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A Pirate Unit Study!

My kids and I recently read Treasure Island together. Afterwards, we watched Muppets Treasure Island as well as Treasure Planet. Then I started noticing that we were reading and watching more about pirates and that my kids were interested, so I decided to go to Pinterest for some ideas and make it a full-on pirate unit study for school!

Today I wanted to share some of the things we did together to learn about pirates.


I always start our unit studies with different books. These books range from novels to nonfiction chapter books to nonfiction picture books to just-for-fun picture books.

Treasure Island

Like I said earlier, reading this children's classic aloud was what started us on this unit study. My kids were very invested in the book and enjoyed it overall, although they didn't like that so many people in the book die. It was a fun introduction to pirates.

Who was Blackbeard?

While looking for some other books, I found this one at our library. We had just finished watching Blackbeard's Ghost for movie night and I knew my kids would love learning more about Blackbeard.

Magic Tree House: Pirates Past Noon

My kids love the Magic Tree House and we've read many of the books several times (together as a family and individually). This is the fourth book and a fun one for any kid who likes pirates! They also have a graphic novel version of the book, which my kids love!

Pirates: A Nonfiction Companion to Pirates Past Noon

This is another one we got from the library. I love these little companion books. They are full of great information and tie in well with the fictional books.

You Wouldn't Want to be Pirate's Prisoner

My kids loved this one, but I have to preface it by saying that I was a little wary of some of the content--it talks about the prisoner of a pirate being tortured and goes into some detail. It didn't bother my kids, but a sensitive kid could get scared or bothered by it. It certainly taught about the life of a pirate in a memorable way.

The ABC's of Piracy! By Anna Butzer

This was a fun little book about pirates! I was impressed with how much good information was in it and the layout (teaching by the letters in the alphabet) made it fun for my younger kids as well. It was one of my favorite picture books that we got.

Pirates (Usborne books)

This is one we got from the library that gave a good general overview of pirates.

Pirates Tools for Life at Sea by Cindy Jenson Elliot

This was a great read for our unit study. It was a little more specific than the general books and both the kids and I learned a lot.

Pirate Treasure (from Ignite)

This was another more specific one, and my kids were very interested. It's fun to learn about pirate treasure in real life!

The Most Famous Pirates by Cindy Jenson Elliott

This book was informative and taught about various famous pirates. It was one of the last books we read and the kids had fun recognizing a lot of the names we'd already heard or learned a little about.

There was an Old Pirate Who Swallowed a Fish by Jennifer Ward

We love to include just-for-fun picture books in all our unit studies. This one is a fun twist on a classic song and my kids laughed a lot while we read it.

Dirty Joe the Pirate by Bill Harley

This says on the cover that it's a true story, but it's very obviously not. It's a silly take on pirates, who steal socks and then come across another boat of pirates who steal underpants. It's just the kind of silly that kids love.

Never Mess with a Pirate Princess by Holly Ryan

This was a funny little story about a girl with spunk and her teddy bear, and of course, pirates.


I love to do at least one or two hands on activities with the kids, to really help them remember the topic and make it fun! I usually limit the activities to just a couple to make it manageable for me.

Make Pirate Maps

Pirate maps are probably the most fun part of pirates! By making their own maps, they got to learn about symbols, following maps, and a little chemistry. We had a lot of fun in the process as well!

Flashlight constellations

As we talked about pirates, ship navigation was something we got to learn about, and we talked about how they would use stars and constellations to guide themselves. Flashlight constellations is a fun activity I found on Pinterest! You use black cardstock paper and cut it in the shape of your flashlight. Then the kids can poke holes in the paper to make the constellations. They can try to make patterns really found in the night sky or make up their own! When they are done, they tape the paper over the flashlight and shine their constellation onto the ceiling.

Marshmallow constellations

This is one of my kids' favorite activities and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to let them do it again! Using toothpicks and mini marshmallows, the kids recreate constellation shapes or make up their constellations (my kids love coming up with names for their new creations as well!).

Treasure Hunt

I've always loved treasure hunts and scavenger hunts. When I was a teenager, I used to set them up for the kids I would babysit. I had a lot of fun setting up a treasure hunt for the kids, with chocolate gold coins to find at the end!

Talk Like a Pirate

This blog has a post about talking like a pirate and we lea1qrned some different words that pirates used, then talked like that as we remembered to!

Pirates Color by Number

My kids love color by number and this pack themed pirates is a free printable.

YouTube Videos

We love using YouTube to supplement what we're learning in school. It's a great, free resource for homeschooling!

The Definitive History of Pirates

This short video uses animation and pirate slang to keep the kids' interest and shares an overview of pirates.

Five Pirate Myths that are Actually True

This video is by National Geographic, a channel the kids and I love! It's fun and informative!

Famous Pirates in History

This short video walks through different pirates, teaching about the reality of pirates and their history.

Did Pirates Bury Treasure?

I loved this video! It was fun to see what pirates were like in real life versus how they are often depicted in the media. We watched this video in conjunction with our map making activity.

How Did Early Sailors Navigate the Ocean?

This video was perfect to help us learn about pirates navigating the ocean and went well with our constellation activities.

Let's Look at Constellations!

This video is one from SciShow Kids, one of our favorite YouTube channels and while it's not about pirates, it was a great one to watch when we did our constellation activities.

How Does Math Guide Our Ships at Sea

This final video was interesting and I'm not sure how much the kids followed, but it is a great video to help kids see how useful math can be in different situations.


While these movies aren't necessarily educational, it was a fun way to spend our movie nights watching movies that tied in with our homeschool unit study. There are so many fun pirate movies you can watch, these are the ones we chose.

Muppets Treasure Island

The Muppets are so fun, and this is actually my favorite of the Muppet movies. The music in it is so good! Our kids absolutely loved it! It was really fun to watch it after reading the book.

Treasure Planet

I remember going to this in theaters as a kid and I've loved it from the beginning. It was fun to read the book together and then see the differences between the book and this retelling. I love the changes they made and the space aspect of it.

Swiss Family Robinson

This is one of our family's favorite movies and it has a big focus on the pirates, with them attacking the family. It's such a fun one to watch (though I found the book to be boring and entirely devoid of pirates!).

Blackbeard's Ghost

This was one of my brother's favorite books growing up. It's an old one, but such a fun and silly one too. My kids laughed and laughed at Blackbeard's antics, and it has a sweet message. It was perfect to watch alongside learning about the real-life Blackbeard.

The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything

My kids say that everyone must know this is the best movie ever made. They love it! We were doing our pirate theme and finding different movies to watch and I didn't even think of this one--but my kids quickly reminded me! Veggie Tales are a classic and this is one of their best movies, in my opinion.

We had a lot of fun learning about pirates and exploring the fictional side of pirates as well! It's very interesting to see the different myths that have popped up around pirates because of famous books and movies versus what old-fashioned pirating was really like. One of the things I love about unit studies like this is that I always learn a lot too!

What is your favorite pirate book or movie? Have you done any fun unit studies recently? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

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