The Dave Barry Essay Challenge: Talk Like a Pirate Day

MuppetTreasureIslandChallenge your students to write a humorous newspaper column using only the facts Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry had at his disposal when he wrote the column that made Talk Like a Pirate Day an international phenomenon. (Or at least an awesome tradition in Miss Green’s class!)

I got the idea for this lesson after reading the incredibly basic website that explains International Talk Like a Pirate Day, a “holiday” created by two friends, John Baur and Mark Summers.  They sent their facts to humorist Dave Barry, hoping he would help promote the holiday.  Did he ever!

It’s remarkable what Dave did with such simple facts.  He created a truly memorable column.  This lesson could run for a week or so because you need to develop students’ knowledge of Dave Barry, teach them about Talk Like a Pirate Day, give them time to write, and then let them compare their essays to the master’s.  I highly recommend that you celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day at the end of the unit!

The official Talk Like a Pirate Day is September 19, Mark’s ex-wife’s birthday.  I like to have my class’s Pirate Day at the very end of the school year, well after standardized testing.  The second-to-last day of school is my favorite time to do this.  (It’s a full day; the last day is a half day with unpredictable attendance.)

Talk Like a Pirate Day Unit Plan

1)      Learn about Dave Barry.  He is a columnist for the Miami Herald who now writes adult novels and children’s books, most notably Peter and the Starcatchers with Ridley Pearson.  I recommend that you read aloud from vintage columns on his website.  Or, take your class to the computer lab and let them peruse the site.  (Depends on the age level you teach.)

2)      Learn about Talk Like a Pirate Day.  You can read aloud from the website, let them peruse it themselves, give them my Factsheet, or make students take notes like real reporters.

3)      Write a humorous essay/column about Talk Like a Pirate Day.

4)      Finish writing, turn in the essays, read Dave Barry’s column aloud.  Note: the dialogue at the end is a little edgy, so I have given you two versions: original and abridged.  Use your judgment on which to choose.  (I’d use the without-dialogue version myself.)

5)      Celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Printable pdf Resources:

Ideas for Talk Like a Pirate Day activities:

  • Talk Like a Pirate!  Teach pirate vocabulary
  • Pirate ships: make ships out of aluminum foil.  The ship that holds the most treasure without sinking wins!
  • Pin the patch on the pirate
  • Pirate word search, crossword puzzle, Mad Libs, etc.
  • Pirate movie: Muppet Treasure Island, perhaps?
  • Pirate math: write fun word problems for classmates to solve
  • Pirate stories: write fun mini-stories about pirates
  • Visit the Pirates in the Classroom section of the Talk Like a Pirate Day website for more ideas

Arrr!  Have a great time, mateys!

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Posted in Academics,Fun With Literacy,Tips for Teachers,Writing by Corey Green @ Feb 27, 2014


Teacher sayings and expressions

Teachers have a language all their own.  Here are some of the most common sayings.   I think these tips should be of interest to first-year teachers, parents, and children’s book writers.

  • First-year teachers: learn these phrases all at once rather than over years
  • Parents: learn to control or at least influence children the teacher way
  • Children’s book writers: add realism and familiar language to your work

General tip: tell kids what you want them to do, not what you don’t want them to do.  For example, teachers tell kids, “WALK!”  People who don’t spend all their time with hundreds of youngsters are more likely to say, “STOP RUNNING!”  Unfortunately, kids tend to focus on the action and skip right over the don’t/stop/not.  The result is that the child continues to run, or do whatever it is you asked him not to do.

Cute little rhymes and euphemisms: these little sayings help teachers convey messages that kids need to hear over and over.

  • Dot, dot, not a lot: don’t use too much glue
  • Criss cross applesauce: the new way to ask kids to sit cross-legged or “Indian style”
  • You git what you git and you don’t throw a fit: just be grateful for whatever color of Popsicle you received, etc.
  • Sit on your pockets: the polite way to ask kids to sit on their bottoms, as opposed to crouching or balancing on their knees so the kids behind them can’t see
  • Bubble in your lips: if your mouth is all puffed up like a blowfish, you can’t talk
  • Bubble in our lips, hands on our hips:  you can’t talk or poke your neighbor while in line
  • Indoor voices: speak in a soft voice
  • Playground voices: funnily enough, you never have to remind kids to use their “playground voices” outside, but you DO have to remind them not to use the “playground voice” inside.

Do you know other teacher sayings?  Please comment and add them to this list!

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Posted in Classroom Management,First Year Teachers,Tips for Parents,What it's like to be a teacher by Corey Green @ Feb 23, 2014


The Life You Imagine: Life Lessons for Achieving Your Dreams by Derek Jeter

TheLifeYouImagineYour students will love to learn life lessons from Yankees superstar Derek Jeter.  His book, The Life You Imagine: Life Lessons for Achieving Your Dreams shows students how the same program that took Jeter from scrawny eight-year old to World Series champion can help them achieve their dreams.  Here are some tips for using the book in the elementary school classroom.

