Monthly Archives

novembro 2014

Todo mundo pode ser um fazedor

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Dizem que professores estão preparando alunos para trabalhos que ainda não existem. Muitos falam que professores devem ajudar alunos a serem responsáveis pelo próprio aprendizado e desenvolverem o pensamento lógico para resolver problemas que enfrentarão no futuro. Mas escolas mundo afora continuam usando didática bastante tradicional onde o professor tem papel central na atividade ensinar e deve expor e interpretar o conteúdo. Ao o aluno cabe o papel de ouvir e cumprir os exercícios repetitivos, pois assim poderão gravar a matéria e depois reproduzir-la  em questionamentos feito pelo professor ou em provas.

Educadores que acreditam que alunos devam ser estimulados a pensar e se comunicar tem o movimento do fazer como aliado  em escolas mundo afora. O Movimento Maker na educação abre espaço para a experimentação e coloca o aluno na frente do seu processo de aprendizagem. Pesquisadores como Vygovysky e Piaget já falaram da necessidade de aprender colaborativamente e da Zona de desenvolvimento proximal.

O movimento do fazer, bastante difundido nos Estados Unidos, começa a ser discutido no Brasil. A Embaixada dos Estados Unidos convidou Glauco Paiva para  inspirar professores a buscar soluções para uma pratica educacional prioritariamente conteudista.  Ele nos contou da sua experiência com crianças quando aprendem juntos conceitos, que em métodos mais tradicionais, somente aprenderiam em teoria.  Nós professores montamos circuitos, criamos brinquedos movidos a bateria e deixamos  a criatividade fluir. Nos colocamos no papel do aluno e conversamos sobre o quanto mais interessantes as aulas podem ser se acrescentarmos um componente de experimentação. Abaixo estão os links para algumas das atividades propostas que podem ser exploradas em salas de  aula de diversas matérias para diversos conteúdos.

Carrinho automático

Insectoide criativo

Circuitos para vestir

Canetas robóticas



From Plastic Straws to Spider to a Bandstand with a Swing: Making and Letting Imagination Go Wild

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10801951_762669793804694_3629100874132611237_nRead what our guest blogger Jose Antonio da Silva has to say about his experience with the Maker Movement.In a recent plenary for a Braz-TESOL local chapter event, Gisele Santos told us that we teachers were all makers. She was right: we really are. We are always planning lessons and creating materials for our classes. Our students, however, are in many occasions very passive participants in the learning process. We do try to get them involved, but we approach content with abstractions that require them to think without necessarily involving one of the most powerful tools they have: their hands. Having that in perspective, maybe we should rethink what we do in class and try to design activities that make use of brain/hand coordination more often and use the required language as a tool to accomplish making tasks.

One specific event was what made me ponder about the role of making in a language class and what it entails as a pedagogical practice. Just last week, I had the privilege of being a member of a group of educators   invited to a makers’ workshop with Glauco Paiva. This event was sponsored by the American Embassy and had teachers from several institutions. My invitation was a maker kit: a brown bag with a package of white plastic straws and connecting pieces. The task was to create an object and send a picture to the organizers when I was done. In the beginning, I was a bit paralyzed but it did not take long for the child/maker in me to awake. A little clumsily, I started fiddling with the pieces and in my mind there were lots of possibilities: a Gaudi style cathedral, our national congress building, and so on.


Once the enthusiasm and the deluge of ideas receded, I had to deal with the constraints presented by the task, my limited designing skills, and the material I had in front of me. One may say constraints are a drawback, but on the contrary, they are the springboard of ingenuity. Limitations help bring to life the engineer in each one of us. Therefore, asking our students to make something with limited resources challenges their creativity and inspires them to strive for innovative solutions. So, as I played around with my maker kit, I first came up with spider. As my imagination ran wild, I saw how that spider was a metaphor for how this tinkering with my hands had taken over my digital life. I decided to capture that insight (see picture below). Some of my limitations did not allow me to snatch the full scope of this spider crawling over my laptop. I felt like a child and imagining myself telling this story about a spider. That is what making does, it starts with our hands and brain working together, but then it triggers other creative processes that are so important for learners young or old.


