The goal for most classroom educators is to have an engaging and collaborative learning environment. A space where students feel comfortable attempting different ideas and concepts. When you pair that with open on-topic discussion, you have teacher paradise. How do you develop this utopia-style classroom? One place to start is through innovative maker spaces in the high school English classroom.
What is maker space
A Makerspace is a student-centered, collaborative learning space that encourages problem-solving and hands-on exploration.
STEM-focused content areas are considered the best for maker spaces. However, English teachers can use the maker space just as effectively. Encourage students in the English classroom to create and collaborate as they understand different text elements, analyze the style and purpose of literature, and create their writing pieces.
Here are three ways to use maker spaces in the high school English classroom:
- Use maker spaces for creation.
Have you ever wished you had a roadmap to show students your thought process as a reader? It would be ideal to have something that clearly illustrates understanding and analysis of the various literary elements.
Even better, what if we allowed students to create a visual roadmap for themselves? It is essential to step away from lecture-style teaching if we want all students to be able to access and excel as learners in the classroom. Students have better comprehension when we provide them with the materials, space, and time to engage with concepts.
Place various materials like colored paper, markers, string, glue, and scissors in your maker space. Allow students to approach this without structure. Guide them through a set of objectives and questions. I recommend using this Literary Analysis Stations resource to direct questions students can consider when creating visual representations of text.
Students can use the maker space to design and create a roadmap to show their writing process, a detailed analysis of another author’s work, or a visual representation of the position on an argument. There is no limit to what students can create in the high school English classroom maker space.
- Use maker spaces to collaborate.
Educators know that time is a limited resource in the classroom., especially when you are going through the writing process with a class full of students. A maker space provides the perfect opportunity for collaboration among students, encouraging them to work together to develop their writing skills.
When students engage cooperatively in the maker space and look to one another for support and feedback, the collaboration happens naturally in other parts of the classroom. Students can host TED-style talks, create open-mic opportunities, or hold round-table discussions.
Another way to use maker space in the high school English classroom is by encouraging process-based conversations. Provide students with guiding questions and a peer group to discuss how they approached their writing projects or novel study. This lesson on creative writing would be a good companion for students to use in discussions about the writing process.
The best approach for maker space collaboration allows students to engage with each other organically. When there is too much structure and regulation in the interactions and conversations, it will be difficult for students to feel comfortable expressing their ideas.
- Use maker spaces to develop community.
The most important thing to note about maker spaces is that they are student-centered. In the high school English classroom, they should look like areas created by students and for students. When you allow students to guide what the space looks and feels like, you will enable them to develop a community.
Communities form in areas that have shared purpose and importance. Students will value the time and effort put into developing the maker space, which creates more investment into the upkeep and use of the area.
Encourage students to create community guidelines and values for the maker space. Allow them to make suggestions for the ideal resources available in the space. Students can take ownership of requesting those resources from the school or their outside community.
- Use maker spaces as an assessment.
One of my favorite ways to use a maker space is as an assessment. For example, in my Odyssey map making project, I have students first plot out what they believe where the most important places Odysseus went, besides Ithaca and Troy, and create their map, justifying their choices with a written assignment.
In doing so, students have license to express themselves creatively and really put on display what they learn about not just the story, but also how people grow and face challenges. I absolutely adored seeing my ninth graders having in depth conversations about how they would physically represent the Land of the Dead or the debates they had on whether they should include the sirens because they would look cool or attempt sculpting Charybdis out of clay.
If you are interested in looking at my map making project, you can find it here.
Resources for high school maker spaces
Students should be able to use the resources in a maker space. If they are limited to reading copied worksheets or looking at printed models, it takes away from the student-focused environment. A maker space should feel like a collaborative and creative space, not a museum.
Essential tools like pencils, scissors, glue, and various types of paper are great starting points.
When using handouts, be sure to provide enough for students to use them without concern for having limited copies. Based on your available resources, this may not be easy. But, the more that you can provide for students to use, the more engaging the learning experience.
If the availability of physical space limits the classroom maker space, consider a maker space cart. A place to stock supplies that can move around the room to the necessary location. Have students brainstorm ideas for classroom layout or maker space designs to begin developing community and collaboration.
English teachers can use maker spaces in the high school English classroom. It will take a bit of innovation and creativity. However, the result is that students will be more engaged and active in their learning process
Do you have a maker space in your school or classroom?