Conversational English in the Makerspace

When I first was planning my makerspace, I set a goal for myself to find at least 3 ways for each subject to use the makerspace in the standards/lessons they already teach. Well, while I was far from reaching my goal, some really great ideas came out of that brainstorming. One of them was working with my Beginning English classes. In our makerspace, students get real world opportunities to practice their speaking skills and work with each other – a challenge in and of itself if both students speak different languages!

So here’s what we did: The teacher and I talked about what skills we wanted students to work on in the makerspace and the overall idea was to have students come the last Friday of every month (call it “Fun Friday”) and each time they came would build on the activity from the month before.So September’s lesson was their introduction to the space and getting used to the materials. The teacher and I modeled what students would be doing in October: using materials to build something and then having to use their direction words to have a partner build the same thing – with a divider between us so we couldn’t see what the other was doing. In our modeling, we purposely used vague words and showed confusion on our faces as the other was describing. The kids were hilarious! They could see both sides and how we were messing up. It was great. Then, students got to work with all kinds of materials and see if they could do it better with their partner. Some yes, some not so much. Overall, it was such a great experience for them AND us – in the makerspace.

This month, we did the same basic activity as a whole group. We had students work in partners, but this time, there was a barrier between what I was building and them. We reviewed the vocabulary of the materials we were using – tube, straw, cups – as well as direction words – on top, behind, inside, etc – and students had to work together to build what I was describing. Most did really well! Working in partners really helped because some students had more English skills than others and could help each other out. Then, we explained that they would do the same thing they did last time – build something and give directions to their partner to build the same thing.

The catch was that we would take a picture of what they built this time and next month, we will teach how to write their step by step instructions using process and spelling the vocabulary they’re learning to speak. Take a look at what they built!

It was amazing to watch them be creative, think about what they could describe, and build it! Even the teacher was impressed with how engaged they were and working together. It was magic.

Now, could they have done this in their classroom? Probably, but they wouldn’t have had the access to the materials or the space that the makerspace offers. Students were also given the opportunity to be in the library, a place that their limited English may make them feel excluded from. With these lessons, they can feel like this giant place in their school was for them, too. They could work with their peers on skills they are learning and have fun at the same time.

This is why makerspaces matter in our libraries. It’s access, space and opportunities that may not occur otherwise. It’s creativity, laughter and learning. These are all things we want our libraries to be with our digital and print resources, and it’s a simple extension to include makerspaces, too. Students are making things and in the process they’re making themselves, too.

How could a library not want to be involved in that?


2 thoughts on “Conversational English in the Makerspace

  1. Pingback: Makerspace on the Road: Beginning English and Origami – Grover's Corner of the Library

  2. Pingback: Beginning English, Makerspace, and Purpose – Grover's Corner of the Library

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