LEGO and literacy

LEGO and Literacy

This fabulous guest post comes from Susan Stephenson. Susan Stephenson isn’t teaching face to face with kids right now, but she is still reaching out to kids through their parents. Susan blogs at The Book Chook, where she shares her passion for children’s literacy and literature. Teachers and parents from all over the world visit The Book Chook to find tips on encouraging kids to read, write and communicate, letters asking for The Book Chook’s advice, articles about using technology to motivate kids’ learning, and links to games, activities and online fun.


Susan taught Kindergarten to Year 6 in NSW primary schools, drama outside school to kids and young teens, and ESL in China. Currently, as well as pretending to be a chicken on her blog, she lives in Australia, where she writes stories and books for children. If you haven’t visited her blog you should really pop over to The Book Chook and subscribe, it is such a great resource for parents!


LEGO Lurking

A liberal sprinkling of LEGO
Lazy son left it lying like a knobbly carpet trap
At 3am he calls out with a nightmare
Going to comfort him, I yowch at every step.

~Rebecca Newman

One of the things I loved when my son was young was LEGO. Well, not treading on the bricks with bare feet in the middle of the night. Yowch is right! No, what I loved was watching my son’s imagination soar while he built with LEGO. My very favorite set was Fabuland, which you can see in the picture above.

LEGO – Learning And Literacy

But LEGO is just a toy, right? What does LEGO have to do with Literacy?

I think some toys contribute a great deal to children’s literacy skills. I riffed on this theme in Use Puppets to Encourage Literacy and Using Toys as a Springboard to Literacy. Let’s look at what LEGO might contribute to your child’s literacy and learning.

Do a search on Amazon and you will see a range of books inspired by LEGO. Your local library will likely have titles in the nonfiction section. Keeping LEGO instructions inside plastic loose-leaf folders is a great way to preserve them AND encourage their use as reading for enjoyment.

As well as the actual functional reading and following directions if your kids use instructions booklets before they build, they are organizing, planning, concentrating, and persevering. Sometimes they will be communicating with a friend or parent about their structures. Often they will critically or creatively solve problems. Creative and critical thinking are important not just in literacy, but numeracy, science and also other areas.

Some LEGO/DUPLO bricks had the letters of the alphabet on them, so kids could use them to make words and play word games. I thoroughly recommend these as an addition to your literacy tool bag. They will “stick” to a base board, but you can use them without. If you can’t find them, make your own by sticking card letters or writing on plain DUPLO bricks.

Older kids might be ready to move on to some of the fantastic robotic and science materials LEGO puts out. Whatever they build, at whatever age, there is an amazing amount of thinking going on.

If you want a closer tie to literacy, consider relating LEGO bricks to a book you’ve shared: what sort of house would Witchy Woe live in? what kind of vehicle would Fred Sked drive? If your child loves LEGO but isn’t so enthused about reading yet, consider building on his interest. Look for those LEGO library books and instruction booklets, and delve into the wealth of material online, so he can read about LEGO and maybe communicate with other enthusiasts. There’s lots of reading available at the LEGO website, too.

If your child is a LEGO fan like me, here are some ideas to extend his/her interest.

Be inspired on Youtube.

Mine these videos for ideas that might generate more building, or encourage kids to create their own stories or movies with LEGO.

The Highwayman
(classic song sung by Willie Nelson and friends, re-enacted in LEGO)

Finally a Lego Pirate Movie
(vid made from LEGO game clips)

Star Wars Final Fight in Lego
(This is actually quite amateurish, but we are all amateurs when we start. I think it’s good for kids to see what other kids can accomplish. Watch for interesting spelling in opening titles!)

Click, A LEGO Short Film

THE SIMPSONS intro lego style (made by a 13-year-old)

Kung Fu Fighting Music Video in Lego

Grease – Summer Nights Lego Stop Motion Animation
(The creativity and patience involved in making these stop-motion movies from LEGO characters is amazing!)

LEGO Universe – a sneak peek from Mashable.
A massively-multiplayer rendition of the world of LEGO comes to the PC, in which you can adventure through multiple worlds and build your own environments with friends and family.

Be inspired on Flickr.

There are great pictures of LEGO models. Check out the:

Be inspired on other sites.

  • Build with digital LEGO bricks on your own computer. This is a download.
  • Family Building Activities – free pdf with lots of fun games to do with LEGO.
  • Here’s LEGO at the Zoo.
  • Here is a computer built of LEGO. If terms like “polynomials” and “31 digits of accuracy” terrify you the way they do me, skip this page.
  • Check out Nathan Sawaya’s The Art of the Brick. What a way to combine LEGO and art!

Be Inspired on the LEGO Website

If your kids are really into LEGO, be sure to check out the LEGO website with them. There are games to play and constructions to view. These might give them some ideas for their own creations.

  • LEGO Make and Create World Builder Game
  • LEGO Make and Create Junkbot Game
  • One favourite LEGO activity of mine for stimulating mental activity is Creative Builder. Some might say this takes all the fun out of manipulating actual physical bricks, but I think it’s a useful extra activity and a great way to help your kids move to a more abstract way of thinking. Sometimes we just don’t have access to our bricks anyway. After you pick a player, you choose to free build, plan build or speed build. Plan build presents kids with a design to copy, which they do by drag and dropping digital bricks onto an outline. Speed build times them building the same models. Free build they can create their own. (PQ – I love this!)
  • There are professional quality movies and cartoon movies at the LEGO Star Wars website.
  • You’ll also find ideas for using LEGO to teach Maths and Science.
  • Here are educational activities from LEGO’s own website. You can search for free activities according to age and other categories using their search engine.

Phew! If you’re not LEGOed out, check out LEGO and Literacy (2) where I describe some specific ideas for kids’ own writing based around LEGO.

Thanks Susan for such a comprehensive look at LEGO, learning and literacy. The Grease video gave me such a laugh! Which was your favourite?