Monthly Archives: July 2013

Play to Learn

Yesterday was Day 1 Term 3 … the day TPL met TLAP!

Term 3 is action term for my Teacher Professional Leave (TPL) journey. I have designed a Literature unit for my Year 10s around the specific study of the novel “The Hobbit” but with the driving question How would our lives be different if we didn’t tell stories? My focus is on project based learning and I am looking for ways to increase student voice and choice in their learning activities. My driving question is How can I encourage my students to take more responsibility for their own learning?

In the past few weeks my twitter feed has been speckled with talk about a book, Teach like a Pirate (TLAP) by Dave Burgess, and the holidays seemed like an opportunity for some wider reading. I devoured this book in a few hours and it joined sooooo many dots for me as a teacher.

My traditional introductory lesson for “The Hobbit” is to read the opening descriptions and have students draw what they imagine. After reading TLAP I redesigned this lesson and, WOW, am I glad I did.

First, room layout.


Traditionally the room tends to be a horseshoe layout, great for whole class discussion but not for group work. So I spent 10 mins at recess moving furniture.

The single table to the side of the room was filled with resources: textas, pencils,  paper, play dough containers. I had also placed play dough in the centre of each table group … I wanted the students to notice this as part of their entry experience.

From the moment the students came into the room they had a different expectation about the lesson just because it looked different.

We started by getting comfortable (they could sit on the floor if they chose) and then I asked them to close their eyes. I walked them through some relaxation techniques to clear their minds and then asked them to imagine a light and walk towards it … as they did this I began to play The Morning Song from Peer Gynt (music only) …

As you step out into the light you see a world you have never been to. Look around; what can you see, smell, hear, touch?

You notice a group of creatures. Remain hidden, so you don’t scare them, and observe them.

Then they had to create one or more of the creatures they saw. They could draw them or make them … or use a combination. It was interesting to observe which students chose which medium. However, almost all of them began to tell stories to each other about their creatures and the worlds they came from

… without being prompted to

… without moaning “Do we have to?”



After about 2o mins I asked them to write about their creatures. To begin to write down the stories they were starting to tell to each other.

We concluded the lesson by reading the first three pages of The Hobbit.

My TPL colleague came in a couple of times to observe. She was amazed on one of the visits … “They are all writing!”

Almost all of the 25 students spent 30 minutes just writing about their creations … I had two who would rather use ‘oral traditions’ and took a little more encouragement 😉

For two hours, 25 year 10s (15 year olds) were completely engaged in learning about the art of storytelling!