Pirate Classroom Theme

Talk Like a Pirate Day lessons

Not everyone approves of using pirates in the classroom, but you can’t deny that many students find them appealing and even exciting. There was a time when the line between pirate and explorer was fairly fine (Sir Francis Drake springs to mind), and there certainly is a long literary tradition of exciting and romantic piracy. We think that if you pick and choose, you can enjoy a pirate unit without trivializing the continuing problem of piracy or encouraging crime or cruelty.

To make your classroom look pleasantly piratical, you can use pirate party gear  or the Melissa & Doug Pirate Chest. Carson Dellosa has a pirate theme, and a nautical set can fit right in.

pirate classroom theme

The Junkin Under the Sea set has a pirate treasure with sea creatures.

There are also oceanic items like wave and sand borders, and TCR’s Big Tropical Tree . Putting together a selection of these things can provide piratical ambience.

You can also do it yourself. Haul out the old overhead projector, tape some bulletin board paper to the wall, and let your inner artist take over. I have some inspirational links for you:

  • The Virtual Vine has pirate classroom links and some simple graphics.
  • Lee Hansen has a printable pirate hat.
  • Cartoon Critters has a learn-to-draw page that could help you draw your own pirate ship for your bulletin board. The page is covered with ads, but there is an option to print it without the ads if you wanted to share it with the class. HowtoDrawforKids offers another lesson on pirate ship drawing. You could be the envy of your school.
  • Mrs. Jump’s class has some pirate printables. I like the way she uses PIRATE as an acronym for “Prepared, Informed, Ready, and Together Every Day.”

Once you’ve decorated, you might like some pirate information:

  • National Geographic’s pirate resources include an online map lesson.
  • Here are some kids’ resources from the fun folks at Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19th). Their site is worth exploring, too. You’ll be inspired to make up piratical sayings for your bulletin board: “Charting a Course to a Great Year,” “Shiver Me Timbers, We’re Set For a Great Year,” “Sailing into Learning,” or “Avast, Me Hearties!”
  • The Channel Islands Maritime Museum has model pirate ships to enjoy.
  • Manitou Boats has info about Blackbeard, including videos and further links.
  • Find online instructions for making an astrolabe and  a compass.
  • Rebecca Rupp has a collection of pirate resources with some nice science and math links for older students.
  • Mr. Nussbaum has pirate map activities.

Set up a table of pirate books. Here are some of my favorites:

Homeschool Share offers a collection of teaching ideas and reproducibles for Pirate Diary: The Journal of Jake Carpenter, an exciting chapter book with lots of historical detail.

River pirates

Don’t forget the river pirates. River pirates worked up and down the Mississippi, luring travelers onto their steamboats and robbing and killing them, or taking over ships traveling to New Orleans and robbing them. Sometimes they sneakily sank the ships and then came back later to recover the treasure.

It is said that at least one of the islands that disappeared in the New Madrid Earthquake of 1811-12 was the headquarters of a band of river pirates, all of whom perished when the island went under.

Leaving the river pirates and returning to your basic high seas buccaneers, this is a great time to introduce the kids to light opera. The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan is a very accessible example. There are several good recordings and DVDs available, including one with Linda Ronstadt and Kevin Klein which is quite modern and movie-like.

Play Pirate Ship to get whole-body movement and direction-following into the mix. This game can include memory-training, too.

Online resources for practicing technology skills while learning about pirates:

For the youngest classes, a fun and educational option for pirate play is the  Playmobil Pirate Ship:

pirate ship toy

It’ll really float on your water table, or put it on the floor and see it come to life with imagination. The Playmobil Pirate Corsair gives your students a second set of pirates for more complex games. A corsair is a type of ship.

The main advantage to using a pirate theme? It allows you to shout, “Avast, me hearties!”


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  4. This is a great resource! I’d love if you would link up to my pirate-themed linkup http://www.dearhomeschooler.com/theme-pirate

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