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Reviewed by John Dabell
The LEGO® Education LearnToLearn kit has been designed to coach teachers in how to use LEGO® bricks across the curriculum, which is just what we want. Having some LEGO and letting children play with it is fine in and of itself, but it’s better to have a problem-solving purpose and a meaningful context in the classroom.
This particular resource includes 28 individual sets of 72 LEGO bricks, each packaged in its own reusable bag – enough for one set per child, or thereabouts.
The quality of the bricks goes without saying – it’s LEGO, and therefore built to last. Alongside the physical resources there’s a downloadable curriculum pack where you will find all the help, advice and activities you need to make LearnToLearn a success in your classroom.
Within the LearnToLearn curriculum pack there are ideas to support classroom management, including a suggestion for building a tall figure called Mr Learnie.
The real meat of the resource, however, is in the 15 activities that span the curriculum and incorporate a number of important learning skills. Each activity consists of an objective, an activity focus, discussion questions, and an extension task, with year group modifications to hand. There are also photo examples of models built by other pupils for inspiration, and children are encouraged to take photos of their own creations and send them off to the LearnToLearn Hall of Fame.
I like the way LEGO sets the scene. Children are told that, to become professional builders, they have to practise in order to earn a ‘Building Licence’. This certificate is handed out once they can recall brick names, create a brick guidelines list, and build a model duck.
Having passed this first test, the children then move on to some fabulous activities in which they get to build bridges, towers, story scenes, letter sounds, games, patterns, a set of scales, animals, machines, homes, communities, and people. For me, however, one of the most thought-provoking activities was having children explore wheels and axles by building a wheelchair and developing an understanding of the needs of others.
The activities are designed to take 30-45 minutes, although you’ll likely be tempted to extend that to a good hour. As an overall package, what you have is a kit and activities that can be used to set classroom rules, in place of an organic free-play experience.
Has all this been tried and tested? It certainly has. 30 teachers from four countries were involved its development process, particularly the lesson structure, classroom management, and content of activities. That’s perhaps why the set works so well.
LEGO Education divides pupils’ learning into four steps – ‘Connect’, ‘Construct’, ‘Contemplate’ and ‘Continue’. – and LearnToLearn is a great example how effective this format can be for helping children to develop and advance.
How much will you need to shell out for LearnToLearn? Not as much as you might think. The kit is £79.99, which I think is good value for a class set of LEGO. The quality of the materials and the curriculum pack that goes with it are both top end. The bricks will last you for years to come, so you’ll be using these with class after class. Even once you’ve retired, the LEGO will still be going strong.
At its worst, LEGO in the classroom can be a nightmare, what with the accompanying brick management and tidy-up strategies you’ll need – or in the absence of those, having everything just thrown into a bucket for a rainy playtime. At its best, however, when managed and taught within meaningful contexts – as with LearnToLearn – LEGO is a seriously fun learning tool.
VERDICT: Stimulate a love of learning
LearnToLearn enables you to harness the creative power of LEGO in an exciting teaching and learning context. Using LearnToLearn will help foster collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Don’t just use LEGO as a standby or as a wet break get-out-of-jail-free card – use it to teach and stimulate a love of learning.
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