Chapters of The Life You Imagine delve deeply into life lessons such as “Set Your Goals High.”  The format is ideal for a character-building program that can spread over several months of class discussion.

My sister younger is a diehard Yankees fan with a particular devotion to Jeter.  Back when she was a college student with a flexible schedule, she visited my class for lessons based on Jeter’s book.  We made an event out of it.  My sister wore her Jeter jersey while she read from the book and led discussion.  My students loved taking time to reflect on the big picture.

I recommend that you read the book on your own before sharing with your class.  Highlight or underline the best passages in each chapter.  The book is a little long to read aloud to elementary school students, but many passages will resonate with them.  It’s best to read selections from the book rather than to summarize.  That way, Jeter’s voice comes through.  Hearing this advice from a Yankee rather than a teacher makes a difference.

My students really took the lessons to heart.  They enjoyed recapping what Jeter said and thinking of how to apply his advice to their own lives.

Jeter’s advice to set high goals inspired my students.  Jeter points out that many people try to do well—but not many try to be the best.  That’s insightful.  That’s inspiring.  Watch how hard students work when they are trying to be the best, not just good.  They’ll work to be the top student, not just make the honor roll.  They’ll try to be the best player, not just make the team.

Jeter shows that when you set your sights on being the best, your idea of hard work changes.  You dig deeply and find what you’re really made of, what you really can do.  After reading about Jeter’s constant practice, skill building, and dedication to being the best at everything from schoolwork to sports, it’s hard to slack off.  I think it’s no coincidence that my class that most loved Jeter’s book was also the class that won the district writing contest for their class book.  Those students worked very, very hard on that project.  They put in Derek Jeter-level dedication and saw results.

The lesson that most resonated with my students was “The World is not Fair.”  Much of the chapter describes Jeter’s experience of growing up biracial.  He writes about how he was treated differently when he was out with his black cousins versus his white cousins.  He shares memories of being followed around stores by clerks who suspected he planned to shoplift.  He relates that being biracial sometimes affected how he was treated on the ball field.  All of my students were deeply moved by this.  It made them more aware of unfairness and more committed to helping to make the world fair.

My students were inspired by Jeter’s candid talk of failure.  When he was first drafted to the Yankees, he made 56 errors in spring training.  He worried his career was over before it began.  Luckily, Derek Jeter called on his reserves of inner strength and powered through.  Knowing that Jeter faced failure, that he worked so hard for what he has, inspired my students to overcome their own obstacles.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough!  I hope you and your students enjoy it.

To finish the post, I bring you The Play.  Jeter’s famous flip that was so cool, it doesn’t even need his name in it.   It was amazing!

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Posted in Book Reviews,Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Feb 15, 2014


Teach Kids about Art with Katie’s Picture Show by James Mayhew

Katie'sPictureShowIntegrate art and literacy with James Mayhew’s terrific books about Katie, a girl who can step inside paintings.  These beautifully illustrated books bring masterpieces to life.

Books in the series, all available at

Katie’s Picture Show: This is the book that started it all.  Katie visits London’s National Gallery, where five famous masterpieces come to life.

Katie and the Starry Night:  The stars are falling out of Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night!  Can Katie save the day, er, night?

Katie Meets The Impressionists: Katie meets Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Katie and the Waterlily Pond: A Magical Journey Through Five Monet Masterpieces: An art competition inspires Katie to step into Monet’s masterpieces.  Can she learn how to create a winning entry?

Katie and the Sunflowers:  Katie explores post-Impressionst masterpieces by Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gaugin, and Paul Cezanne.

Katie and the Spanish Princess:  This one’s about  the pride of Spain, Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez.

Katie and the Bathers: Pointilist art comes alive for Katie.  She cools down with the bathers—but floods the gallery!  What now?

Katie and the British Artists:  Katie has a magical art adventure exploring masterpieces by Thomas Gainsborough, John Constable and Joseph Mallord William Turner.

Katie and the Mona Lisa:  Katie tries to cheer La Giaconda up—with disastrous results!

Teaching ideas:

  • Choose a masterpiece and imagine what would happen if Katie stepped into it.
  • Learn more about each masterpiece Katie encounters.
  • Write or discuss alternate adventures for Katie.
  • Write a letter to Katie.  You can suggest topics (requests to become her sidekick, questions, suggestions for new adventures) or you can leave it open-ended.  Students may surprise you with their creativity.
  • Create a Katie’s Picture Show comic book.  Retell sequences from the book or create your own.
  • As a class, prepare a mini-lesson for younger students.  This could involve mini bios on the artists, listing sensory details in the paintings, or fun facts about the masterpieces.  Buddy up with a younger class and reread the book.  Then, partner students and let them present their work to the youngsters.
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Posted in Academics,Accelerated Reader (AR),Book Lists,Book Reviews by Corey Green @ Feb 6, 2014