This Week In the Classroom: New Tools and Old Tools In the Shop (It’s Not What You Think)

Just got the best new, free tool in the woodshop today.  It looks like this:

It’s a printed out (thank god the paper-waster nazi wasn’t around) version of the ENTIRE trilogy of Mission Furniture and How to Make It published by Project Gutenberg via Popular Mechanics from 1910.  The students flip through it and find examples of furniture they like.  Mission furniture has a good chance of becoming my “house” style.  It’s a book of dreams, I tell you.

This is a photo of our lumber processing center mid-process.  We bring in old lumber, this case a pallet, and set kids upon it to mash and take apart, hopefully without losing an eye , thumb or brain protection while throwing out the nails.  I’m highlighting this because it’s a work station – an independent work-station at that.  Our students can engage and disengage at their own pace, something many teachers do not allow for in their classrooms.  We don’t allow for disengagement because our lessons don’t incorporate a student’s tendency to disengage from the learning at hand to recharge their brains, social batteries, etc.

How many lectures have you attended in college when you zoned out and missed a crucial fact or turning point in the discussion?  For my students, verbal instruction and “normal” lesson plan structure hold very little interest for them – the level of energy it takes to engage a teacher in a lecture setting or traditional academic setting is too much.  They disengage.  The independent work station allows this to happen.  When I taught writing, I would use different prompts in the rooms and a rotation schedule.  Students needed to get five prompts done throughout six or seven stations.  The missed stations allowed room for a student’s disengagement.

What about during math class when your “independent” practice becomes frustrating because you don’t know if you have the right answer?In math, the right answer doesn’t jump off a student’s page and announces itself.   Efficiency during gratifying hands-on projects does.  This station allows an independent exploration of the nail-pulling task.  And when I tie it into other stations (salvaged lumber storage, nail pulling station, cleaned lumber storage, milling station, saw/drill area, assembly area and finishing room) you better believe the kids see the progression and relevance of their work.

Hope you can use this in your classroom – at least check out the gutenberg site, its chock full of cool, free books.  (look to Australia’s version for Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Lovecraft.)