The maker movement is all about making learning meaningful through creating new solutions. Some of you may say to yourself, “My school doesn’t have a makerspace”… Or “I don’t have time to build in maker experiences with my students in our busy schedule.” I am here to share with you that you can design maker experiences while meeting CA CCSS standards in English language arts. During CUE BOLD I shared this lesson idea that bridges the maker movement and students deepening their learning about story structure and plot development. This is a lesson that can be utilized in any grade level. Before I go into detail about the lesson design, I want to share with you this lesson was inspired by:
- Novel Engineering is where the idea launched from for me. Novel Engineering uses the engineering process to help students design solutions to problems characters face in a story.
- Kriscia Cabral is a 3rd grade teacher in Poway and a #caedchat moderator. She blogs for Scholastic and she wrote this blog post a long time ago about using the Design Thinking Process to solve problems characters face in stories.
In this maker movement inspired lesson, students will dive deeply into character analysis in order to use the design thinking process to create/design a solution to a problem in the story. Students will learn to use the design thinking process to develop empathy for the characters, find problems in the story that need solutions, and work collaboratively to ideate and design solutions. Students use easily accessible materials to design a prototype for their solution to help the character solve a problem. In the end, students have the opportunity to rewrite the story integrating their creation into the story. This hands on approach to understanding character development, conflict, and plot will deepen literacy skills and promote a maker mindset. In addition, this project will result in many different products. Your students’ creativity will flourish as they collaborate together.
To learn more about Design Thinking visit Introduction to Design Thinking MODEL GUIDE (Stanford d.School).
The lesson begins with a narrative text. Pick up your favorite book! It will work with this lesson. Trust me. If there is a character, a problem, and a plot, you have an opportunity for design thinking.The first reading of a story, helps to develop comprehension skills. As we reread and close read, students begin to analyze the story and determine the theme. I use a plot diagram to help students track the events in a story.
In this phase of the lesson, students will work in small collaborative groups to dive deep into understanding a particular character. The purpose of this phase is to understand the character. You should consider what the character says, does, and thinks in the story and why they say and do the things they do.
The define stage is about taking the knowledge you just uncovered about the character and creating an actionable statement. Students will collaborate together in their small groups and focus on problems the character face. Guiding questions for this phase are:
- What problems does the character face?
- What is significant about these problems?
- How do these problems impact the story?
- What does this character NEED most?
Then the group will work together to focus on what the character needs most and create a needs statement using this sentence frame:
(who) ___ needs to (verb) ___ because ___.
In this phase, students will collaborate in groups to brainstorm/ideate as many possible solutions to their needs statements as they can generate. The ultimate goal is to create a broad range of ideas. Students will document ideas on sticky notes. Students should follow these brainstorming rules:
- Write one idea per sticky.
- Honor all ideas.
- Do not evaluate ideas, just write it down.
- Sort ideas that are similar.
- Prioritize ideas by how critical or important they are vs not important.
- Tip: Start with the worst idea and move upward!
At the end of the session, have groups select their top three ideas. Then they should pick their best idea to move into the prototype stage.
This is the phase where students begin creating and when the maker experience gets messy.
- Discuss with students what it means to create a prototype. Many kids want their project to be “perfect.” That is not the goal of a prototype. The goal of the prototype is to quickly design a product so you can test the functionality. If it doesn’t work, you should redesign. Prototypes also use materials easily accessible to them.
- Before students get into making their creation, I highly recommend students work to sketch out a design plan and generate a list of materials. Kids get VERY excited about gathering materials so it is very important to discuss using a limited amount of materials or discuss just taking what you need and returning unused items.
- Provide time for students to CREATE! Step back and watch kids collaborate and work together.
- Tape (duct tape, blue tape)
- Glue (hot glue, craft glue)
- Various craft supplies: toothpicks, popsicle sticks, rubber bands, foil, pipe cleaners, string, cotton balls, etc
Test, Reflect, Refine Stage
Rewrite the Story
Typically, in this phase, you would return to your “user” and watch them interact with what the group designed. However, since our “user” is fictional, students will write a story that utilizes the design solution. Groups work together to plan and write a narrative story that integrates their design into the story. Groups should consider how their design solution changes the events in the story and what new problems the character may face. Students should use the plot diagram to plan their stories. Of course, provide time for groups to share their work with each other and an opportunity for groups to reflect about their work. Here is an example of a single-point rubric for this project. To learn more about Single Point Rubrics go on over to Jennifer Gonzalez’s blog Cult of Pedagogy.
Please feel free to ask me questions or give me feedback about this lesson design.