126: 5 Ways to Use your Writing Makerspace

In Episode 125, we talked about how to get started with a writing makerspace, and I promised I’d be back soon to give you ideas for how to use it. So here we are! In today’s show, we’re diving into five writing projects you can use your maker materials for, and I’m excited to show you just how doable they are.

Before we begin, I want to invite you to sign up for the free (and fun) summer PD I’m working on for you right now. We’ll be diving into hexagonal thinking, and you’ll walk away confident in your ability to use this great strategy to ignite discussion in your class come fall. I’ll teach you how to introduce the concept, build great hexagonal thinking decks for different types of texts, teach your students how to make deeper connections with their cards, give you options for how to have your students write about and/or present their work, and provide help with assessment. It’s going to be a great week! And don’t worry, the “camp” is completely asynchronous. Each day you’ll get an email inviting you to check out the ideas and free resource for the day, and you can catch up when your busy summer relaxation schedule allows!

OK, now let’s hit the ground running with your writing makerspace. You can listen in below, or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Sticher, or whatever podcast player you love.
Before we get rolling, let me clarify that you have two options when it comes to writing maker space projects. You can use the maker materials as a quick brainstorm/starter of five or ten minutes to get students thinking in fruitful directions, and then put them away. Or you can make the creative maker piece a part of the project, having students end up with a final composition that involves both a final made piece and a complementary piece of writing. I learned about this distinction from Angela Stockman, writing makerspace guru, who helped me see that the makerspace can easily be used as a quick (but vital) part of the writing process.

#1 Setting the Scene

This is one of my favorite options for stirring up creative writing ideas with your makerspace. If you want students to write a short story, a dialogue, an act from a play, a chapter of a novel, or even a poem, you can begin by having them create a setting with maker materials. That could look like drawing a map of an alien planet for a few minutes and then setting a conversation there. It could look like going outside and taking five close-up photos with their phones, then using them to imagine a vivid setting for a short story. I could look like using blocks to build tiny houses, then setting a play inside it. As they make, their wheels will be turning with details and ideas that just don’t spring from the blank page for many writers.

#2 Creating Characters

This one is similar to creating the setting, but it provides a different type of inroad. If your students are embarking on any kind of creative writing involving a character, why not make a character first? Or even make several? That could look like pulling together a collage of digital photos to show the many sides of one character. It could look like making puppets with a partner and then asking each other questions about what those puppets want out of life and even having them talk to each other a little before writing (if you can get your kids to see the fun and goofy side of an activity like that). It could look like making Lego superheros for the modern era and then writing their stories.

#3 Building Ideas

I was a little more hazy on how to build claims, arguments, and opinions until Angela Stockman, clarified it for me in a video workshop that she created for The Lighthouse this month. Now I can see that it’s a wonderful way for kids to start their writing process for analytical writing as well as creative writing.
If you want students to build an idea, claim, or argument, give them time to push their materials around first and consider the structure and concepts they want to work with. Then let them start to layer in words with post-its, notepads, or moveable text on a Google slide.

#4 Defining the Mood

Sometimes knowing the feeling of a piece of writing can make a big difference in getting it off the ground. If your students are diving into poetry, memoir, narrative, or short stories, try letting them define the mood of their piece before they begin writing. Maybe they create a three image series that shows the arc of the mood. Or a quickly scrawled painting that shows the mood throughout. Maybe they simply doodle the mood.

#5 Playing around with Concepts

Sometimes it’s helpful before writing to just get all the ideas out and start moving them around. This is another great way to use your writing makerspace. Let students chalk all over your board, combining ideas with arrows and numbers and eventually starting to see a structure emerge for a paper. Or let them cover a wall in post-its, adding quotes and main ideas all over the place and then moving them around until they see the order that makes sense to them. Let them brainstorm sensory images for a poem on mini whiteboards, cramming them in every which way and then erasing the ones they don’t like before beginning to piece them together on paper.

I hope these five options are helping you see the many fun ways you can use your writing makerspace. Once you have a few materials gathered, you can play around with this strategy and see what ways work best for you. Like one-pagers, hexagonal thinking, silent discussions, Harkness discussions, slam poetry, and all the other creative strategies we talk about here, the makerspace is another strategy to pull out of your teacher toolkit when the time is right.

Hey, by the way, are we hanging out together on Instagram yet? I’m loving this visual platform so much lately, and I’d love to share ideas with you there too.

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I'm Betsy

I’ll help you find the creative ELA strategies that will light up your classroom. Get ready for joyful teaching!

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