Learn Like a Pirate in the Classroom

Learn Like a Pirate: Empower Your Students to Collaborate, Lead and Succeed
By Paul Solarz
(Dave Burgess Consulting, 2015 – Learn more)

vonstaden3Reviewed by Laura Von Staden

My absolute favorite read of the summer! Buy this one, read it at least two or three times, and then empower your students to lead well beyond your classroom.

If you are like me, your desire is to teach your students skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives, even as our knowledge base grows and changes and the jobs of the future don’t exist yet. This book is your key to meeting that desire.

Paul Solarz does a great job of taking us from day one in his class, and showing us how to completely change our classrooms and give students the best education possible, one where they are empowered to own the learning and lead the way in the classroom.

lern like a pI will admit, I had to read the book twice to really wrap my head around it all. The first time through, I was excited to implement these strategies, but I had a lot of questions as to how to make it work in my room. When I went back and reread the book, more slowly and carefully, I realized that Solarz had addressed my issues in a step by step fashion. I had just missed some of it as I was grasping the bigger ideas.

What’s in the book

Solarz begins the book by defining a student-led classroom (one most of us can only dream of) and then addresses our concerns of making this transition in our classrooms. In the main part of the book he addresses the PIRATE components (developed by his publisher, Dave Burgess):

Peer collaboration,
Improvement focus vs. grade focus,
Active learning,
Twenty-First Century skills, and

He then rounds out the book with a chapter on our purpose as an educator, ties all the ideas in the book together, and sends us out on our PIRATE mission in the high seas of our classrooms.

Throughout the book there are tons of strategies and dozens of QR codes that take us to resources, many of which are samples from Solarz’s own class/students. Those resources illustrate the points that he is making, showing us exactly what he uses and what he does to get the amazing results that he is getting in his classroom.

A front-row seat in a master’s classroom

I cannot begin to describe all the wonderful strategies and ideas that are packed into this book; it is truly like having a front row seat in a master teacher’s classroom. While initially the book seems a bit overwhelming, even Solarz indicates – as is true with anything new we try – that we need to take it a chunk at a time, and expect some failures. It’s the only way we grow. The difference is that he has laid the path, making it much easier for each of us to follow his lead and transform our classrooms.

My suggestion is: Order at least two copies of the book. As soon as you read it, you will want to share it with your colleagues, but you won’t want to let it out of your hands either (thus multiple copies). Read it at least twice and then make an action plan. We could completely change education a classroom at a time.

Oh, and by the way, if you run into obstacles or have questions, there are several twitter chats with #LearnLAP and @PaulSolarz. Like that great veteran teacher down the hall, Paul seems willing to help us.

Dr. Laura Von Staden is a Special Education Middle School Teacher in Tampa, Florida. She serves on numerous committees both at her school and within her district and works closely with the local university where she is a Professional Practice Partner and a master mentor. Dr. Von Staden also facilitates both online and face-to-face Professional Development for her school district.


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