After examining my crawler for a while, I decided it was not good enough and said to myself that I could make something else: a bandstand. I dismantled the spider, got some scissors and cut every straw in two halves, put pieces together and got my bandstand with a swing in the center and little boy swinging. I was a bit disappointed because my boy would not stand upright, but it was clear to me what it was. At that moment I realized I could tell a whole story about that place, that character in the swing and the whole city around it. So, it was making with storytelling.


I know my designing skills are poor and the final product is crude. However, I also know that when it comes to making is the reflection that takes place afterwards that matters. Therefore, after playing I thought about what such an activity  could to my students. Giving them an opportunity for using their hands to create something might prove to be a golden opportunity to exercise their minds, hands, and hearts. I could visualize the kind of language they could use while putting pieces together (conditionals, imperatives) and I could also see the stories they would tell about their final product. It would probably be an endless story because they would keep improving design, process, and the final product in their minds.

Maker Meets Teachers

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64785_10155029437135107_5618383285029338160_n 10394035_10155029437075107_6397536565619454564_n 10408715_10155029437560107_1469049549322442522_nI feel very sad when I notice that my children are becoming avid consumers of everything made in China. I believe children should be curious about what is inside the devices we use, how the house appliances around us work, and think about the environment.

I am very excited about the Maker Movement. The more I look into it, the more I believe that it’s very important to our future. It has the potential to turn more and more people into makers instead of just consumers.

So what is the Maker Movement?

The maker movement is the umbrella term for independent inventors, designers and tinkerers. The creations stir the imagination of consumers that are often tired of generic, mass-produced products. The making is as much fun as the playing, and imagination, when triggered, can lead to more tinkering, and more inventions.

Last week, The US Embassy brought to Brasilia Glauco Paiva, a maker who loves democratizing maker kits, ideas and concepts. He started talking to a group of teachers from Casa Thomas Jefferson, Colégio Militar, and Centro de Ensino Ceilândia 26 at the IRC, and in no time turned the library into a dynamic learning space. We started by talking about pedagogy, hands on learning, and listening to Glauco tell us how easy it is to understand the concept of Zone of Proximal Development when you offer students an activity that involves making and learning at the same time.

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As I walked into the room and looked at the groups working, I realized that teachers in Brazil might feel encouraged to use these kind of activities in schools to motivate students to create products instead of only consuming them.  Moving people from being consumers only to creators is critical to our future.


Christmas in the Making

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Building a maker mindset in schools motivates people to become makers, give it a try and take things apart to try to do things that even the manufacturer did not think of doing. While technology has been the spark of the Maker Movement, it has also become a social movement that includes all kinds of making and all kinds of makers, connecting to the past as well as changing how we look at the future. Teachers who embrace the movement witness how students learn from others, what zone of development is in practice, and how important it is to foster collaboration and creativity.

Read below about making in class from a teacher`s perspective.

SONY DSCHelena Galvão -It´s the end of the semester, and we begin to say good-bye to our groups. At Casa Thomas Jefferson, we have the opportunity of having our Kids groups for a whole year; we get to watch our students’ development closely, which makes us (teachers and students) eager to show their families how far we have come. For that reason, at CTJ, we throw an end-of-term party on the last day of class. We prepare for weeks, we practice songs, we make a portfolio, and we tidy our classroom to get ready to showcase our English skills. After singing songs and showing pictures, there is usually a lot of time left and, as a teacher, we like to enjoy that precious time to involve family members and students in a meaningful activity to wrap-up the semester.

