A workshop for Teachers of Young Children. How Blocks Stack Up. By Sharon MacDonald

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1 A workshop for Teachers of Young Children How Blocks Stack Up By Sharon MacDonald N. Deerclover Lane Tucson AZ phone (520) website and sharonmacdonald.com 1

2 Many skills and concepts can be taught while using blocks! 2

3 Stages of Block Development Stage 1: This stage consists of children moving, touching, holding feeling and hauling the blocks around. There is little or no building. This is a time for exploring the properties of blocks. (2 year olds - 3 year olds) Stage 2: This stage consists of children stacking the blocks vertically or laying them out horizontally. They lay one block and then another and often repeat the first two designs over and over again. Stack and row is a good name for this stage. Many times you will observe a combination of stacks and rows. (3 year olds) Stage 3: This stage is bridging. It is the beginning of structures. This is setting up two blocks, leaving a space between them, and placing a block to span the space. The bridges become more elaborate and complicated as a child masters the bridge concept. They will bring in the stacks and rows and add the bridges. (3 year olds -4 year olds) Stage 4: This stage is when children place blocks in such a way as to make an enclosure. It is the beginning of problem solving as they must plan carefully and figure out how to make the blocks all meet to close. After they have mastered the enclosure by laying the blocks flat, they then make an enclosure where the blocks are vertical incorporating bridging. (4 year olds) Stage 5: This is the stage where elaborate, decorative structures begin to appear. The children name if after they have completed it, if they are named at all. The name rarely relates to the function of the building. They will have a bathtub, store, farm yard and swing all in the same structure. This is when you start to notice patterns and symmetry. (4 year olds 5 year olds) Stage 6. During this stage the children work cooperatively to build a common structure. They will decide before they start what they are going to build and assign roles. They may reproduce structures that are look fairly like what they have stated they are going to build. Children will want to keep the structure up for several days to continue working. They will start dramatic play around the block structures. (5 year olds 6 year olds) Permission to print from: Block Play: A Complete Guide to Learning and Playing with Blocks by Sharon MacDonald and published by Gryphon House Publishers 3

4 Tips for Assessing Children in the Block Center 1. Take photographs to document that a skill is being learned, and a concept is being grasped. For example, if a child places a triangular block on top of a unit block several times, make a note that she understands one-to-one correspondence. Put a sheet of paper on a wall, with the number of the photograph and a brief description of what was photographed. Photograph 3 showed Robert doing ; Photograph 14 showed him. 2. Collect Work Samples! Keep paper, pencils and clear plastic tape around for sign-andlabel making. The children will do it. Keep blank paper books for them to write about their constructions. Have large sheets of paper for drawing pictures of what they have made. Photocopy or save them to include in their portfolios. Work samples collected over time will capture progress in: writing development; their concept of storyness ; and, in their ability to understand that photographs and drawings are acceptable representations of objects. A block building sign HEB come in (grocery store chain in TX) go out 3. Take anecdotal records! Write factual, non-judgmental, observations of an activity in a narrative form. Write the child s name, date, time, and location. Provide details of your observation. Describe what you see. Be like a video camera. When you observe a skill emerging, or one that is repeating, make a note of it. 4. Make audio recordings of events in the Block Center. Have a tape recorder and tapes for each child. Have the child tell his story about his structure; or, sing a made-up song about what s going on in his building. He could tell you how his building was made or how it functions. Oral language development, sentence structure, speech and vocabulary easily can be caught on audio-tape and used for assessment later. 5. Make your own checklist. Extract skills and concepts from your progress-reporting instrument forming a list of items that can be answered Yes or No. When a child masters a skill, check it off. Use skills and concepts on your checklist that require little or no backup documentation. 6. Include information from parents. Add notes sent-in by parents; and, drawings or photographs brought from home to add variety to the child s skills-portrait. Parents will enjoy sharing the assessment process if they understand its value and its purpose. 4

5 In the Block Center Children learn to... Use oral language in a variety of situations Explore cause and effect Represent a thought or an idea Develop problem solving techniques Develop creative and critical thinking skills Match objects in one-to-one correspondence Learn social skills appropriate to group behavior Use vocabulary to express quantities Use language to establish and maintain relationships in the social structure Demonstrate an understanding of part-and-whole Use vocabulary to compare same-and-different objects Form data sets, or groups, by sorting and matching objects according to their attributes Know and discuss the consequences of social interaction Acquire non-locomotor movement skills Create, repeat, and extend patterns Develop eye-hand coordination Observe and follow safety-rules Learn to put things in order using specific criteria Learn mapping skills Learn the physical representations of addition and subtraction Develop classification skills Learn size and shape differentiation; object relationships and recognition Discuss how people help each other Express and explore relative size Understand gravity, stability, weight, and balance Think creatively to make and to implement plans Discover the properties of matter Discover the names and functions of buildings Develop respect for the work of others Make decisions and choices Take reasonable risks to further their own learning Post this on the block center wall for parents, students, and administration can see what is going on the center. 5

