In last month’s Tech Tuesday post, we discussed the potential of LEGO® products in interventions for social cognition and language development. The post focused on the uses of real, hands-on LEGOs for building stories, specifically, using baseplates to collaboratively build a Setting with minifigure characters, with blocks setting the stage for discussion of Actions, Kick-Offs, and Reactions. At the same time, multifunction LEGO blocks provide students with opportunities to apply the Social Thinking® concepts of “sharing imagination” and “adding thoughts” as they build together.
In this post, let’s look at some (mostly) tech-based opportunities to capitalize on students’ interest in LEGO. Additionally, I find that LEGO’s role as a primarily visual medium, including in these resources below, yields possibilities for scaffolding storytelling from a language-neural source. To put it another way, LEGOs don’t talk, so students talk about them!
YouTube has a huge variety of clips utilizing LEGO, particularly related to LEGO retellings of famous movie series. LEGO has created popular video games around such series as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Batman, Harry Potter, and Marvel Superheroes— all great topics of interest for our students. The video games feature “cutscenes” that set the narrative for different levels of play and tell a story without words, but with great use of Setting, Characters, Actions, Kick-Offs, and body language that establishes Reactions and Feelings.
You need not be a video gamer or get involved with the games (all available as iPad apps if of interest to you) to use these scenes. Simply search YouTube for “LEGO Batman Cutscenes,” for example, and you will find what you need; these videos are there as long compilations, but you will want to use 30-60 second clips at a time. I’d avoid the use of videos labeled “walkthroughs” unless you indeed do want to use the games themselves as a context for interventions.
Below is an example from LEGO Batman:
This clip can be mapped with Story Grammar Marker® in the following way, along with the use of story maps:
Character(s): The Joker and other villains (The Riddler, Catwoman, etc.)
Setting: Gotham, In prison in the clock tower
Kick-Off: The villains escape by setting off a bomb and cause chaos in the city (you could also elaborate on the specific kinds of chaos with the Thememaker® List Map)
Reaction: The police try to stop them and Commissioner Gordon summons Batman with the batsignal.
You can use your burgeoning LEGO Smarts and YouTube or Vimeo, another popular video streaming site to locate other kinds of stories such as LEGO Friends (of particular interest to girls, though this series does feature dialogue). You can also locate reenactments of popular movies, which may be of particular interest to teens and even adults. Just Google, and you will likely find what you are looking for (see Inception rendered here in LEGO), along with opportunities to have students and clients tell stories about what they see.
The entirely free series of apps from LEGO Systems, Inc. (search the app store for this developer) provide endless resources for narrative development. See a great breakdown here from the Smart Apps for Kids website.
To avoid overwhelming you with the possibilities, I will zoom in on a few favorites:
LEGO Movie Maker: Use this app in conjunction with your actual LEGOs to create stop-motion videos. This app makes it very simple; just snap each stage of a story (it becomes more sophisticated if you move characters from place to place, snapping photos of each successive movement) and the app creates a video. I have done projects with this app in 10 minutes time with my students! If this process seems unwieldy to you, simply have students act out a story with their LEGO creation and shoot it with your mobile device’s video camera. SGM’s story maps provide a great narrative development and planning tool for your “actors.”
LEGO Juniors Quest: This app provides very simple gameplay as students are asked to “solve” two Kick-Offs: a missing cat and escaped robber. The pace of the game is slow, so it is easy to take breaks and use SGM® to recap the story or create a visual with a story map or the SGM® iPad App!
LEGO TV: This app streams video from different LEGO “shows” and is another great source of video to scaffold story retelling.
There is also no shortage of books that can provide a context using LEGO for storytelling. The LEGO Book in particular has wonderful scenes which could scaffold stories at the Descriptive or Action Sequence levels.