When I first started facilitating making experiences with students, one of the challenges I found was that I didn’t really know how to plan for this type of learning. I was comfortable with teacher-centered instruction. My students didn’t do a lot of self-directed discovery and learning. So, when I started pursuing maker education, I found it difficult to predict instruction and what each day with my students would look like. There were a lot of unknowns, and I felt uncomfortable not having the answers to questions my students might ask prepared in advance. Logistically, it was also difficult to have an idea of what would work and what might completely flop with students, and I was not used to that. Of course, prior to integrating hands-on learning, there were always lessons that didn’t work the way I anticipated, but I was typically able to tweak those to still accomplish what I set out to in my activities.
So, as I sat down to plan for making, beyond gathering the materials I needed and having a good understanding of the challenge itself, I had a hard time even knowing what questions to ask myself regarding the structure of the lesson and the logistics. What would the students need to be successful? Would they have enough space to work? What if they can’t solve the challenge? It was overwhelming. But, after I experimented for a while, I learned the questions to ask myself as I planned. It also became easier to predict what my students might need (although there are always things with making that you cannot predict). So, I thought I would share some of those questions in this post. And, as you experiment with your students, you will learn what works and what doesn’t work. Hopefully, some of these questions will give you a little more of an idea of what might work in your classroom and/or makerspace. And to be clear, this is not an exhaustive list of questions by any means; however, these questions are where I often start my planning.
Questions to Consider:
Learning Goals and Big Picture Planning
- What are the learning goals? How will you communicate learning goals with the students?
- What is the challenge or task? Is it open ended to allow for student ownership? If not, is there a way to modify the activity so it is open ended? If not, where will student choice and ownership be encouraged?
- Outline the steps it will take for students to complete the project.
- What scaffolds or support will you put in place for students who might need it?
Materials and Procedures
- What materials will students be able to use for their projects?
- Have students used all of the materials independently before? If not, how and when will you teach them to use the materials and/or tools? Keep in mind that if it is a new tool (i.e., Sphero, Ozobot, 3Doodler Printing Pen, etc.), play or a general exploration time with the new tool should be built into the first lesson.
- Will there be a process for how students get the materials they need? Will they need to outline a plan for you? Where will all the materials live?
- If students are unable to use all the materials independently and it must be teacher guided, what will other students be doing while you are working with individuals or small groups?
- When will they be able to work on the project? For example, can they pull it out if they finish other assignments early? Recess?
- How long do you anticipate the project taking? If the project will take a series of days, where will you store all unfinished work? Finished work?
Sharing and Evaluation
- How will students share their work and who will they share with?
- What does success look like? How will you measure the learning goals you set?
I wanted to end by addressing a common way to implement making which is to run a completely student-guided makerspace. This, of course, may change some of the questions listed above. While I do think passion projects that are solely student driven should definitely be part of student learning, I also believe that in addition, we can give students opportunities to achieve learning targets in more memorable and fun ways by guiding them with challenges that have open-ended solutions in the makerspace. Providing more guidance using a specific challenge still leaves room for student interest, but also provided me with more of an idea of what to expect, and I found it to be less overwhelming for students to make something, especially when they are new to making.