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This product is genius.
Reviewing new stuff can sometimes be a bit dull, with genuinely different product offerings few and far between. LEGO Education BuildtoExpress, however, is unlike anything I’ve seen before, and should be bought by every school in the country. Immediately.
Before telling you why I love it, it’s maybe necessary to point out that I’m not an employee of LEGO – but that I am a lifelong fan. The premise behind this latest development is simple. Its aim is to encourage students to express their thoughts and ideas on any topic by building symbolic models with LEGO bricks.
Each set comprises a small box of LEGO, inside which you’ll find a collection of brightly coloured bricks, wheels, figures, and the kinds of pieces that used to get lost at the bottom of my box circa 1983 (bits of chain, steering wheels, telephones, transparent flowers, LEGO hair etc.).
Now, a box of LEGO is a box of LEGO. At first glance, this product hardly breaks any new ground – at least until you load up the guide and activity pack contained on a supplied DVD.
To support the children in expressing their ideas, LEGO has created challenge cards, divided into the following categories:
• Social Education
• Personal Development
• Classroom Atmosphere
• Cross Curriculum
• Physical Education
• Language and Literacy
Each of these are then broken down further into themes, accompanied by printable sheets that detail four stages for introducing and developing the concept with the children.
On the Citizenship card, for example, (under ‘Social Education’) the first prompt asks the children to build a model showing what you think it means to be a good citizen. The children are given time to build, and then share their ideas with their partner or group. This idea is then developed further with additional challenges, such as ‘Build a model that describes how you and your family act as responsible citizens.’
The cards are simple, yet well-structured, and some of the suggested starting points are brilliant. In the Language and Literacy section, for example, there’s a challenge that asks children to discuss and respond to poetry. They start by picking out a mini-figure to represent themselves, and then add pieces to it to describe how listening to the poem makes them feel. I used a similar starting point with my children, who used the kit to create a story map for Jack and the Beanstalk, and they loved it.
The possibilities are almost endless – LEGO provides a series of blank, editable challenge sheets so that you can create and set activities your own, and can also supply a selection of helpful film clips showing how other teachers and children have made use BuildtoExpress themselves. Importantly, every child who uses the resource is effectively given the chance to express themselves without fear of getting it wrong.
Verdict: Builds creativity
Beyond foundation stage, opportunities for our children to develop their natural creativity and curiosity are sadly outnumbered by more convergent learning experiences. BuildtoExpress is a great way of shoe-horning this kind of learning back into the curriculum. Buy and enjoy…
Reviewed by John Dabell
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