“Whoa… That’s a lot of unicorn poop,” my teammate said, eyebrows raised, as he looked around the classroom littered with streamers, cut-outs and superhero posters.
“Unicorn poop” is the affectionate (?) term that I have for the silly things that I’m doing to hook kids into my lessons.
Every day, I work to engage kids, trying desperately to hook them every 10 minutes. It is utterly exhausting, but it’s honestly the most effective thing I’ve done in years.
At the recommendation of our literacy coach, I read Teach Like a Pirate. A quick read, Dave Burgess recommends transforming the classroom and building a rapport with students to help keep them engaged. The truth is that in today’s climate, kids demand that you vie for their attention.
As a middle school teacher, I’m competing against: hormones, the action that happened at lunch, family dynamics, phones, flirting, tv, texting, emails, other content area teachers… and probably a whole bunch of other stuff, too like “instabook” or whatever twelve year-olds are up to online these days.
Burgess recommends varying teaching using about 40 different “hooks” every 10 minutes of class.
I’m embracing this with all of my heart.
On the first day of school, I gave each kid a container of Play-Doh and asked him to make something from it, and then explain what they made to the class. It was a huge success. The kids loved it, and it was truly an informative lesson.
Today, for their first quiz, I played “Eye of the Tiger” as they entered the room. Last year, I spent a day speaking with an Eastern European accent and yelling at children.(They ate it up!)
I love the success that Teach Like a Pirate has brought to my classroom, but I’m also troubled that this is the day and age that we’re living in. As a teacher, I’m expected to entertain, to draw kids in, and to continually inspire them- in addition to teaching them all that they need to know about reading and writing to be ready for the high school.
Very few of my kids come to class ready to learn. It has become my job to change their minds, and to fight against everything else to convince them that learning to read and write is worth their time.
So… I call it unicorn poop. Because honestly, it might be shit, but it sparkles.