the materials you will need, and ways to connect with
The TEACHING PLANoffers detailed guidance for im-
plementing the step, including what you might say
and do to engage children and facilitate their explo-
rations and help them reflect on their experiences and
ideas. The left-hand column of this section guides you
through the exploration. Issues teachers have raised
and our responses are found in the right-hand column,
which also includes photographs, drawings, and sam-
ple dialogue. This column gives you a picture of what
the plan looks like “in action,” while suggesting ways
to extend science explorations.
The teaching plan is composed of three consecutive
parts: Engage, Explore, and Reflect. Engage offers
suggestions for what you might say and do to encour-
age children to get excited about and involved in
building structures. Explore offers guidance for what
you can do to facilitate their explorations. Reflect sug-
gests different ways to use representation and discus-
sion to help children reflect on their experiences and
At the end of the section on open exploration, you
will find three different types of extensions for enrich-
ing children’s building explorations. They include
planning a field trip to explore different structures or a
construction site, inviting experts into the classroom,
and using books and videos to extend the exploration.
The resource section provides more information
about the teaching approach of Building Structures with
Young Children, essential information for working with
buildings and structures; and book and Web resources.
We encourage you to familiarize yourself with this
section before you start. You will find references to the
resources throughout the guide. Some of what is there
may be useful to you right away; other material may
be more helpful after you have had some initial experi-
ences teaching Building Structures with Young Children.
Building High: Excerpts from
a Teacher’s Journal
These journal entries illustrate what one Head Start
teacher learned when she helped her children in be-
coming young builders.
It’s hard to believe that next week I’ll have twenty children
in my classroom! This year I plan to make the block area a
more important place for kids’ science learning.
I’ve already spent an afternoon exploring some of the
open-ended building materials myself. I’ve had these ma-
terials in my classroom for years but never really thought
about how they can be used to build, which ones are bet-
ter for what, how to make stronger or taller structures,
and much more.
I’ve also been working on my room. So far I’ve been able
to make my block area almost twice the normal size.
Somehow, making it bigger makes the whole area more
important. I have a stash of building materials—unit
blocks, foam squares and circles, and waffle blocks—as
well as space for both hard and soft building surfaces.
There’s even room for a “Do Not Touch” table so kids can
save their structures, and there’s a table with clipboards
and markers so kids can draw pictures of their structures.
And I found some posters—one of Los Angeles at night and
one of Paris. I found some great books at the library with
pictures of interesting structures and stories about build-
ing. I have displayed many of these on top of the block
shelves so the children can easily refer to them while
I guess what I’m really trying to do is develop a class-
room culture—a classroom environment that yells build.
I feel like I’m really getting to know the kids and their
families. As for the building theme . . . I got stuck. At first,
the kids were really drawn to the blocks—how could they
not be? But for a while, most of the fun was in knocking
down the stacks they built up. So I’ve been trying to fig-
ure out how to focus the kids again on the building.
But I think I made a breakthrough. Just the other day I
happened to sit in the block area during choice time. For a
while I just observed, and somehow I think that my being
there signaled to the kids that I was interested in what
they were doing—that their play was important.
And I learned from watching them—seeing what was
getting in their way, what their points of frustration were,
and what they were trying to do. Alina, for example, kept
placing one block on top of another, then one on top, across
the two, like a doorway. After watching her try this for a
while, I said that I noticed that the top block kept rolling
off. She then got three of the long wooden cylinder blocks
and tried to do the same thing. I think she understood that
she needed to try different blocks but was unaware of
the properties she needed to consider. This time the top
cylinder rolled off, so I wondered out loud what would
happen if she used a different block for the top piece.
10 Building Structures with Young Children