The Power of the Writing Makerspace, with Angela Stockman

For a long time, the conversation around the maker movement pointed in one direction, STEM. No longer! Because of Angela Stockman's amazing work developing the make writing movement, ELA makerspaces are now popping up around the country. Students are discovering new levels of complexity and creativity as they work with maker materials to develop their ideas before they write them down. 

I invited Angela on the show to share the origins of the #makewriting movement and to teach us how to get started with making writing in class. Don't be nervous! There's no need to run out and buy a ton of materials or scrap the writing curriculum you already have. 

In this show, you'll learn about some basic (even free) materials you can use to start, get ideas for prompts you can share with your students to inspire their making, and find out how the process of making writing will help your reluctant and enthusiastic writers alike to develop their skills and love of writing. At the end, we'll explore a little about what Angela learned in her recent trip to visit the Reggio Emilia schools of Italy, a system that honors the classroom space (or "atelier") as one of the teachers in the school environment. 

If you're looking for a new strategy to engage and inspire your writers, this episode is definitely for you. You can listen below, or on iTunesBlubrry, or Stitcher. Or read on for some brief written highlights. This conversation went in depth, and I learned so much from Angela. I really recommend you listen in.

Below, you'll find several of the key points from our conversation, information about the two free courses Angela is sharing with two lucky listeners, and all the links mentioned in the show.

What does a writing maker space look like?
A writing maker space has ROOM for student ideas. It is going to look different everywhere, depending on the place, the students, and their needs. Leave some space for students to put ideas up on walls (whiteboard walls, blackboards, blank spaces where they can mix and match post-its and foam boards), and gather some loose parts for them to make with.

What materials can interested teachers begin to gather? 
First and foremost, there is no need to break the bank! Let people donate things like legos or tinker toys, bristle blocks or art supplies. Recycle giant packing papers from Amazon boxes or leftover sheets of cardboard. Hit up The Dollar Store or the amazing selection of odds and ends at the front of Target. Post-its, foam boards, inexpensive clay, foam balls, there are so many things you can make writing with.

What's the best way for a teacher to try this for the first time?
 "Usually if I'm asking kids to write an argument I'll start with a really provocative prompt like 'what's unfair?'" said Angela.

It's important to really put a lot of thought into the prompt. If you frame the question carefully, the students will be able to create a more thoughtful response through their making. Consider starting with one of Angela's amazing free resources, a set of fifty prompts she calls "firestarters." When you sign up for this download on her site, you'll get a slide deck of prompts in every genre, and also a set of answers for the most frequently asked questions about maker prompts. You can check out Angela's Fire Starters here

One teacher Angela sees really effectively using the maker concept with secondary English students is Dan Ryder, author of Intention: Critical Creativity in the Classroom. He's been known to have his students "make" with Oreos! You can check out Dan Ryder on Twitter @wickeddecent. (By the way, I'm halfway through his book and LOVING IT). 

To give you a few examples of how Angela might ask students to make components of their writing before writing, she might ask students to...
  • Build me the hook
  • Build me the central conflict
  • Build me the best quality about your antagonist

"When we ask kids to build, they typically come up with ideas they wouldn't have otherwise. When we ask kids to build and then talk about what they have built, the complexity of their ideas is usually higher," said Angela. 

So that's the very quick version, folks. I really recommend you listen to the full podcast, and maybe buy Angela's amazing new book, if this is an area you want to move forward in! Angela has so much wisdom to share.

To enter to win free access to one of Angela's digital courses, simply hop into iTunes and leave a review for the podcast this week. If you’ve already left a review, just leave a comment on this post with your biggest takeaway from this episode.  I’ll randomly select two winners from amongst the reviewers and commenters and announce them at the beginning of the next episode, so be sure to listen in! 

Connect with Angela Stockman

Let me tell you a little bit about Angela Stockman, writing teacher superhero.  While her list of accomplishments goes on and on, the one I want to focus on is her work with the Western New York Young Writer’s Studio, an organization that she founded. She has built up the idea of the writing makerspace over many years of experimentation and leadership in this studio with students and teachers alike. Along the way she has written several books, consulted for many programs, and helped design writing curriculum in more than sixty schools. She has worked with a huge variety of students in a huge variety of situations, and you guys… she knows her stuff! You should DEFINITELY go learn more from her using the links below. 

Check out her Website
Follow her on Twitter
Dive into her Online Courses

By the way, did you know there is a big new free resource section on my website? I think you're going to love it! Just jump over here to explore all the available free downloads, like one-pager templates, syllabus templates, attendance questions, book posters, and more. 


  1. I think it's interesting that Angela's kids want to build abstract ideas. I'd love to see that in action and see what the kids build, and then to hear their descriptions and explanations. I'm wondering about details, too - how long does she give them for this? Do they stay on task, or do some get hung up on the building and try to avoid the writing? I want to read her book!

    1. These are such great questions! Check out her blog and dive into her journey a little! I love what she shares.

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