I. Overview

Story Pirates believes that education is most inspiring when the teachers and students are fully engaged in the learning process. We have designed several high-quality Professional Development programs that bring the excitement of a Story Pirates class to your teachers. Each has been derived from and can be adapted to the grade-level, subject-area, and needs of the school community. We collaborate with teachers prior to the PD to assess what subject-areas within these themes they would like to explore, and ensure that each PD employs techniques that can be used in class immediately. They are designed to meet NY State Professional Development standards.

II. General Education Programs

Teaching the Story Pirates Way: Using Drama to Heighten Student Engagement

All subjects, primarily grades pre-K through 6th grade

How does Story Pirates keep students engaged and get them to write so much? By using drama to aid the English Language Arts classroom! In this PD, facilitators demonstrate how and why Story Pirates use drama techniques to teach writing, and help teachers to understand that most of these techniques are not that different from their own best practices as educators. The similarities and differences between teachers and performers are examined and unpacked, so that teachers can begin to explore how to implement classroom drama in ways that will feel natural and comfortable. By the end of the PD, teachers will be able to employ some of the methods we use to make each lesson feel like a live performance tailored specifically for the classroom audience, heightening student engagement, and addressing multiple learning styles in each lesson.

This PD can be tailored to a variety of different instructional topics, and the specific activities we cover will vary according to the subject area the teachers wish to focus on. No matter the topic, teachers will explore warm-ups, daily routines, and classroom games they can use to reinforce a variety of material.  In addition, depending on the specific needs of the group of teachers, one or more make-and-take resources are produced. Options for areas of focus in this PD include, but are not limited to:

  • Teaching and reinforcing vocabulary.
  • Supporting writing mechanics such as punctuation and verb tense.
  • Supporting good writing technique, including using effective details, transition words, and “showing not telling”.
  • Using a fictional dramatic character as the exciting lynchpin of an entire academic unit.
  • More topics available upon request, including topics related to any Common Core writing standard.

Professional Development Standards: NY State PD Standards 1b, 1c, 1e, 1f,  2d, 2e, 2f, 3a, 4a, 5a, 5b, 5c, 6a  (see Appendix)        

Vocabulary Instruction and Cognitive Domain

For regular ed and  ELL teachers, pre-K-8th grade

How should we teach vocabulary to students so that they will actually retain and use it?  Vocabulary is an essential practice that can become a daily practice, and this PD provides techniques that will enhance your students’ understanding and application of new words through short interactive games. Often teachers struggle with getting their students to employ the words they are being taught, beyond being able to merely identify them. Our vocabulary games are based around the idea that students need to place new vocabulary words within specific cognitive domains, and then practice using the words in practical contexts, in order to fully understand and make use of all the words they are learning. We will look at research on this concept of “cognitive domain,” and then teachers will be trained in games and techniques they can use at different times during a vocabulary unit to build vivid domains within their students’ minds. Teachers will walk away with routines they can use to introduce vocabulary, reinforce it, and review it at the end of a unit. These techniques require few materials and little time, and are fun and effective for both teachers and students. This PD is particularly effective for teachers of English Language Learning (ELL) students.  

Activities include:

  • Daily games used to introduce vocabulary
  • Review techniques to help link vocabulary thematically
  • Writing activities to help kids show mastery of new words

Professional Development Standards: NY State PD Standards 1b, 1c, 1f, 2d, 2e, 2f, 3a, 3b.1, 4a, 5a, 7b   (see Appendix)

Test Prep

All subjects, primarily grades 2 through 6

How can we inspire students to achieve their “personal best?” By making preparation for a standardized test more like a video game! Story Pirates provides a framework for rethinking test prep, taking it from a boring but necessary chore to a fun and exciting quest for the best score. By exploiting the similarities between “the test” and games that students love, we engage students in the test prep process in a new way that actually gets them excited about improving their scores. This PD can be applied to many subject-areas and grades. Teachers are provided with materials that effectively demonstrate these concepts, and can be used the next day in the classroom.

Examples of test-prep strategies include:

  • Viewing answer choices like a video game controller to increase classroom participation during test prep
  • Conceptualizing the test as a game so students are more likely to find the “tricks”

Professional Development Standards: NY State PD Standards 1c, 1e, 1f, 2d, 5a, 5b, 5c, 6a, 8d  (see Appendix)

Performing for Children the Story Pirates way

For Theater Educators, grades pre-K-12th grade

Anyone who has seen a Story Pirates show knows that we have a unique way of collaborating with our student authors that steps outside the traditional bounds of “Children’s Theater.” We create a show that is genuinely funny for both children and adults. But how? This PD, primarily for theatre educators, examines our process and aesthetic, including crowd control techniques, improvisation techniques for young audiences, and artistic philosophy. Educators will leave with a framework they can use to approach performing for young audiences with adult or student actors.  

Example activities include:

  • Discussion of Commedia dell’Arte and Vaudeville comedy tropes, and an examination of their applicability to performance for children.
  • Learning and practicing specific improvisation forms that are especially effective for young audiences.

Professional Development Standards:  NY State PD Standards  1b, 1c, 1f, 2d, 2e, 2f, 4a, 5a, 5b, 6a.  (see Appendix)

III. Appendix

New York State PD Standards

Applicable standards are listed with each program.

1b. Professional Development design is based on the learning styles of adult learners as well as the diverse cultural, linguistic, and experiential resources that they bring to the professional development activity.

1c. Professional development design is grounded in the New York State Learning Standards and student learning goals.     

1e. Professional development design addresses the continuum of an educator’s experience and level of expertise, and is based on an analysis of individual educator needs; current knowledge and skills; and district, building and educator learning goals.

1f. Professional development formats include, but are not limited to, lesson study, demonstrations, observations, analysis of student work and assessment data, collegial circles, feedback, action research, reflection, and opportunities for collaboration and problem solving.

2d. Professional development provides differentiated instructional strategies to meet the needs of diverse learners.

2e. Professional development ensures that educators have the knowledge and skills needed to develop and foster the critical thinking, problem solving, literacy, and technological skills that students need to be successful in the 21st century.

2f. Professional development provides the knowledge, skill, and opportunity for educators to make relevant connections between the subjects they teach and the applications of those subjects.                     

3a. Professional development is based on current research in teaching, learning, and leadership.

3b.1. Professional development includes ongoing opportunities for educators to read and reflect on current research on topics that are of interest to them and that are consistent with state and local school improvement priorities.

4a. Professional development provides skills that educators need to communicate effectively, to listen to the ideas of others, to exchange and discuss ideas, to work in diverse teams, and to share responsibility for work toward a common goal.

5a. Professional development focuses on developing educators’ knowledge of the learning styles, needs, and abilities of their students, as well as the diverse cultural, linguistic, and experiential resources that their students bring to the classroom.

5b. Professional development provides opportunities for educators to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to design and implement differentiated instructional and assessment strategies that utilize diverse student, family and community resources, and that meet diverse student learning needs.

5c. Professional development provides opportunities for educators to examine their practice in setting and maintaining high expectations for all students to enable them to attain high levels of achievement.

6a. Professional development provides opportunities for educators to create a safe, inclusive, equitable learning community where everyone participates in maintaining a climate of caring, respect, and high achievement.

7b. Professional development enhances educators’ knowledge of varying cultural backgrounds of students, families, and the community, and of how the diversity of these cultural backgrounds can serve as foundations and resources for student learning and success.
8d. Professional development provides opportunities for educators to use results from local, state and national assessments; student work samples and portfolios; school climate, parent, and teacher surveys; and student behavior data to guide their instruction.