6 Table Top Blocks From: Jingle in My Pocket CD by Sharon MacDonald Stack the blocks Up so high. Very tall To touch the sky. Build a castle. Then, the town. Make them strong So they won t fall down. Build a barn With straight up sides And curvy roads For tractor rides. Build a city With signs that show When to stop And when to go. Stack the blocks On the tray. It s time to put Them all away. Jump Down, Turn Around From: Watermelon Pie and Other Tunes! CD Adapted by Sharon MacDonald Jump down, turn around, and pick up the games. Jump down, turn around, and put the games away. Everybody s working to pick up the games. Everybody s working to put the games away. Work on your knees with the games all around! Putting the games away. Jump down, turn around, and pick up the blocks. Jump down, turn around, and put the blocks away. Everybody s working to pick up the blocks. Everybody s working to put the blocks away. Work on your knees with the blocks all around! Putting the blocks away. Jump down, turn around, and pick up the books. Jump down, turn around, and put the books away. Everybody s working to pick up the books. Everybody s working to put the books away. Work on your knees with the books all around! Putting the books away. Shuffle, Bend, Slide and Wave From: Jingle in My Pocket CD By Sharon MacDonald Shuffle to the left and shuffle to the right And you snap, and snap, and snap, and snap. A heel and a toe and turn yourself around 6

7 And a heel and a toe and, on you go! Bend to the left and bend to the right And you clap, and clap, and clap, and clap. A heel and a toe and turn yourself around And a heel and a toe and, on you go! Slide to left and slide to the right And you stomp and stomp and stomp and stomp. A heel and a toe and turn yourself around And a heel and a toe and, on you go. Wave to the left and wave to the right And you walk and walk and walk and walk. A heel and a toe and turn yourself around And a heel and a toe and, sit back down. Environmental Print Song By Sharon MacDonald From: Tying Shoes and Other Musical Feets CD Labels on boxes, cans, and jars Signs on buildings, buses, and cars. Words and pictures on store bags Logos on napkins and price tags Can you read them? Look and see! A Lost Dog sign nailed to a tree. Everything is spelled all around. Follow that sign that says Playground. Jiff, Crest, 7-Up and Spam Target, Kraft, and Smucker s Jam Jiff, Crest, 7-Up, Spam Target, Kraft, and Smucker s Jam Signs on the corner, up on a pole, Stop, Yield, Exit, and Manhole. Park, Bump, Danger, and One Way. Let s read the signs that we can say. Labels on boxes, cans, and jars. Signs on buildings, buses, and cars. Words and pictures on store bags Logos on napkins and price tags Jiff, Crest, 7-Up and Spam Target, Kraft, and Smucker s Jam Jiff, Crest, 7-Up, Spam Target, Kraft, and Smucker s Jam 7

8 Rules From Unglue It and Other Sticky Songs CD by Sharon MacDonald It s so hard to remember the rules, The ones we have in homes and schools. Keep our hands to ourselves, Put the blocks back on the shelves. It takes a long time to learn the rules. It s so hard to remember rules, The ones we have in homes and schools. Look for cars when crossing the street. Know which place is your seat. It takes a long time to learn the rules. Sometimes it gets so very confusing, To remember all the rules we re using. Sometimes I wish that I could see The best way for me to be. It s so hard to remember the rules, The ones we have in homes and schools. Say, Please, Thank you, and Hello To all the people that you know. Hello It takes a long time to learn the rules. It s so hard to remember the rules. The ones we have in homes and schools. Take turns when you play with toys. Keep things quiet keep down the noise. It takes a long time to learn the rules. Sometimes it gets so very confusing To remember all the rules we re using. Sometimes I wish that I could see The best way for me to be. Math happens when children: Where is the Math in Blocks? use the different block shapes in their structures and name them; compare sizes of blocks; build a structure that show symmetry; place the blocks in order according to one attribute; find or create a patterns with the blocks; count their blocks before, during or after they build; find the part whole relationship; talk about length, depth, width, height, and area of their structure; demonstrate 1-to-1 by placing one block accessory on or beside one block; 1

9 are asked to add 2 more and can; are asked to take away 2 blocks and can; use measuring tools to measure their structures (non-standard and standard) use directional words; organize space; tell which they use first, second, and third in their structure; use the real names for the blacks like rectangular prism for a unit block and cylinder for the column block; sort the blocks by one characteristic; and, estimate how many blocks they used. 2

10 3

11 Creating a Block Center Consider: 1. Placement of the center in the classroom. traffic pattern noise level rug area floor space 2. Organization of the Block Center shelves silhouettes labels tapeline containers for accessories directions What Children Learn sign 3. Training children to use the Block Center establish guidelines for the area monitor children (at first) sign-in sheet remind, redirect, remove limit number in the center waiting list negotiate Structure the Block Center not the child! Block Guideline 1. Blocks are for building. 2. Build as tall as you are. 3. Get out only the blocks you use. 4. Knock only your structure down. 5. Put away what you got out. 4

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