ESL students and the power of making

TLLPs are about engaging and sound instruction, but the underlying goal is to facilitate and share teacher learning. Our goals for this project are to enhance our learning about makerspace and design process, but there are so many opportunities for learning that are unplanned and unintended. It’s these opportunities that excite me the most, because I don’t see them coming!

One of my most impactful takeaways has come in working with our ESL students. We have 221 ESL students who speak 27 languages, and 45 are assessed as Step One, with little or no English language acquisition. It’s fair to say that a teacher’s instruction delivery, assessment and support looks different when working with this group of students.  I had no notion of how a making experience or the design process would go over, mainly because I didn’t know these students well enough. I had no idea of their experiences, their background knowledge, their exposure to making.

I have been pleasantly surprised at how well the ESL students have gravitated towards the maker culture in our school. We went on several trips to learn how to use hand tools, an experience that many of our students have never been exposed to. Most of the ESL students already knew how to use the tools, had used them in the past. Not only were they succeeding, but they were surpassing their peers.

When introducing the design process to the junior students, this group decided to build a better wallet. Using an Instructables video to start off, they created it, tested it and improved it. All this was happening independently because the language barrier was dismantled.



They were so enthusiastic about making that they moved on to another video tutorial and made cameras!


Another design process success came when this student wanted to make a better scarf (these Canadian winters are cold!). This one has velcro ends to keep his face covered.

I’m starting to discover the opportunity that making and the design process is giving these students. They are feeling successful, they are feeling more on par with their peers and they are engaged. Further, they are finding ways to communicate their excitement; using Google Translate more willingly, knowing they have a real purpose for interacting.

One of the many little success stories I’m finding through this project, and it’s exciting!