5 Ways to Transform Your Classroom into a Voyage of Discovery with Sarah Reed

Episode 125 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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Today Sarah Reed @KYTOY15  had her students going on a pirate voyage before Teaching Like a Pirate became the fad. From dressing like a bumblebee to class entry routines, this Kentucky State Teacher of the year, Sarah Reed, has ideas for us.

sarah reed

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Below is a transcript modified for your reading pleasure. For information on the guests and items mentioned in this show, scroll down to the bottom of this post.


Transcript for Episode 125 

#125 5 Ways to Transform Your Classroom into a Voyage of Discovery

Link for this show: http://ift.tt/2fygNvD

Thank you, Sarah, for submitting the pictures that so elegantly illustrate what you’ve shared with us teachers.


00:06 Vicki: I’m here at the NNSTOY Conference, National Network of State Teachers of the Year, with Sarah Reed. http://www.nnstoy.org/  She was Kentucky State Teacher of the Year for 2015 and she’s a STREAM teacher. Will you tell us real quickly just what STREAM stands for before we get into our five ideas?

00:25 Karen: Yeah. STREAM, the S stands for Science, the T stands for Technology, the R stands for Reading, because I’m national board certified on literacy, the E stands for Engineering, the A stands for Art, and the M stands for Mathematics. And so, we intertwined all those things and the kids are working simultaneously in order to create and engineer science projects.

Idea #1: Create a “Magical” Way to Enter Class

00:49 Vicki: We have today five ideas to transform your classroom into a voyage, which sounds exciting. Okay, so what’s our first idea?

00:58 Karen: Well, okay. The first idea is you have a classroom and it’s open and bare. If you can theme it, you can create a magical world for kids to go in. It’s not your normal classroom. And my classroom is a pirate classroom. What I have for students to go into the classroom is I have a board, that is the plank. And so, kids get to trip trap over the plank and into the classroom. And when they come in, I go, “Ahoy there, mateys!” And they go, “Aye, aye, Captain!” And that creates, when kids come in, they’re not always… They’ve come from home. They may have had an issue on the bus. They may have had something happen at home, so if you can create that spirit for them to come into the classroom any way that you can, that handshake, I do the plank, the “Aye, aye, Captain,” it’s gonna get kids hooked into learning.

Sarah has been using the pirate theme for many years. She is a Dave Burgess fan (author of Teach Like a Pirate) but has been doing this for many years. Students walk the plank to enter class.

Sarah has been using the pirate theme for many years. She is a Dave Burgess fan (author of Teach Like a Pirate) but has been doing this for many years. Students walk the plank to enter class.

Idea #2 Dress Up and Become Part of the Learning

01:54 Vicki: Love that. Okay, what’s your second idea?

01:56 Karen: Well, the second idea is to dress up.


02:00 Karen: You’re never too old to dress up. We’re doing a project, the third graders are. I was reading the newspaper and I opened it up to the neighborhood section for World News and I noticed, I read this, the rusty patched bumble bee is the first bee to go on the endangered species list. And I was like, oh, that just hit me to my core and my heart. So, I went to the costume store with my 13-year-old who did not like to go.


02:29 Karen: And I’m searching for a bumble bee costume. I get the bumble bee costume and I put it on and I put a sign on myself that says, “Help, I’m endangered.” And I come in, and I drag a suitcase, and I come into the school crying.

02:45 Vicki: Aww…

02:46 Karen: And looking behind me, and I’m in monologue now, because I’m Rusty, and I’m trying to hide from humans. I’m not Ms. Reed teaching in the STREAM lab. I come down the hall and the kids are like, “Why are you crying? What’s wrong, Miss Bumble Bee?” They see me as a bumble bee, and that really sets the stage what we’re gonna be learning and what we’re gonna be trying to answer, is the rusty patch bumble bee we’re saving. But see, I want students to have empathy for the subject. I could have set up a realia table and put the bumble bee and different artifacts and honeycomb and so forth, and then went from that angle for inquiry. But I decided to be Rusty, so that the kids can really associate with Rusty and all Rusty’s problems.

