reference book instead. I flipped to the hooks and started scanning. Then I started to refer these hooks to my lesson plans for this week. (If you haven’t read the book and would like to see the hooks, here’s a PDF file of them found at the 2 Smart Wenches blog.)

That’s when the magic happened.

I found these new ideas popping into my head on how I could really draw my students into this new content and make it fun and interesting for them (or at least different from the norm).

So yesterday, I used the “Mystery Bag Hook.” I like to practice new vocabulary and grammar concepts in my Spanish classes by telling stories and letting the students pick the direction of them. The “Mystery Bag Hook” was a natural addition.

I saw Dave use the “Mystery Bag Hook” this summer when he pulled a big red Victoria’s Secret from behind his table. The bag wasn’t just one bag, but three or four different-sized Victoria’s Secret bags. After pretending that he was going to reveal what was in the bag what seemed like 100 times, he finally took the mystery item out. (You’ll have to see him speak in person or read his book to find out what it was!)

The theater and suspense of the entire process had everyone in the audience fixated on that bag. And that was the idea. 

In my story, I told of how a student from my class carried a bag into the school and everyone in the hallway was watching, trying to figure out what it was. That student accidentally left it by her locker and the other students talked about it and wanted to open it — until one finally did. I started to pull the mystery item out of the bag several times and did the “but wait!” move until I drove my students crazy. It was, like I said earlier, magical!

Finally, I revealed the mystery item in the mystery bag. It was a hand — a squishy one, kind of like a stress ball — and it belonged to the principal. In the end, I played the part of the principal, pulling my hand inside my sleeve and demanding the hand back. It was great!

The “Mystery Bag Hook.” It works.

Today, I have a lesson planned that will get students out of the classroom and pretend that they’re in a whole new scene. They will be fashion critics at a big show, and they’ll have to report on the new styles they see. Each one will find a fashion-related photo and display it on their Chromebooks. Then we will head to a different room in the building — press credentials in hand! — and write observations in our reporter’s notebooks in Spanish.

We’ll see how it turns out, but I have high hopes!

After my lesson plan brainstorming session yesterday, it hit me — what if I incorporated these hooks into my classes EVERY DAY for the next month? Even if it was just one hook per day, I would eventually incorporate them into each of the six different classes I teach every day. That means that each of my students can get a more pirate-like learning environment several times over the course of the next month (and hopefully beyond!).

Shiver me timbers, matey — I’m in!

Welcome aboard to the 30 Day PIRATE Challenge: at least one hook a day for 30 days of class. It’s not an official thing — just something I want to try that I think will have transformative effects on my classes. I’ll keep notes on how I’m incorporating these hooks into my classes and I’ll reflect on it at the end.

And I want you to go on this high-seas adventure with me! Check out the hooks, either in the book “Teach Like a PIRATE” or in the PDF file and start brainstorming. Share your success stories — like I plan to — in a comment in this post OR in the “Teach Like a PIRATE” community on Twitter (use the #tlap hashtag).

Will you take the 30 Day PIRATE Challenge? Your students will benefit, and you’ll be more energized in what you do!

(For notifications of new Ditch That Textbook content and helpful links, “like” Ditch That Textbook on Facebook and follow @jmattmiller on Twitter!)

Interested in having Matt present at your event or school? Contact him by e-mail!

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