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Home Sweet Home
This lesson makes for a fun way of working with language to do with accommodation and living spaces, as the students work together to build a large model house. The model is then referred to throughout subsequent lessons and forms a focus for discussion. There are a number of instructions you can find on the internet for making LEGO houses. Personally, I love this Apple Tree House http://creator.lego.com/en-us/buildinginstructions/default.aspx. Don’t feel you have to stick rigorously to the instructions, colours and brick choices. Work with what you have. In this activity the class build a LEGO house – each group could build a section (such as the roof, garden etc) and then it all gets put together in the centre of the room.
- This can then lead on to discussions of rooms, contents and the layouts of students’ own homes. You could also try practising model verbs to talk about home safety.
Stop Animation Project
Why not embark on a project over the course of a few lessons or the term in which the finished product is a stop animation film made out of LEGO? There are number of videos such as the famous ‘Starwars’ and ‘Indiana Jones’ clips to inspire you at http://www.brickfilms.com/. The site also has references for audio, video and lighting advice.
- Such a project could incorporate a number of smaller language projects which all contribute to the final film. Consider the script, brainstorming and coming up with the scenery, music and lyrics. Perhaps write biogs for your characters. Have a movie website so that students’ work is somewhere in the public domain and the film (however short) takes on a momentum of its own.
- Your final version can be posted on You Tube and at http://www.brickfilms.com/ for the enjoyment of fellow LEGO fans. Seeing their work online is very encouraging for the students. I would recommend moderating comments and posts on You Tube so as to avoid undesirable feedback.
- As usual, care should always be taken when working with minors and the internet, and it would be parental consent should be sought before posting your students’ work online.
LEGO Cuisenaire Rods
Although I feel that The Silent Way goes against many of my communicative language principles, I cannot help but be fascinated by the use of little coloured Cuisenaire Rods and I don’t need convincing that they have their justified place in some classrooms. In my world, I use LEGO bricks to fulfil a similar function. I believe that LEGO has the advantage of being familiar in many of our learners’ hands, which I hope goes some way to enhancing their learning experience and the cognitive benefits of some of the activities below.
- Syntax: Give the student a number of sample sentences and ask them to recreate them using LEGO bricks. In this case, the bricks take on a syntactic role and can help learners identify lexical patterns or rules of word order. I’ve included below an example of how I used this recently with a French adult student. She was struggling with the position of adverbs in English sentences:
The visualisation of the blocks of colour helped her, she said, to remember how the typical English pattern differed from her L1 and served to illustrate syntactical function in very visual way.
- Working with beginner-level students, LEGO can be used to introduce numbers, colours and shapes. Of course you can work with the actual properties of the individual bricks but also put bricks together to make other shapes and combinations.
- Use LEGO to help practice spatial language areas such as prepositions (e.g. the red brick is on top of the blue brick) and comparatives (e.g. the white brick is bigger than the others).
- Use the bricks to help students visualise verb-noun collocations (one yellow brick and one pink brick) or adjective-noun collocations (one blue brick and one pink brick). Enlarge a copy of the class text, put it on the floor and ask students to place bricks under the collocations. The colours are important here and should be kept consistent from one lesson to another, so that when recalling the vocabulary, students ‘see’ the frequent colours in their minds.
- In a similar way to Cuisenaire Rods, LEGO can help with the visualisation of weak and strong sentence stress. Students can for example look at the ways that changing sentence stress affects meaning. I’ve given an example below of how I use this technique (with a very true ‘if clause’ sentence!).
- Or word stress:
There are many, many more ways to bring LEGO bricks to life in the classroom and this selection above is in no way exhaustive. For me, this post will have been a success if it results in more bricks being set free into learners’ hands around the world, to do what they do best – inspire creativity, stimulate learning and bring about smiles.
Please leave your feedback on any of the activities I’ve posted, but also do suggest your own LEGO brick lesson. To inspire you, I have a set of 100 LEGO bricks to give away to the person with the best LEGO lesson idea! So to end, I leave you with the LEGO Company’s own statement: Play On…
Ebay – great for cheap LEGO sets and bags of bricks
Freecycle/Freegle – a set of Yahoo Groups ordered by location where people can give away or request things. People are often giving away toys.
Charity shops/Thrift stores – always good for a bargain and LEGO bricks often lurk in the toy section – go on, you have my permission to rummage!
I live in the UK, about 20 miles from London, with my little companion Thomas, aged four. I teach English to all kinds of people. Business professionals who are learning English for work, teenagers from abroad who have relocated here with their parents, students who moved to the UK for a few months, fell in love, and now need the language to live and argue with their new husband/wife. There are so many stories, no two students, or their English needs seem to be the same. That is why I love what I do.
Some other things you might care to know about me…
- I drink far too much coffee for my own good and frequent coffee shops on a regular basis.
- I own five pairs of red shoes.
- I knit a mean tea cosy.
- I am terrified of bugs/mini beasts of any kind
- Thomas and I love doing Origami (or Mr Garmi as he calls it)
- Worst job I ever had was cleaning toilets in an old people’s home – I think ELT is a little better!
- My Twitter ID is @EHerrod.