tinker with text
Literacy-Based Maker Education
As kids, we would ask Mom where Dad was, and she would invariably reply, “He’s tinkering in the ________.” Fill in the blank with one of three places – garage, basement, yard - and you’d probably be right. And he often was tinkering – sorting, fixing, building, and the like. But wasn’t Mom’s pinch-of-this-and-a-teaspoon-of-that in the kitchen also a form of tinkering? (Excuse the gender stereotypes but in the 60’s, that’s the way it was.)
Do you tinker? I do. I can lose myself for hours in making crafts or editing photos on the computer. It’s that pleasurable way of “putzing around” or “messing about” with stuff. It’s when you are working with materials, experimenting, trying to create something, figuring out how it works, or making it better somehow. It certainly doesn’t sound very technical or academic, and it might not feel productive or like work. But that’s just the point – it’s not a chore or a project with a fixed deadline.
So, why tinker? Tinkering allows the mind to wander, explore, and rest. It promotes the flow of your creative juices. I believe it’s akin to the morning pages that Julia Cameron advocates to overcome writer’s block. Tinkering can also feel like being in the zone or finding your zen. That’s why people enjoy tinkering and lose all track of time. We may think it’s wasting time but as John Lennon once said, “Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.”
Just as my Dad tinkered with engines and Mom tinkered with recipes, I’m interested in tinkering with text in my classroom … a “workshop” of words, bolts, cardboard, books, iPads, Lego, notebooks, wood, chalk, headphones, stories, magnets, pencils, popsicle sticks, poems, and forts that kids can get “lost” in for hours.
Vicki Den Ouden is an Elementary Reading Intervention Teacher from BC, Canada. She loves to dream, learn, teach, and create.