RLTA Study Group: Hibbard G. Elementary School


School: Hibbard G. Elementary School
TextTeach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator by Dave Burgess
Study Group Leader: Stephanie Michl (4th Grade Special Education)
Study Group Members: Emily Barnoswky (Kindergarten), Sora Lim (First Grade), Bridget Heneghan (6th Grade), Jessica Hodges (6th Grade), Jin Dokko (Special Education)
Goal: Increase the level of student engagement in our online classes

Rating and Effectiveness of Professional Text:    🦜🦜🦜 / 5

This year, our group had chosen to focus on engaging students in their own learning. We identified student buy-in as one of our top needs, especially in the context of remote instruction where students are expected to work more independently and have more control of their own learning. We chose the book Teach Like a Pirate because it was a well-regarded and often recommended text for teachers to improve student engagement in the classroom.

The author reminded us to ground our teaching in our passions and reflect on our reasons for teaching. He stressed the importance of building rapport and relationships with both students and colleagues. The author gave lists of questions to consider when planning, which allow teachers to develop their own strategies for engagement based on our own passions and teaching styles. He also provided many examples from his own instruction as a high school history teacher. The conditions of teaching during a pandemic, however, made many of these things difficult to implement. Although we valued his enthusiasm, many of the ideas that he gave felt disconnected from the reality of our current teaching situations.

Our students’ engagement in our daily lessons were at the forefront of our minds as we read this text and through our group’s discussions. Our biggest takeaway from the book was his perspective on the importance of planning all aspects of the lesson to increase engagement – from the music that is playing to what is hanging in the classroom – to incorporate all of the senses. Although we couldn’t always affect the physical environment that our students were in this year, we definitely took steps to create a positive experience to keep our students engaged in meaningful learning.

We would recommend this book for teachers who are looking for an easy read, motivation, and inspiration to increase student engagement. We would also recommend this text for teachers new to the profession and those that teach middle to upper grade students.


Find your passion!

  • Content passion
    • Within your subject matter, what are you passionate about teaching?
  • Professional passion
    • Within your profession, but not specific to your subject matter, what are you passionate about?
  • Personal passion
    • Completely outside of your profession, what are you passionate about?
Some of our favorite questions to consider while planning for student engagement:
  • How can I incorporate movement into this lesson?
  • How can I gain an advantage or increase interest by presenting this material out of sequence?
  • What current events are related to this lesson?
  • How can I get my class outside my four walls for this lesson?
  • How can I incorporate art into this lesson? What can my students draw or create that will help them understand and retain information from this lesson?
  • How can I show my students why learning this content is important in the real world?
  • How can I use music to aid my presentation? What would be the perfect song or type of music to create the right mood or proper atmosphere? What songs have lyrics that relate to this lesson?
  • What type of message will create a buzz and provoke students to point it out and begin to talk to each other about it?
  • Can they reenact historical events?