Sunday, March 9, 2014

Day 9 SoL Story Challenge: Legos and Storytelling

Join hundreds of teachers and students as we practice our own writing this month. We're writing a story a day every day in March.

We are Lego maniacs in our family. I mean all of us, including the cousins. A typical night in our house involves the whole family sitting around the coffee table, building cities and kingdoms, making vehicles and machines, and inventing our own creations.

My husband and I both grew up on Legos, so playing with L. and her cousins reminds of us our own childhood--only the Legos now are way cooler than what we had. So many new colors, shapes, pieces, figures. They even have little animal Lego pieces now!

It goes without saying that all the children in our extended family have seen the new Lego Movie at least twice (and three or four times in my nephew K's case). Baby J. and I are the only ones who have not seen the movie, but I feel like I know it because lines and scenes from the movie have been appropriated by L and her cousins as common threads in their play.

This morning was a beautiful, clear sunny March day here in northern Vermont where we live. L. was up bright and early to play Legos before going skiing with Daddy.

So often, play is taken for granted. How many times have I heard myself say in my work with teachers, "It's important for kids to play," but in my busy day, how often do I really sit down and observe what's happening in L.'s play? Not as often as I wish. This morning, I watched closely, and this is a little bit of what I saw:

This goes on and on and on. She stays incredibly focused, not even realizing that I'm recording her. The story takes twists and turns: the airplane takes off, but then it breaks, so it turns out that it's the bad guy's fault, and the other characters decide to kick him off the coffee table using a small catapult that L. has built… and the story continues...

In L.'s play I noticed a lot of literacy going on:

  • an understanding of archetypes (good guys, bad guys)
  • understanding that characters can change (later, the "bad guy" turns good after being kicked off the coffee table, but it's too late… the "good guys" have turned bad so he has nobody to play with…)
  • action! (who says girls don't like action movies?)
  • lots and lots of dialogue
  • expressive storytelling (different voices for different characters)
  • lots of problem solving (fitting the characters in, building with the Legos, making the story work with the props she has)
  • revision (L. is retelling snippets of the movie, but revising them to suit her needs)
  • fine motor skills (not the main event in this case, but a nice bonus)

I think that a great workshop idea in the primary grades (or even in the upper grades too) would be to have kids play for a few minutes with some figurines or even Legos, and then have them write their stories. They could reenact true stories, if the unit is personal narrative, or create new stories for fiction. I might set up little baskets of figures and props at each table and invite kids to engage in some dramatic play for a few minutes at the start of writing workshop, and then draw and write for the rest of the time.  This could support oral language, rehearsal , revision, planning, and would also be a social experience for kids, building community and encouraging kids to talk and share their ideas.

In the comments section, let me know if you've tried something like this already, and how did it go? Suggestions for materials?

In the meantime, I've got to get off this computer and go play with more Legos!


  1. We've used Legos for stopmotion movies in class (before the movie!).

  2. Love your idea for using toys and play then creating a story.
    I have had students rehearse and dramatize stories before they write them down, as in 2nd graders.
    However, I could see kindergarteners and first graders engaged in play/story.
    My students in grades 3-5 have benefited from writing about their play: beginning with their favorite play place and telling stories from there.
    I think I need to see the Lego Movie.