tinker with text
Literacy-Based Maker Education
No longer do we limit writing, reading or technology to a set time block in our schedule. Children learn best when they are using writing for authentic purposes and making text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world connections in their reading. When they write about what they are doing in school, they will automatically make connections to the text that they’ve written since it was a lived experience. The same is true for makerspace. It is most definitely cross-curricular.
Makerspace is a huge trend in education today. It can be as low tech as creating cardboard towns or as high tech as coding and robotics. Makerspace enables all children to participate in hands-on learning. It also acknowledges a child’s natural inclination toward imagination and play. But don’t stop there - integrate the making with reading and writing.
Last week, we created a doodlebot aka a wigglebot. It’s one step up from a spinbot (see last week’s blog post), and a precursor to more high-tech robots like Ozobots. The children experimented with motors, batteries, electricity, balance, weight, and vibration. There are lots of examples on Pinterest and YouTube on how to make a doodlebot so I won’t go into how to make one. Just do a search.
However, I have to say it was a good lesson on grit and growth mindset when looking for all the parts and trying to make it work. You will need a DC toy/ hobby motor and some batteries. Hobby or electronics shops might have them, if you have one in your town. Sometimes you can find cheap or old, broken toys and take the motor out. Apparently, you can order them on Amazon but pay attention to what size battery (volts) it will need to work. I finally found two motors at an electronics and cell phone repair shop. I had a 9 volt battery already, which one of the posts said I needed. The guy at the shop said that that was too many volts for that motor. So, I bought 4 AA batteries from him and a battery pack to hold it all together. The original doodlebot plan was a cup and three thin markers as legs. Well, the battery pack was way too heavy and it wouldn’t move. Oh, by the way, if the motor doesn’t have wires connected, you will also need to buy some alligator clips with wires. They look like mini booster cables. I was ready to give up.
So, then I saw the plan for our doodlebot online and went with that. You will need:
After playing around with it and creating abstract art, the kids decorated it as a cow, since we had cow patterned duct tape. They even named her Clara the Cow! The googly eyes move around like crazy too when it’s turned on. (The kids are even trying to come up with a lightweight udder that won’t slow her down and a tiny cow bell.) Lots of questioning, discussion, and laughter occurred throughout each phase, and the play inspired more creative thinking. We picked her up and moved her to other parts of the long sheet of paper; we set up an obstacle course to see if we could change her direction; and experimented with colour combos. While some students continued to play with Clara and create more doodles, others began writing about their experience.
Throughout the week, we drew more out of this experience. We wrote down some inquiry questions that arose from their interest and curiosity. We also enjoyed the storybooks “The Most Magnificent Thing” by Ashley Spires and “A Squiggly Story” by Andrew Larsen.
As we move along, other ideas have evolved. One student created her own abstract art with “Clara” and is now building a fall poem (thank you, Angela Stockman!) in her journal. Hailey is using sticky notes with phrases that she can then move around till she finds the right flow. Then she plans to write the poem in black marker on her doodle art.
Today, poor Clara became the cow that Jack has traded for a measly five magic beans. She led us to read various fractured fairy tales based on Jack & the Beanstalk, create a giant beanstalk with key words on the leaves, and talk about how a change in setting and/or character affects the story. Long live Clara! She just keeps giving and giving.
Vicki Den Ouden is an Elementary Reading Intervention Teacher from BC, Canada. She loves to dream, learn, teach, and create.