word order with Lego

A Twitter buddy was asking for ideas to help with practising word order and linking sentences today, and I mentioned that I sometimes use Lego bricks. She asked me to elaborate: so here we go…

(NB the following example is aimed at Germanists encountering the Time-Manner-Place word order rule, but I would imagine that it could be adapted for other learners, in other curriculum areas.)

I have a box of the larger-sized Lego bricks, which I bought as a very cheap job-lot on eBay (what a great resource-source for the hard-up teacher!).

I hand out a selection of bricks to each pupil/pair/group of pupils, ensuring that each group has the same set (i.e. one each of red, blue, white, black, yellow, etc.). We decide together which colour will have which function: e.g. red for main verb, white for a pronoun, black for a conjunction, etc. It can be quite fun to debate which colour fits best for which part of speech, and why… (Colour of grammar #thunks?!) I always leave the “colour key” up on the board throughout the lesson.

We then explore the nature of the standard German sentence (i.e. main verb is always the second “idea”, any other piece of verb – e.g. an infinitive or a past participle – goes to the end. I will always try to get the *pupils* to make this discovery themselves, of course…

And then we use the bricks to make sure the pupils are getting the words in the right order. I will write up a jumbled-up sentence on the board, and the pupils have to put their bricks in the right order.

The two great things here are, they don’t have to worry about spelling, AND the teacher can see at a glance if they have “got it”, because the colours are in the same order all around the class…

The fun bit comes as you then explore the notion of Time – Manner – Place, which is a prescribed order in the German language, for those of you who are not German scholars. (They need three different colour bricks for Time phrases, Manner phrases and Place phrases, of course, now). Again, I will guide the pupils towards an understanding of the existence of this rule by exposing them to examples, and seeing if they can work it out for themselves.

Depending how complex you want to make it, you could work on subordinate clauses, coordinating conjunctions, etc., etc., etc.

What’s fab is, the more they “get it”, the more they get to just mess around with Lego – all the tricky stuff is out of the way!

(I have used this with pupils from Y7 upwards – and the ones who love it the most are the Y10 and Y11s, of course!)

I hope this proves useful. Let me know what you think, and if you come up with any other ways of doing it…


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