“Makerspace” seems to be one of the latest and greatest buzzwords in education right now, especially when it comes to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) or STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) learning. I always try to come up with innovative, fun ways to create genuine learning experiences in my classroom that incorporate aspects of STEM learning. I have been using STEM bins from Brooke Brown @teachoutsidethebox since my first year in kindergarten, and find other real-world challenges to pair with nonfiction books, which get my littles really thinking! Up to this point in my teaching career, I have only been able to have “STEM time” as a seperate part of my day, and I am eager to learn how to include STEM thinking throughout our daily schedule.
After searching for some resources or ideas on ways to better seamlessly integrate a Makerspace or STEM learning into our daily activities, I came across Angela Stockman’s book, Hacking the Writing Workshop: Redesign with Making in Mind and I knew it would be a great tool to help with this. As I started to read, I knew I wanted to share this with other teachers, and thought of my sweet kindergarten friend, Andriana @the_active_educator who always shares how she engages her littles in active learning opportunities. We are so thrilled to learn with you and share our thoughts on redesigning the writing workshop!
Unpack the Hack: 1 Design a Future-Ready Workshop
As I read this first chapter, one of the first things I loved about the book is the fact that each chapter is broken down into consistent parts that make it a very reader-friendly resource. Each chapter includes:
- The Problem
- The Hack
- What You Can Do Tomorrow
- A Blueprint for Full Implementation
- Overcoming Pushback
- The Hack in Action
- Supplementary Resources (accessed through QR codes)
As Stockman seamlessly integrates design thinking with the writing process, I realize that writing and STEM learning are a natural fit. Although this is going beyond the traditional Lucy Calkins or Nancy Atwell writing workshop approach, recreating the writing workshop will help foster future-ready writers that create far more than words on a page.
Some of the biggest takeaways I took from the first hack include:
- Practice empathy; help young writers define their interests, and share their expertise
- Position yourself as a design thinker
- Ask for targeted feedback from your writers
- Assess a writer’s progress frequently throughout the process (instead of evaluating completed drafts)
- Great writers know their readers
- Let writers choose additional mediums and modalities for their work
Giving children (especially kindergarteners) the ability to express themselves in writing using loose parts really makes sense. The part of this chapter that mentions Pam using loose parts to have her writers share their strengths with their classmates is so perfect for kindergarten writing at the beginning of the year. The majority of the children in my class are not ready to take on writing about themselves at the beginning of the year with the traditional pencil/paper methods. Giving children the ability to use loose parts to build their thinking allows for every writer in the room to recognize the teacher in each of them, rather than the teacher being at the center of the workshop.
As a kindergarten teacher, I know from experience that my students struggle with picking up a pencil and printing their name on their first day of school portrait drawings each year. “Do your best, and draw what you look liked today.” Even though I encourage my students, and tell them we are all artists, so many five year olds are just not ready to take on print yet, let alone know how to hold a pencil. Building comes naturally for little hands, and using loose parts can allow for all children, even English language learners, to give them confidence to name their strengths in a detailed manner. Some of my students do have a grasp on beginning sounds, so encouraging them to label their parts would be a great next step to encourage children that are ready for it…which leads me to the next hack!
Unpack the Hack: 2 Recognize and Engage the Maker in Your Midst
In the second chapter, Stockman shares the ways that creating a maker-mindset writing workshop enhances the quality of writing that students produce.
Some of the biggest takeaways I took from the second hack include:
- Encourage students to use their making interests to fuel their writing
- Challenge writers to be reflective of their work
- Document writer’s making and writing learning
- Let children draft on index cards or sticky notes so they can treat the text like loose parts
Now I know a lot of you may be reading this, and starting to think I’m crazy and eliminating all parts of my writing center to create a Makerspace – and I’m here to say that’s not the case! I think both need to coexist. My district uses the Lucy Calkins writing program, and I still plan to teach my required curriculum this year; but I am going to be teaching writing with a maker’s mindset.
We do a lot of books in our in the second half of the year, and I see the pride my writers have in their work. They are so proud of their finished product, and they are amazed at their progress in learning. With each book we create together, I see the growth that takes place in each child. From barely being able to write their name, or draw a self-portrait at the beginning of the year, to creating stories to share their learning.
We document our learning as we explore units on the five senses, polar animals, weather, insects, ocean animals, and so much more. We explore and learn through hands-on learning centers, we research as we read books during our whole group and small group reading times, and investigate through guided experiments. I keep thinking how naturally my writing units will fit with our Makerspace, and how my students can draft with loose parts, or build their learning with STEM bins. The possibilities are endless and I can’t wait to see how my young writers will continue to impress me this year as we redesign our writing workshop together!
Follow along as Andriana unpacks the next two hacks on her blog: https://andrianazarovska.com/hacking-writing-workshop-summer-book-study
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