LEGO® Education, which is known for its extensive support in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education, plans to launch its first ever LEGO-based solution for Language Arts January 2013. Based on findings from thousands of interviews with educators, parents, and students, LEGO saw a need for increased support in writing at the elementary school level, specifically grades 1-5. It set out to improve the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which shows that only 27 percent of students are proficient in writing. It’s solution: LEGO Education StoryStarter.
StoryStarter, which was piloted this last year with elementary classrooms, helps students create a storyline, which improves recollection and retention of learning material. The kit, which includes enough for up to five students to use at a time, allows students to create figures and settings for multiple scenarios in a storyline. Building out the steps and stages of stories helps students visualize early writing concepts for narrative writing, expository writing, and reading comprehension.
“We use it as a brainstorming tool before we write our weekly writing piece,” said Erin Hardy, educator at East Richland Elementary School in Olney, Illinois. “Students are able to build their ideas for what they are going to write that relate to our weekly writing topic. Students love to use the bricks so they can refer to their builds as they are writing.”
Hardy used the blocks in her writing and reading curriculum to improve comprehension and demonstration of skills both in individual work and teams. She said that it’s a great way for students to brainstorm and visualize their idea in a fun, 3-D way that also serves as a referral instrument throughout the writing process.
“Students love to use the bricks so they can refer to their builds as they are writing,” said Hardy. “They say that it helps them have more ideas and better details. Writing is a very exciting time in our day!”
“Kids are very visual and having a model to refer to is so powerful,” added Hardy. “Teams can talk about different questions they asked themselves while reading or teams can work together to retell a story. Teamwork is so important as a 21st century learner and educator!”
LEGO added that StoryStarter adds a kinesthetic learning element to Language Arts teachings. “Traditionally, language arts lessons don’t include a strong visual or kinesthetic learning component, and may not be as engaging for all students. A kinesthetic learning experience which is hands-on helps students engage different learning styles, and provides a concrete way to look at language arts concepts such as story structure.”
LEGO continued, “It can also be used to reinforce concepts or assess comprehension; for instance, if a class reads a book you might have the students build a different ending to a story and then write about it. This helps the educator gauge comprehension of the reading material while also assessing their progress in writing.”
Throughout classroom beta testing of 51 classrooms in 21 states, LEGO found that StoryStarter had a positive impact on students, especially those in ELL and special needs. “ELL students truly shine with StoryStarter,” said Hardy.
“They have their model that they can use to communicate their ideas,” she added. “It helps to strengthen vocabulary and it also encourages students to speak in front of others. Using the model as a reference is a great way to empower students. The high level of communication in a classroom that is using StoryStarter is the vocabulary rich environment that a ELL student needs.”
Once students assemble their bricks into a LEGO model, they can then upload pictures to LEGO’s web-based software to continue the writing process digitally. In addition, StoryStarter comes equipped with a teaching guide created by LEGO curriculum specialists that aligns with the Common Core State Standards. “Speaking, listening, and technology are all pieces of the Common Core,” said Hardy, “and StoryStarter is a tool that covers all of those.”