Sunday, 29 June 2014

How to Engage Students Using the Arts

Let's be honest.

Many students are *over* learning by the time they reach our classrooms.  In my experience, the older they are, the more likely they are to be disengaged.

As educators how can we overcome this?

In the "Long Live the Arts" chapter of his book, Teach Like A Pirate, Dave Burgess discusses using the arts as powerful hooks to engage students and transform our lessons.

#1. The Picasso Hook

Could your students create visuals to depict an event or concept?  Activities do not have to restricted to the bounds of your imagination.  Have your students generate ideas collaboratively and seek your approval.

I was once required to teach a Primary 2 Class (6 year olds) about forces using the book, "The Lighthouse Keepers Lunch" as a context for learning.  Reading the forward plans made me realise that the topic was even duller than it sounds.

I taught the required learning intentions but not using the lessons plans I was given.  Instead, I had my students work collaboratively in groups of four to create stop frame animations.  They LOVED it!  We hosted a popcorn afternoon and invited parents to watch the finished animations.

Free reign to be creative can be a powerful engagement hook.

#2. The Mozart Hook

Music can instantly transform the atmosphere of your class and can be used effectively for lessons openings, transitions, discussions etc.

Can you find music relevant to the mood of your lesson?  Are there songs out there with lyrics relevant to what your students are learning?

I love Dave's suggestion of having students change the lyrics of popular songs to reflect what they have been learning in class.  Without even trying out this idea I know it would be a successful and engaging lesson.

#3. The Dance and Drama Hook

This is fantastic way to bring a kinesthetic dimension to your lessons.

Can your students perform a relevant dance?  Recreate an historical event?  Create a video?

I saw a fabulous example of this at university which was a video clip of a primary school class using classical music and dance to demonstrate their understanding of weather systems.  Each group was assigned a different type of weather (e.g. a hurricane) and had to create a dance to illustrate their interpretation of that weather in time with a relevant piece of classical music.

#4. The Craft Store Hook

Is there something your students can make that is relevant to your lesson?  Can you use craft supplies to challenge students to an open-ended creative project?

Dave's lesson on Lindbergh's flight which involves creating flight googles using craft supplies sounds like it would be a great hit with students.


I hope you find these insights as inspiring as I did.

Please let me know if you try out any of those techniques and don't forget to check out Dave's book, "Teach Like A Pirate".

If you are interested in learning more about "Teach Like A Pirate" then please read Dilly Dabble's blog post on the next chapter of the book: "What's in it for me?"

Happy teaching!

DISCLAIMER:  The views expressed above are entirely my own.  I did NOT receive any financial compensation for writing this article. 

TITLE IMAGE CREDITS: image courtesy of, fonts by KG Fonts

Sunday, 8 June 2014

How to Teach with Passion

Let me guess...

You are a dedicated teacher. You steal stuff from your home to take to work. You've spent countless late nights and weekends planning, marking and creating resources. You care about your students as if they were your own children.

However challenging behaviour, helicopter parents, lack of funding, time and resources can all take their toll.

It's easy to lose sight of why you signed up in the first place.

You know that truly inspirational teachers exude passion.

But how?

I recently gained some fantastic insights thanks to Dave Burgess' book, "Teach Like A Pirate".

Take Charge of Content 

In his book, Teach Like A Pirate, Dave Burgess recommends focusing on your reasons for becoming a teacher when delivering lesson content.    This is particularly important when dealing with content that you do not find interesting.

One of Dave's reasons for becoming a teacher was to instil in his students a vision of what they can achieve with their lives.  He therefore transforms lessons which would typically focus on factual historical information by including life changing lessons.

For example, when teaching lessons about Rosa Parks, Dave explains how the actions of a solitary ordinary person with strong convictions can change the course of history.

Why did you become a teacher?

Use the answer to this question to ignite your passion and deliver quality, engaging lessons regardless of the merits of the actual content.

"Light Yourself on Fire with Enthusiasm...

...and people will come from miles around just to watch you burn!"

Whilst Dave admits to having next to no interest in birds, a chance encounter with a bird watcher captivated his attention.  Why?  The bird watcher was enthusiastic.

This explains why I have found myself attentively watching Bear Grylls!  I couldn't care less which  bugs are edible.  Furthermore, I have absolutely no plans to find myself marooned on a desert island.   However, Bear Grylls could not be more enthusiastic about survival techniques and that captivates my attention.

Deliver your lessons with enthusiasm and your students will find you completely engaging.

Use Your Interests To Your Advantage

Magic, sports, coaching, entrepreneurship, marketing and self improvement are all included in Dave's list of personal passions.  He strives to find as many ways as possible to incorporate these passions into lessons.

