In class, we were challenged to create a project and lesson plan that were part of the Maker’s Movement in our classroom. I designed a project that asked students to make a piece of figurative language come to life in our required text. This idea did not simply come to me though, it took research, class discussions, and advice from others to help convince me that the maker’s movement could be applied in an English classroom. Through these journal entries, you can read about my journey and battles through the maker’s project:
Journal Entry #1 , Why – I have a challenge. How do I approach it?
As an English teacher my knowledge of the Maker’s movement is very little, the dominating picture in my mind is an image of battling robots. Going into this project, I know very little about the Maker’s movement and my mind is completely blank about how to incorporate it into my classroom. After researching a few articles and watching a great Ted Talk by Catarina Mota, my perspective on the Maker’s movement instantly shifted. She has a great explanation about how if we do not understand what shapes the world, it will eventually shape us. It caught my attention because it sounds like the same theme that some of my favorite science fiction authors such as Bradbury, Orwell, and M.T. Anderson are warning us of. She continued to explain that the Makers movement is not just made up of Engineers or people who have memorized every physics equation out there, it’s actually for every person on the planet. She even calls amateurs, “tinkerers.” It made the Maker’s movement seem much more within my realm. Mota also explains that Makers is so much more than robots, it’s people who create products that help make technology accessible for everyone. The example she showed was a Maker that made speakers out of copper wire and paper. She continued to explain that the makers movement is collaborative and that the Makers put their work on collaborative websites so that other makers can continue to edit and learn from their creations.
Today we really did play with robots, I had one called the Sphero 2.0. It was a little ball that would sink to your smartphone if you downloaded the app. Playing with Sphero and learning how to work it was a ton of fun. We taught it how to do tricks and jump over ramps, and originally, I was having trouble trying to see the academic side of sphero, it just seemed fun. Doing further research, I learned that Sphero’s website creates STEM challenges for students to participate in using sphero as a way to help their creations move across pools or by creating obstacles for sphero. Even after this though, I am having a hard time seeing the “why” answer for why I need to implement the Maker movement into my classroom. It seems like it is mostly applicable in science classrooms, not for English.
Mota, C. (2012, July). TED Talk: Play with smart materials. Retrieved from
Journal Entry #2, What If – I see an opportunity. What do I create?
After exploring the maker movement further, I am starting to consider a few “What If’s” for my Maker project. I can start to see the ways that I can allow my students to be maker’s in their own classrooms. For starters, we worked on a coding application called thimble today that was for beginning coders. Thank goodness because I had absolutely no history with coding. As I played around on the application though, I couldn’t help but notice that how fun coding actually was. I wanted to keep playing around and exploring the process long after the assignment was over. There was also a great opportunity for kids to submit their 6 word memoirs on the website, which is a fun writing assignment I already give my kids. Why not involve coding? I continued on this path of questioning and began to wonder, “what if there are other ways for me to combine ELA and Makers projects?” This led me down the idea of combining circuits and symbols from the novel Fahrenheit 451 as a way to really help emphasize the concept and also bring life to one of Bradbury’s most haunting novels. The symbol of fire shows up constantly throughout Bradbury’s novel (it’s plot follows a fireman whose job is to burn books, so there is a lot of fire.) The symbol of fire evolves over time though, first symbolizing power, then, later in the book destruction, then survival, and finally rebirth. I think it would be fun to have use light circuits to really bring home the meaning of the fiery symbol to my students, and I thought a cool makers project might be to have them pull four quotes from the text that show fire in a different symbolic meaning, then display those four quotes in whatever way they wanted, they could recreate the scenes on the poster or they could build a diorama, but somehow in their project, they need to connect the four light circuits together. Then, there would be a writing component tied to the end of the project where students discuss the effect of fire on one of the themes in the novel.
This idea is very similar to McKenzie’s project (a third year English teacher who came in and talked to our class and shared all of her incredible ideas!) As much as I loved it, and will probably remix to fit my classroom, I also wanted to try something new.
After looking at a few blogs for ELA makers projects, I thought it would be fun to have students make some of the abstract pieces of figurative language from the story come to life.Fahrenheit 451 is such a unique story and Ray Bradbury uses very vivid pieces of figurative language to give readers a better understanding of the underlying themes. I would like for my students to recreate one of these lines of figurative language, using whatever materials they would like, and then I would tie a writing component to the project by asking students to describe what theme it ties to and how it shows the tone and the mood. Students can discuss their design strategies, colors used, symbols within the figurative language, etc. They have to build a physical representation of one of the abstract metaphors, similes, or lines of personification from the book.
Out of all of my plans, I think the creation of figurative language has truly caught my attention. I like that it is unique, but also challenges my students while having a writing component still attached. I also think the visual addition would be incredibly helpful for my struggling readers. I am a little concerned that it is not quite specific enough, but I would like to give students free range to use whatever materials they think are necessary for this project.
Journal Entry #3, How – I have an idea. How do I build it?
Using the Ladder of Feedback, I generated my idea on a google slide, and then asked my peers to evaluate my plan of action. They were very supportive and offered great point of views.
Some of the questions they provoked were: can student’s work in pairs in case one student is not understanding the concept as well as another? They also asked if students were able to use digital technology to make the figurative language come to life or if it was just limited to technology items. The people giving me feedback also challenged me to prove the educational benefits of this project, especially to disapproving people looking in. The maker’s movement is so much more than an “arts and crafts project” in my class. It allows students to create a version of the reading that connects with what they see in their minds. It gives struggling readers a tangible, visual aid, and it gives accelerated readers the freedom to design their own project. All of these reasons help create a much deeper connection than simply having students individually write essays. It is good to provide a variety in all classes.
My original lesson plan looked like this:
At the end of Part Two in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, students have been exposed to various lines of figurative language. Throughout the novel students have learned to identify metaphors, similes, and personification. They have also discussed symbols, themes, tone, mood, and many other literary devices. At the end of the novel students will write a literary analysis analyzing specific elements within the story. To help prepare students with this essay, they will be challenged to make either a metaphor, simile, or line of personification from the story come to life. Because these pieces of figurative language are abstract, students creations will be unique, they are allowed to use any materials they would like. There will be a writing element involved where students explain their creative process, and how their piece of figurative language adds to the mood, tone, or theme of the novel.
Step One: Pick three lines of figurative language that stand out to you. Can be from parts 1 and 2, students cannot go into part 3 yet.
Step Two: Choose your favorite line, write 3 plans you have to bring this figurative language to life. What tools do you need? What is your desired end effect?
Step Three: Bring the figurative language to life using materials found in the classroom. Paper, glue, poster board, tag board, ribbon, etc.
Step Four: Explain your design choices while analyzing what the author said. Look at specific words from your figurative language, are they symbols? What connotations do they hold?
Step Five: Relate this line of figurative language to one of the tones, moods, or themes we have previously discussed while reading this novel. Explain how they connect. Students need to write at least two complete paragraphs for steps four and five.
After discussing with my peers, I decided to make the extra additions that students would work in pairs, and that if students wanted to use digital technology, they could do so as long as it was something they had either remixed or created on their own. Overall, I am excited to see the creativity that my students will show in this assignment, as well as their improvement of understanding the effect of using figurative language in writing. You can view my example of this assignment on my blog: Making Figurative Language Come to Life.