LEGO Education StoryStarter

The best thing about our storytelling themed week, as far as Jenson is concerned, has been the introduction of a new set of LEGO called LEGO Education StoryStarter. I brought the set a few months ago but had been saving it for our special story themed week to tie in with the Literature Festival.

This special LEGO set consists of 1,144 carefully selected LEGO elements and building plates for creating up to five story scenes. The set also includes two element trays for sorting the elements into categories, which provide some structure to the making process. 

There are five categories broken down as follows:

1. Characters - Animals and elements for building characters, such as heads, torsos, legs, hair and hats.

2. Props - Objects characters can hold, such as food, tools, fire, water or crystals. Also elements like chains, wheel parts, boxes and flags.

3. Setting - A selection of basic LEGO bricks to create scenes depicting plant life and vegetation.

4. Details - A mixture of smaller elements for adding finer detail to a scene.

5. Scenes - Scenes are referred to as scene structures. Each scene structure uses one building plate. A StoryStarter story can consist of one, three or five scene structures. 

The StoryStarter set follows the 2014 National Curriculum, the standards of which form as the starting point for all of the activity materials. The StoryStarter set is designed to help children develop a wide range of skills when exploring, creating, building, storytelling, inquiring and communicating. The set helps children develop skills, knowledge and understanding in the areas of speaking and listening, reading and writing. Each activity is designed to produce specific learning outcomes and match specific level-related National Curriculum standards.

We haven't been following the activities rigidly, but instead have used elements of the pack as a starting point from which to leap frog off into a wonderful world of discovery, storytelling and imagination. 

How It Works

A key component to the StoryStarter set is the unique spinner, which comes with four spinner cards that allow children to construct a story by introducing characters, a setting and a plot. The spinner adds an element of chance and is fun to use. It helps motivate children to get started and injects variation and creativity into the process. It asks children to think about the different elements of a story and ways of constructing stories. We only used three of the four spinner cards, as the fourth one is designed for when there is more than one child taking part.

Setting Spinner

This spinner card provides the choice of setting:

- Green for a park, wood, garden or home setting.

- Yellow for a beach, desert, island or hot or exotic setting.

- Blue for an inside, outside, sea or river setting.

- Light blue for a town, village or foreign setting.

For Jenson's first story he spun the spinner and it landed on green. He chose to use a wood for the setting of his story.

Time Spinner

This spinner card determines when the story is to be set:

- Green (past)

- Light blue (present)

- Dark blue (future)

Jenson landed on the past when he spun the spinner. 

Mood Spinner

This spinner card determines the mood of the characters and the story in general. Children use the spinner card to find out if the story will be:

- Sad

- Happy

- Romantic

- Angry

When Jenson spun the spinner it landed on happy.

With the three elements of the story set, (a happy story set in the woods in the past) Jenson was able to begin creating. It was wonderful to watch. I took notes while he reeled out the most fascinating story with lots of twists and turns, not to mention incredible plot twists to keep readers on their toes! The story board below doesn't come with the StoryStarter pack. I downloaded the template from the internet and then typed up the notes I'd written afterwards and inserted the photographs. It has provided me with a good way of documenting the story, which has twenty four scenes and is set in the Medieval times. This led us onto a little bit of history.

Medieval England

We learned that most people in the Medieval times lived in the country and worked as farmers. Usually there was a local lord who lived in a manor or a castle. Local peasants would work the land for the lord. They grew crops such as barley, wheat and oats. They also had gardens where they grew vegetables and fruits. They also sometimes had a few animals.

Life in the city was very different but not much easier. The cities were crowded and very dirty. Many people worked as local craftsmen or servants, merchants, bakers, doctors and lawyers.

Most people lived in small one or two room homes. These homes were very crowded and usually everyone slept in the same room. In the country, the family animals, such as a cow, may also live inside the home. The home was usually dark, smoky from the fire, and uncomfortable.

Most peasants wore plain clothing made from heavy wool to keep them warm during the winter. The wealthy, however, wore much nicer clothes made from fine wool, velvet and silk. Men wore a tunic, stockings, breeches and a cloak. Women wore a long skirt called a kirtle, an apron, woollen stockings and a cloak. On hearing this information, Jenson picked outfits that might befit these characters. 

Peasants didn't have a lot of variety in their food. They mostly ate bread and stew. Food like meat, cheese and eggs were usually saved for a special occasion. They ate their meat fresh as they didn't have a way to keep it cold. Leftover meat would be smoked or salted to preserve it. The nobles ate a wider variety of food including meats and sweet puddings.

Jenson also asked some good questions, like did Medieval children go to school, (a popular subject in our household!) The answer was no, or at least, not many. Most peasants learned their job and how to survive from their parents. Some learned a craft through apprenticeships and the guild system. Wealthy children often learned through tutors. They would go to the castle of another lord and learn about how a large manor was run. 

There were some schools run by the Church. Students would learn to read and write Latin. The first universities began during the Medieval Ages. Students would study subjects including reading, writing, logic, math, music, astronomy and public speaking.

Jenson spent three hours making up his Mega, Mega Knight story. For a lad who doesn't enjoy literacy all that much, this storytelling pack really engaged him. He spoke continuously, reciting the story aloud as the plot unfolded in his mind. We didn't worry too much about sticking to any specific scene structure, such was the fun he was having. 

The next day Jenson was keen to create another story. He didn't use the spinner this time but got inspiration instead from the Constructopedia section of our StoryStarter curriculum pack that I downloaded from the internet. It contains pictures of different LEGO models such as animals, people, fairytale scenes etc. It was still very early when I got up but Jenson had already made some lovely little figures including an owl, a scarecrow and a witch. This seemed to fire his imagination and by 8am I was sat at the table again, pen in hand, ready to scribble down the story Jenson wanted to tell.

The LEGO StoryStarter is a brilliant educational tool that has really fired Jenson's imagination. It has helped him to develop his story telling skills in a way that his usual LEGO collection hasn't done before. The spinner is an excellent idea and I guess is easy enough to make for those not wanting to fork out the cash on this relatively expensive LEGO set. We can make our own spinner cards if we want to extend the story telling options and add further elements of surprise and creativity. As Jenson and Wren get older there is plenty more fun to be had with this set, I think we've only just scraped the surface. For now he's just had fun making up stories and letting his imagination roam free.