Teacher Feature: Three Year Old Classroom Explores Pirates

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Dana Brightful and Erin Pruckno in the three year old Wallaby classroom.  Dana and Erin were inspired by the children’s varied interests including mermaids, pirates, dogs, shadows, and fairies, and decided to incorporate them all together in an exploration of Peter Pan.  I joined their class for a visit to the National Gallery of Art where they learned about pirates. Below you will find a reflection from Dana and Erin, and images from their visit.

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What were your topics of exploration? Why did you choose them? Where did they come from?

Our topic this particular day was pirates: who they are and what they do in the world. I chose this based on our overarching theme of Peter Pan and the Pirates that are in the story. I wanted to introduce the children to what real pirates do as opposed to what they see on familiar television shows like Jake and the Neverland Pirates. It also was a way to reconnect and build upon previously discussed concepts. Pirates take things that do not belong to them which, according to our lessons on the Golden Rule back in December 2015, is not the right thing to do since we have to treat others the way we want to be treated. The lesson gave me an opportunity to touch on real pirates and respecting others.

Why and how did you choose the visit?

I chose The Shipwreck by Claude Joseph Vernet because it lent itself to the concept of pirates taking over another ship. Since I already knew I wanted to continue practicing visible thinking with the class, I wanted to not only use a painting closely related to pirates, but one that had lots of details for the children to look at and seriously think about what they saw, what they thought and what they wondered about the painting. It’s always amazing how many different thoughts come from one painting when there are many details for the children to pay attention to during the routine. The National Gallery of Art was my first choice of where to find a painting and their site (NGA.gov) is user friendly! After typing in ships and filtering the results to show only paintings on view, I not only found The Shipwreck, but it gave a map of where to find it in the museum, making it easier to find the day of my lesson.

What were your learning objectives? (What did you want your children to take away from the lesson?)

There were three learning objectives for this particular lesson: (1) discover what pirates are and what they do (2) practice their visible thinking skills by utilizing a thinking routine called See, Think, Wonder (Visible Thinking) while looking at The Shipwreck by Claude Joseph Vernet and (3) develop their gross motor, social emotional and cognitive skills by playing Capture the Flag.

What was most successful about your lesson?

The most successful part of my lesson was playing Capture the Flag on the National Mall. The children, already knowing the boundaries of where to keep their bodies on the large outdoor Mall space, all participated. They understood that they needed to capture the flag by catching the teacher that had it, and once captured, to ‘hoist’ up the pirate flag. They used their cognitive skills to stop and assess the best strategy to capture the flag. Instead of running in circles directly behind the teacher, one child stood back and positioned himself to capture the teacher from the front end.

How did the lesson reach your objectives to expand the topic?

By utilizing the thinking routine and documenting their thoughts, I was able to see a thought pattern of what ideas or thoughts needed to be explored in further details in the coming days. For the questions that could be answered, I documented it and planned to answer those questions on the following teaching day.

What was successful in terms of your preparation and logistics?

With preparations, I prepared to have 2 charts to document the children’s thoughts for the thinking routine, had a book to begin our museum circle, a toy boat, small flags, a large flag and a large Pirate flag in a museum bag the week before my lesson. As mentioned above, for logistics, I was able to see on NGA’s website the exact gallery for the painting and knew exactly what part of the mall we would play our game afterwards.

What could you have done differently to better achieve your objectives and expand the topic? 

I could have opted to not play Capture the Flag and instead answer their questions after our thinking routine, but I chose not to, simply because getting out of a space where the children had to be quiet, calm and still was more important at the time. Often I try to plan a lesson that allows me to easily assess where the children are cognitively, which requires them to be focused for long periods of time. So I often try to balance that out with a planned gross motor activity before or after the lesson, which is why I chose not to expand on their questions over the game.

What was challenging regarding logistics?

The only challenge was finding the gallery the day of since it was behind another gallery. This was one of the more easy lessons in terms of logistics since NGA has ample space and it’s easy to find the gallery you want to visit.

What recommendations would you have for another teacher trying out this lesson?

The best piece of advice I can offer is to prepare a chart for the thinking routine  See, Think, Wonder beforehand and do the routine in small groups. It’s a lengthy routine that requires a good amount of wait time for each child’s response. If your classroom has a lot of children that require a lot of gross motor activities, play Capture the Flag first then do the thinking routine if your schedule allows.

Here are a few images from their exploration on pirates:

IMG_1568The Wallaby team noticed an interest in pirates among their students, so they thought exploring pirates during their unit on Peter Pan fit perfectly.  The class went to the National Gallery of Art to find The Shipwreck by Claude Joseph Vernet.
IMG_1587Dana began by reading Sloop John B: A Pirate’s Tale by Alan Jardine to get the children in a piratey mood.  After the story she pointed out the ship’s flag in the painting and brought out many small flags for the class to see.  She explained that flags let people know where a ship is from, and the first thing pirates do when they capture a ship is take down the ship’s flag and hoist up their own.  She asked the students, “is that a nice thing to do?”, to which they all replied, “NO!”  The kiddos said that pirates might take other things like nap items, food, water bottles or money.  IMG_1593 - CopyNext, the class did a “See, Think, Wonder” exercise to practice careful looking of the painting.  (This is a visible thinking routine from Project Zero, and more information can be found here.)  Dana split the class into two groups and had clipboards ready to go with a See, Think, Wonder template to easily record the children’s statements.  IMG_1603IMG_1602First Dana and Erin asked each child in their circle what they saw in the painting and recorded what they said.  Next they went around the circle again and asked each child what they thought about what they saw.  Lastly, they asked each child what they wondered about the painting.  This gave the children time to observe and think about the painting, and also gave them a turn to talk frequently, keeping them engaged in the activity. 
IMG_1605 - CopyIMG_1608Next, Dana pretended to be a pirate and looked through her telescope (really a paper towel roll), and spotted a ship in the distance.  She said she was going to sail up to the ship, get on board, take down the ship’s flag, and put up her own pirate flag.  The class agreed that if they saw a pirate flag on a ship that they would sail away from it!IMG_1611To end their lesson on pirates they went onto the National Mall to play a game of Capture the Flag.  First the children practiced their mean pirate faces and saying, “Arrrr matey!” Untitled.png
Dana gave one child the pirate flag and made sure it was tucked in tight so that it wouldn’t fly away while they were running.IMG_1627Then it was time to RUN!  They chased Dana’s “ship” as she sailed with her flag. IMG_1620When they caught her they excitedly took down the flag and hoisted up their pirate flag!

During their week on pirates the children learned about flags as a way of communication, and boats. Check out our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for more ideas from their lesson and their unit on Peter Pan! See you in two weeks with our next Teacher Feature!