Language Through Legos

11 Dec

Legos are very popular with boys and girls at our elementary school. No matter the grade level, kids love building things. When kids are asked to build collaboratively, they are given opportunities to not only be creative but also to collaborate.  The ability to collaborate with others is one of the most sought-after skills in both education and the workplace. Giving children a fun way to collaborate and create is what I was after when I began experimenting with using Legos for language teaching this past semester. So far, it has proven to be a wonderful way to get my reluctant learners to participate and speak in English.

The first session I met with students, I found myself facing a group of 16 boys and 2 girls from 4 different Grade 1 classes. The first task I assigned was for children to write their names using Lego pieces.

Once the kids completed the task we then sat in a circle and introduced ourselves to one another. To guide the kids, I had the following sentence stem on the board: My name is … Once we had gone around the circle, I then modeled what I wanted the children to do next. I began by saying my name then I introduced the child to my left: My name is _____ and this is _______. By the end of the first session, I knew almost all of the children’s names and so did most of the kids.

nametags

I spy with my eye a name that starts with C and has 3 vowels. The name is ?

At our next session, I began by having a mini competition for the kids to write their names as fast as they could using Lego pieces and come to the circle. We then played “I Spy.” After a quick review of the names of the vowels in English, I modeled the activity by choosing a name at random and gave the children two clues to try and find it. The clues were the first letter of the name and the number of vowels it had.

In doing this activity, I noticed that some of my first graders were struggling with beginning sounds and vowels. As a follow up, I gave each child a consonant and their task was to build an object that starts with that consonant. We then sat in a circle and shared our designed object with the group followed by a brainstorm session of other objects that could have been built with the same beginning sound. I decided to wait on working with vowels for another session.

For the third session, the children were asked to make a replica of themselves. We then displayed the replicas and tried to guess which one represented which child. We looked at words we use when describing people and children were expected to use the following sentence stem: I think this is …. because… For example, one of the children had red hair and all the kids guessed which replica was his because the top of the head was red. The girls’ replicas were also easy to identify because they chose a round instead of a square head or they decorated the head.

In January, I am planning to divide the group into 4 smaller groups. Our first activity will consist of assigning each group a season to construct. We will then talk about what are some of the characteristics of each season touching on weather vocabulary and seasonal activities.

Based on the activities I’ve completed thus far, I’ve noticed that these children are quite motivated by timed activities, competition and movement so I’m thinking of dividing the group for the sessions on vowels into 5 groups. I will then have 5 stations with different activities to complete with each vowel sound. Students then rotate around the room and in so doing complete all five activities.

By the end of the semester, I would like to have the students build popular story scenes collaboratively. I will start the session reading a story and then the children will be assigned to three different groups to build the scenarios. One group will be assigned the beginning scene, one the middle of the story, and the last group the ending scenario. Maybe as a follow up, I will ask the children to decide as a group how/what they would like to see as the new ending of the story. We can then compare/contrast our endings.

Using Legos for language teaching has proven to be a success. Not only is it motivating the children to work either independently or cooperatively in a group, it has also given them authentic opportunities to take risks, negotiate, and use English for different purposes. I would definitely encourage teachers at any level to use Legos for language teaching. It does not require a lot of prep time and it is a great way for integrating 21st century skills into language teaching.

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