Tech Tuesday: Build a Story with LEGO

For many years, I had viewed my students’ interest in LEGO® products as having some potential for instruction in social skills and language development. I mean, anything that spurs that much engagement from children can be leveraged for learning, right? However, I struggled around how to structure the use of actual LEGO blocks to create a situation where students were practicing language and social interaction together rather than just doing their own thing.

The solution came with a realization that LEGO can be used to have students build and interact around one scene or story, and the essential piece, literally and figuratively, is as simple as a baseplate.

LEGO BaseplateA baseplate is a large, flat, usually square LEGO piece that functions as a ground, so to speak, for building a scene. As such, a baseplate is key to developing a setting, and when you set the expectation that students will build the same scene together, the baseplate serves to ground them, their interactions, and storytelling!

LEGO Small Group Creation

In the above image, you can see a creation I worked on with a small group. We set out to have a “Group Plan” (see the importance of this concept within the Social Thinking® Methodology) of creating a winter scene. Over subsequent weeks, in 10-minute activities, we worked on playing together while reinforcing the elements of narrative with use of Story Grammar Marker® in progressively more complex ways:

To start, we built the scene and focused on the Descriptive Sequence:

Character IconCharacter(s): Explorers

StarSetting: A winter scene on a stormy sea

StarSetting: waves, whitecaps and glaciers

StarSetting: A winter scene on a stormy sea

StarSetting: A mountain on the coast

StarSetting: A glacier and snowy mountaintop that is about to have an avalanche

In another play session, we advanced to focus on actions and formed an Action Sequence:

Character IconCharacter(s): Explorers

StarSetting: A winter scene on a stormy sea

Action IconAction: climbing the mountain

Action IconAction: boating

Action IconAction: searching for treasure

Action IconAction: swimming across the bay

Note that at this stage having some LEGO minifigures (people) becomes important to serve as Characters. LEGO blocks can be non-representational and used to form any shape, thereby working on “Sharing an Imagination” (another important concept in Social Thinking®).

As we continued in subsequent sessions, this gave us opportunities to play and develop Reaction Sequences and more:

Character IconCharacter(s): Explorers

StarSetting: A winter scene on a stormy sea

ShoeKick-Off: While climbing the mountain, a character gets stuck up on the summit due to high winds.

Action IconReaction: The Coast Guard comes to rescue her and have her jump into a net!

A side note: it can be difficult to get kids to transition from LEGO building—I have found it especially helpful to set expectations with the wonderful 360 Thinking Time Tracker app. The stages of Setup, Play and Cleanup can be aligned with the color-coded Get Ready, Do, and Done stages timed within the app.

360 Thinking Time Tracker Screenshot

For this post, we are thinking of LEGOs as a form of technology...it’s not always electronic! In our next Tech Tuesday blog we’ll look at some web and app resources related to LEGO as well. I realize that LEGO is EXPENSIVE. If you are looking to get started and have some items that can facilitate a lot of storytelling and cooperative play, I recommend items such as the following:

Happy Building and Storytelling!


Sean Sweeney
Sean Sweeney

Author

Sean Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist and technology specialist working in private practice at the Ely Center in Newton, MA, and consults to local and national organizations on technology integration in speech and language interventions. His blog, SpeechTechie (www.speechtechie.com), looks at technology “through a language lens.” Contact him at sean@speechtechie.com.



1 Response

Terri Rossman
Terri Rossman

August 28, 2016

Sean thanks for sharing this wonderfully integrated way to use Legos and infuse SGM, Social Thnking and Executive Function. Brilliant!

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