Sunday, August 2, 2015

Learn Like a PIRATE Book Study: Active & 21st Century Learning

Students who can't wait to get to class and are as excited to enter school as they are when it's dismissal time. Students who are excited to learn and are prepared for the future. This is every teacher's dream!  And it can become a reality with PIRATE                                                           teaching and PIRATE                                                                         learning!

Today's post is a continuation of my book study for Learn Like a PIRATE  by Paul Solarz . Since I will be homeschooling this year, I am sharing how I can apply PIRATE learning at home. On deck today are two PIRATE learning characteristics:  Active Learning and Twenty-First Century Skills. Whether you teach in a public or private school or homeschool, PIRATE learning will transform your students and your teaching!

Active Learning

As a homeschool teacher, I know that I have an advantage here, as I only have one child that I am teaching; yet I am also limited in other ways.  In this chapter, Solarz shares ideas for active learning such as simulations, debates, and reader's theater, just to name a few. He goes into great detail about these specific activities that not only get students involved in their learning, but also has them directing their own learning and collaborating with others in fun and meaningful ways.  Now, it is a little difficult for my son to participate in a debate or simulation at home, but there are many other ways for him to be an active learner.

I am an eclectic kind of homeschool teacher.  Much of what we do at home is active and student-led learning.  I have my curricular objectives mapped out for the year, my textbooks, and materials gathered, but I also include plenty of room for my son to make suggestions and take the lead.  At 8 years old? You bet!  Here's an example.  

We started our homeschool year this past Monday. Since we had visited the Gettysburg Battle Fields in June and my son was enthralled with this time period, I created a unit study of the Civil War and thought we would begin with this integrated unit.  However, my son expressed interest in learning more about North Carolina.  We vacation at Emerald Isle and he had made a Lap Book last year and wanted to create a new one this year.  So, I ran with his interest and created an informational activity where he would read a nonfiction book from the library and create a new Lap Book this year.  He is working on it before, during, and after vacation. When we come home, he will compile the pictures he took with the digital camera, the pamphlets and post cards he collected, and other information from some places we visited (e.g. Fort Macon), and finish the Lap Book. This involves reading, writing, art, social studies, and science (learning about North Carolina's weather and coastal and aquatic life).  Five subjects integrated and my son leads his own learning. Plus he is more motivated to write (an area that he dislikes) and learn because he is invested in this unit.  He has ownership.  Score!

Writing notes for the Lap Book!

Now, if you are in the classroom, you may not be able to be as flexible as I can be, but you can still provide numerous opportunities for students to explore their interests!  This chapter has many, many more ideas for how you can do that, including Project Based Learning and technology ideas for numerous content areas.

Twenty-First Century Skills

Now, to be honest, this chapter was challenging to me, as much of it was brand new information. And, it is a lot of information!  21st century learning is more than making use of technology in the classroom.  It's all about students being able to transfer their learning to new situations in school, in the workplace, and/or in college.  Solarz shares that he wanted his students to transfer their learning when they left his class for middle school, to be successful, and to be excited about learning.  He was thinking beyond his classroom and wondering "What skills do my students need to be successful after they leave?"  After researching, Solarz identified 34 skills in 11 categories for 21st century learning. Many of these skills have to do with collaborating and working with others.  That makes it challenging for my situation, as my son is the only child being homeschooled.  However, he can still work on some of these skills when he is at co-op, at Sunday School, at clubs, and when playing sports.  It won't be as formal as it would in a learning environment, but it is a start.  Plus, he is only 8, so he many years to work on this.

Solarz spends this chapter carefully explaining the skills, providing examples, and guides the reader how to infuse 21st century skills in the classroom.  These skills do include technology, but they also include life and career skills, Habits of Mind, communication, collaboration, and creativity, just to name some of them.  I am in complete awe as to how Mr. Solarz is able to accomplish all that he does in his innovative classroom!  You will be too after you read this chapter!

Of course, your grade level will determine which of the skills are appropriate for your classroom.  You may be overwhelmed like I was after reading and rereading this chapter.  However, if we as teachers just take one step in helping our students to be 21st century learners, then we are moving in the right direction!  Out of all the PIRATE learning, this is the area where I need to grow the most, whether I am teaching at home or in a classroom.

In our homeschool, I focus a lot on Habits of Mind, especially metacognition and risk-taking. As well, I want my son to know what he knows and what he doesn't know and know what to do and when to do it, which are skills under the "Reflection and Awareness" category.  I also want him to wonder and ask questions, to have the stamina to stay with a task until it is finished, and to stay focused without distraction.  These are all 21st century skills that all of us can infuse into our classrooms.  Solarz discusses the importance of giving students feedback that is specific to 21st century learning to guide students in acquiring these skills. This is such an important part of the learning process!  And this will be my personal goal this year: to provide specific feedback to my son- not so much about content, but about his use of 21st century skills.

This may be a different type of thinking for many of us, as 21st century learning has us focusing less on content and more on these skills.  It's similar to thinking that the process is more important than the final product.  Yes, I want my son to learn facts about the state of North Carolina, learn specific geography skills and content, and to create a beautiful Lap Book, but I also want him to continue to ask questions to guide his learning, to know how to read, take notes, and manipulate the information, how to complete a task without me leading the way from start to completion, and how to set a goal and make a plan to reach it. These are the skills that will help him this year, in high school, and in college.

Seems like a lot, doesn't it?  Well, it is, but this book is written in such as easy-to-read format and includes so many concrete, specific examples, that you will probably find yourself thinking, "Hey, I can do this!".  And you can!  You really can!

How do you foster active learning in your classroom?  Are you familiar with Twenty-First Century learning?  How have you implemented these skills in your homeschool or classroom?  

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1 comment:

  1. My friend from Florida who home schools her children is in town this month - I'll be sharing your posts with her, so thanks Lauren!!!


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