academic choice · creativity · differentiation · writing workshop

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.
  • 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.




12 thoughts on “The Promise of a Writing Maker Space

  1. This is my absolutely first time thinking of a Writers’ Makerspace, though we do have an art center that has creations coming forth that include writing. Nothing as organized as your Mother’s Day gift, though. Thanks for the challenge. I will surely start calling it this, at least in occasion. I appreciate the tips you shared from your “pre-assessment.”



    1. Awe, Denise, I love that your kids are already making writing. Keeping the focus on writing will be the challenge as the kids adjust to the new opportunities.
      So anxious to see what will come out of these young creative minds!


  2. Hi ladies! I am so excited to stumble upon this post. It oozes enthusiasm! I just rattled off a four hundred paragraph response to all you’ve shared here only to forget my WordPress password upon posting it, and of course, I lost the entire thing.

    This was the universe’s way of reminding me about the importance of word economy, I’m certain. :))

    Make Writing scratches the surface of a pretty significant action research study that unfolded over a five year time period. There are so many more ideas that I’m eager to share, and while I haven’t written about them online, I am sharing them with teachers who are interested in testing them in their classrooms and giving me a bit of feedback. I’m eager to publish more, and I want to make sure I’m not writing from inside my small bubble of experience. Much of what I touch on addresses the questions you’re raising here, and I’d love to open a wider dialogue and glean your perspectives!

    I sent a whole bunch of stuff Kathleen’s way via email just a little while ago. If you’re interested in getting a better sense of where I’m going and trying some new ideas yourselves, I can include you too! Just drop me a line at

    This ended up being long winded anyway, didn’t it? Apologies….. and thanks again for your interest in my work. It’s been so wonderful meeting like minded and hearted people over the last few months.


  3. Deb, I can only imagine how magical your writing workshop was on that day, and continues to be. 🙂 The writing maker space is an idea I have been tossing around. I really need to think about what that would look like in my room. The kids are all gravitating toward digital tools, creating imovies, blog posts, google slide shows, etc. I would love to add to what we are already doing. I just need it to have purpose and that is what I am stuck on… I know that there are many potential purposes, but will they be lost on the children? I guess it is all in how you introduce it to your community. Well, like you I need to just jump right in, so here I go! I’ll let you know what happens. 🙂


    1. YAY Debbie! I can’t wait to hear all about your journey to a writing maker space! WE really need a Voxer group to support and feed each other! I am walking on egg shells with the intentionality BEFORE the glitz and glam.
      Thanks for reading and leaving a comment!


  4. Excellent article Deb! Kathleen and Stacey…I love your ideas too! I am working with our secondary tech coach right now and we are designing a Writing Makerspace for 11th graders in a couple weeks. I owe our conversations and especially Jill Davidson (Shelfie Talk!) for her support. She and I have been e-mailing and Voxing about Writing Makerspaces. She just did one with her Shelfie Talk partner in crime, Kim, with kindergarteners. I am eager to keep this conversation going!


    1. Dana,
      I have loved our Voxer chats on Writing Maker Spaces! Jill has been a wealth of information and inspiration! Hope we can all connect in a writing maker space vox!
      I can’t wait to hear about a WMS in K! Love this!


  5. Deb, I love this post and the pictures and Stacey, I loved reading about your Writing Gift center! I loved Angela’s book on Make Writing, yet am still trying to wrap my head around exactly how this looks in third grade with all of our units of study. I’m thinking it would pair nicely with the idea of “Independent projects” where kids could write screenplays for the origami figures they make or create a story based on the dolls they have (Two of my students brought in porcelain dolls this week and I wondered what the doll’s life was like before as both were quite old….the girls said they were going to write a book together about the dolls!). Part of me feels like the maker space movement is letting kids do more kinesthetic/tactile learning for those who need that instead of going straight to the paper. Maybe it’s also a sign of the times that there are so many ways to create with videos, photos, images, music…I love how Deb’s student wanted to do a video and then use a QR code for that video. There are so many possibilities. It’s tricky to figure out the best way to make this work when you have units of study that need to get published in genres such as literary essay. I hope these are conversations we can keep having!


    1. Kathleen,
      It’s a bit daunting to think of the possibilities in a classroom. Each day as I open the writing workshop I take a deep breath, step back, and look for my next minilesson in their celebrations and struggles. It’s going to be a journey.

      Looking forward to talking more with you and Stacey along the way.


  6. I knew nothing about writing maker spaces when I was in the classroom, but I *think* I may have delved into it a bit without knowing it. I looked back through old TWT blog posts and came across these two: and Do you think these things sound maker space-ish?

    My concerns are the same as yours. I worried kids would just write a lot of acrostic poems or write quotes on paper. I worried that their (writing) craft would go out the window. What about the process? Would it just be one draft and done or would they work on something over time? I’d be happy to Vox with you about some of these things so we can bounce around ideas. That said, I wasn’t engaged in a true maker space with my kids. However, I dabbled a bit with it back in the day.


    1. Stacey,
      I think you were ahead of the trend! And a box from Blick sounds amazing about right now. Thank you for sharing your post.

      Our concerns are real. I started with minilessons on how to choose tools for our first lessons. As I talked with my colleague, I realized these lessons aren’t all that different than our lesson on how to choose technology.

      I am eager to see where this all leads.

      Liked by 1 person

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