Creating a model of your biggest fear

Today was a fun day in 8th grade dealing with our biggest fears. Which, at first listen, might sound a little strange: how can your biggest fear be fun? However, combining a makerspace and our biggest fears turns out to be a fun and creative day.

We are starting a new unit today where students will be reading and analyzing horror, mystery, and suspense stories. In order to get them excited about the unit and thinking about fear, I designed this day.

Students first thought about their biggest fear. I then unleashed them onto the makerspace. They had about 15 minutes to make their fear from the makerspace supplies. I got some really great creations (and some not so great). Students then reflected on and analyzed their fears.

Overall it was a great way to start the unit and students are excited to get to reading!

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Paper airplanes and Podcasts: demonstration writing

Today we had our intro to our demonstration writing unit. In this unit, students will be writing and recording a podcast that will give directions for someone to create something. Students will be creating something from our classroom makerspace, then other students will listen to the podcast and try to follow the directions in order to make the same product.

This should be really fun. Students are getting to use their creativity in the makerspace. They are practicing communication skills by having to write and then record clear directions. They are also learning how to make and share podcasts. We’ll be using for the recording aspect and then just Google Classroom for sharing them.

As our intro for the unit today, students made paper airplanes and tried to write directions for other students to make the same airplane. These were the steps:

  • Students made their own airplane
  • They then wrote out directions for how to make the airplane
  • In pairs, students were only allowed to read the exact directions that they had written while another student tried to follow the directions and make the airplanes
  • Everyone then reflected and fixed their directions

Of course, there were many failures and many iterations of directions. We also ended the class period by having a contest to see whose airplane flew the farthest. It was a very fun day! Students really learned some valuable lessons about specificity, time order, as well as iteration and how failure can be helpful for success.


Update: End of the unit

We’ve had such a great time with this unit. Here were the rest of the steps we went through.

  1. Students made something from the makerspace. They kept notes while they were making the project. We had some awesome things made out of everything.
  2. Students then wrote scripts for their podcasts in a Google Doc. We emphasized that they were making their own show. Kids really brought their personalities into it and had so much fun.
  3. We then had a recording day. Students used two websites, and Audioboom to record the podcasts.
  4. After all the podcasts were recorded, students listened to at least 3 other podcasts and gave feedback to those peers using email. Students really enjoyed sending each other emails and receiving feedback that way.
  5. The next day was students actually creating at least one other project based on the podcasts. Students sent email feedback this time through email as well. They had so much fun and really learned how difficult the process could be.
  6. Lastly, students self-reflected in a rubric on Google Sheets.


Makerspace for Service Learning: Using Design Thinking to Impact the World

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Since my last time having a makerspace in my classroom, I’ve done some reflecting and planning and tweaking. One of my goals was to integrate the makerspace as a summative assessment in a traditional unit. I had that chance this week.

I teach at an International Baccalaureate school, and as part of that curriculum we encourage our students to engage in service learning. My grade level and content area was assigned a unit dealing with responding to bullying. The unit itself (which I didn’t help create) was pretty blah. There were stories to read from textbooks and just a project at the end which pretty much was a poster. I decided to spice it up with the makerspace. (I also used technology to make the stories much better, but I write about that in another post.)

So, I decided that a makerspace as our summative assessment/service learning creation would be awesome. Instead of just a poster as a choice, I engaged my students in design thinking where the end goal was to create something that would make maximum impact in our school community in regards to responding to and preventing bullying.

I started with explaining the design thinking process to them, and then we got started. Using a Google Presentation, we went through the first 3 stages of the process. They then wrote quick proposals for their creation idea. I approved proposals individually, and then they could start.

We’ve now just finished the creation and iteration stages. We only had 2 days in which to create, get feedback, and iterate. I wish we would have had more time. Students did have to make prototypes or rough drafts and receive feedback from other classmates. I also emphasized to students throughout the process that their job was to make sure every decision they made, including materials and design and even where they posted their products, were to be made following the problem they were trying to solve. Whenever students asked me what to do, I just responded with another question: “What would make maximum impact on your audience to solve your problem?”

We will be reflecting on the whole process tomorrow. I hope that, during this reflection, they will be able to think of better ways to design their solution and perhaps even some students will do this on their own. I wish we had more time to then actually iterate their ideas in class. However, as a public school, we must carry on and keep going in order to “finish” with all the assigned units we must get through. : (

Overall, this was such a great 3 days of class. Students created awesome things like:

  • anti-bullying bookmarks to hand out in the library
  • anti-bullying flags to hang up around school
  • 3-D posters to hang up in the commons
  • Jewelry to hand out to students who are standing up to bullying

I really think that this was a great way for students to learn more autonomy as well. So many times my students want step-by-step directions and feel so uncomfortable with almost any type of autonomy. Answering all their questions with a question and giving them almost complete freedom was such an amazing way for them to learn to be in control of their own learning. It was also a great way to teach the skills of how to target an audience.

Lastly, I really feel that the vast majority of my students enjoyed feeling like they were making an impact in their school community. Middle School can be such a bummer sometimes, and make kids feel so powerless. I think that this service learning project helped them empathize with others and feel like they have some real impact on the world.

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Makerspace in 6th Grade English/Language Arts

Many people, when hearing of makerspaces, automatically assume technology and design are the classes in which it is implemented, perhaps science class. What would you say if I told you that I have a makerspace in my language arts classroom?

Perhaps you’d say that in no way can a makerspace connect to ELA standards. Perhaps you’d say that it’s a waste of time. Well, perhaps you’re wrong. : ) Having a makerspace in my classroom has really helped underscore my students’ application of literary terms AND helped them with the 4 C’s.

I have implemented a makerspace the past 3 weeks in my classroom with 6th graders. It has been an outstanding success. Not only are they loving it, (I have received emails from parents telling me how happy their kids are), but the kids are applying their language arts knowledge to their creations as well as using communication standards while in the makerspace!

Makings of the Makerspace

Students have a choice of 4 main options:

  • Cardboard badge (I have washi tape, patterned paper, and lots of drawing utensils)
  • Play-dough
  • Blackout poetry (done with old books and markers)
  • (I also have a 3d doodler that they can use)

How the Makerspace is Run

Each turn in the makerspace is directly connected to a language arts standard with which we are currently working.  First, they read their book. Then, they have watched a video and written about a literary term. Then, they write a journal entry about their book and that literary term. It is only after those three steps that they move into the makerspace.

While in the makerspace, they should make something which is connected to their book and the literary term that they are currently studying. It has worked really well so far since they have had so much buildup to the actual makerspace itself. The frontloading of the term and think time has really produced some great creations which reflect and help cement student’s understanding of the literary term.

 Reflection on their Creations

After students have created their, well, creation, they then move on to reflection. Students will then record a video explaining:

  • their creation
  • how it connects to their book
  • how it connects to the literary term

I have used several different technologies to record their videos including Youtube’s my webcam and Movenote. However, I don’t think that the tech necessarily matters; I think that the verbal explanation matters.

Finally, students post their videos to their Google Classroom as a class comment on an announcement. They are then encouraged to watch each other’s videos.

Going forward

Overall, students are not only being creative in connection with analyzing a literary term in a book they are reading, but they are also verbally explaining and communicating their ideas to others.

I would highly recommend doing this in any language arts classroom. I will be looking for ways to continue this in my upcoming units. It might be a little hard to figure out, but I think the rewards will be worth it!

Pictures from the Makerspace!