The Slice of Life March Writing Challenge @ Two Writing Teachers – 31 days of a writing community
Today was Maker Day in our middle school. A dedicated and talented group of our faculty acquired a range of materials for our students for our students to explore, learn, and make all kinds of “stuff” with: creating circuits, building race courses, programming animation, and learning how 3D printers work – there was chance to work with all of this and more.
My own learning and teaching world is steeped in reading and writing workshop, and even though I’ve read and heard a lot about MakerSpaces and the remarkable learning that goes on when kids get their hands on all kinds of cool tools, I’d never seen one in action. More importantly, I’d never seen own my students working in such a space – and doing so was quite a revelation.
I learned that some of the greatest risk avoiders in my classroom, the ones who want to know exactly how many lines to every paragraph and how many paragraphs there needed to be in whatever it was that we were writing, were the biggest risk takers in this new setting. They approached each new maker space with enthusiasm and often did not bother to read the directions, preferring to dive right in and figure their way through. I was surprised to see that these students, the ones who want very explicit directions (ones that are repeated many times) in my classes, felt such a degree of freedom in this space.
I learned that students who were the first to say “I’m done!” in reading and writing workshop, were often the ones who just kept going in our maker spaces. They kept reaching for new pieces to try out, new combinations to manipulate together, and new limits to test.
And I paid close attention to the vocabulary of this new learning space:
“I wonder what would happen if…?”
“How about if I tried it this way instead of what the diagram says to do?”
“What if I flipped the whole circuit around?”
“Well, it didn’t work that way so I’m going to try this way.”
“I haven’t figured it out yet, but I’m gonna keep trying new combinations.”
“This started out being one thing, but I thought ‘why stop there?’ and kept adding stuff – and look, I made this, which is way cool!”
This is the vocabulary of curiosity, wonder, perseverance, and risk taking: the vocabulary of growth mindset. How to bring all of that, or some of that, into my classroom? Well, that is what I have been thinking about all day…and will be thinking about for days to come.