Thanks to the power of social media, the strong community of #worldgeochat, and the (sometimes) beauty of professional development, this year I’ve been exposed to a variety of new, engaging and fascinating ways of helping students reach content and apply skills and knowledge. Being in social studies (a class that’s not assessed through standardized testing) we have the beauty of being a little more flexible in our content and our techniques. An additional bonus for me at my school, world geography is an in-between year. Meaning (bluntly) we aren’t technically preparing students for 8th grade content, which begins with the Fall of Rome and up.

I mention all the above because this year, I’ve been able to branch out and include things in my classroom without risk of losing time on content since I was testing things out. Students have appreciated being my “guinea pigs,” and 7th graders are some of the most honest humans ever. They’ll tell you when things work and when they don’t.

Here’s just a brief list of activities I’ve tried this year and have seen success in:

I’m also becoming a huge fan of the PIRATE series, founded by Dave Burgess and his wife Shelley. I recently took an activity from Quinn Rollins’ “PLAY like a PIRATE,” and oh my goodness! The support and the ideas began to flow!

I shared my Superhero activity online through Twitter and tagged Quinn in the post as well as the worldgeochat hashtag. What began as an extended learning activity grew into a whole new project (in the works for next year!).

The guidelines were that students had to create a superhero based off of a landform, climate zone or vegetation zone. The superpower? What they would PROVIDE for humans. Our focus in world geography at the moment is how physical geography shapes human geography.

We had multiple “Mountain Man”s and “River Goddesses,” but students truly pushed themselves to create the best superhero they could. Some students asked if they could create villains (Deadly Drought!). SURE! WHY NOT! Go crazy!! This activity was the most engaged that I had seen students (outside of some of the activities listed above).

I never would have discovered Quinn’s “Play like a Pirate” if it hadn’t been for social media. The idea of taking this extended learning activity and creating a “March Madness” bracket, with the idea of the winner being where most humans settle, DEFINITELY wouldn’t have happened without the power of social media. Playing (and learning and exploring and teaching) like a pirate has definitely changed the way I look at the techniques used in the classroom. My summer project (and it’s a big one) is to explore my standards and change the way they’re taught and explored. If my students were engaged in simple “extended learning” activity, I can only imagine how they would be throughout the whole year.

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What has been some of the more engaging lessons in your classroom? Have you played like a pirate yet? Which activities have proven the most successful and why?


7 thoughts on “Truly Playing Like a PIRATE

  1. Sam,

    I enjoyed reading about your landform activity. You’ve inspired me to take another look at some our activities to allow students to be more creative. For example, we often collect data from historical documents and input it into a spreadsheet to look for patterns. Students could work together to write fictional dialogues based on the facts of a document or make advertisements, etc.

    On another note … You mentioned that your subject is not tested. I’m willing to bet that if it ever was tested that your approaches to learning would work well. When I taught in Texas where social studies is tested, my students did better on the state exam the less I focused on it.

    Skills and engagement matter over content coverage, always.

    – Kevin


    1. Thank you so much, Kevin! Your words are encouraging and inspiring. I love the idea of making advertisements! It would be a great way for students to apply their knowledge and possibly even post around the school!

      Also, thank you for the kind words about testing! Knowing more about Play Like a Pirate and the whole Pirate series has inspired me to really introduce all these new techniques at the beginning of the year. The skills they’ve learned just from these activities would be awesome to see from the beginning of the year and how they grow!


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