Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Tuesday SOL Why are they always in the block corner?

This is a Tuesday "Slice of Life" for Two Writing Teachers. Check out their website for lots more reflections on teaching.


After winter break, I added ramps (and balls, cars, tunnels) to the block corner. This area has become a favorite activity for the children. We take over the large blue carpet - creating roads, race tracks, jumps, and more. It is a very busy area, with children doing lots of different things, all at once, all together, excitedly adding, changing, and eliminating features with abandon. 

At our January family conferences, several families noted that they didn't have to read my daily note to find out what their child was doing...they KNEW their child was ALWAYS in the block corner. 

Blocks and ramps are such a learning-rich area of my classroom this year. I am amazed by the work being done here.

How to make the learning obvious to families?
How to respect the play? 
How to help families see the beauty in this daily focus? 
What is the learning? 

Let's look at some photos and consider.

Somehow, everybody fits in the block corner. The children work together, always making room for one another.  There are many hands at work, many bodies moving closely side by side, and, somehow, staying aware of one another in the midst of all the motion. 

The children have both space and time to explore cause and effect, what works, what needs to change, what can be fixed, what will happen. 

I see children developing the greatest attitudes for learning - daring to try new approaches, to consider new ideas, to take a risk on a new path. 

They work so closely with classmates, listening and considering others' ideas and opinions.

They laugh at mistakes, screech with joy at surprise endings, and repeat, repeat, repeat their work until they get it right. Yes, this is persistence!

Working with balls and ramps, children become so engrossed and focused that they often continue working entirely by themselves…just to see if it will work this one time!

We have so many sizes of blocks and a variety of pieces to be used as ramps. I am continually surprised and delighted by the novel designs the children create.

I love how the children work together - calling out to one another, supporting, and assisting. 

I am so appreciative of how much time we are able to devote to centers, allowing the children to "go deep" in their building, creating complex designs. Centers are at least one hour each day and several days a week they last ninety minutes or more.

The design of ramps is moving, fluid, active work - ideal work for preschoolers. How does Bev Bos put it? - "If it is in their hearts and hands, it is in their heads." This is work that children are curious about, craving to know more about…this is where real learning happens.

The children show tremendous focus, another excellent academic disposition.

When I work alongside the children, I am gleaning so much extraordinary data: mathematical skills of spatial awareness, measurement, and some numeracy; cognitive skills of attention span, using materials in new ways, and recall/memory of earlier designs; literacy and language skills of dialogue and storytelling; social emotional skills of taking turns, working with others, and sharing materials.

Many friendships have grown through this play; I see children seek each other out, to repeat something they have done before, or to invite another to try something new. We have very few discipline issues in the block corner. I think that one of the reasons why is that there are ample materials, able to be used in so many different ways.

The conversations - the back and forth - are fast-paced and constant. With teachers as "guides on the side," listening and taking notes, sometimes instigating and provoking language, I know their vocabulary and fluency is growing through this play.

Look at the inexpensive materials we are using! Leftover trim moulding from household construction, strong cardboard packaging pieces, plastic bed supports…all these add to our ramps play! I love that children are learning to look at things in all new ways…to create something out of nothing.

The work is both temporary and long-term…there are so many different ramps every day, nothing lasts very long, and, yet, over and over and over again, we practice and build.

The children are filled with questions - how fast will it go? will it make it in the container? what happens if I move this? how do I get over this bump? did you see that?!!

Yes, I am amazed by their work in the block corner.


  1. "everybody fits in the block corner" -- that captures it all, right? love the pics and the "maker" mentality that they represent.

  2. Wow - you have some extraordinary thinkers there! Love all the engagement present, and all the creative thinking going on.

  3. Can our younger learners engage in engineering design? Oh, yeah they can! I love this slice. Even having them talk (communicate) and work together is a fundamental skill in math and science.

    Thank you for giving your friends such and awesome STEM experiences.

  4. I love what they do, & what they discuss as they 'do', Maureen. In older classrooms, like the primary room where my granddaughter is, they're building block cities & my granddaughter talks so much about her and her partner's plans for whatever building they're working on. Even my older middle-school students love the 'machine-type' challenges, ramps, etc. It means in a way that they still get to 'play'! As usual, loved it!

  5. Love the way you list all the things they learn by "just" building. The attention span 3- and 4-year-olds have when they get engrossed in something they love!