Tools of the Trade: Keep Calm and Get Your Pirate On

A while back, I read an inspiring book called, Teach Like a Pirate, written by Dave Burgess and one of my biggest takeaways from his book was this quote: “Provide an uncommon experience for your students and they will reward you with an uncommon effort and attitude.” This quote resonated strongly with me because as I thought back on all my years of being a student and an athlete, it’s clear to me that the teachers and coaches that made the hard work engaging were the ones that kept me wanting to come back and inspired me to work harder for them. Now, being an educator myself, I see just how powerful an engaging lesson can be! So stick with me and in this post, and I will share with you my top 3 favorite tools of engagement that I use to get my students excited to start learning and how I keep them coming back for more! 

Treasures From the Treasure Chest

Tool #1: Flipgrid

  • Cost to teachers: FREE
  • Integrates with Canvas?: Yes
  • Engagement Area/Type: Assignment; Asynchronous

Overview: Flipgrid is the high engagement tool that replaces discussion boards in Canvas. Flipgrid assignments can include student responses to readings, making connections to text/readings, furthering conversations from the classroom/lesson. There are thousands of pre-built prompts or you can make your own. Flipgrid embeds into Canvas and works with SpeedGrader. With the use of Flipgrid students are encouraged to use their voice and experience high levels of engagement and connectedness with their peers. 

Tool #2: BookSnaps

  • Cost to teachers: FREE
  • Integrates with Canvas?: Yes
  • Engagement Area/Type: Assignment; Asynchronous

Overview: BookSnaps are a visual representation of a student’s understanding of a text/reading that they have completed. They are created using Google Slides and can be embedded into Canvas to work with SpeedGrader. With BookSnaps, students can use any device with a camera to take a snapshot of their “takeaway” or what they believe to be the main idea of a reading. They then use graphics to represent their thinking on this section of text and write why they chose it. BookSnaps are highly engaging and allow students the opportunity to personalize their learning and how they demonstrate it to their teacher. 

Tool #3: Quizlet LIVE

  • Cost to teachers: FREE
  • Integrates with Canvas?: Can be added to a Canvas Page
  • Engagement Area/Type: In Class (In person or Virtual); Synchronous
  • Similar Tools: Kahoot, GimKit

Overview: If you want to see engagement go through the roof check out Quizlet LIVE. This is a fantastic tool that allows teachers to gather real time data about on student’s understanding of definitions/facts/material while at the same time, allowing students to compete against each other individually or in teams. Each time students answer a question correctly, they get a point but if they answer one wrong, they go all the way back to zero. So at any time, it is anybody’s game. First team to get all their points wins! Students rave about this game and teachers rave about both the high level of engagement and the data they can collect to help guide further instruction. This game is a must try- just don’t blame when your students are begging to play it 24/7! 

Embrace your Inner Pirate!

Now, some may say that these tools are “too different” or “too unconventional” but if we want to have an impact on our student’s learning we have to be willing to be different or unconventional because we can’t reach 21 century students using tools from the 80s! Like Burgess says, when we provide “uncommon (learning) experiences to our students, they will reward us with uncommon effort and attitude”! In other words, if we want greatness from our students, we must first give them greatness!

One thought on “Tools of the Trade: Keep Calm and Get Your Pirate On

  1. Melissa, thank you so much for your helpful suggestions and tips on educational tools. The “Pirate” quote is truly inspiring and a great reminder of what matters in a classroom, I look forward to reading the book you recommended.

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