Having that objective in mind, we came up with an idea for an arts and crafts activity: making a snow globe, but we didn’t want to simply give instructions to be followed. Having a maker mindset to guide us, we thought of giving family members and students a set of different materials (paper, popsicle sticks, sequins, glue, glitter-glue, cotton, ribbons, etc.) for them to decide how to make their own original Christmas tree. Of course we didn’t leave them in the dark, we gave them a whole sort of visual references to spice up their creativity. There was a catch though; they had to construct a tree that would fit inside a glass globe. At this point, we didn’t explain why the tree had to fit the globe, but they soon started to realize what they were about to make.

The kids approached the tables with the materials shyly, whereas their family members didn´t approach them at all. We had to invite family members to join the kids who were, at this point, sorting through the big amount of options they had. Some had an idea and followed through with it; some had to tweak their ideas in order to make them work; some had to start again, for their first idea hadn’t worked out; some had to make the tree smaller; but all of the teams were able to accomplish the task.

It came as no surprise that the teams managed to give up their reluctance and shyness and finish their trees; the biggest surprise was that the teams started blending and helping each other. It started because of two little kids who didn’t have any family members around, and it went on because a mother had a baby on her lap and someone needed to help her kid. Fact is, I turned around to close the first snow globe and when I turned back I saw about twenty people working together and sharing.

In order to accomplish what I had hoped for in this end-of-term party, I had to plan in advance carefully, but the best part of the party was definitely the unexpected outcome of challenging people: the community feeling that makes them share. Well, if that is not Christmas spirit, I don’t know what is.


Crianças em dias de chuva

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Nada é mais apreciado pelos pequenos do que os pais sentados envolvidos em um projeto mão na massa. Sempre que sento com a minha menina percebo o seu potencial criativo e que ela acredita que o que se imagina pode ser construído. Dias de chuva são um convite para atividades em família que envolvem todos, estimulam a criatividade e tiram o foco do consumismo. Veja abaixo algumas coisas que podemos fazer com material reciclado que certamente deixarão os pequenos engajados enquanto a chuva cai lá fora.

Crie brinquedos com caixas de papelão 

Contando historias com pedrinhas

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Crie brinquedos

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 Crie presentes com lâmpadas queimadas

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2014-09-19 12.41.34

Quem são os fazedores?

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2014-09-19 12.41.34

O movimento do fazer ganha mais e mais espaço em escolas, bibliotecas e museus em todo o mundo. Ele representa um resgate a experimentação na educação e a construção de aprendizado coletivo. Pais e educadores  podem ajudar a formar ‘makers’, pessoas que se percebem como capazes de fazer, criar, transformar. Mas o que são os fazedores? No que eles acreditam?

Fazedores acreditam que podem dar novo propósito a objetos que nos cercam.

Acreditam que se podem imaginar algo, podem faze-lo.

Nao se veem como meros consumidor

Gostam de concertar, remendar, criar, e entender como as coisas acontecem.

São curiosos e gostam de aprender coisas novas.

Encantam os outros pela sua engenhosidade

Fazedores são generosos e celebram as criações de outros fazedores.

São proativos e criativos.

A lista remete a um perfil nao só necessário mais fundamental para alunos que estão sendo educados hoje para enfrentar um mercado de trabalho diferente do que temos hoje em dia. O movimento do fazer em escolas forma alunos mais preparados para enfrentar os desafios futuros, mas como criar um espaço do fazer? Fazedores são generosos, e disponibilizam todo o percurso do aprendizado. visite abaixo alguns links interessantes para aprender como montar o seu espaço.

Makerspace Playbook






Brown Bag Challenge – Rocket Cars

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rocket cars

As libraries around the world become more dynamic learning spaces, our classrooms and resource centers must offer participants opportunities to engage in collaborative, hands-on, interdisciplinary activities. To create new learning spaces you could make the bags and display them on a shelf for people to tinker with, use them for classroom activities, or create events in your institution to build a maker mindset.


