Constructing Vocabulary through Architecture

My school is dedicated to fostering global citizens who are academically proficient in both English and Mandarin. To meet this goal, we spend the majority of time in the early years building a wide vocabulary base through hands-on experiences related to student interests.

One unit that is of great interest to our kindergarteners is Architecture and I have previously used recycled materials in a lesson to talk about the 2D and 3D shapes found in buildings. As I have learned more about the Maker Movement, I have discovered that there is quite a lot of room for improvement. I decided to focus my attention on reimagining this lesson and focusing on expanding students’ vocabularies. Because students find this unit so interesting, I decided to harness this interest and find a better way to improve it with TPACK- using technology to support the content and pedagogy (Mishna & Koehler, 2009). As I planned a learning activity that would allow students to engage in the design process, I also passed through each stage of the process:

design process

Stanford University Design Thinking Process

Empathize- Why aren’t my students reaching the end of this unit with wider vocabularies when they are so passionate about the topic? I see my students constructing structures out of blocks and Legos during their free time.

Define- I want my students to develop their vocabularies related to real-world items in our community. We are in an urban space with many unique structures. Descriptive words are not being reinforced often enough. Could I use descriptive words to channel their creativity? Could you build a fancy house or a striped hospital?

Ideate- What if I task my students with creating a unique community in our classroom?

Prototype- How will I capture the learning that takes place? Should I create a book? Will we film a video?

Test- Reflect after teaching the lesson and reflect on the process. Did my students meet the objectives? Were they engaged in the maker process? Was this process student-directed or teacher-driven? What could I change to make it even more student-directed?

Constructing Vocabulary through Architecture

This project will begin at the start of the 5-week architecture unit which focuses on the types of structures around us, our community, 2D and 3D shapes, measurement skills, and an understanding of the global communities where our students are from or have traveled to.

To begin the unit, I would take students on a bus tour of the neighborhood, giving each child the materials to record the types of structures they see. As we look at the neighborhood, we will also discuss the different colors, shapes, and textures we see. As a group, we will create three lists of the words we are using- structures, descriptive words, and size/shape words.

Maker storyboard

As we set out to create a 3D cityscape in the classroom, each child will select the structure they wish to create as well as both a descriptive and size word to challenge them to think about structures in a new way. Throughout the construction phase, students will use recycled materials and other craft materials to design, build, test, and improve their structures.

Once the cityscape is complete, we will use the model as a tool for expanding vocabulary for positional words. Each child will create a mini-me and use their creation to express their location within the city. For example: “Mini-Renee is outside. She is between the hospital and the restaurant.” The student will photograph their mini in the city and use the photo as they write a sentence to describe their location. Together, all pages will be made into a class book.

Extension activities:

If time allows, I would have students create digital books which could be shared with others in the school community. Additionally, the Kindergarten class could teach the PreK class about structures using the model they created.

Full Lesson Plan:

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