The 30 Day PIRATE Challenge: Hooks everywhere!


Teaching | Thursday, September 11, 2014

The 30 Day PIRATE Challenge: Hooks everywhere!

The 30 Day PIRATE Challenge: Hooks everywhere!
The 30 Day PIRATE Challenge: Hooks everywhere!

Thirty days of hooks from the “Teach Like a PIRATE” book. Engaged students. Energized teachers. Sounds like a winner. Will you try it? (Sketch by Matt Miller)

Passion. Enthusiasm. Excitement. The unexpected.

If you haven’t read Dave Burgess’s book “Teach Like a PIRATE”, you’re missing out on the inspiration and the great practical ideas to create memorable experiences in class for your students — and greater learning.

I was fortunate to hear Dave ( speak at two conferences this summer and have been working my way through his book. The part I’ve been looking forward to the most are the hooks — tons of ideas for sparking interest and engaging students in your classes. 

After struggling to find time to finish the book (I was a little over halfway through it), yesterday I started looking at it as a reference book instead. I flipped to the hooks and started scanning. Then I started to refer these hooks to my lesson plans for this week. (If you haven’t read the book and would like to see the hooks, here’s a PDF file of them found at the 2 Smart Wenches blog.)

That’s when the magic happened.

I found these new ideas popping into my head on how I could really draw my students into this new content and make it fun and interesting for them (or at least different from the norm).

So yesterday, I used the “Mystery Bag Hook.” I like to practice new vocabulary and grammar concepts in my Spanish classes by telling stories and letting the students pick the direction of them. The “Mystery Bag Hook” was a natural addition.

I saw Dave use the “Mystery Bag Hook” this summer when he pulled a big red Victoria’s Secret from behind his table. The bag wasn’t just one bag, but three or four different-sized Victoria’s Secret bags. After pretending that he was going to reveal what was in the bag what seemed like 100 times, he finally took the mystery item out. (You’ll have to see him speak in person or read his book to find out what it was!)

The theater and suspense of the entire process had everyone in the audience fixated on that bag. And that was the idea. 

In my story, I told of how a student from my class carried a bag into the school and everyone in the hallway was watching, trying to figure out what it was. That student accidentally left it by her locker and the other students talked about it and wanted to open it — until one finally did. I started to pull the mystery item out of the bag several times and did the “but wait!” move until I drove my students crazy. It was, like I said earlier, magical!

Finally, I revealed the mystery item in the mystery bag. It was a hand — a squishy one, kind of like a stress ball — and it belonged to the principal. In the end, I played the part of the principal, pulling my hand inside my sleeve and demanding the hand back. It was great!

The “Mystery Bag Hook.” It works.

Today, I have a lesson planned that will get students out of the classroom and pretend that they’re in a whole new scene. They will be fashion critics at a big show, and they’ll have to report on the new styles they see. Each one will find a fashion-related photo and display it on their Chromebooks. Then we will head to a different room in the building — press credentials in hand! — and write observations in our reporter’s notebooks in Spanish.

We’ll see how it turns out, but I have high hopes!

After my lesson plan brainstorming session yesterday, it hit me — what if I incorporated these hooks into my classes EVERY DAY for the next month? Even if it was just one hook per day, I would eventually incorporate them into each of the six different classes I teach every day. That means that each of my students can get a more pirate-like learning environment several times over the course of the next month (and hopefully beyond!).

Shiver me timbers, matey — I’m in!

Welcome aboard to the 30 Day PIRATE Challenge: at least one hook a day for 30 days of class. It’s not an official thing — just something I want to try that I think will have transformative effects on my classes. I’ll keep notes on how I’m incorporating these hooks into my classes and I’ll reflect on it at the end.

And I want you to go on this high-seas adventure with me! Check out the hooks, either in the book “Teach Like a PIRATE” or in the PDF file and start brainstorming. Share your success stories — like I plan to — in a comment in this post OR in the “Teach Like a PIRATE” community on Twitter (use the #tlap hashtag).

Will you take the 30 Day PIRATE Challenge? Your students will benefit, and you’ll be more energized in what you do!

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  • […] And thus I introduced my oldest to the Backwards Assessment Model and the concept of a hook. […]

  • Multiple Intelligence Hook: I really think by using the multiple intelligences test the first week I can start to see my students as individuals with very different needs. I hope to foster their strengths throughout the year and tried to make a chart for the first module that allowed students to choose different ideas from their strengths. I think by having students be aware of their learning and how they best learn, they will be “hooked” into learning more.

    Real-World Application Hook: With planning with Kim we have tried to incorporate our first module into real-world thinking and application. I think Genius Hour will help with this too. I already try to connect everything together. I tell them I’m like a spider spinning her web.

