We've been doing a lot of castle/knight stuff lately in school. Two fun books we've been reading over and over are The Knight Who Was Afraid of the Dark and Cowardly Clyde.
So the other day when I was thinking about how to work on building castles with Mr. T I came up with the idea of making a castle store. I first built the series of castles that you see in the back row. The main character (me) was the little black knight on the end.
This knight explained to Mr. T that a bunch of his knights were asking him to build them their own castles. He wondered if Mr. T could help out, and of course he was very willing to do so. So we picked one knight out and he looked at all the castle options and chose the first one (on the far right). I then gave Mr. T just the blocks needed to build a copy (of course the knight couldn't have the store model) of that exact castle. He did this quickly and easily.
Then the next night came along and chose the next castle made of bristle blocks. I gave Mr. T the blocks to build that one and it was definitely a bit trickier. It was hard to balance the two walls and get the roof on at the same time but he did it and the knight was very happy with his new home.
Then came an even more difficult order. A knight with a really long, tall sword ordered the tall house (the 2nd from the left). I gave Mr. T all the blocks he'd need and he just couldn't conceptualize getting the colored blocks on top of the cube block. He tried building it several times with the tall blocks next to the cube. Unfortunately, with the roof on it was too short for the knight and his sword to fit inside. Something had to be done. Finally I demonstrated by putting one up on the cube and he put the rest together easily.
Now he had 2 more knights to build for and no more models. So he had to go pick out blocks himself (there were several buckets worth of various kinds dumped all over the kitchen floor!) and build his own castle. You'll see his first attempt 3rd in from the left. He put 2 blocks on top of each other (a tower) and then the knight complained that his castle had no roof. This was a serious problem. But Mr. T looked around and found an arch piece and added that. It's a bit of a tight fit for the knight (you can see he's lying down) but it's a roof over his head so he shouldn't complain. I was really happy to see Mr. T pick a block that was the perfect shape for a roof. Good thinking!
Finally he had to build one last castle (this was really stretching his attention span at this point). You'll see his final attempt is the first castle on the left. I think I asked him to build it out of bristle blocks but I didn't give him the blocks needed. He again began building a tower (you'll see the two blocks on top of each other) but then the knight complained that it didn't have any walls and so he was able to get back on track with building more of a house structure. In the end he did a great job, but the knight complained that every other castle had some decoration on the roof (tough customers) and so he looked around and chose a triangle block to add to the roof to make it more fancy. Very nice! This was such a fun and motivating activity to do with him and it was fascinating to watch him develop his building skills even through the course of this short activity. Way to go, Mr. T!
During the course of this time O Boy was on the floor building sheds, a barn and a house for a knight, his horse, his cannon, and his catapult. I gave him another piece (a cannon, horse, etc.) after he built each structure. Each of his structures (even the barn) had chimneys and other interesting features. The Little Sweetie was alternately knocking down O Boy's structures and building her own to knock down during this time.
It was a perfect example of the developmental sequence of building!
(knocking down towers, building towers to knock down, building towers to build, simple structures, complex structures with details)
A great book to use to help develop building skills through play is called Block Play. It's very practical, well-illustrated (important), clearly explains the development of block play and how to help children move to the next level of development.