Bees. Cows. Factories.

What do all these things have in common? They make stuff. Bees make honey. Cows make milk. Factories make goods. All of these items are vital, and most are useful. Without makers, we would be in trouble. This concept is central to the Maker Movement in education which promotes the idea of providing students with the tools necessary to make things, which I love. I would, however, like to expand this slightly. I would like to see kids producing in the classroom, not just making. If you asked most people about the word “produce” they would say “to make something.” This is true, but I think giving students the opportunity to produce in the classroom is more than just having them make things.

A producer pulls the strings together to form a knot. Media producers gather resources and put them together in a way that presents a point of view. Although we can listen to, or watch their work, the final product isn’t really a thing. Its value is in the original way the information was presented to the consumer. In a classroom where students have the opportunity to produce, they create original work that shows how new information has affected them, and how they have mastered it. These are valuable skills. Those who produce are the people who really have the largest impact on our world. Consumers need producers. Producers don’t need consumers. Why? Producers can create for the sake of creation. The act of producing becomes a form of expression and personal growth.

We can create opportunities for our students to produce by providing them broader options for how they show us what they have learned. As they decide how to show what they want to demonstrate mastery, the process becomes the act of producing something original and new. The best part is, that regardless of subject or grade level, through lesson design and student choice, a teacher can create opportunities for students to produce. Here are three ways to get started:

Producing to Solve a Problem

Necessity is the mother of invention, right? It is no different in the classroom. Presenting kids with a problem to solve is one way to get them producing by formulating solutions. Problems that don’t have a right answer can be rich in learning experiences. Present the students with problems that are relevant and rooted in real connections to a community, group, or the outside world. The act of creating a solution is an act of producing. It does not have to result in something tangible. It just needs to be original. Have kids try a lesson like BreakoutEDU that allows them to produce answers to a group problem. It’s fun, and teachers can weave classroom content into the problem-solving process.

Producing to Present a Unique Idea

A producer can make real things, or they can produce unique ideas. Just because students aren’t building robots or creating 3D models does not mean a student isn’t producing. The important part of this process is that the work is original. If a student can take in new information, process it, and then create something new that gives the consumer of their product a sense of how they view the world, I would say that is a success. Writing is an example of a product that we take for granted in the classroom. Blog posts, creative writing, and poetry are all a result of unique ideas. Videos, websites, and online portfolios are also great places for students to present their ideas and create something that is uniquely their own.

Producing to Support a Claim

Yes, producing an argument is a thing. Every teacher is working to build skills that will help students pull out information from various sources, synthesize it, and then use it to support claims. When a student does this in a manner that is organized and presented in a way that is unique and original they are producing. Please stop locking students into one mode for presenting their ideas. Google Slides and Powerpoint are fine, but challenge them to produce something that is unique to their audience and supports their claim in an original way. This will help motivate the kids and save you from a boring day of looking at the same slide show over and over.

Producing original work help students build confidence and creativity. These are valuable in the student growth process and creating life-long producers of original thought. We know bees make honey, and cows make milk. Now I have a new question for you:

What do teachers make? I hope they make producers.