Conversations in Block Play

Teachers can encourage children to think deeply about their experiences with blocks and materials. The way in which a teacher responds can help children make connections and create meaning during their block play.

The first step is to observe children with intent.

These observations provide next steps in planning by revealing to us an insight of how to expand the children’s learning and how to nudge them forward through the asking of open-ended questions and /or the arrangement of materials. (Harriet K. Cuffaro, Block Building: Opportunities for Learning)

Beautiful Inspiring Spaces:

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To unlock the benefits of block play, the children need social interaction from adults as well as peers. (Block Play Constructs a Math Mind, sixtysecondparent.com)

By giving children lots to talk about by asking questions, making I wonder or I notice comments, or directing their attention to specific content or skills, the block center can be an exciting environment in which to gain deeper understandings of their world. (The Block Center. The Institute for Childhood Education.)

Examples of open-ended questions to ask during block play:

  • I noticed…
  • What would happen if …
  • Tell me about…
  • How would you…
  • How is _____ and __________ the same? Different?
  • How can you use _______ differently?
  • How did you…?
  • What else could you try…
  • What else is another way to…
  • How could you change…
  • What might explain…

Possible [specific] questions to ask about block play:

Concepts of Ramps:

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  • Which container moves down the ramp fastest/slowest?
  • What is same/different?

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  • How can you compare…?
  • How is this ramp the same/different as…?

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  • What doesn’t move and why?
  • How can you change the ______ to have it move faster?
  • What can you add to the ramp to slow down the movement?
  • What angle of the ramp makes it go faster/slower?

Concept of Balance:

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  • How did you place the can on top?
  • What would happen if we put something on top?
  • How can we use these blocks to make something really tall that doesn’t fall down?

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  • Why doesn’t your tower fall down?
  • How can we use these blocks to make something that is really long?
  • How can you make a bridge that goes over part of the structure?
  • If both buildings have the same number of blocks, what makes this one taller?

Concepts of Structures:

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  • How can you make sure _______ (animal etc) doesn’t escape?
  • What will happen when the animals want to go outside and they get thirsty?

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  • What will the people do in your building?
  • What happens when it rains on your house/castle/hotel etc.?
  • What can you do to help the people inside stay dry?
  • What do the people need inside of the _________, outside of the ___________? How can you build those items?

Space has to be a sort of aquarium that mirrors the ideas, values, attitudes, and culture of the people who live within it.
– Loris Malaguzzi

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