Monday, September 21, 2015

Teach Writing & Storytelling with LEGO

Communication and storytelling are two important components for helping children develop social skills and empathy, skills that are critical for success in our highly social world. Two psychologists at New York's New School for Social Research proved that literary fiction helps increase one’s ability to understand others' emotions and empathize with them. From social skill development to language pattern recognition, education experts at Yale point out that storytelling has a variety of cognitive benefits for children.

So then, the question is how to teach kids to write in ways that foster enthusiasm and effective learning. LEGO, of course! These classic manipulatives that we know and love are the perfect tool for narrative building with children.

Benefits of Storytelling and Literature

Parents know that communicating with their kids and talking to them every day is important for developing verbal and social skills. However, having them read stories, tell stories, and write stories helps children immensely as well. Research has shown that storytelling has numerous cognitive, emotional, and social benefits. It facilitates the child’s social aptitude through identification with important themes and favorite characters while also exercising the imagination.

Critical Thinking

When kids tell their own stories, they learn to use critical thinking skills. Developing a story plot and ensuring that the details connect requires the use of logic and critical thinking. For example, a child may start to make up a story about a person in trouble, and then must think of ways for that person to get out of trouble. This exploratory activity familiarizes them with rational modes of thinking.

Pattern Recognition

Reading and storytelling are good ways to help children recognize patterns in ideas and language. When they recognize speech patterns, they gain a firmer grasp on their language. In relation to situations, pattern recognition can help them learn what people feel or how they react when certain things happen.

Problem Solving

This skill is closely related to critical thinking. Storytelling often involves solving a problem or remedying a situation — there is always an outcome. This helps them find ways to focus on good outcomes and use problem solving to help others in social settings. Children learn about cause and effect as well as how their decisions can both create and solve problems.

Linguistic Abilities and Communication

Telling stories and talking aloud can help children develop confidence when speaking in front of others. They foster a joy for reading — the importance of which can’t be overstated. A love of reading will keep them sharp, growing, and ahead of the pack throughout their lives. Research also shows that children who are active in reading and storytelling have an easier time learning foreign languages.

Social Skills and Empathy

Reading and telling stories can expose children to a wide variety of situations, solutions, and details that are relevant to real life. They learn how to solve common problems, understand how situations make people feel, and how to communicate with others. They see patterns of actions and reactions among characters across stories. The distilled life experiences of the author allow him or her to relay important knowledge about the human situation.

Storytelling with LEGO Curricula

Parents and teachers can take a proactive approach to help kids develop their storytelling and writing skills by asking them to build LEGO sets and make a story out of them. You can also use one of LEGO Education’s official curricula sets. Below, we discuss the two LEGO curricula geared toward developing these skills, followed by some ideas for using your own LEGO collection to achieve these goals.

BuildToExpress for Pre-Kindergarten Through Fifth Grade

This technique blends hands-on learning with facilitative teaching. It is designed to promote critical thinking in students while allowing them to create LEGO building projects with nonjudgmental and open questions. Building projects are based on various subjects. When students complete their LEGO building projects, they must verbally explain what they just built and connect its relevance to the topic. Hands-on learning helps kids develop a better understanding of what they read and observe. This set teaches communication skills, language, teamwork, and empathy.

StoryStarter for Grades Two Through Five

StoryStarter is also a hands-on learning tool from LEGO. This program focuses on literacy and language. With the help of expert teachers across the country, StoryStarter was made to motivate students in this age group to read, write, and become confident storytellers in both spoken and written form. The StoryStarter kit from LEGO comes with several bricks, a visualization software tool, and curriculum with activities in several categories. These categories include an introductory module, everyday storytelling skills, making and telling stories, and skills for retelling and analyzing stories. This set helps teach language and computer literacy, social skills, communication skills, and empathy.

Storytelling with LEGOs At Home

While LEGO Education sets are nice to have, there is no need to spend money on specific LEGO sets to achieve these goals. With some LEGO blocks and a few accessories, let kids use their imaginations and creativity to build something unique. Use these steps to turn a fun playtime activity into a valuable learning and development tool.
  1. Encourage kids to make a scene or project and explain it. Ask questions about the creation. What year is it in this scene? Who are the people? What are they feeling? What are they doing? Ask where certain items came from and why they are there. Remember these points or jot them down to use as story building tools.
  2. Ask to hear a story about the scene. Repeat some of the child's answers to the previous questions. Use pointed questions to help the child form a story. Ask the child to use those details to verbally tell a story about the scene. Have the child write a more detailed story after telling the verbal story.
  3. Ask for a turn at storytelling. To show a child that there are different ways to view situations and that people have different views, ask for a turn to tell a different story for the scene. Encourage the child to offer feedback and ask questions.
  4. Make a movie out of it. Ask the child to repeat the story in greater detail on camera. Use a camera on a tripod, a cellphone camera, or any recording device. This can help children develop speaking confidence as well as social skills. Then, consider helping your child edit the story to make an actual stop-motion short. You can easily find instructions for making LEGO stop-motion videos on Pinterest or via Google.
Have any other ideas for using LEGO or other manipulatives to teach these skills? We’d love to hear them! Comment below or share your thoughts with us on social media.


  1. Very interesting post.You have explained about "Teach writing & Storytelling with LEGO ". This was very simple and clear.I found this post helpful.Thank you so much for sharing these great ideas.

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