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Play Like a PIRATE: Engage Students withToys, Games, and Comics Paperback – March 20, 2016
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"In Play Like a Pirate, Quinn combines insanely innovative strategies and activities to increase student engagement and challenge students to create, all while having a ton of fun. I've used some of his strategies with my own students, who have enjoyed digging through Lego to make representations of New Deal programs and creating historical action figures, complete with awesome accessories.
"I've also used Quinn's ideas to engage the undergrads in my social studies methods course, whether through creating a superhero teacher or develop board games to analyze social studies standards. You read it here - college students having fun in an undergrad education course, thanks to many of Quinn's guiding principles and engaging strategies.
"One read through Play Like a Pirate will leave your head spinning with numerous concepts that you can incorporate into any class, any age level, and any content area. Quinn mixes pop culture with sound educational theory and provides countless examples for instant integration, all layered with his playful sense of humor. Make sure you have a ton of post-it notes or a pad of paper handy because the ideas will be coming a mile a minute!"
- Chuck Taft, University School of Milwaukee
About the Author
Quinn Rollins has been a social studies teacher in Granite School District in Salt Lake City since 2004. Whether teaching children or adults, he believes in engaging students with humor, pop culture, and new perspectives. He's worked with the education programs for the University of Utah, Utah State University, Brigham Young University - Idaho, and Westminster College of Salt Lake City. Quinn has served as master teacher and mentor for a Teaching American History Grant, and for a National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks of American History Workshop in Chicago, Illinois. He received the Utah Council for the Social Studies Secondary Teacher of the Year award in 2011, and the "Utah's Best of the West" award at the National Council for the Social Studies conference in 2015. He currently serves as the social studies curriculum specialist for Granite School District. He was also awarded the Best Historical Scene and Best Custom Minifigures Awards at BrickSlopes 2015, Utah's LEGO Convention. And they're pretty fancy.
Quinn loves presenting at local, state, and national conferences. Popular presentations include student engagement, teaching with pop culture, the literacy of comic books and graphic novels, and using toys to teach.
Quinn's hobbies include designing and playing with toys,doodling in staff meetings, reading comic books, and...let's say "running" to sound like a well-rounded person. He believes cheese is "an enemy to mankind,"but won't say no to pizza.
He earned his master's degree in Instructional Design and Educational Technology and his bachelor's degrees in History Teaching and German Teaching from the University of Utah.
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Quinn’s authenticity as a teacher and his intellect are evident in his acknowledgement of power of exemplars, reliance on research-based strategies—summary and graphic organizers elevated to creative and lofty levels—and rigorous content levels that tantalize and tickle students. The subtle style, overt humor, and immeasurable talents demonstrated in the classroom are poured into a delightful and dopamine-inducing book. The contributions of Quinn Rollins to the minds and hearts of students, adults, and our profession are
Mary Rhodes, EdD
(From my review on The Educator's Room - [...]
When I returned home, I pulled the book out of the box, and the first thing I noticed was it’s intensely small size; I thought, “Oh no – not one of these books that could be an article again” (I’ve been routinely surprised at how many authors increase the font size to turn something as long as this article into a book. At least they don’t change the font to Courier New.)
Yet, when I started reading this book, I was fully engrossed in its content. Beginning with a quote from Burgess (whom I didn’t know was the publisher of the book), Rollins reminds us that we should “be able to sell tickets to our lessons.” The next 143 pages provides some great ideas in how he brought his passion into the classroom. This includes the following ideas:
Making fun apply to the content we teach
Keeping the fun burning like a slow fire
Making the activities versatile
Trying out everything first
Using toys we grew up with – which includes Rollins’s rubber duckie
The book is separated into 3 sections: toys, games, and superheroes, graphic novels, and comic strips. Let’s explore some of the content in each of the areas:
In the toys section, Rollins teaches us how to use action figures, Transformers, Hot Wheels, Barbies, Play-Doh, The Smurfs, and LEGO bricks in the classroom. I particularly enjoyed the section on Transformers, thinking about what Andrew Jackson would transform into if he were one of these great toys. Would he be a bulldozer, clearing the land of the Creek, Cherokee, Chickisaw, Choctaw, and Seminole tribes? Would he be a gun, saving New Orleans from defeat? Would he be a dollar sign, as the only President of the United States to eliminate the national debt? I also think there are other great ideas like how to create scenes with LEGOs, which, unlike politics, is the great American uniter that spans generations and crosses bridges of divided opinions. Best of all, the use of toys has QR codes that we can snap on our phone to see how his students have already used toys in his classroom. This part alone is worth the price of the book, but I see myself incorporating just about any of these ideas in my classroom immediately.
A new focus on school has been the Project-Based Learning module. Rollins goes a step further in instructing us how to gamify our classrooms. This includes fun teacher-led activities (some that will ring a bell from our own pasts), but also on board games that students can use or make, and ways to use Minecraft in class – yes, kids still love this; and, yes, it can be very educational. I also really enjoy the portion on trading cards, where Rollins teaches us how to have trading cards like we use to collect in the past, or how to morph them into cards with powers like Magic! The Gathering.
SUPERHEROES, GRAPHIC NOVELS, and COMIC STRIPS
The last section of the book is on how cartoons can be used in the classroom. While I’ve already learned about how to incorporate more graphic novels into the curriculum, I really enjoyed the component on superheroes. In elementary classrooms, students can create a superhero for what our the principles in our society. It also helps children discuss the composition (and flaws) of a hero and, conversely, a villain – and whether they walk the Greek “hero’s journey.”
Lastly, I like how Rollins turns the camera backwards as a sense of reflection, noting what lessons are discussed (or ignored) throughout 20th and 21st century in comic books. Lastly, the idea to have the students create their own class comic book is one of the best projects I’ve read in a while, whereby each child in the class is responsible for one page. The uses and cross-curricular application of this ingenuous idea are almost limitless.
If I were to find only one area that is “needs improvement” in the book, I’d say that the book is filled with a bunch of random quotes that don’t really apply to the lesson. I take this as Rollins exposing his fun and goofy side, but, for me at least, they were distracting as I had images of incorporating his so many wonderful lessons into practice.
Though this is a very quick read (I read it between officiating wrestling matches), the limited pages scratch the surface of unlimited ideas. Remember what it was like to use your imagination and play as a kid? I didn’t either until I picked up this book. Adulting is a roadblock to one of the greatest things that American schools have over our competing nations – our national creativity. And if you teach high school and think this isn’t for you, think again. Our AP Calc teacher at our high school runs her class on the value of star stickers, and her kids earn 4’s and 5’s on their test with ease.
The methods are transferable, too -- I teach Continuing Ed classes for adults, and I still found inspiration to use games and comics as appropriate springboards for learning.