Beginning English, Makerspace, and Purpose

I absolutely love that my library’s makerspace has been able to serve our Beginning English class this year. See this post from October about our first lessons! For a variety of reasons, we haven’t been as consistent about having monthly lessons in the makerspace as we first intended. This month, we were determined (that, and the students kept asking when we would do more makerspace!). The ESOL teacher and I talked about our plan and we were set on having our lesson this past Friday. Then, I was told that testing setup was going to take place a day earlier than anticipated so our makerspace would have to be put into storage. We were determined, though, so our makerspace went on its maiden voyage on the road to a classroom!

One thing that our Beginning English students struggle with, on top of learning the English language, is the American culture. For example, at the beginning of the year, two students were playing with our legos, and after watching one student struggle with connecting them, we realized he had never played with legos before. So we decided that our lesson was going to begin with some “free play” time. We came up with four activities for students to work on in groups (stations, I suppose): legos, magnets (the actual set is here), a large coloring page and markers, and the newest addition to our makerspace, Jenga. The catch with this free play time was that they could only speak in English! So even though we called it “free play,” it really wasn’t: they were working on their conversational English and learning new skills that many of their English speaking peers already had experience with.

After setting expectations, I took each item off my cart and explained what they were supposed to do. They seemed excited about magnets and legos, not as much excitement for coloring, but there was some. I saved showing them Jenga for last. When I told them the last thing was my favorite and showed it to them, their eyes lit up. It was priceless! They were engaged the entire time, and their conversations were great, encouraging each other, complimenting each other, and asking questions (“Can you give me the ____?” or “Are there any more ____?”). Later, the teacher remarked that she couldn’t believe how much English they truly knew, just in an informal setting.

The actual lesson we created went just as well. I brought supplies from the makerspace (cups of 2 sizes, long & short cardboard tubes, and straws) and the teacher wrote vocabulary on the board (short, long, red, tall, tube, etc) that students may want to use to describe the materials they chose. Then, the teacher reviewed with them the nonfiction internal text structure of process. They talked about the difference between listing/enumeration and sequence (first, second, then, etc). Students chose any materials they wanted to use and went to work creating a design. Then, in their writing journals they listed the materials they used along with the steps someone would need to re-create their design, using either listing or sequence. Finally, students took their design apart, found a partner, and read the directions to that person, who had to create based on the person’s directions. See a video below (make sure the CC is on):

At the end, students wrote some feedback on post-it notes about which parts of the lesson were their favorite and why. While this was the “assessment” piece, this was also additional writing for them. There were some great responses! (click for a larger view)

Where does my role as librarian come in? This entire lesson. One aspect of our jobs is collaborating with teachers. This class is a valid class in our school, much like our autism program, art class, and creative writing. I don’t limit my teaching to core content classes, and neither should you. This teacher reached out at the beginning of the year for me to help her class work on their English, and I am so happy she did. I provided materials that helped students achieve the objectives their teacher wanted them to achieve – working on their speaking, listening, and writing. Sure, they were non-traditional materials, but they were resources nonetheless. Listening to the students during the lesson and “free play” proved students were learning – and loving what they were doing in the process. The feedback at the end was what I think is the ideal kind of assessment for a library program – helpful on the librarian’s end to see what was received well, but also required students to use new skills to demonstrate their ideas (sentence structure, vocabulary, etc) – in a non-threatening and fun way. Even though I wasn’t teaching research, credible sources, or book talking books, I was still a librarian in this lesson.

Working with my Beginning English class has been one of the highlights of this school year so far for me. They stretch me to be a better librarian and challenge me to think more critically about what being a librarian truly means – serving everyone, both students and staff in all classes – and providing access to materials and resources, no matter the level, ability, or interest. 

Going with my #oneword purpose this year, I would challenge you to reflect on this: What are the purposes of the materials and programs in your library? What do you see your purpose in being as a librarian? Find out about my purpose in my next blog. 🙂

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One thought on “Beginning English, Makerspace, and Purpose

  1. Pingback: Makerspace on the Road: Beginning English and Origami – Grover's Corner of the Library

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