Rocket Cars

In this challenge students get the materials on the label and race against time to finish the task in twenty minutes or less. To promote more practice and engagement, you could ask them to record tutorials or do a show and tell.


Brown Bag Challenge – Windmill

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As libraries around the world become more dynamic learning spaces, our classrooms and resource centers must offer participants opportunities to engage in collaborative, hands-on, interdisciplinary activities. To create new learning spaces you could make the bags and display them on a shelf for people to tinker with, use them for classroom activities, or create events in your institution to build a maker mindset.



In this challenge students get the materials on the label and race against time to finish the task in twenty minutes or less. To promote more practice and engagement, you could ask them to record tutorials or do a show and tell.


It works!!!!!


STEM Engineering Challenges for English Schools

By | Sala de Aula, Sem categoria | No Comments


Photo 04-11-14 13 44 18 (1)

We have been adapting STEM Engineering Challenges for our English school, for nothing feels quite so exciting in any learning space as the productive buzz when students are passionately tackling a challenge. This sort of hands-on, mind-on learning promotes critical thinking, real world problem solving, and addresses a host of STEM content, which makes language production authentic and collaborative.

Planning a lesson with the Maker Movement in mind demands a combination of practicality and creativity, and the best way to help educators and institutions to start the maker movement is to network and collaborate.  In this spirit, here we share a list of some brown bag challenges we have already tried out in English language classrooms. See list of materials here. For more info and directions open the links below on the post



Floating ball

Rocket cars

iPhone Speaker

Marshmallow Towers

Pom Pom Cannons

Paper Helicopters

Roller Coasters

Paperclip Sailboats

Building Windmills


Zip Lines

Solar Ovens

Lunar Landers



How to Make Your Robot_ Maker Movement Makes It into Language Teaching Classrooms

By | English, Sala de Aula | No Comments

It’s easy to understand the enthusiasm of many teachers when they hear about The Maker Movement, for its experiential aspect and how it engages people with a kind of learning that triggers emotions and connection.  Some months ago, I came across a great tutorial that called my attention because the activities proposed have students explore and then brings in the theory behind them, which make learning significant and authentic. However, any teacher committed to learning might consider any change carefully. Do we have class time? Is this activity going to help students learn? How are students going to react? How can I facilitate learning? The maker movement is relatively new in Brazil, and early adopters are the ones responsible for reflecting, opening the way, and helping change teaching in private and public schools. Last week, Ellen Cintra proposed a maker activity to her teen students and shares her insights below.

UntitledI have been an English teacher for the past 9 years, 4 of them at Casa Thomas Jefferson, and the the contact with different technologies, from paper to Ipads, have always made me think about how I could improve my classes. When I am preparing my classes for Casa and for Fundação, where I teach Portuguese to sophomore high schoolers, I keep on thinking “How can I make use of different technologies and tools to prepare relevant activities that  basically present the “gain-gain” side of the equation (challenging and engaging, efficient and not too long) and fit my schedule? How can education really make a difference in these students’ lives?” These questions are always on my mind and after different conversations with Dani Lyra, who led me into this maker world (where I’m still crawling…), I was able to realize that we can make our teaching more meaningful when we give students different opportunities to manipulate and produce knowledge, try, fail and succeed.

I have recently had a first hand experience with the maker movement when together with Dani Lyra and Carla Arena at the former´s house I witnessed kids building a robot from scratch.

I then thought we could try it at Casa after working with Unit 11, from the Teens 2 course. The connection was clear: we had just talked about a robot (Asimo) and students had worked on readings and had watched videos about him… and they loved it! Next step was to produce a paragraph in which they would give life to their imagination and create their own robot. I tried to make the writing about the robot a fun moment and we speculated and played around with ideas about what our robots could do. Next, after talking to Dani, I teased them about how nice it would be if they could really produce a robot and when I told them we would really go for it, they were enthusiastic and looked forward for the big day!

