Friday, June 26, 2015

Learn Like a Pirate: Improvement VS. Grade Focus

I am a little late on the band wagon but I am joining the fun and linking up with the Primary Gal to talk about Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz.  I will be honest friends!  I. love. this. book. 

So let's get down to business.  Chapter 4 focuses on the "I" in pirate:  Improvement vs. Grade Focus.

I am just going to lay this out there.  As a special education teacher, this chapter spoke to me.  I have never had a grade focus.  My focus has always been for my students to grow as learners.  Reading this chapter was a breath of fresh air.  You mean other people feel this way too??  

I really relate to Paul Solarz message that our goal as educators is to empower our kiddos as learners!

The more students are invested in their learning, the more knowledge will unknowingly creep into their brains!  Great right?  And it will set them on a path to be intrinsically motivated learners.  Imagine kids learning just for the pure joy of it not because they want to get a 100% or  a "good" grade. 

Hopefully, the love of knowledge will stick with students long after they leave your classroom or mine and help mold them into adults with a continued thirst of knowledge.  That's what we all dream of as educators, right?  To make an imprint on the kids we teach.

Paul Solarz brings up several great points in this chapter.  Grades still have to be given. However, the teacher and student can choose to focus on academic growth and even a student's growth as a person.   How much learning has taken place?  How much has the student grown as a learner? Has a student made great strides behaviorally?

Feedback is key because without it improvement would not happen.  Yet, it is essential that we are careful in how we talk, share and respond to kids.  I loved how Paul provided examples on how he provides feedback to his students and emphasized that feedback should be given in the present tense.  Like:  Can you try it this way?  Next time, I would like you to try........

If feedback is given in the past tense then there is no way for students to correct their mistake and/or behavior.  

Ways to provide feedback to students
 1.  Leave comments on Google Docs
 2.  Whisper comments in a student's ear 
 3.  Meet and discuss with a small group 
 4.  Work through a problem with a team

This chapter emphasized that an environment where students feel safe taking risks is crucial.  Without it, students won't feel comfortable taking the lead with their learning.  If kids feel like they will be criticized by their teacher or peers then risk taking won't happen.  
Risk Taking+Investment+Engagement=LEARNING
Students should feel like mistakes are learning experiences not something to be embarrassed about.  


Not just the teacher can provide feedback but peers can as well.  Students give feedback to peers to aid in the improvement process.  Paul Solarz teaches his students to use quality boosters with one another.  He even instructs students to sandwich quality boosters  between positive comments.  A quality booster is a suggestion on how a peer might improve their work.  Even the best work can be improved upon!! 

I could seriously write a book about this chapter because there is so much meat to it but this post is getting too long already so I will stop.  However, if you are interested in more thoughts on this chapter check out Learn Like a Pirate's Twitter book study archive for chapter 4

Until next time friends,