Learning with bricks

V Udaya Bhanu

Here is a simple, yet multi-dimensional activity for the primary classes. This was sent in by a teacher who actually tried out the activity in her school. This exercise helps concretise concepts in Math and Language.

Very often, teachers in primary classes tend to believe that expensive, hard to obtain toys and materials are necessary to keep children happy. But in truth, even the simplest activities can bring joy to children provided it gives them an opportunity to learn by doing something on their own.

You can make your students ‘brick-builders’ for a day. All you need are generous quantities of cardboard (even the covers of old notebooks will do), sheets of coloured paper, and some gum and scissors. The bricks can be easily made by cutting the cardboard into square or rectangular pieces. The pieces are then placed back to back and pasted to make a solid brick-like shape. Children can then use the coloured sheets of paper to create bricks of various attractive colours. The activity of making a brick gives valuable experience to children in learning about shapes (squares, rectangles) and in coordinating these shapes to make new patterns.

Once the bricks have been made, they can be used for further learning activities in many subject areas as well as for specific projects.

Mathematics: Ask each child to count the total number of bricks he/she has. Make two children as partners. One child then lends a few bricks to the other. Each child follows up by counting the total number of bricks he/she has. Thus without using the blackboard, and with the help of a concrete object, the children learn simple addition and subtraction.

Language: Language games can be incorporated into this activity in several ways. The simplest of course would be to ask children to write one letter of the alphabet on one brick. In this way, with a set of 24 bricks, the children can make words of their own. You can teach them spellings by calling out a series of words (cat, bat, sat) which they make as soon as the words are called out. An interesting variation is to ask them to build a series of words by changing only a single letter and keeping the others intact (as shown in the illustration).

Craft: The bricks that your students have made can form the beginning of creative work of several kinds. Children can build little houses by pasting the bricks together; they can also make other simple shapes and patterns – triangles, hexagons – by placing the bricks in the relevant positions.

In essence, the bricks provide an opportunity to children to handle a solid shape they themselves have created and to play around with this shape in different ways. Although this seems elementary, it is something that a child can learn from at several levels.

This article first appeared in Teacher Plus, May-June 1992, Vol No: 18.