    Life-Changing Lesson: After we read “The Great Gatsby” the students are all about making easy money. They don’t see the tragedy that unfolded right before their eyes. I do a three day lesson where I have them in groups and I give them materials (adapted from New York Times Lesson about the Gatsby Curve) and they do not all have the same amount of materials. Some have less, some have too much, etc. Then I have them build the same thing. Some will go and steal from other groups, beg, barter, or hoard. I sit and watch. When we have some people complete while others don’t I start asking questions. I start showing them that society works this way: some share and help others and some have a lot and don’t. We talk about community service and missions and students start to see how Gatsby was rather selfish and love-driven. Afterwards, I show them a Ted Talk about the Inequality in America and we go over the Gatsby Curve. It turns into some powerful discussions.

    Student-Driven Hook: I plan to do this with the multiple intelligences choices for their blogs/projects and by using Genius Hour. I also plan to have an area in the room for suggestions for improvement for the week’s lessons. Hopefully I get some good “tips”!

    The Opportunistic Hook: I love the idea of the QR codes around the room on Posters. I just put that in my Google Keep to do before the start of the school year. This would be so easy and fun! I can change it every so often to mix it up for kids and me!

    Interior Design Hook: I’ve done this with “The Great Gatsby” by having the desks in groups and had tablecloths, place cards, stars and glitter hanging from the ceiling and made a mini-speakeasy. I dress up a little like the time period and play jazz music. I then had them explore the colors and their meaning so that they could create a visual of each color to remember while reading the book since it’s filled with color symbolism. Love the Salem Idea. I might do this for the Crucible!

    Board Message Hook: I do some of this, but I’ll have to do more. I always have something projected at the beginning to “spark” interest, but I like some of the ideas listed.

    The Costume Hook: I do some or I dress thematically and explain to the students why and they become intrigued, but I can certainly do more of this.

    Props Hook: Oh my goodness! 24 years ago during Student Teaching I did a lesson using props! I have never thought of doing this as an actual lesson as a teacher. I can make all the excuses in the world, but sometimes my creativity needs to be documented and then read for later. Maybe the department I came into also stagnated my creativity for awhile… I’m bringing it back this year! Time to go props shopping!

    The Mystery Bag Hook: I love this idea. It makes me think of “Master Chef” and the mystery boxes. I think this would be great for narrative writing and thinking outside the box. Sort of like this: If I could transport back to Salem and take these three items, how could they change the course of history and why?

    The Mime Hook: I’m going to try this year by saying less and letting the students speak more. This hook may help with this objective!

    Teaser Hook and Backwards Hook: Love both of these. I think it would work well either way. Maybe I could do the Gatsby Curve Lesson before and after the novel and then I may get students reading the book a little differently from the beginning.

    Reality TV Hook: I was a huge Fear Factor fan. I think I could have students do one of their weaknesses on the multiple intelligences chart and have the judges be those who are good at that type of learning. It may let them appreciate skills they don’t have, but might be able to hone throughout their lifetime. I also think back to the “Phineas and Ferb” blog post that Matt Miller did and am reminded of how to make things interesting and relatable.

    Techno Wiz Hook: My class has been increasingly about this for the past two years. This year I am going to explode with this since we will be 1:1 and the kids will be taking ipads home.

    The Chef Hook: I always like doing this. I normally have the students try to make the food thematic from something we’ve read. I show them my son’s Boy Scout cakes from the Blue and Gold Banquets for inspiration. Right before Winter Break we have finished reading “1984”. I give them an invitation to a Dystopian Christmas and explain that it’s going to be different. The first day they make cards for one character from another character that are hilarious and a bit odd. As they make the cards, I play the most annoying Christmas music possible – “Dominick the Donkey”, “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth”, etc. They think it’s great. Then the final day they bring in food that is symbolic of what we’ve read. I give them Truth Serum “Hot Chocolate” and we play a “1984” Kahoot and eat. Lots of fun.

    Mnemonic Hook: In English we have a lot of strategies and mnemonic hooks already. I write them on my windows with the window markers and when we are working I will say, look at the windows for help. Cuts down on my repeating the hook and they learn it more this way.

    All of these hooks were read and written thanks to Matt Miller and his challenge on Twitter. Now I’m almost done with the book! 🙂

  • […] listening, do a little research on hooks. How can you put hooks into your lesson. Try “The 30 Day PIRATE Challenge” blog post for starters. I dare you to look at this article and it’s links and not come up with […]

  • Carolyn Rabideaux says:

    We just completed a school-wide book study of Dave Burgess’s book! I’ve shared your blog with everyone and challenged them to try a new hook every day for 30 days. We’d be very interested to know how your 30 Day challenge went!

  • I hope you write/tweet more about how your 30 days went!

  • Kari Catanzaro says:

    I’m in! Hooks it is! Social Studies 6 style, ancient Rome on the agenda- this will be fun!

    Today’s hook- the Colosseum (we discussed concerts, sporting events, big public entertainment we had gone to- all I had to do was bring up the topic and they were pumped!).

  • Matt Miller says:

    Update: The fashion show critics activity was great. One of my students informed me that this lesson coincided with Fashion Week in New York! Bonus points for timeliness! In three days, I’ve used seven hooks (mystery bag, storytelling, opportunistic, props, safari, safari again and kinesthetic).

  • Kasey Bell says:

    I’m so loving this idea! You are such an #edurockstar!

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