24 August 2013

Block prompt

There are many reasons why I love block play both at home and in a classroom. It provides practical opportunities for reasoning and problem solving both co-operatively or individually. Building with blocks develops hand-eye co-ordination, manipulative and fine motor skills while children learn to balance objects and experiment with space. It encourages dramatic/imaginative play which brings with it language development and self-control through co-operative play. Block play is also loaded with early Math concepts – helping children recognise and discriminate between sizes, shapes and numbers. And one of the best bits, building with blocks provides a justifiable means for destructive play.
Block play - why it's important and ideas for play #youclevermonkey

Sally over at Fairy Dust Teaching wrote a great post about the developmental stages of block playMath at Play has a whole series of posts on block play too that are gold.  I had read and posted a link on FB awhile back from Education Week about spatial skills being seen as the key to Math learning which had me thinking and then in the comments to Sally's post there was mention of a NAEYC text.   I searched and came upon this text Blocks and Beyond: Strengthening Early Math and Science Skills Through Spatial Learning (affiliate link) which defines 'spatial literacy (often referred to in other literature as spatial reasoning, spatial cognition, spatial concepts, spatial intelligence, cognitive mapping, and mental mapping (Elliot, 1987; Gardner, 1983; Kitchin & Freundschuh, 2000; Newcombe & Huttenlocher, 2000)).

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As the ability to problem-solve operations, such as mental rotation (a spatial skill that involves thinking about objects in different spatially oriented ways), perspective change (visualizing things from different perspectives), coordinated use of space (coordinating how different space is used in relation to other space), representation (representing one object to mean another object or place, as in a map), and reasoning (ability to understand how items are arranged in space and in relation to one another).'  (Pollman, M.J., 2010)

The text also defines why spatial thinking is so important, especially in early childhood, as '(it) is critically important for the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Moreover, there is a strong need to enhance spatial thinking and identify individuals who are spatial thinkers. Spatial thinking is integral to daily living. People. nature, human-made objects, and structures exist in space, and the interactions of people and things must be understood in terms of locations, distances, directions, shapes, and patterns. Currently, spatial thinking is not systematically taught in grades K—12 despite its significance and its role in science, mathematics, and social studies standards'(Pollman, M.J., 2010).
Some studies have specifically found spatial thinking to be related to proficiency in overall mathematics (Ansari et aL, 2003; Stewart, Leeson, & Wright, 1997). “Mathematics” in this sense, and as used in this hook, is mathematics literacy and is not strictly concerned with “numeracy,” as has been the instructional emphasis in the past.  Mathematics literacy includes not only knowledge of numbers and operations but geometry, measurement, data analysis, and algebra. Spatial visualization takes place in the right part of the brain. The right brain is known to derive thinking and perception as a whole. Spatial visualization is different from verbal reasoning. Verbal reasoning takes place in the left part of the brain.  The left brain is known for sequential and logical thinking and for the ability to combine parts into a whole and to put things in order (Newcombe & Huttenlocher, 2000).  Because of location in distinct and separate parts of the brain, the processes of spatial visualization and verbal reasoning are related but nonetheless distinct.  It has been found that mental rotation and spatial abilities are better predictors of performance on the mathematics section of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) than math anxiety or self-confidence in math (Casey, Nuttall, & I’ezaris, 1997).'(Pollman, M.J., 2010).
Last year while working at a preschool, I was concerned by the absence of sustained block play.  I made these picture cards as a provocation, an invitation to play.  
Block play - why it's important and ideas for play #youclevermonkey
Aside from the block area, the preschool had these coloured magnetic blocks but they didn’t seem to ever attract much attention whenever they were out. 

Blocks plus magnets = two of my favourites so I was puzzled as to why they didn't get much use.
I love using books as prompts like the Teach Preschool post below that use Math concepts.  I seen many items added to the block corner via Pinterest so thought I’d make these cards to add to the blocks to motivate students that have spatial learning abilities.  Apart from the  Pollman text,  I was inspired by some of  these posts-

I made several different cards.  They were simple enough to make.  I took photos of different block arrangements, printed them out with some written prompts then laminated them for repeated use.  Some had a focus on shapes and patterns and, yes, I realise now the language used to describe the shape is not correct.

Block play - why it's important and ideas for play #youclevermonkey

Block play - why it's important and ideas for play #youclevermonkey

Block play - why it's important and ideas for play #youclevermonkey

Block play - why it's important and ideas for play #youclevermonkey

Block play - why it's important and ideas for play #youclevermonkey

Others were themed while still encouraging one-to-one correspondence.
Block play - why it's important and ideas for play #youclevermonkey

Block play - why it's important and ideas for play #youclevermonkeyBlock play - why it's important and ideas for play #youclevermonkeyBlock play - why it's important and ideas for play #youclevermonkey

Block play - why it's important and ideas for play #youclevermonkey
Of course, adding loose parts to the block corner is another way to extend play but best left for another post. 

What have you added to your block area to encourage play?  Or has anyone read Blocks and Beyond and used any of the activities in their classrooms?  I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

**Edited - more recently Jamie over at Hands on as we Grow posted a round-up of block activities that you can see by clicking here.

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  1. Great idea! This might be perfect for my son who is such a hands on learner! Thank you for linking up the Learn through Play blog hop! You've been pinned! Please share and I hope you come back throughout the month to see more great activities and follow some new friends.

    1. Thanks for your comments Leah. I've been over visiting your blog tonight - some great reading. That's been my favourite part of blogging so far - finding new people to follow :)

    2. Wonderful! And thanks again for linking up! You've been pinned :)


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