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LEGO Look-and-Tell

Students will work in groups of three to recreate a LEGO model that the teacher has made. At first, only one student in the group will see the model, and they will try to explain to the builder how to make it. The model will then be observed by a second student, and the two observers will work together to explain how to build it. The teacher will then show the model to each group so they can see how close they got to recreating it. The activity takes about 30 to 40 minutes and helps improve communication, teamwork, and observation skills.

Why this Activity?

This activity helps students improve their communication, teamwork, and ability to observe. Observing and communicating are important aspects of science. Scientists make observations to collect and record data so they can come up with theories and test them. When scientists explain their findings clearly, other scientists can replicate them to confirm that they are correct.

Observation is a key part of research and has led to the development of many new technologies. In the 1940s, an engineer named Perry Spencer worked on making radar systems. He also liked to feed the squirrels, so he kept a peanut cluster bar in his pocket to break up for them at lunch. After using a magnetron, which makes high-frequency electronic waves, he reached into his pocket one day and found a sticky mess. His peanut cluster bar had melted. The next day, he put an egg in front of the magnetron just to see what would happen, but it blew up. He then put some popcorn kernels in front of the magnetron, and they popped, making the first microwave popcorn. Perry worked with a magnetron for a long time, and in the end, he made the microwave oven.


Make three or four models that students can try to build. How hard you make the models depends on how old the students are and what grade they are in. The Resources section below has some examples of models. It's a good idea to make at least one easy, one medium, and one hard model. Give each group a set of LEGOs with enough pieces to make the models. They don't need enough LEGOs to build all the models at once, but they should have all the pieces they need for each model. It's also a good idea to have a bin of LEGO pieces on hand in case a group is missing a piece they need.

Put each student in a group of three and assign each student a role. One student is the builder, and they are the only ones who can touch the LEGOs. This kid will not see the model. Another student is the first observer. They'll look at the model and then tell the builder what it looks like. The third student is the second observer. They will listen while the first observer describes the model, and then they will look at the model. Together, the two observers will tell the builder what the model looks like. If your class doesn't divide into threes, it's best to have one or two pairs of kids work together instead of a group of four. When there are two students in a group, one will be the builder, and the other will be both observer one and observer two.

Hide the model behind something, like a book or a three-panel poster board, and then call up the first observer from each group. Let them look at it for 45 seconds. Make sure they can't talk to their group while they look at the model. The first observer will then go back to the group and describe the model while the second observer watches what is being built. Call the second observer up after three minutes and give them 45 seconds to look at the model. Let the group build for another three minutes. When the time is up, tell the students to come up to the model and see how close theirs is to the original. Show the kids what's different and what they got right, like the shape, colors, and so on.

Have the students switch roles after checking their first build. The first observer will become the builder, the second observer will become the first observer, and the builder will become the second observer. By the time the third model is made, each student will have played each role. It's a good idea to stress right away that each student will get a chance to build. If some students are working in pairs, the builder and the observer will just switch roles.

Once students have finished the last model, bring the activity to a close by asking the students what strategies they used to observe and communicate how the teacher’s model was built. Below are some possible questions to ask:

  • What were some strategies you used to remember the patterns of Legos on the model?

  • Did your strategies change as the models became more complicated?

  • Do you think it would be better to have only one observer see the model twice or two different observers?


Presentation Slideshow

Example LEGO Models


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