Legos Teach Active Listening and Overcoming Adversity
Eitam Kohen, 5th Grade STEM
Four days a week, 5th graders begin their day with advisory. During this time, we take the opportunity to greet each other, play fun games, and build a sense of community. On Wednesday mornings, 5th graders enjoy an extended advisory session. During these sessions, we, as teachers, design lessons that aim to develop specific social-emotional skills. Last week's activity focused on practicing active listening and overcoming adversity.
The Lego activity is straightforward: students are divided into pairs, and each pair is given a ziplock bag containing two sets of identical Lego pieces (8-10 pieces per set). Once a student (A) has the same Lego pieces as their partner (B), they work together to build a model. With their backs turned to each other, the challenge is for student A to describe, using words only, the model they are building to student B. Student B then attempts to replicate the model through careful listening and asking clarifying questions.
Throughout the activity, some pairs of students eagerly approached us, excited to show how successful or close they were to replicating the same model. Itamar and Tom must’ve used their Hebrew. How else could they have gotten their model completely right—twice?! Others were simply happy to give it a try and could laugh at the differences in their final results. As expected, there was some frustration too, which was part of our intended outcome.
At the end of the activity, we set aside time to come together and discuss the feelings that emerged. Students like Ezra Katz shared that it was enjoyable: "Even though we weren't that successful, we still got to play with Lego, and I enjoyed the challenge." We delved into the various emotions experienced during the activity, including excitement, happiness, frustration, and impatience. We encouraged the kids to identify strategies that helped the teams succeed. They pointed out that the ability to listen, ask clarifying questions, and provide support were crucial.
Finally, we asked the students to compare this type of activity, along with the associated emotions, to classwork or teamwork. Some noted similarities, emphasizing that in classwork, reliance on friends often leads to achieving the same results. Others mentioned that asking clarifying questions can be instrumental in reaching desired outcomes.
In 5th grade, we genuinely believe that cultivating these "soft" skills—such as communication, collaboration, and active listening—is essential for the holistic development of each child. And, why if we can have some fun while learning, then why not??