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Looking at LEGOs

In this activity, students will look at several aspects of LEGOs. The lesson explains what a lexicon is and how to apply it to LEGOs as a way to identify LEGO bricks and plates. Students will learn how to combine bricks and plates to create new bricks. At the end of the activity, they will do a LEGO challenge where they will use what they've learned to create a structure out of LEGOs. The activity takes about 45 minutes and works best with groups of three to four students.

LEGOs are made of a strong plastic called ABS, which will last longer than you will. ABS is used to make computer keyboard keys, bike helmets, and parts for 3D printers. Instead of burning when heated, these polymers melt. To create ABS plastic, small pieces of plastic called "granules" are melted in an oven set to 450°F, the same temperature used to cook a Thanksgiving turkey. Then, the melted plastic is put into LEGO molds, Ten seconds later, a LEGO brick pops out. It takes the LEGO company half a second to produce enough LEGO bricks to fill a standard LEGO box.

Why this Activity?

Teachers know the importance of vocabulary. To help students learn new words, we make word walls, flash cards, and read students stories. This is true in all fields of study. We teach words like radius, arc, and parallel lines in math class and words like particle and wave in science class. Without this lexicon of words, teaching new ideas would be hard and take a long time. A shared vocabulary also makes it easier to talk to each other, which is an important part of working as a team.


Split the class into groups and give each group a LEGO set with a range of bricks and plates. If possible,give each student a base plate. It's too messy to have one big bin for the whole class. Usually, it's a good idea to let students play with tools before starting an activity. However, since most students have used LEGOs before, I've found that it's better to let them free build after the activity rather than before. If you let them build on their own first, many students find it hard to take apart what they've made.

Play the lexicon game from the slideshow with students. A lexicon is the vocabulary of a language, people, or subject. Every field has its own set of words. For example, basketball players use terms like free throw, alley-oop, slam dunk, playmaker, and brick. Lawyers use terms like jurisprudence, precedent, dissent, habeas corpus, and tort. At a Star Trek convention, you might hear Trekkies talk about Klingons, beam me up, warp speed, or mind meld.

The Lexicon game is a Kahoots game where students choose which word is used by a branch of the military. A good way to extend this activity is to have students choose a sport, hobby, or job that interests them and research a list of words that are used in that field. Students can then use their new word lists to play the game.

Just like other topics have their own vocabulary, LEGO has its own lexicon. When identifying different types of bricks and plates, you state how many studs are lengthwise and widthwise on the LEGO piece. For example, the Lego brick below is called a "4x2" brick because it has four studs along the long side and two across. The plate is called a "3 x 1" plate because it has three studs in one direction and two in the other. To practice identifying bricks and plates, students will find different bricks and plates and stack them together.

Plates or other bricks can also be used to make new bricks. One brick is the same height as three plates stacked on top of each other. Three 3x1 plates can be stacked on top of each other to make a 3x1 brick. This method is often used to make patterns like stripes. Small bricks can also be put together to make bigger ones. Two 2x2 bricks can be put together to make a 4x2 brick. So, if you can't find a certain size of brick, you can make your own. Students will practice putting smaller bricks together to make bigger ones.

A LEGO challenge is the final activity. Students will build a house out of the following LEGO pieces: five 2x2 bricks, four 2x3 bricks, three 4x2 bricks, two 2x5 bricks (made by putting together two 2x3 bricks and two 2x2 bricks), and one brick made out of plates. They can also use other bricks, but these must be part of their building. I remind students to use the LEGO vocabulary to ask other students for bricks, but I've found that they do this on their own. As the students finish their houses, they can be put together to make a LEGO village. If a student finishes early, he or she can build more things for the village.


Lexicon game (Kahoots)


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