For our Quickfire yesterday, we were asked to partner up with someone in our subject area and create a maker lesson. At first, my partner and I brainstormed how to utilize one of the maker kits into an English lesson. After about 15 minutes, we realized that if we started with the technology, we would never create a lesson that centers around learning. We then started over, scrapping all of our initial ideas and beginning with a topic and objectives.
Our goal: create an environment where students engage in collaboration, research, and presentation to teach character analysis. We first wrote up the “meat” of the lesson, which consisted of group research and analysis of a character, and a Balloon Debate* to follow. To utilize a Maker kit, we decided to incorporate the Squishy Circuit Kit, which we decided would allow students to create voting machines. While we recognized that students could simply vote people out of their balloon by a show of hands, or on paper, giving them the Squishy Circuits task before beginning the main lesson would involve inquiry and group collaboration, which are skills that we hope to instill in our classrooms. Ultimately this was not “digitizing” a pencil/paper activity, it was asking students to engage in a day of inquiry that the paper/pencil activity would not allow.
The Maker portion of this lesson allows students to engage in inquiry and collaborate with each other. This activity in particular is cross-curricular, being that it involves the creation of a circuit (science), the consideration of democratic ideals (social studies) and collaboration, discussion and peer review which are paramount to English. By asking students to create circuits using the Squishy Circuits Kit, they will have to utilize each other, the directions given, the teacher, and search engines to understand how to best use the kit to create their target. Without direct instruction on how to use the kit, students will be required to not only build the machine, but truly understand what they are building and why it works.
As an English/Math mind, science is the one subject that has always intimidated me. When we were first asked to play with the maker kits, I felt like I would never have the ability to teach something like this in my class, because I wouldn’t know how to answer questions my students had. I found, however, that after playing with the kits, I learned by trial-and-error, and by Googling. The collaboration with my group members, and our inquiry into what was, and wasn’t working helped us to find success in using the maker kits. See my Maker Lesson Plan Here
My next goal: Create a maker lesson that I can use in my own classroom next year for middle school math. Stay tuned!
*Balloon Debate: Each group represents a character from literature, and all characters are (hypothetically) in a hot air balloon that has a hole in it. The balloon can only support one person, so each character must present their case as to why they are the most valuable and thus should be the one to stay in the balloon. The class will vote out invaluable members, rather than voting for a winner, after listening to arguments made by each character. Ultimately, one character will remain and will stand as the “winner.”