Tuesday, May 8, 2018

ELA + PBL + Makerspace = Awesomeness!

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to cover a 7th grade English class for the week and I was allowed to do any mini unit I wanted. I decided I would dive into symbolism using one of my favorite short stories, "The Yellow Wallpaper". It is a wonderful gothic story that symbolizes the oppression of women in society in the early 1900s. It is a short enough story that it can be read or listened to in a single class period and the next couple of days can be used to dive into the details that make it a powerful story.

As a class, we read the story, discussed theme, and annotated looking for symbolism. All of the traditional aspects of an English Language Arts class was there, but instead of a multiple choice test at the end, students used time in the Makerspace and at home to create something to share with the class. These artifacts are tangible representations of their understanding of the material. As a teacher, that is what I'm looking for in any unit I present to students. Here are some of the student examples that have been submitted.

Here is a bed designed by a student, cut out of baltic birch on the laser cutter, and the student used their sewing skills to create the mattress, blanket, and the pillows. 

A perfectly measured house cut out of baltic birch and assembled using hot glue. The little "Life" character is the lady from the story. 

The bars were designed and then cut from baltic birch using the laser cutter to create prison bars. The yellow hands represent the narrator trying to break free from her room and society. 

A board game designed and etched on baltic birch using the laser cutter shows the complex path the narrator would have to achieve freedom. 

The scene of freedom within sight, but unattainable due to the bars of society. 

A depiction of the narrator in a dress that resembles the wallpaper she hates so much shows that she is becoming something she hates. 

These are just a few of the examples that students have submitted and there will be more in the coming days. The students all wrote a brief 8 sentence paragraph explaining their artifact and how it was connected to the story. The students really enjoyed the freedom to explore and create something different. The teacher I was covering for really liked the lesson and artifacts created by the students and we are going to collaborate on some fun lessons in the future.

Overall, this lesson shows what is possible for students in ELA classes if given the chance to explore project based learning with the support of a maakerspace. Some students chose to create with the laser cutter and others took colored pencil to paper. The projects were meaningful to the students and demonstrated their understanding of the story and what it meant in the big picture by deciphering symbols and connecting them to the theme. As an ELA teacher, what more could you want?

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