The preparation included selecting materials at home, doing some more specific shopping for the missing parts and making a robot on our own, so that we really understood the steps for building the robot. In class, a little before taking the students to the Resource Center, where the librarians and school staff also helped by monitoring and guiding students, we brainstormed what the robots would be able to “really” do with the materials we were going to use additionally students started to think about closed circuits and equilibrium. Next, we started by eliciting vocabulary (the names of the pieces we would put together) and then we checked pronunciation a little bit. The students spoke in English most of the time, especially when they needed to use the target vocabulary. First students checked if they had all the necessary parts and then they connected the batteries while Dani and I prepared the containers by making holes  which would later receive different pieces. After that, students used plastic clamps to tie the batteries and the motor into the container and that was followed by attaching the switch. In the following class we continued by having students try to close the circuits and then we could see some more critical thinking going on: they tried, failed, asked a more knowledgeable mate, tried again, got angry, tried something new until they understood what they were doing wrong and how to fix things, so that they worked. It was great to watch students persistence and progress, as well as using creative alternatives to make their robots work. They used the target language, and relied on their peers and teacher to assist them with the “little bit” they needed to move on. In the end, students used different materials to personalize their robots and used some parts of the writing they had produced before to talk about their robots abilities. Teacher Dani recorded the students´ robots description and later combined the recording and the pictures of the robots using the app ChatterPix. Students then played around joyfully and left the class in excitement. They had learned lots of things and I can assure you that their brains were releasing lots of dopamine!

This fun and challenging activity could also be used in different scenarios, as for example in my Portuguese classes to sophomore high schoolers. I could tease students to think about technology and how we human beings can manipulate materials to suit our needs until we got into talking about robots. Then, I would challenge students to try to build robots in groups of 4 (I would give them the kits with everything they needed) and would assist them as necessary. After that, they could play around a little and engage into “competitions” before we started exploring written fiction related to robots and their use. An interesting link would be having students relax a little in the dark and listen to me reading an interesting piece of the book “Frankenstein”, by Mary Shelley. Next, they could work in groups or individually and elaborate a new end to the narrative.  Later, we would work on having their robots “tell” their stories by using the website “Blabberize”, which connects voice recordings and pictures the same way the app does. This could be extended to a more interdisciplinary approach by having other areas work cooperatively to enrich students’ critical thinking and scientific background. History, Philosophy, Sociology or Physics teachers could engage by bringing in discussions about Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics” and how circuits and energy distribution work; Geography and History teachers could talk about technological innovations and how they have changed history and the way humans socialize, produce and consume (food, equipments, etc); Biology teachers could have students think about alternative ways to reduce pollution by having robots perform certain roles and help in research.

It seems too much to be done… it really does. Nevertheless, once we give students the power to go after things, we reduce our workload and they actually produce and engage much more than if we just stood at the front of the class lecturing… I truly believe it is worth a try.

Brown Bag Challenges

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Photo 04-11-14 13 44 18 (1)

The Brown Bag STEAM Challenge-  Project Ideas for Engaging students 

This activity combines art, science, The English language and play. I’m not overselling it when I say it’s mesmerizing. Helena Galvão has been a maker since she was a little kid, and now that she has graduated in psychology, and has been a teacher at casa Thomas jefferson for a while, she advocates for the maker Movement in schools. We strongly believe that students need to be challenged and use the language they learn in authentic and meaningful situations to promote deep learning. Helena  was teaching her teens four group a unit in their coursebook that talks about invisible ink and had a great idea. Why not making the ink with them? She was set to organize this maker activity in her classroom for nineteen teenagers, but she did not stop there. We organized a science fair in the resource center, and the idea was to bring eight different challenges for students in brown bags; each bag had the name of the materials and what they were supposed to build with them, but no instructions on how to do it. Then, students had to write a how to manual using the language in the unit (going to) for a digital show and tell. They took photos of their inventions and recorded the tutorial using the app ChatterPix. It was just amazing to see how much language production and  interaction took place. For a better idea of this maker activity watch the video below.