Sarah dresses up to help kids want to save the Rusty Patch Bumblebee.

03:38 Vicki: I love that. You really had them curious…

03:41 Karen: Oh, from the get go.

03:42 Vicki: Before school started, yeah.

03:44 Karen: Oh yeah. Now, the fifth graders thought I was crazy, but the fourth graders, they were like, so and it’s an ESL school, so the kids were like, “Oh my gosh, why is she crying? What’s happening?” And it was really kinda cool because the ESL interpreters, they went in, they were like, “Why is it that you’re hiding here?” And I was like, “I’m hiding because I can only live in 13 states. I used to live in 28, but now, I’m hiding here trying to go north.” And so, I’m able to bring out that content in a way that a child’s gonna remember and they’re gonna be able when I give them difficult reading material or difficult videos to navigate, they’ve already got some background experience.

04:31 Vicki: Yeah.

04:32 Karen: And they’re like, we’re gonna figure out who Rusty is and why Rusty is hiding at Hazelwood Elementary.

04:39 Vicki: I love the dressing up and I’ve done it before but I have to admit, I try to hide from people but one time, I hid outside my door and some kids were walking by and they’re like, “What is that? Throw a rock at it!” And I turn around and like, “Don’t throw a rock at it, it’s Ms. Vicki dressed up!” And I’m embarrassed ’cause sometimes, colleagues will look at you with a raised eyebrow ’cause you dressed up. [chuckle]

04:57 Karen: Oh, they do. Oh my gosh!

05:00 Vicki: But you know, we’re teachers. We’re gonna do what it takes.

05:01 Karen: I know, and then there’s really the power of the classroom. I’m gonna be a little eccentric because I’m not really there for the adults, I’m there for the kids.

Idea #3: Add Play to Your Classroom

05:09 Vicki: Okay. What’s our third?

05:10 Karen: The third one is to play. Students need to play with things before they go in and before they go into the seriousness of understanding that content. Play means, if you’re gonna have the kids go in and watch a video using the computer, they’re gonna have to go in there and they’re gonna have to play because you’re gonna ask them to get to that URL, you’re gonna have multiple steps to go here or there. They have to really go in and sit with a partner and they have to play. If you’re gonna ask them to make a bee, a model of the rusty patch bumble bee with clay, you’re gonna have to expect them to play, feel the clay and know how to make it into a ball, and how to make those antennas. They really have to have time, as much content as you have to get through, you still have to give them time to play and manipulate those materials.

The boys are playing with cars as they learn. Karen works to bring play into the classroom in many ways.

The boys are playing with cars as they learn. Karen works to bring play into the classroom in many ways.

Idea #4: Use Technology (and Learn to Find Answers on YouTube)

06:10 Vicki: Okay, next.

06:11 Karen: The next one is use technology. Now, I’m an old dog meaning I’m 22 years into the profession. And so, when I learned to teach, technology for me was like the blackboard, and then it went to the overhead projector, and then it went to the smart board. Now it’s like Google Classroom. I’m like, I’m usually in professional development sessions and the younger generation of teachers are going so quick. “Yeah, I got a Google classroom, I can do this.” And I’m like, “Wait!” This is so new to me. I’ve gotta figure it out. And the one way that I’ve figured out how to use technology, ’cause I have a Google Classroom and people come to me in order to solve technology problems or learn different programs, I use YouTube. That’s my little trick of the trade.


06:58 Karen: I go into YouTube. How to make a class list in Google Classroom, YouTube. How to teach kids how to insert pictures and documents, YouTube. That’s my little trick of the trade. Also when you’re using technology in the classroom, kids are really engaged. You’re using their medium that they’re used to learn and so I think as teachers, we have to always use that technology or use those things in the classroom that students are most comfortable with.

Girls are investigating. Sarah has been teaching for some time but is bringing new technology into her classroom.

Girls are investigating. Sarah has been teaching for some time but is bringing new technology into her classroom.

