I have several photos of various buildings and bridges hanging low down in my block center. I really have not ever seen the children pay much attention to these photos as inspiration for their building, so I tried a new method.
For a week, I took the photos off the wall and placed them on the floor next to large hula hoops. I then explained that there was a challenge in the block area. I challenged them to build the structure pictured inside the hoop.
We usually leave buildings the children are working on up for the week and then remove them on Fridays to allow for a good rug vacuuming. These buildings stayed inside the hoops as well so children could add to them as the week went on.
It was interesting to see which blocks were chosen to represent each building. This particular one needed embellishment from our art center as they noticed the detail of the white circular parts of the building pictured.
One group of girls decided they didn't like any of the buildings so they were going to create their own castle. I did point out a picture of a castle that was still on the wall, so we removed the picture and they began to work on that. This group often builds castles when they build and they usually look very similar from week to week. As they looked at the details of the photograph, they began to discuss some of the various features of the castle such as arch ways, towers and turrets. This added a new dimension to their castle building as they discussed ways to represent these new details.
Below is the same bridge built a different way with alternate materials.
This activity encouraged a great deal of problem solving as children chose the blocks needed and tried to get them to resemble the photographs.
Same pictures, different representations. But again, the children really noticed the details of the architecture and problem solved to use their materials to represent what they noticed.
Where did I find the photographs? I downloaded them from the internet using Google images.
When I had a guest teacher visit the classroom she asked if we discussed with the children what the structures were called and where they were. We did not do this, but this would be a terrific extension of the activity and one I will add the next time we attempt this challenge. I would also have the groups that worked on the buildings explain what they did and how they did it to the rest of the class.
Give it a try and share your experiences with me.