The Promise of a Writing Maker Space

I am reading more and more about maker spaces and the more I read, the more intrigued Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 7.55.01 PMI become.  I value the way maker spaces offer students opportunities to merge their curiosities, interests, and the classroom.  When I started hearing talk of writing maker spaces I wanted to know more.  As I read and listened to the talk, I wondered what would happen if I provided tools for making in our writing workshop. Okay, I am going to date myself here, but my mind immediately flashed back to the books I once made with the fancy yarn holding all the pages together and I remembered the pride I felt as I laced up my book.

Of course, reimagining writing workshop had to be about more than stringing together books with yarn.  I began searching for more information on writing maker spaces.  I ordered Angela Stockman’s Make Writing: 5 Teaching Strategies That Turn Writer’s Workshop Into a Maker Space, and I read Kathleen’s review of  Angela Stockman’s book.  I participated in a Voxer chat, and I talked to my teacher guru because she always asks the best questions and pushes me to dig deep!  These conversations helped me to realize why writing maker space wasn’t easy for me to push aside.

The Promise of Writing Maker Space:

  • Help teachers see the interest and talents of their students.
  • Students gain ownership and purpose of their learning. 
  • Teachers  learn how to hack the curriculum with student interest, needs, and strengths. 
  • Enable students to discover new possibilities in writing.
  • Students will find real-life reasons for writing and write with authenticity and purpose.

Where Do We Begin?

I am a bit of a diver when it comes to trying something new.  I like to think of it as a pre-assessment.  I jump in with both feet then I pull myself out and reflect on the outcome. This method allows me to see how the students will react to the tools, space, and the thinking.  With this baseline data, we can make adjustments as a community.  I ask the kids what’s working and what they would like to see done differently.  Students are the best problem solvers, and I am amazed at the simplicity of their recommendations.

Unexpected Opportunities:

As I opened my classroom door Friday I knew we would be writing a poem for Mother’s Day.  I was feeling a bit guilty about the ease and maybe the lack of thought that I had put into the gift this year.  As I switched on the lights and straightened books, I thought about Wonderopolis.  I entered Mother’s Day in the search box and found a wonder on Mother’s Day and an invitation to dive into Writing Maker Space!  

While there’s certainly nothing wrong with treating your mother to a nice dinner, some flowers and a beautiful card, keep the spirit of Jarvis’ vision for Mother’s Day alive by honoring your mother in a personal way. Write her a handwritten note of thanks, or tell her in your own words how much she means to you.

 

I opened my closet and dug to the back unearthing yarn, a hole punch, ribbon, notebook rings, and tiny clothes pins.  I jumped on the computer and made special sized paper perfect for comic strips, coupons, or anything else the students design. I pulled down large chart sized paper and arranged it all in the writing area.  With the markers, pens, colored pencils, crayons, scissors, glue, and the new tools we were well on our way to a Writing Maker Space!

As I began our minilesson, we talked about Mother’s Day and the kids shared the plans they had for a special day with their moms and grandmas.  Then, we discussed the Mother’s Day Wonder and the meaning of Jervis’ intention of heartfelt gifts.  Students began to brainstorm the possible heartfelt gifts they could create; poems, a story,  a card, and then the ideas fell flat and became repetitive.

The time between ideas grew longer, and I knew it was my turn.  I walked over to the writing area and began to show a few of the new tools. We talked about how the tools could be used to lift the purpose and message of our writing.  We talked about the message of the piece and we envisioned the tools that would help support our message. We discussed the audience, their interest, likes, and dislikes as we made our choices.

Unexpected Outcomes:

  • Spontaneous peer conferences about tools and purpose
  • Videos to moms and requests for QR Codes to access the videos
  • Coupon books on rings
  • Handmade envelopes to keep poems together
  • Blog posts to mom
  • Autobiographies for mom
  • Secrets revealed in stories
  • Purses to hold poems

And the least expected… an order sheet!  Braedon was taking orders to make bags.  I even found a beautiful bag on my chair the next day.

 

I learned so much about my kids, their talents, their creativity, and their stamina.  “Writing Maker Space was the best writing workshop of the year!” I heard a few kids exclaim.

Moving Forward:

  • The make is always an option.
  • Best writing criteria needs to be a constant.
  • Audience and purpose are always critical.
  • Bless the mess, look for the gems below the chaos.
  • Limit the amount of any one tool available at one time to encourage authenticity and diversity in projects.
Concerns:
  • Will students continue to refine the craft of writing as they make?
  • Will students work on one piece over time?
  • Will students continue to put the purpose of writing first?

Have you embraced or thought of adopting a Writing Maker Space? Writing Maker Space is the beginning of new thinking for me, and I would love to hear your reflections and tips as I walk gingerly into this way of looking at writing workshop.