There are two aspects of making that I think are not explored to their fullest potential. One is the link between literacy and making. How can we use books as a provocation for making? The second is the documentation of our students' thinking during the making process and how we can use this documentation to make their learning visible.
The book was used as a provocation for our thinking and making. Once we read the book, the students brainstormed a list of "most" things they could make.
As students brainstormed, we put their words into two categories - asking children if they noticed anything similar in the categories of words. It took some prompting, but children eventually realized that making some of the "most" things in column A might not be appropriate for the classroom or easy to do. E.g: Can you imagine what it would it be like for us in the classroom if you make the smelliest thing in the world? Would it be possible for us to make the longest thing in the world?
Our next step was to have the students chose the "most" thing they wanted to make to start building. Some students needed some guidance to remember what they were making ... "E.g: How do the materials you've chosen or how can you assemble the materials you've chosen make the object the silliest thing? What about them makes them silly?"
Most students finished their "most" objects in one sitting. The rest finished them this past Friday.
Some more prompting had to occur during some of the conferences to elicit and stimulate the reasoning behind why they did what they did to make their product. In many cases, students went back and added to their design.
I've been thinking a lot lately about how to meaningfully incorporate making into the curriculum. I've also been thinking about how to document learning, not only for myself, but provide ways for our students to make the learning process visible to themselves.
I am writing all of this because I HAVE A PLAN (for our grade one students) ... and I don't know how and if it will work.
Let's begin with the expectations.
Our grade ones are currently studying the seasons in Science. The expectations state that students will:
How can we help facilitate opportunties for making across the curriculum?
I will readily admit I spent a lot of time on the internet looking for things my students can make on a budget. I found this post on wall art weaving and immediately wondered: how could we modify it? How could we use weaving as a provocation for writing across the curriculum? How could we use weaving as a provocation to get students tell a story of the seasons?
How could they weave their own story?
However, I still have questions. The video clip below highlights a teenage boy explaining why he likes weaving and what skills it helps instill. However, he makes a valid point that if a student is not interested in weaving - he/she won't enjoy the activity if he/she is forced to do it.
If I use this activity with the whole class, yes they are making, but are they making in the true sense of a makerspace? A place that encourages open-ended, hands-on exploration based on student interest and passions? Or at this early point in the year is it ok to introduce all students to an activity to help build capacity and skill sets so that there will come a point in time where we can say: "This is the problem/expectation? What tools will you use to show us what you know about the solution?"
Must there be a division between "making" across the curriculum and "makerpaces"? Ideally, I'd say there shouldn't be - but in the beginning of establishing a maker culture, I can't help but draw a chalk line because our students don't yet have the skill sets to know what they don't know. I certainly don't want to "force" our students to do anything they don't want to do - but it is an experience I want them all to try.
Am I wrong to want them to try weaving? :} I think in grade one, most would be open to this?
How do we shift the focus from the product of making to emphasize the learning during the process of making?
How do we make thinking and learning visible not only to us, as facilitators but to the students we teach?
I made a sample weaving project of my own to see if it was feasible; re-mixing and modifying some of the make writing and pedagogical documentation ideas presented by Ross, Laura and Angela.
Even though I did create a piece of work through weaving, I'd like to think that the woven structure is not the focus of my learning in the picture below. (Please also excuse the typo "of the trees" should read "OFF the trees")
Rather, the weaving serves as a provocation for my writing and my thought processes around my learning:
The reflection questions are not quite at the level of reflection as those posted by Laura and Ross, but they are a start - and something we can certainly build on as the year progresses.
(I think I would get the students to answer two of a series of prompts and build from there - eventually moving into multi-media texts)
I think this is a very important step to take in order to make learning visible in our classrooms. It is only when we make our students' learning visible that we can make informed choices of where we need to guide them next.
Yesterday we began the process of generating maker stations for some of our classes to explore in the library learning commons.
I learned a few things about our students in the process.
I began listing a bunch of activities that I knew we had in the library learning commons as possibilities for students to explore and that they could choose from. One student immediately proclaimed "There is nothing on that list I want to do!!".
This made me stop and reflect in the moment - and I can do so more now. In the moment - I replied that I accepted her statement, but she also had to give some of the other stations a shot. How do students know what they don't know? How does she know that she won't like anything if she hasn't given it a shot?
I wonder how do we find the balance between getting students to identify and pursue their interests, but still be open enough to explore new venues for discovery? How do we guide students to help facilitate their journey? I find it sometimes to be a blurry line between encouraging a student to try something new and directing them down a certain path.
