Literacy experience plan: Barrier games (connective blocks)

​This experience involves two players taking turns to provide instructions about a hidden construction.

A barrier is used to block the view of one person and they have to create a matching structure/construction using the instructions from their partner. This fun experience provides opportunities for language learning through explanations and instructions. This experience should be differentiated depending on the individual child/group level.  

This learning experience plan relates to:

  • interacting with others
  • language and emergent literacy learner (36-60 months)
  • learning focus: explanations and sharing information
  • teaching practice: play.

Collect information

  • What information has been gathered as evidence to inform this experience?

Links to VEYLDF

Outcome 4: learning

Children develop dispositions for learning such as curiosity, cooperation, confidence, creativity, commitment, enthusiasm, persistence, imagination and reflexivity.

  • Persist even when they find a task difficult.

Outcome 5: communication

Children interact verbally and non-verbally with others for a range of purposes.

  • Show increasing knowledge, understanding and skill in conveying meaning.
  • Are independent communicators who initiate Standard Australian English and home language conversations, and demonstrate the ability to meet the listener’s needs.

Victorian curriculum levels F-2: literacy

  • Listen to and respond orally to texts and to the communication of other in informal and structured classroom situations using interaction skills, including listening, while others speak.

Learning intentions

  • For children to understand and use instructions to play the game.
  • For children to understand and use questions.

Assessment of learning

Learning is demonstrated when children:

  • follow instructions throughout the experience (e.g. place a red block under the house) and provide instructions to their partner throughout (e.g. “Build a tower with big blue blocks”)
  • pose and respond to questions which aim to clarify the specific steps to be taken in the game, e.g. “Where does the big square go?, “on top of the purple triangle”.

Resources

image shows equiptment: folder and lego blocks
Photo: N.Lilley.
  • barrier, e.g. folder, wooden divider, large hardcover book
  • two identical sets of connective blocks such as Lego®, Duplo® or Stickle Bricks®. It is important to have exact duplicates so that the construction can be reproduced by the communication partner. Use materials which are best suited to the interests of the child/children, e.g. Duplo® vehicles or animals.

Group size

Individual child paired with educator or two children paired together with educator support.

Differentiation

Differentiation should be based on prior assessment of the child/children’s communication skills. Examples of differentiation:

  • for a child who is confident and clearly providing various instructions for their communication partner, educators could extend their learning by using more complex connective materials such as Mobilo®. In doing this, the child is required to use and follow more complex instructions.
  • for a child who is having difficulty following instructions, educators could break up the instructions into parts using gestures/visuals to assist comprehension. They could also provide repetitions and emphasize key words (e.g. middle, small, red) and reduce the amount of blocks used in the construction to make it a shorter/more simplified process.

Experience process

  1. Outline the experience, articulate the learning intentions and set up the materials:
    • explain to the children that they are going to take turns at explaining how to create the hidden construction. If an educator is playing with a child, it is best for the adult to take the first turn at giving directions so they can provide the necessary modelling.
    • ensure the child is familiar with all the connective blocks pieces before commencing – if they are unfamiliar with one or more, either teach this particular vocabulary or remove it to include later.
    • place the barrier between the two sets of connective blocks so that the two players cannot see the other set of materials.
    • talk about the two different roles; the person who gives directions and the person who listens and follows instructions. Provide examples as necessary.
    • emphasize that instructions need to be clear for the other person to understand. Discuss ‘clear talking’ with the children and how the listener could clarify something that hasn’t been understood
    • reiterate the aim of the experience, to create exactly the same construction on both sides of the barrier!
  2. Playing the barrier game:
    • the person who is to start in the ‘talking’ role creates a construction/structure hiding it from the other player
    • the ‘talker’ begins giving instructions to the other player who follows the directions without looking on the other side of the barrier
    • continue as above until the construction is complete at which point, the barrier is removed and participants talk about the similarities and differences. At this point, notice if there are any differences and model the appropriate language as this is done. Use the strategies below to support the learning throughout:
      • ask clarifying questions to prompt the child to include more detail in their instructions. E.g. the educator could say; “Which person goes in the house?” or “do you mean the long blue blocks?”
      • encourage pauses between instructions to ensure players have adequate time to process the directions.
    • extend on what children have said, highlighting more complete sentences. E.g. The child might say: “the square on top” and the educator could say: “the big square goes at the very top of the crane”.
    • encourage the children to provide all the information required by using prompts. E.g., the educator could say: “I still have three more triangular blocks, where do I put them?” or “Is there anything else I need to do before we take the barrier away, I still have two more blocks?”
    • repeat instructions for the children as necessary and emphasize key information words in the instructions.
    • gradually increase the length and complexity of the instructions if the child is ready for it.
  3. to consolidate and assess understanding, talk about and compare the two constructions/structures. Provide specific and positive feedback to the children on their listening/talking/persistence, and revisit the steps that were taken to create their structures. As this is done, highlight some of the key learning. If the constructions differed at the end, ensure this is discussed. For example:
    • “So my bridge is slightly wider, see it has three blocks across and yours has two.”

Going further

This experience can be easily extended depending on the child’s interests or skills. For example:

  • providing art easels or chalkboards so that children can create the same scene/picture through drawing
  • using a small chair/table as a barrier in the sandpit and encouraging children to create the same sandcastle or construction, employing the same strategies as above to support the learning.

Reflect/review

Reflective questions for educators may include:

  • What learning has occurred? How do you know?
  • What have you realised about the child’s interests, knowledge, and capabilities?
  • In discussion with colleagues, what would you plan next to consolidate or extend children’s learning?

Additional/alternate resources for this learning experience

  • wooden blocks
  • matching collections of natural materials (stones, sticks, leaves)
  • sandpit
  • chalkboards with chalk.

Related learning experiences plans and videos

Links to sections