Using Lego to Inspire Storytelling

I can’t believe it and you won’t believe it, but they pay us to play with Legos! As a child I used to love to play with Legos, building houses and castles, but now Legos are at the heart of learning, and schools and nurseries are seeing the benefit of using Legos to break down barriers in literacy. Everyone who works in a library knows how important it is to connect children with books and reading and we think Legos are a great tool for introducing stories, storytelling and creative writing. The great thing about Legos is there are no right or wrong answers: everyone can build something that looks great and they can tell you a story about what they have created. 

On board the Skoobmobile, Renfrewshire's mobile library bus service for children and families, we use a range of Legos, including education kits, Duplo and ordinary building blocks. During a typical lesson a child will use many different skills, including literacy, communication, language, technology and team working. A typical lesson for us is between 1 and 1-and-a-halfhours, although you could easily spend longer.

The children are given a story starter and then asked to build the rest of the story. You can ask the children to build anywhere between 1 and 6 scenes depending on the time you have, how many children you have and how complex your story is. The children are asked to capture images on an iPad camera and then the images can be imported into the specialist Lego Storystarter software to create a story board. The children then add in text and objects to enhance their story. A good story to start with is the Three Little Pigs, which is familiar to the children and lends itself to a three-scene story building the three different houses.

Family Lego Storytelling sessions

The Skoobmobile is working with St David’s Primary school to raise attainment in literacy as part of their school challenge attainment fund. In April 2016 we started our first Lego Family Storytelling workshops with pupils in primary 4/5 and their families. The families attended for a five-week block and we asked them to create a range of stories and make story boards, posters and movies. We created simple backgrounds using cardboard to make the Legos stand out better.

A girl and a man building a Lego model of a witch swinging from the gallows
We felt this was a great opportunity to tie in with the Paisley 2021 campaign. Paisley has so much history and we have terrific resources in our Heritage Library, which was delighted to supply us with some facts about The Paisley Witch trials and the Benston/Quarrelton Pit Disaster. The families were provided with the information and asked to create an iMovie of the event. This is a great way of introducing children to the history on their doorstep. Just beside the school sits Shanks Park, where there is a cairn dedicated to the miners who lost their lives in the Pit Disaster. Although most of the families had seen it they did not know the history behind it.

We are now planning a cinema afternoon to showcase the work of the families to the rest of the school. The Skoobmobile team and St David’s primary are planning to work together over the next four years to promote literacy through Lego and we will be working on new ideas to continually improve our sessions.

Lego Nursery rhymes

Bookbug song and rhyme sessions are an integral part of the Skoobmobile programme and we were asked to hold these sessions with an assisted needs group, incorporating Lego into the process. We felt that this would be a great opportunity to create Lego Nursery Rhymes and get the families singing. 

We made up Lego sets recreating Humpty Dumpty, London Bridge is Falling Down, Ride a Cock Horse and See Saw Margery Daw. We took photos of the assembled nursery rhyme Lego sets and then dismantled them and put them into individual bags along with the photo. Each family was then given a rhyme which they could sing and recreate using the Legos and the photo as a guide. Afterwards we had free play to allow the families to make up their own recreations. 

What’s next - Learning to code with Lego

We have purchased a couple of Lego WeDo sets which would allow us to work with a few families or a small group of children to learn about coding. Using laptops plus the Lego kits the families build and then follow online instructions to animate their builds. We can already see the potential to tie in with books and storytelling. One of the WeDO lessons is how to build a giant, which is so relevant to the BFG and Roald Dahl 100. We’ll let you know how we get on.

Drawbacks

It can’t all be fun! Unfortunately the Lego education kits have to be sorted on a regular basis, which can be time consuming. We have to ensure that we have enough mini-figures, accessories and blocks to enable the children and families to create and build, but sometimes we need to restrict the building to smaller Lego boards or limit the number of scenes if we are working with a larger group. And it is so easy to lose little pieces of Lego.

However, our use of Lego has been fun and hugely worthwhile, and if you aren’t already using Lego then we recommend that you start and let the stories unfold!

The Skoobmobile is jointly funded by Renfrewshire Leisure Limited and Renfrewshire Council’s Early Years Fund. You can read more about the Skoobmobile's projects in Pauline Simpson's blog series about the bus, including their fantastic bedtime reading initiative.

Pauline Simpson

Pauline Simpson is Renfrewshire's Skoobmobile co-ordinator. Check out her other blogs about the Skoobmobile here!