Pirate Day

Saturday, October 28, 2017

*Check out my Instagram (Just_MrsJones) to see a featured story of our day.

When I first started teaching 4th grade over a decade ago, four out of five teachers on my grade level had two years or less teaching experience. We were young and energetic, clueless but passionate. Some days we managed to make our classes somewhat behave, most days we taught them most of what we were supposed to, but every day we found new ways to have fun. My favorite idea we dreamt up lives on to this day each fall on Pirate Day.

Fourth grade social studies curriculum in North Carolina focuses on state history, and pirates are a big part of the history of our coast. At the end of first quarter, we spend a whole day learning about the pirates of North Carolina coast, including but not limited to Blackbeard. We allow the students to join us in dressing like pirates (short of anything that resembles a weapon), and we rotate to the different classrooms doing pirate math, reading pirates and playing pirate games. It's my favorite day of the year!

Our local chamber of commerce generously awards thousands of dollars in grants at the beginning of each school year and this year I was fortunate enough to receive a grant to spice up Pirate Day with a new game. My husband and I enjoy playing the strategy board game Catan with our friends, and I recently discovered Catan Junior is pirate-themed. This game features social studies, math and reading skills (vocabulary, resources, supply and demand, trading 2:1, etc.) and I got to spend the day teaching all the fourth graders to play this year. We look forward to playing it more this year, as the kids loved it!

While playing Catan Junior, one of my reading students said, "Wow! This is so much fun. And I thought you'd just read us that book," pointing to a book I'd had on display all week. He wasn't all wrong; I am a sucker for reading a good book, and I did enjoy the book with my homeroom class at a different time during the day. The book is P is for Pirate by Eve Bunting, and you can download a free Book Walk I created to accompany the read aloud here.


I am also a sucker for cute things at Target, and this year I splurged on a pirate ship for the hallway. For years, we've made a 2-D pirate ship display on the wall, and my last year's students were quick to come by on Friday and say, "You got them a real pirate ship?!? No fair!" It was a pretty big hit, and I took each child's photo in the ship and sent to their parents on Class Dojo. I also had printed pictures before Pirate Day, filtering them using an app called Pirate Pix so students could have their Pirate Picture on display all day.

One of my favorite resources for Pirate Day is this DVD from National Geographic. It has some great bonus features, and I always show the first ten minutes to my students to give them a more accurate representation of pirate life than what they've been exposed to up until this age.  I use the following discussion questions after watching those first ten minutes:


No themed day is complete without a fun snack. We enjoyed Pirate's Pot Luck at the end of the day.

Themed days are so much fun; we do another in the spring called First in Flight Day.  You can read more about that here.  I'm currently trying to think of one more for winter time-- perhaps a Lost Colony murder mystery? Does your grade level do themed days? I'd love to hear about them in the comments.


Do Not Be That Aunt

Sunday, October 8, 2017
So... I let September pass by without posting once. OOPS! I can't think of a previous time I've missed an entire month, but I promise it wasn't for lack of thinking about it or trying to find the time. This was maybe the busiest back to school I've ever had, and I'm vowing to myself that October will not be as crazy as September was-- starting with finding time for TPT and this blog!

I hate it when people make excuses, but I'm going to make a couple of excuses anyway....

The first is my class size this year. When I took on teaching the AG class two years ago, I knew my class size could vary greatly from year to year. This is one of those years when it's swung to the high side and while I'm very grateful for the job security, it's been time consuming trying to get us all off to a smooth start.  When parents raised an eyebrow in response to my numbers at Open House, I laughed it off and told them I'd done 28 students several years and a few more was no big deal. I had myself convinced it wasn't a thing, but let me tell you, 34 kids is kind of a thing.  To those of you who do numbers like that every year, my hat is off to you!

Now, on to my second excuse...

My sister is having a baby later this month and I am over-the-moon excited! The last few weekends, however, have involved four baby showers, one of which was at my house last Sunday. Typically I devote most fall weekends to school, but my heart has been elsewhere in recent weeks...

Technically, I'm already an aunt, but I didn't meet my niece and nephew on my husband's side until they were 9 and 13, so I've taken this opportunity to ask for some advice from my students on how to be a good aunt to a little kid. This was part of something I've added to my classroom this year called Weekly Letters, a fantastic idea that you can read more about here.

I feel very prepared by the advice my students gave...

1. Take them to the movies. Oddly, this is the first thing I remember doing with my aunt. (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, 1987) Also, toys are better than candy so they won't be so "hiper."

2. This kid agreed with the no candy rule. "Do not be that aunt." 

3. Buy her cute clothes, dress her up in them, take pictures and show them in class. Got it.  

4. Be calm and quiet. That might be a problem for me. But I can handle taking her to get her ears pierced. Another thing my aunt did for me (when she lied at Walmart and said she was my mom so I could get my second hole when I was 13).

5. "Nobody likes grouchy aunts." Solid advice.

6. I will try not to drag her to the grocery store against her will.

7. Everyone needs a good "roll modle."

8. "Give them a second chance. THEN punish them."

9. This poor guy wasn't sure he could offer any advice since he's not a girl, but he did advise me to be nice to my "sister's child" and not spoil her, which "may cause big problems." I hear ya, buddy!

10. Just be myself... "be normal you!" Maybe my favorite advice of all...

Now, if only they had such solid advice on large class sizes... :)