Sunday, May 17, 2015

How to Teach a Child to Read with LEGO

Pre-K/Kindergarten & Early Elementary Activities for:
Reading Comprehension, Spelling & Basic Sentence Structure

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an arts and crafts blog for kids
Many within the LEGO community are familiar with activities you can do with LEGO to teach & learn Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math -related concepts. The brick-based toys we’re so fond of naturally lend themselves to teaching STEM-oriented thinking. But there are LEGO activities that can be used in a number of areas to help create an authentic learning experience and foster critical reasoning skills. You can use these various LEGO activities either as classroom learning activity or at home to go beyond the generic, rote-learning methods used within many classrooms.

One such example is a set of ideas for how to teach a child the fundamentals of reading with LEGO. In this blog post, we present several preschool and early elementary LEGO activities for teaching language usage and reading comprehension. When considering how to teach kids to read, it’s important to understand their current cognitive development stage and learning style.

The objective of these activities is to help children develop from the Preoperational Stage (ages 2-7), as described by Jean Piaget in his Stages of Cognitive Development model, toward the Stage of Concrete Operations (ages 7-11). During the transition between the two, children develop the ability to think logically by manipulating the environment and recognizing patterns.

Activities like those in this post help with the two most important of Piaget’s four proposed processes by which we learn: “accommodation” and “assimilation” (the other two being “disequilibrium” and “equilibration”). The former two describe modes of interacting with one’s environment and constitute adaptation. Piaget believed adaptation to be the most important aspect of human cognitive functioning. Whether you’re wondering how to teach reading comprehension or any other cognitive capacity, attempting to understand a child’s current learning modes and thinking processes with Piaget’s model and/or others can be a boon to your success and the child’s.

While these activities will work for a vast majority of children, it’s important to keep in mind what sort of learner these activities are most ideal for. Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences model provides a framework for understanding various learning modes. While these modes describe a preferred learning style, it is also true that individuals may utilize different styles at different points in their lives. Some styles are also more common at some ages than others. LEGO can provide a bridge for students to take the content they’ve learned and apply it through an explorative process. This enhances their learning by meeting them where they are psychologically and developmentally, providing an opportunity to develop stages of mental faculties sooner and with greater ease.

This post’s activities are particularly well-suited to children whose intelligence(s) within Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences model are visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, and/or logical-mathematical:
  • Visual-spatial: these children think in terms of physical space, are aware of their surroundings, and often enjoy drawing, reading, and writing
  • Bodily-kinesthetic: these children may be good at dancing or sports, are adept at creating things with their hands, and tend to retain information better when learning by doing rather than by hearing or seeing
  • Logical-mathematical: these children are excellent problem solvers who enjoy abstract ideas and experimenting with their world; putting language into a concrete model that speaks to their need for order will be of great help when teaching language and reading skills
While all these children will benefit greatly from this learning approach, it’s important to keep in mind that all children should be challenged to exercise and develop multiple intelligences. While teaching should be optimized with a consideration of their unique learning needs, being forced to break the mold and think in new ways should still be a regular experience. These techniques can be of benefit to most children by providing more vantages and approaches by which to comprehend material.

To do these activities, you’ll just need LEGO or DUPLO bricks and a fine-tipped permanent marker and optional sticker labels for writing on the bricks.

Preschool (DUPLO)

Image by Frugal Fun 4 Boys
  • Teaching the alphabet & capitalization
    1. Write upper and lower case versions of each letter on the side of the bricks.
    2. Have children match upper and lower case versions, then place in alphabetical order.
  • Teaching color names
    1. Write the names of any colors of DUPLO bricks you own on the side of a brick; it’s best to pick the same color of brick for the colors’ names.
    2. Have children match the words with their color by stacking them.
  • Teaching number spelling
    1. Write out  the words for numbers 1-20 (or more!), one number per brick on the side of a brick.
    2. Draw groups of dots on bricks, 1 to match each number on the brick created in the previous step.
    3. Have children match the numbers with the brick that has that number of dots.

Early Elementary School (LEGO or DUPLO)

Image by This Reading Mama
  • Teaching word families
    1. Grab 18 8-stud standard or DUPLO bricks & choose 3-4 word families
    2. Write each word from each word family onto the side of a brick
    3. Lay out in a pile and have children match and stack words into their families
  • Teaching spelling with word families
    1. Write each letter of the alphabet sideways, 1 per 4-stud brick, so when stacked they can create words; if you write letters on each side of the bricks, they can function like spinny spellers.
    2. Write simple endings of word families on stacked 4-stud bricks (e.g. “og”, “ed”, “op”, “at”).
    3. Have children build as many real words as they can think of with the bricks.
  • Teaching sentence structure
    1. Grab at least 50 bricks, preferably more.
    2. Write various nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives on the blocks; you can write the same or different words on either side.
    3. Have children create grammatically correct sentences by stacking the blocks.
    4. For more advanced learning fun, place stacked sentences side by side to create a “story wall”.

As you go through these activities, you may begin to think of ways to expand on them as you transition into next steps for developing language skills and reading comprehension.

Can you think of any ways to tweak or expand on these or know of some other cool activities for teaching these skills? Let us know in the comments below or on social media! We’d love to hear and share your ideas.

Shop our LEGO DUPLO section today and stock up for this fantastic early reading activity.

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