By doing this, Dave is teaching from an area of strength and allowing his students to experience his unique skill set.

What are you passionate about?  Look for opportunities to incorporate your personal passion into lessons to deliver engaging and memorable content.

"Make the most of yourself... for that is all there is of you" (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Finally, Dave recommends never losing sight of your uniqueness and individuality.  Whilst some teachers might be content to robotically teach directly from curriculum planners set yourself apart to become the best teacher that you can be.

"Light yourself on fire with passion...and don't worry if it's not a controlled burn." (Dave Burgess).

Interested in Learning More?

Andrea from "Reading Toward the Stars!" has written an article focusing on the next chapter of Teach Like a Pirate which discusses "Immersion".  You can access Andrea's article by clicking the image below.

I also highly recommend checking out Dave's book which is available here on amazon.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on passion.  Please post your comments below.

Thanks for reading!

DISCLAIMER:  The views expressed above are entirely my own.  I did NOT receive any financial compensation for writing this article.

HOW TO TEACH WITH PASSION IMAGE CREDITS: image courtesy of, fonts by KG Fonts

Sunday, 30 March 2014

7 Nursery Rhyme Secrets Every Teacher Should Know

Nursery rhymes.  A staple in many classrooms with little learners.

We've all read them, sung them, perhaps even made crafts based on them.

But, did you know that whilst some are merely nonsensical others have hidden meanings rooted in British history?

The following are 7 of my favourite nursery rhymes with their hidden secrets revealed.

Jack Be Nimble

Jumping candlesticks was a form of fortune telling.  Clearing the jump without extinguishing the flame was thought to foretell good luck.  As ridiculous as it sounds I guess it is no more farcical than tarot cards and the likes.

Mary Had A Little Lamb

Prompted by her brother, Mary Sawyer took her lamb to school in 1830.  Naturally, it caused a little bit of excitement!

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

It has been speculated that Mary is Mary I of England.  "Quite contrary" is clearly a political reference whilst "How does your garden grow?" highlights her failure to produce an heir.  Rather gruesomely, the "pretty maids" are said to refer to either her miscarriages or her executions of Protestants.

Ring-a-Ring o'Roses

One of my childhood favourites.  I was horrified to discover that is has been associated with the Great Plague in England.  A rosy rash was a symptom of the plague whilst people carried poses in their pockets to shield themselves from its stench.  Sneezing was the final symptom for the suffers who then fell down and died!  However, this link has been dismissed as urban legend by experts since the plague theory did not appear until the mid-twentieth century.

Old Mother Hubbard

A political commentary with disputed origins.  Some speculate a connection to Henry VIII's divorce request which was engineered by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and refused by the Pope.

Humpty Dumpty

Originally a riddle.  The challenge was to guess the identity of Humpty Dumpty.  I always wondered why he appeared as anthropomorphic egg in illustrations - mystery solved!

Higglety, Pigglety, Pop!

Created by Samuel Goodrich in 1846 to mock the folly of nursery rhymes.  Ironically it became popular!

Free Resource and Giveaway!

Click on the photo below to download a "Itsy, Bitsy Spider" poster for free.

Enter our giveaway below for your chance to win the entire collection of nursery rhyme posters and song cards featuring 20 rhymes made in collaboration with the super talented Chrystine of Tweet Music.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Can't wait to see if you have won?  You can purchase the set by  clicking here.

Good luck!

Thursday, 13 March 2014


This is the beginning of a blog where I plan to share quality teaching ideas and resources for little learners.  I hope to provide you with valuable information and some exclusive free resources to help you in your journey as an educator.  

To begin, I have created a sight word game as a thank you for stopping by.  To receive your free copy (pictured below) please subscribe to this blog by entering your email address in the toolbar to your right.  

Please note that in order to receive the resource you MUST CONFIRM your subscription by clicking "Yes, subscribe me to this list" on the auto-respond email.  Due to anti-spam regulations I am unfortunately unable to  send the resource without first receiving your subscription confirmation.  It will however be automatically sent to you within an hour of your subscription confirmation.  If you have any issues please email me or comment below. 

"Roll It, Read It, Use It & Spell It!" is a 2-4 player game featuring all of the Dolch sight words.  It is suitable for Kinder through to 3rd grade students and can be easily differentiated by selecting cards appropriate to each groups level.  

Speaking of sight words, I wrote a guest blog post earlier today on "Who's Who and Who's New?" which details "6 Mistakes You Can Make When Teaching Children to Read".  I hope you find it insightful.  

Enjoy and thanks again for stopping by!