Using LEGO to develop literacy skills in students
Do writing tasks sometimes seem insurmountable to your students? Do your students often have blank-page syndrome when you ask them to write a text? In many cases, you can offer your students graphic organizers to help them brainstorm new ideas, select the best ones and organize them into a coherent text.
Although teachers appreciate graphic organizers as tools that help make students’ ideas more concrete and visible, many are still too abstract for some students. What if teachers could help these students represent their ideas by using tangible and even more concrete tools? Converting ideas into written texts would surely become even easier.
This is why, for many years, I have advocated the use of LEGO to support the acquisition of literacy skills, whether it is to develop competence in reading, writing or oral communication. Thanks to the wide variety of bricks and pieces in LEGO kits, it is possible to visually represent key situations to help students with comprehension of both fiction and non-fiction texts. In fact, LEGO bricks can be used to teach many texts prescribed in the Ontario curriculum: articles, commercials, comic strips, biographies, fables, newspaper articles, storyboards, adventure stories, detective stories, science fiction stories, fantasies, newspaper reports and many others.
Obviously, in order to successfully use LEGO in literacy activities, it is necessary to organize LEGO bricks and pieces into the elements of the narrative universe that form the basis of a narrative. I suggest dividing the bricks and pieces into four containers with the following labels:
|Questions||Elements of the narrative universe||LEGO bricks and pieces to include|
|Who?||Characters||-The LEGO minifigurines. It is preferable to disassemble the parts of LEGO bricks and pieces into parts, such as legs, torsos, heads, hats and other accessories. This way students can combine them to create their personalized characters.
– The LEGO animals (e.g. dogs, cats, snakes, insects, spiders, horses…)
|Where?||Places||The different coloured rectangular bricks and the small green and blue rectangular plates to represent earth and water, arches, sloping walls, flowers, trees, bushes and other elements of vegetation.|
|When?||Time||Five plates. I recommend using 16 x 16 panels in neutral colours (beige, grey).|
|What?||The action||The vehicles and accessories (e.g. food, fire, water, laptops, chains, handcuffs, swords, magnifying glass, tools, flags, sticks, magic wands).|
LEGO bricks encourage a student’s creativity because the pieces are very versatile. The same accessories can be used for all recipes. For example, the small accessory can be a popsicle, a pizza peel, a ping pong racket, beacons on the tarmac at an airport, or the wings of a butterfly. The students will amaze you with their creations with all the different bricks and pieces.
The LEGO plates come to embody key moments in a story. For example, using five panels, a student can give life to a story by building the narrative and representing the elements of the plot: the introduction, the rising action, the falling action and the conclusion. Consequently, the student can see the structure of their story in a concrete way, making the process of translating their story into an organized text less daunting. If students have difficulty understanding the plot graph, they can instead use three panels to represent the beginning, the middle, and the end of the story. Students with special needs will find it easier to tell their stories orally and organize their stories into the five elements of the plot graph. As a result, every student is able to work at their proximal area of development.
In the case of group work, each student in the group can be responsible for one plate. The students must collaborate to ensure the coherence of the narrative, the appearance of the characters, and the continuity of the setting throughout the entire story. Each change must be explained by the events of the plot.
Here are some suggested activities to do with your students using LEGO in the three domains of the language curriculum.
I hope that these examples have inspired you to use LEGO in your class to help your students develop and strengthen their literacy skills. If you would like more information, register for a workshop on the subject by clicking “Contact” in the menu above.