Idea #5: Set the Stage (Build Anticipation as They Enter)

07:31 Vicki: Okay, what’s our fifth?

07:32 Karen: The fifth is set the stage. That kinda goes along with dressing up. You’re gonna take that outside doorway and you’re gonna leave little footprints of what students are gonna be learning. And I, with Rusty, the bumble bee, I left bee pollen as print that was coming up, and little flowers that had been cut and a little lawn mower. And when we did Biomes, the students had to come up from downstairs, up this long hallway, and I put a rainforest up there and I put a Tundra in there and then I put a pond long before we went in to interact with that. And that just created such curiosity, especially in the ESL School. They can be deficient in vocabulary and language so this just created another learning opportunity for the ESL teachers to talk with the students, to preset them with that vocabulary so when they come in, they’re just… I mean, they are pumped to learn when they come in. They are so excited, they cannot contain themselves.

Sarah builds relationships of joy and excitement with her students. She takes them on a voyage of discovery!

How can you use these ideas without it taking so much time?

08:36 Vicki: I love these ideas to transform our classroom into a voyage but real quickly as we finish up, Sarah, I’m sitting here thinking about, do you sleep? Does this take forever or do you have tricks so that this doesn’t take so long to do? ‘Cause this seems like a whole lot of work.

08:51 Karen: Well, I guess it does. It could be, but if you work together as a team, and you work with your PLC, let’s say you have three teachers, so you can divide and conquer. It doesn’t take me a whole lot to do it because once I make it, I put it into tubs and and then I save it for later on and I’m reusing things as well. But for myself, I work really hard and really fast so it does not take extra time for myself because I guess I’m so passionate about it. But if I were a Reg Ed teacher, it would look like it would be a lot of work so I would divide and conquer by getting other members to help me.

09:31 Vicki: Yeah. Get out there and apply these five ideas to transform your classroom into a voyage. It sounds like so much fun. Get out there and be remarkable.


Full Bio As Submitted

Sarah ReedSarah Reed

Sarah Reed is a passionate educator with a quest to support students’ learning, engagement, and of of course create POWER in the classroom. Sarah has led a variety of presentations for all levels of teachers including the Keynote at the Let’s Talk KEA Conference and the Jefferson County New Teacher Mentor Program. Sarah offers professional learning at the Louisville Writing Project, Kentucky Council for Teachers of English, and the Jefferson County Public Schools Deeper Learning Conference.

She has been an educator for 21 years with Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky, and has worked in a number of positions from being a self-contained classroom teacher, Curriculum Coordinator, eSchool Resource Teacher, Demonstration Site Teacher, Instructional Coach, and Redesign Resource Teacher. Sarah’s expertise is creating engaging curriculum, taking risks to incorporate newer ways of doing things, and infusing as much technology to spur student’s independence and creativity.

Currently, she is a Hybrid Teacher at Hazelwood Elementary, a predominately ESL and small class sized school located in the southern part of Louisville. In this role she spends part of her time in a S.T.R.E.A.M. lab and the other half coaching, planning integrated lesson units, co-teaching with teachers, and having memorable experiences with students in grades K-5.

In 2012 she was awarded the prestigious Gheens Creativity and Entrepreneurship Award and in 2015 Mrs. Reed was awarded Kentucky Teacher of the Year. She holds a NBCT in Early and Middle Childhood/Literacy, with a focus on Reading/Language Arts, an honor she received having gone back to the classroom. Currently, Mrs. Reed serves as a mentor with JCPS’s New Teacher Collegial Mentor Program, is a Kentucky ELA Core Advocate with Student Achievement Partners, and is co-founder of KYREADS, a teacher led initiative to support Dyslexia awareness in the state. She serves on several committees including the Kentucky Department of Education Commissioner’s Teacher Advisory Committee, the Kentucky Teacher of the Year Committee, and the KY NBCT Network Committee. Mrs. Reed is a proud member of her teacher’s union, JCTA and the Kentucky Reading Project.

She is married with two children, and is currently pursuing her administrator’s certificate with University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky.

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.)

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