I'm wondering now at the wisdom of my response. Would have it been better had I asked her what did she want to make? Or have students identify on a sheet their passions and take the maker stations from there? Was I trying to guide their making too much?
It turns out that I ripped up our first brainstorming guide up anyways - because the students DID have more ideas about what they could make that interested them. One student with whom I had a discussion about the book he was reading (one of those "Can You See?" books where there is a picture of a bunch of objects, then a poem of things you need to find in the picture) suggested that he wanted to make his own "Can You See" book. He was quite proud of his decision.
Looking through the eyes of our students I can see how making gives students a voice and a choice in their learning. Making gives students opportunities to take the reigns so to speak and gives them chances to explore their passions and interests so learning is relevant and meaningful.
I made it clear to students their maker stations might be entirely different than another class's because they are different students and their maker stations reflect THEIR interests and skills. One class's maker stations are unique and special to them. (and that's how it should be!)
In the end, students chose 3 activities they'd like to try and placed their top three choices on a piece of paper with their names on it. From their interests, we generated "maker stations" for us to explore in future classes with the idea that students will rotate through these stations as the weeks progress.
To help the exploration process (and because we can't possibly lead 9 stations at once) we created a Google Site to help support our learners - keeping with the mindset that we all have a responsibility to be teachers and learners in this environment, not just the adult in the classroom.
We have created a page for each station. Each page has a series of videos that students will watch before they are given the materials to work with. Maybe I can embed a Google Form where students answer a question about how they think how their learning will evolve? What might be a difficulty you might encounter? What skills are you going to be using in this activity? What do you think might challenge you?
Can we help students document their learning and make their learning visible this way?
Other questions I mean to explore:
I smell a future blog post ahead.
Last year, I was inspired to hack a project that our school's grade six students had worked on for a few years running. This project's main goal was to have students showcase their understanding of curricular expectation 2.2 in Understanding Matter and Energy: students will design and build series and parallel circuits, draw labelled diagrams identifying the components used in each, and describe the role of each component in the circuit.
For many years, all students created the same electrical circuit quiz board (albeit on different topics) to demonstrate their learning. In this project, several key expectations in the grade six science curriculum were met. While a valuable hands on experience for students, this project did not capitalize on providing students with differentiated content or the opportunity to create learning products according to their interests or skill-sets. In addition, there were few opportunities to develop the literacies and competencies students need in order to succeed in the 21st century.
In collaboration with the grade six team, we developed a website that students could explore that showcased a variety of different circuits that students could make to show their understanding of this expectation. We also structured the site and their learning process in such a way that additional expectations in reading, writing and oral language could be addressed.
Upon reflection, and as I continue on my maker journey, I have come to realize:
1) We missed a wonderful opportunity to present this learning experience in a problem based learning design. What if we framed their learning in this context?
Make an electrical circuit that performs a function or serves a purpose for yourself, or someone else in need.
I wonder how this statement alone could have impacted the learning process - both theirs and mine.
2) Most of the materials students had to use to create their own circuits were fairly accessible and inexpensive. We purchased some Chibitronics kits for our school for students to create their own paper circuit designs. They are great - however - they can be costly. I have just learned how you can create your own paper circuits with materials that are even less expensive.
You don't need to spend a lot of money to get started with paper circuits. All you really need is scotch tape, aluminium foil tape (you could even use aluminium foil), a LED light, some card stock and a coin cell battery. I tried it myself by making a light up bookmark. I had my doubts that I could actually make this work, BUT I DID IT! I'm always pleasantly surprised (ok I'm a lot proud of myself) when I can actually get these ideas of mine to work.
I wonder - if I'm proud of myself for making that little light bulb go on - what could this mean for the self esteem of our students given a supportive and encouraging learning enviornment? There were some blips to be sure, as there will be in class - I wonder how do we encourage the maker mindset in our students? How do we facilitate and instill a sense of well-being around mistakes and learning? That mistakes are ok and are a natural part of learning? How do we get our students (and teachers for that matter) place the focus on the learning PROCESS rather than the product? Yes, the light went on (in more ways than one) - but what were our key understandings in order to make this happen?
And I wonder how can we extend this learning beyond just science? Certainly, I can immediately see the curricular connections to science, but what if we got our students to try something like this? What else could we try?
Read this post that highlights how another class illuminated their poetry.
The lights are on in my mind ..... and everyone is home.