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Teacher, techie, daddy, nerd. Often all at the same time. Teacher of Computer Science at @utcplymouth and #dev for various individuals.

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Creative Uses For Lego in the Classroom

Creative Uses For Lego in the Classroom

Published on 14th January 2018 by Simon


Lego offers many uses from building and creating, counting and also offers an excellent method of easing boredom. I have also used it on many occasion to support with behaviour. A frustrated teenager can build something, smash it to pieces and build it back up again. Invariably however, the latter rarely happens!

My experiences of playing with Lego stems from my own childhood. As far as I can remember, I have always enjoyed building, creating and experimenting with it to build unusual creations, right down to the constructing the specific sets using the easy-to-read and precise instructions. As an adult, 'playing' with the brightly coloured plastic bricks is no longer a thing (which is a real shame) yet I own a great deal, all of which is displayed on shelves throughout my home, much to the disappointment of the wife!

I have been using Lego alongside my teaching for a number of years and in recent times, this has grown considerably as the more people see how interested I am in it, students and staff alike donate boxes of the stuff to me and as a result, I now have three very large boxes full. It serves many excellent purposes, a few of which I will go into here.


Creative Uses For Lego in the Classroom

Teamwork

When given a specific set to build, I have found that students of all abilities and ages just, well, gel together as a group. There's usually one or two who like to take the lead, and the odd one or two that prefer to do the boring bits like sorting and passing the bricks. Whichever role they choose, the process is interesting to watch, as the group dynamic unravels itself into a well formed team. They worked very well together, all decisions were informed and cohesive and within a short amount of time, they developed into one unit, which is the whole point of teamwork.

Numeracy

Numeracy, or more specifically, binary is a key fundamental of computer science and there are a range of wonderful resources available to teachers and students to help them learn how to read/write (no pun intended) binary. Lego also helps to achieve this, however I have only used this particular strategy with low ability learners.

If we take (for example) a simple eight-bit binary or base 2 number of 00000011 (3) can be visually represented by two individual pieces of Lego; a singular, or 'one' piece and a double, or 'two' piece. Mounted on a large Lego board with eight overall spaces that are left blank for further pieces. This technique of teaching binary is open to interpretation however it really works for me

Literacy

Whilst some feel that literacy is reserved predominantly for English lessons, please be assured that it is something that encompasses every classroom throughout your school.

Using a small collection of Lego minifigures alongside a set building or a car can initiate the start of a story that can happily coincide with the English Written (9-1) exam. Create a scene, set an atmosphere, and if you have enough Lego, choose which character does what and a visual story can unravel. The written part to the story will then follow. Again with sufficient supplies of Lego, you can also do what I call the 'word build' where my students are asked to build the word that they are looking to spell. I especially use this strategy with Computer Science related words. This links in with word recognition and recall.

Programming

I bought the Mindstorm Ev3rstorm at the start of the last academic year with the intention to teach some simple programming within the Computer Science curriculum that I deliver to Key Stage 4. When it arrived, I was very excited as I really wanted to start the project, however I let my students build it. It was wonderful to see how the groups communication and leadership skills evolved.

The heart of the machine can be connected to a computer and simple programming code can be uploaded to it which enables the 'robot' to undertake specific tasks and roles which can include following lines, picking small items up and recalling a journey. It's quite fascinating to watch the young people as they get to grips with something like this as it sparks their interest in the bigger picture, which is kind of the point really!

Design Technology

One of the engineering programmes that I deliver requires the students to build a drone or a drag racer. This project requires the group to actually build the machine from start to finish and we go through the whole design process; the initial design and sketch, accurate scale drawings and then a physical prototype out of, yes, you've guessed it, Lego!

The heart of the machine can be connected to a computer and simple programming code can be uploaded to it which enables the 'robot' to undertake specific tasks and roles such as following lines, picking small items up and recalling a journey. It's quite fascinating to watch the young people as they get to grips with something like this as it sparks their interest in the bigger picture, which is kind of the point really!

And that's a small insight into how and why I use Lego in the classroom arena. Of course it's an excellent excuse to own lots and lots of the stuff but playing and learning go hand-in-hand and making learning fun is such an important thing to be able to do.

Thanks for reading and please add me on Twitter for further #edblogs!