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Blocks Center with Core Vocabulary


The blocks center is an area in the early childhood classroom that promotes early math and spatial thinking. Block play begins with infants dumping and filling and extends to children constructing elaborate castles and on through through adults building amazing lego structures or train minature scenes. It is so much fun!! This center includes various blocks, with a focus on wood blocks. Other toys in this center include cars, trucks, play people, play tools, and train sets. 

In an inclusive setting, teachers can embed targeted vocabulary for instruction. This center is condusive to math concepts such as 2-D and 3-D shapes, counting, patterns. The teacher may also focus on science and physics concepts such as roll, friction, structure, design, and foundation. 

For children with delays in language or English language learners, the blocks center is a highly motivating and engaging area to promote language opportunities. Considering the level of langauge the students use, teachers can model various sentence structures within the social setting: requests, comments, excitement, questions, directives, etc.  By modeling targeted core vocabulary words, students are exposed to the use of these words in authentic experiences. 

Core words are words used across all context. They are the foundation for langauge and are learned in context. Let's look at the core word OVER: 

  • Come over! 
  • Put that block over there.
  • Drive the truck over the bridge.
  • I'm over this! It keeps falling.
  • Let's start over. 

The first thing you should have is a core board nearby for students to access visual supports within the center. For children with no or severely limited verbal language, a core board is needed for teachers to model using the board and students can point to the words to express wants and needs.

Then, you may want to add "Block Center Fringe" on top attached as a flip chart. (One for each center?) Here is a sample fringe for Block center.

Check out some activites that teach core words within the block center. 


Building Blocks

Place single core word picture cards on blocks to build phrases.


Stop and Go

Make a sign on a stick. On one side it says “GO” and the other says “STOP”. When students build roads with bocks, they can push toy cars on their roads and role play as a police officer directing the cars to "stop" and "go".  

Note and model multiple ways to use these words.  "It goes there", "Go ahead", "Go for it!", "Go back and start again", "Go like this..."; "Stop it", "It stops here", and "Don't stop now".  


Can we fix it? 

Include Bob the Builder  and other tool toys plus the catchphrase: “Can we fix it? Yes we can!”

Students love to role play as fix-it or construction workers. There are many ways teachers can promote thinking, imagination, and langauge using a construction theme. Start by cutting out the sentences strips 'Can we fix it?" and "Yes we can!" to display in the blocks area. Model left to right reading "Can we fix it?" and students point and reply "Yes we can!"

Providing play tools, aprons, tool belts, and constructions hats will enhance cretive opportunities beyond constructing toward dramatic play and increased social and language opportunities. 

You may also provide items that are broken to be repaired. Students can use problem solving skills to repair the item. 



Core Resources

For more on Core: Check out these articles.

What is Core Vocabulary?