Literacy and LEGO Minifigures
The centrepieces of any LEGO are the LEGO Minifigures, also known as a ‘minifigs’.
They were first introduced in 1978 and since then these instantly recognisable anthropomorphised pieces of plastic have become hugely popular and highly collectible.
Standing exactly four standard bricks tall or 4.1mm, about 12 minifigures are produced every second and billions have been sold worldwide making them the world’s largest population group.
Until 1989, minifigures had the same smiling expression but now a greater variety of faces are produced; some heads even get an extra face painted on the back so you can turn it around and change moods.
Minifigures make a massive contribution to LEGO because they add humanity to something that is essentially inanimate and industrial.
What they help users to do is populate their creations with people and this personification is very powerful especially for the classroom across the curriculum but especially for creative writing, maths, science and life skills.
When it comes to literacy, minifigures can act as catalysts to inspire writing and stories. Writing is creative and playful and LEGO is creative and playful so they are natural partners like macaroni and cheese, eggs and bacon, Ant and Dec.
Using LEGO minifigures as writing prompts makes perfect sense because they act as the hook you need to draw children into a writing situation because they readily engage with them, see them as great fun and importantly, they actually want to write about them.
Children can easily personify a minifigure and inject it with feelings, opinions, behaviours and reactions and give it a whole suite of characteristics.
The following writing prompts are just some examples of how a ‘minifig’ can help inspire children to write.
The idea is simple enough: present the prompt or ask children to select from a collection of prompts and ask them to respond by writing whatever comes to mind.
There are no right or wrong answers and tell them not to worry about whether their writing contains expanded noun phrases or fronted adverbials, the idea is to write and have fun.
- Your minifig is about to go into hospital for an operation, what advice would you give?
- When I am at school and my minifigs are at home alone they like to…..
- A tornado is coming whilst your minifigs are out hiking. What do they do?
- Your minifig falls inside a trumpet. What next?
- Your minifigs get lost in a supermarket/zoo/park/airport (select one). What happens next?
- Your minifig wins the lottery. How does s/he spend the money?
- Your minifig tells you three secrets. What are they?
- Your minifig is backed into the corner by a spider. Describe what happens?
- If your minifig was stranded on a desert island for a month, which 2 songs, 2 objects and 2 books would s/he like to take and why?
- Your dog starts sniffing one of your minifigs. Describe how your minifig is feeling and what the minifig and dog do next.
- If one of my minifigs was a teacher s/he would let us….
- One of your minifigs has been arrested for stealing sweets. What does the minifig say to the Police?
- Your minifigs are playing in the garden when suddenly one of them is captured by a drone. Describe what happens next.
- You are concerned that your minifigs spend too much time on their i-pads. What would you say to them?
- Whilst you are making a chocolate cake, one of your minifigs falls into the mixture without you knowing. What does the minifig do?
- A minifig climbs inside a discarded can of Coca-Cola to see what it is like inside when someone picks the can up and throws it in a recycling container. What is the minifig thinking and feeling?
- A ground technician smuggled a minifig into the Soyuz spacecraft. Half way to the International Space Station the minifig make himself/herself known to the crew. Describe their reaction and what happens next.
- If you could go anywhere in the world for a day with your minifigs where would you go and what would you do?
- Your minifigs are holding a dinner party. Who do they invite and why?
- Your minifig swallows a verb. Describe what verb s/he swallowed and what happened next.
The writing prompts above can all be written from the point of view of a minifig rather than children describing what they see happening to a minifig and in many ways this is more rewarding and exciting.
Of course minifigures can be used in a whole variety of ways beyond writing prompts.
Ask children to imagine that four minifigures meet for the first time. Can they create a dialogue between them and write a script?
Children love nothing more than creating a character profile of a minifigure and enjoy pouring their ideas into creating someone new with likes and dislikes so why not create character profiles of different minifigs?
Interviewing a minifig is also great fun especially when one group think of the questions and another group answer them taking on the persona of a minifig. These can be serious questions, philosophical or off the wall. For example,
- What is the hardest thing about being a minifig?
- What are the five best things about being you?
- Is it better to be a pen or a pencil?
- If you could, what two animals would you combine?
- Would you rather have a bucket stuck on your head or a bucket on your foot?
- Would you rather live on a space station or live on the Moon?
- What is your most embarrassing moment?
- What do you dream about when you are asleep?
- Would you rather be an apple or a banana?
- Would you like to be 3cm taller or 3cm smaller?
- What is your favourite LEGO piece and why?
- Describe yourself in no more than 10 words.
- Why do all minifigures have a hole in their heads?
- You are castaway on a mythical desert island and you are allowed to take with you three pieces of music, three books and three luxury items. What do you choose and why?
- What does noise look like? Can you draw a noise and describe it?
- What would happen of you swallowed a rainbow?
- Would you rather be fire or water?
- You ate a whole plate of alphabet spaghetti and burped up some words. What were the words?
- What colour is Wednesday and why?
- Which is heavier – a dream or a nightmare? How much do they weigh?
- If you read a book in a bookshop are you stealing?
- What does gravity sound like?
- What does yellow taste, smell and sound like?
- Would you rather be a number or a letter?
- What would your reflection say back to you if it could speak?
The minifigs work as a catalyst for thinking, communicating more effectively, engaging imaginations more readily and for approaching their writing with increased confidence and commitment.
The LEGO Movie led to a shortage of LEGO products in 2014 and it is easy to see why; people love minifigures. They are iconic, they are special and they can inspire children to write.
Why not help them help you inspire children’s writing and see where it takes them?