Monday, October 8, 2018

Writing IS Making #MakerEd #CSforAll

The more I have spent time sharing Making and Makerspace with people, the more I get to reflect on those conversation and see how others perceive the act of making. I also spend time thinking about my own practices and how I used to teach in my English classes. The one thing that stands out is that writing is an act of making that should be in the same conversation as coding, 3D design, and other forms of creation.

When I work with students and teachers, the focus of making is not learning tools. The focus is on designing to meet the task at hand. The process looks a little like this;

1. Identify the problem or question

2. Generate ideas to address the problem/question

3. Prototype one or multiple of those ideas

4. Evaluate the prototype and have others offer feedback

5. Iterate the prototype or start over with a different concept

6. Repeat steps 3-5 until a final concept is found.

7. Take prototype and turn it into a final product.

8. Share your final product

(Editor's Note: Now, these are not the end all be all steps in the making process. Every person with have their own steps and some mini-steps that fit in here. There are things I might not have written that I take for granted as part of one of these steps. The point I'm trying to get at is that I don't want people to feel that this is a set in stone guideline on how to make.)

These are steps I present to teachers as they plan lessons that involve Project Based Learning and will require students to create an artifact to demonstrate understanding. I also use these steps to support students as they explore creating something that really want. As I started to articulate these steps, I noticed something that connected to my English background. This is the very similar to the writing process.

For writing, I would ask my students to follow this process when writing,

1. What is the question you are being asked to address or the assignment you were given?

2. Generate different ideas to address the topic of this paper or assignment.

3. Put together a rough draft of one of your ideas.

4. Review your rough draft and share with others for their feedback.

5. Make corrections and change the piece based on feedback and observation.

6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until a final draft emerges.

7. Submit final draft to class.

This writing process can work for a formal essay, a short story, a poem, or any other form of writing. When people talk about STEM only used for Makerspaces, it really bothers me because the Arts belong in a Makerspace. We need to bring all of these pieces together to form STEAM so that all students can feel like the type of making they want to do is valid.

For ELA teachers, I want you to look at this model and see how similar it is to the writing process and I hope you feel more comfortable trying to integrate other forms of making into your classroom. If the students mirror the writing process, they can follow the maker process because they are one in the same.

This one of the ways that The Maker Mentality works across curriculum and can help create a culture that all students and teachers are makers that just use different mediums. So, before you dismiss writing as an act of making, focus on the process and not the tools. I think you will see that making is all around you. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

Building Community Through a House System #EdChat

I'm really excited about the Middle School this year. Besides the regular awesomeness that comes with being in Middle School, the Middle School staff is rolling out a housing system this year! For those that are not familiar with the House System, think about the system used in Harry Potter. If you are not familiar with Harry Potter, why are you reading a blog title, "The Nerdy Teacher"?

If you have questions on what a House System is, check out this resource to walk you through it.

While the House System gained fame through the Harry Potter series, HP did not originate the concept. They have been part of the English school system for a very long time and there are schools in the US that have been using a House System as well. The number one reason we wanted to implement a House System was to help build a stronger community.

We have an amazing community at University Liggett School and things run rather smoothly. However, smooth is not good enough. We want a community that transcends grade levels and really brings students together in a shared experience that goes beyond traditional learning. Our house system looks like this;

6 Houses - Each named after a street one of our predecessor buildings was located. (Burns Rules!)

We researched Knightly Traits (We are the Liggett Knights) and found traits that we felt were important for our students to have as they moved through school. These traits were spread out over the houses and an animal was chosen that represents those traits. 

ex. Burns House - Bravery and Strength - Bear

Students were sorted into each house and teachers were sorted as well. Each house has three adults and around 20 students. 

We held a huge sorting ceremony where each student was sorted into their house.

We have a flex period at the end of the day that can be used as needed, so we spread out house meetings during this time so students can work on various house related projects. 

There is a philanthropy aspect that students will work on over the course of the year in their houses. 

There will be house games that involve teachers and students.

Students are working on deciding what their house colors are going to be and will be designing their own House flag as well. They will also create their own representation of their House animal that will be used for t-shirts and other items throughout the year.  

We have games and other events planned all year to get the students excited about this new tradition at University Liggett Middle School. 

At the end of the school year, points will be added up and a House Cup will be awarded. Here is an example of a House Game we played. 

We are excited about this new tradition at our school because it will bring students across the grades in the middle school together to work on common goals. We see this is a great for leadership opportunities for all grade levels and it will bring everyone together in a spirit of community.

If you are in a school that does a House System, please reach out. I'd love to connect and pick your brain. If you do not have a House System, but are interested in starting one for your school, reach out to me and I'm happy to share the work our committee has done to bring this to our school.