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When I first started at School on Wheels as an AmeriCorps VISTA in 2011, one of my main projects was to revamp the curriculum that we had for tutors to utilize when students were finished with their homework. The main goal was to create activities and games that were easy to play, supported what students were learning at school and, most importantly, make learning FUN for our students. The result: our Tutor Toolkits.

Now five years later, Tutor Toolkits are still a resource that tutors use every night. Over the years, we’ve added lots of games that address different math and language art skills, and we’ve even expanded to add science activities.

IMG_6705It’s been a while since a major addition so today I’m really excited to announce our new LEGOS.

Students of all ages (and adults too) love playing with Legos. And while we often think of them as just a fun thing to play with, they are also a fantastic way to support learning!

Below are three of our new math and science activities for the Tutor Toolkit (language arts coming soon!):

IMG_67101. Science: Lego Chain Reactions

The science part of the toolkit is still relatively new, and we’ve been actively looking for fun ways to integrate science into tutoring. And although Legos had been on my mind as a toolkit addition for a long time, finding the Lego Chain Reactions book was really what set everything in motion.

Lego Chain Reactions gives students instructions on how to create 10 different machines that spin, pivot, drop and more,IMG_6709 using special science-related Lego pieces (right), the paper pieces found in the Science folder and supplemental bricks in the Lego bag. The book is made by Klutz, so the directions are pretty clear and they also give explanations of the physics behind each machine.

Your student should be able to make every machine in the book using what’s in the Lego bag – but they’ll have to use their thinking skills to make the blocks with what’s available! I will also note, these activities may not be as intuitive for adults as they are for kids, but kids are SO used to following Lego directions, they figure it out easily! It’s VERY helpful to watch the video for each machine before you start – there’s a QR code at the beginning of each activity. Every iPad has a QR code reader. Here’s an example video of the very first project, Quintopple.

Extension activity: Make sure to check out the Inventioneers and Tinkerbox apps on the iPads for more physics fun.

2. Math Game: Subtraction Tower (grades K & 1)

We have lots of games in the toolkit about addition, but nothing specifically for subtraction. But we’ve solved that! To play Subtraction Tower, grab the Legos and 1 die. Have each player build a tower with 10 Legos (you can use more or less depending on how advanced the student is). Players take turns rolling the die and taking that many Legos off of their tower.

You can help students understand the math behind the activity better by asking them to say the math equation or give you the reasoning behind what they’re doing (ex. the student has 10 Legos and rolls a 2. She could say, “10 – 2 = 8.” Or “I had 10 legos, I took off 2 and how I have 8.”) Take turns rolling and removing blocks until none are left. The first person to unstack them all is the winner!

Note: This game is great for working with multiple students around the same age/ability level!

3. Math Exploration: Fractions (Grades 3-8)

Most of the activities  we have in the Tutor Toolkit are games, but manipulatives, especially Legos, can be a great way to review math concepts as well. Fractions are a concept that is often difficult for students to understand. Using Lego bricks, you can help students physically show what a whole, and then its parts look like.

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You can expand this idea even further by helping students practice fraction addition!

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These activities (and more) can all be found on the ring attached to the Lego bag! They’re arranged like the iPad rings – each subject is a different color. Many activities also have cards, arranged by subject, in the Tutor Toolkit Direction Card boxes. And when you’re all done playing, the awesome storage bags make clean up a breeze!


Have you tried out the new Lego activities? Let us know what you think in the comments below! 

Want to learn even more about our curriculum? Check out even more blogs in our Tutor Tips series!