My Robot Can Talk!

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The Maker Movement is relatively new here in Brazil, and I believe it has come to stay. Maker activities arouse curiosity and connect the mind and the body to highten the experience of learning. Curious students seem to have more energy, and they are more willing to participate and take risks. However, eighteen years as a full time English teacher has taught me a few things, and I do understand people when they say that our schedules are too tight, and that we do not have any class time to waste. Planning an activity with the maker movement in mind might take more time because it requires a combination of creativity and practicality, but the pay off is the time it saves as students are much more responsive, exercise creativity, and create a bond with the subject matter, classmates, teacher and institution.

In our school, we are modernizing our resource centers by making them more dynamic and enticing to students. Our idea is to have programs that teach about entrepreneurship and innovation, which are important aspects of the American culture and English language. And, also help teachers redesign their practices by offering them a learning space they can take students to and  that inspires creativity.

Last week, Ellen Cintra, a teacher at Casa Thomas Jefferson, was talking about robots as context to teach students the modal verb can. The Maker Movement is also about learning together, and that’s where all bi-national centers and English schools find opportunity to collaborate and make English teaching more meaningful, innovative, and relevant. Teachers can not settle for teaching only language because we have now the chance to work together and help students believe they can be makers who can create things to improve the world around them. Watch the video below to understand what happened in the resource center and see how engaged students were.


ACCESS Students and the Maker Movement

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I have been leaning a lot about the maker movement, and how we can use the concepts behind it to teach American cultural aspects and the English language in American spaces/English schools. So when I was invited to deliver an enhancement workshop for Access students at Casa Thomas Jefferson last week I was very excited. I understood it could be a great chance to try something new. The English Access Micro Scholarship Program (Access) provides a foundation of English language skills to 13-20 year-olds from an economically disadvantaged background through after-school classes and intensive sessions.  Access helps participants develop English skills that may lead to better jobs and educational prospects. Participants also gain the ability to compete for and participate in future exchange and study programs in the United States.

My role in the session was to have students experience a hands-on activity and engage in a task collaboratively.  I brought with me Makey Makey kits, we talked about Halloween and I asked them what the connection between pumpkins and Halloween is. I asked them if it would be possible to turn vegetables or fruits into musical instruments, and I noticed they were curious and engaged. I told them it was possible if they had the right tools, gave each group a laptop computer, a Makey makey kit, vegetables, and some time to collaborate. They participated eagerly, failed, tried again, and learned not only some of the concepts behind the technical part of the activity but also that they are stronger when they work together, and that making an effort to achieve a goal is worthwhile and very reassuring. These students spoke English as a tool to engage in collaborative learning and may be curious enough to learn more about circuitry or computer programming.


The Maker Movement in English Language Schools

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Can you describe an activity you really enjoyed at school?

I have been asking many people the very same question, and the answers share something in common. Can you guess what the question is?

  • My oldest daughter told me it was the day she built a feudal castle;
  • Antonio, the IT guy at school, told me about the day he built a functional mini hydropower plant with leds.
  • My husband told me about wood work projects.
  • I remember making ‘brigadeiros’ for a school party.

Coincidences? I do not think so… Human being are curious beings, and learn much better when genuinely engaged.  The maker movement inspires people to think like scientists and engineers, explore, tinker and collaborate to find solutions to local problems. Many schools in the USA already work with the STEAM model, but here in Brazil it is very new. It`s easy to get enthusiastic about the making in classrooms, but how to transfer all that to our educational system, how to organize great after school programs, and most important, how to let students explore and practice curiosity?

“I want us all to think about new and creative ways to engage young people in science and engineering, whether it’s science festivals, robotics competitions, fairs that encourage young people to create and build and invent—to be makers of things, not just consumers of things.” 
President Obama on June 17, 2014