Teach Like a PIRATE and Increase Student Engagement

Teach Like a PIRATE: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator
By Dave Burgess
(Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc., 2012 – Learn more)

Reviewed by Laura Von Staden  

If you are interested in transforming your classroom, engaging students and becoming an outrageous teacher, order this book. Teach Like a PIRATE is based on Dave Burgess seminars “Outrageous Teaching” and “Teach Like a PIRATE.” PIRATE is an acronym for Burgess’ teaching philosophy: Passion, Immersion, Rapport, Ask & analyze, Transformation, and Enthusiasm.

pirate cover von stadenPart I of the book addresses each of the elements of being a PIRATE and is full of concrete explanations, examples and quotes relevant to the topic. In his chapter on Rapport, Burgess describes how he uses the three most important days of the school year (or semester) – the first three days – to build rapport and a classroom climate like no other.  My first reaction to reading this section was: This guy is crazy!

As I continued to read, I realized that he has laid out a scenario that any teacher could model, where even the most reluctant students are excited to come to school just so they don’t miss his class,  to learn his content in a respectful, collaborative way, and to take ownership of their learning—all in just three days.

You’ll need an adventurous spirit

Admittedly, you have to be willing to move out of your comfort zone of standard instruction and embrace the performance of teaching to use Burgess’s first-three-days model. I took the risk at the beginning of this school year (with the help of my co-teacher) and I have to say, it went phenomenally well. We had probably the most fun we have ever had teaching.

I am committed to a pirate’s life. But don’t worry: if you aren’t ready to move completely outside your traditional teaching zone and want to start by just widening the border a bit, there is a ton of treasure in this book for you, too.

Part II of the book focuses on crafting engaging lessons. This section if full of hooks (over 30) and brainstorming questions (170) to help you craft exceptionally engaging lessons your students will remember for a life-time.  All of the questions and hooks can be used for any grade and any content, making this section an invaluable resource for guiding teachers in the process of transforming their classes.

The final part of the book is filled with advice to get you through the obstacles and frustrations of teaching in these challenging times. Again, Burgess has provided concrete, specific examples of dealing with and overcoming many of the most common challenges teachers face today.

depp-quoteOverall, this book is a treasure!

It is a quick, easy read, but one that you will go back to over and over. I’ve been carrying mine around with me. It is both inspirational and practical. I know that I will be buying an eye patch, as well as a few extra copies of this book to give to the teachers that I train.  Education has changed, and we need more PIRATEs in the classroom. Thanks to Dave Burgess, we have a road map to guide us on our journey.

Happy PIRATE-ing.  Arrrgh!

Laura Von Staden has a Ph.D. in Molecular Immunology and a Master’s in Special Education. She is a Special Education Middle School Teacher in Tampa, Florida, where she serves on numerous committees both at her school and within her district and works closely with the local university where she serves as a master mentor. Dr. Von Staden also serves as a facilitator for an online teacher learning community sponsored by her local teacher organization.


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