September 19th is National Talk Like A Pirate Day. This is always a great opportunity to act a little silly and have some fun at the beginning of the school year. It was also a horrible day for many of my English language learners though. All of the strange voices and unfamiliar words were extremely confusing to them and they largely felt left out of the fun. In order to help my students feel more included, and to allow everyone to still have some fun with the day (and advance their learning), I developed some ELL-friendly pirate themed activities.
Pirate vocabulary was one of the biggest frustrations for my ELLs. Native speaking students grow up hearing phrases such as “Shiver me timbers!” in movies and cartoons, so they already have a decent working knowledge of the vocabulary, but not so for ELLs. Since this is not critical vocabulary, I really wanted the kids to hear and have some fun with it, not necessarily master it. As with all of the activities, this first activity has two versions: paper and digital. The paper version is a basic sorting activity. The words are on ships and the definitions are on flags. Students match the flag to the correct ship and write down their answers. The written record becomes a glossary of sorts for them to reference as needed.
When I went to create the digital version of the vocabulary activity I wanted something more than a basic sort. I wanted the students to practice a skill that is critical to their success as language learners: context clues. This time I decided to use conditional formatting to create a game that became kind of a cross between my self-grading task cards and my Integer Fishing Game. The game is all on one page and students read the sentence and choose the vocabulary word from the word bank to complete the sentence. They type their chosen word in the box, hit enter, and the box turns green when they are correct. If correct, they choose a spot to dig for treasure and collect their points. The second tab of the game is a glossary that they can reference as needed. Here’s a short video showing the digital game in action:
The digital version of this game comes in two formats: Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel. So no matter if you’re a Google school or a Microsoft school, you can have fun with this game!
No doubt one of the most popular books to read on Talk Like A Pirate Day is How I Became A Pirate by Melinda Long. Activities two and three both relate to this book. The second activity I have for our celebration is a set of sequencing sentences. In both the paper version and the digital version, students read the sentences and put them in order to retell the story. The paper version needs to be cut ahead of time (I recommend printing on card stock and laminating before cutting so you can reuse the same sets each year.), but the digital version is a drag and drop activity that is ready to go.
Our third activity, which also relates to How I Became A Pirate by Melinda Long, is a noun-verb sort activity. While all of the words in this activity are taken from the book, it is not necessary to use this activity in conjunction with the book, it can be a stand-alone activity. In the paper version, students sort the word cards into the correct columns on the sorting mat: people nouns, place nouns, thing nouns, and verbs. In the digital version, students drag and drop the words into the correct columns.
The final activity I like to use to celebrate National Talk Like A Pirate Day is not directly related to pirates, but is a play on the pirate word, “Arg!” Since the word “arg” sounds so much like “are,” I decided to make a pirate-themed homophone activity to practice distinguishing between are, our, and hour. The paper version of the activity is what I like to refer to as a triple play, because it can be used three different ways: as response cards, a task card/scoot activity, or a slap game. To use the response card version, the teacher reads the sentence and students hold up a card with the appropriate word to go in the sentence. Task card scoot can be played by hanging cards up around the room and having students move from card to card, writing down their answers, or by having students pass cards from person to person as they write their answers. Slap is probably my students’ favorite way to play these games. I use strong magnets to attach the large response signs to the board and divide the class into two teams. One student from each team comes forward, takes a fly swatter, and listens as I read the sentence aloud. The first person to slap the correct answer with his or her fly swatter earns a point for his or her team. It’s a lot of fun and students love the competition aspect of the game.
The digital version is an independent digital task cards activity. Students read the sentence on the card and click the ship representing the correct word to complete the sentence. Students are then taken to a slide that tells them if their answer was correct or incorrect, and shows them the correct answer. The best thing about these task cards is unless students click on the boats to answer the question, or the map to go to the next question, the slides will not advance. Take a look and see for yourself:
Nice, huh? No more having students just randomly click through slides without at least paying attention to where they are clicking. As with the vocabulary game, the digital version of this game is available in both Google Slides and Microsoft PowerPoint, so it doesn’t matter where your school’s affiliations lie.
Thinking that all of these activities sound great? Want to try them all? No problem, they are available as bundles, as well as individually. The bundles allow you to get all of the activities together at a discount. Three different bundles are available: all four paper activities, all four digital activities, all eight paper and digital activities. Happy National Talk Like A Pirate Day, everyone!