Kids love the block center. Be they preschoolers or kindergartners (or any age really!), there’s just something about that center that draws them in.
I suppose I can understand where they’re coming from, as I know I’ve spent hours upon hours playing in the block center with students. Not to mention the time spent at home building with my son.
When I explained how I liked to organize the building center in my preschool classroom, I happened to mention a book I’d made. It was a book of structures for the block center, with pictures from all around the world. Having received many emails and messages about it, I thought I’d take some time to share more about it here.
Oh, and there’s a free printable version you can grab at the bottom of the post.
What is a Book of Structures for the Block Center?
Basically, it’s a printable book filled with real images of structures found around the world.
This structure book has evolved over the years. It started out as a few simple printables I made for a preschool class years and years (and years!) ago.
From there, it grew into a laminated book of about ten pages. And then it kept growing until it was over 30 pages. In its most recent update, the world structures book is over 70 pages (more details can be found below).
You can make your own structure book for your classroom.
To do so, search for photos that are permitted for personal/classroom use. Please make sure not to grab photos that aren’t specifically listed as such, as you’d be violating copyright rules by using them.
Even better, use some of your own photos!
Once you’ve got the structure pictures you want to use, add them to a word processing document. I’ve used both Word and PowerPoint in the past, but use whichever program you’re most comfortable with. Add the name of each structure and its location, and then you are ready to go.
Print, laminate, and bind the book however you want to! You can start with just a few pages or put every page out at once. I liked having most of the pages out all at once – laminated, hole punched, and kept together on a binder ring hung on the block center shelf.
You can find a free printable sample of pages from the world structure book at the bottom of this post.
Why Add a Structures Book to the Block Center?
This all started because I really wanted to show my students that there are many different ways of building. On top of that, I was interested in integrating more literacy and culture throughout the classroom. Plus, I love making books with and for my students!
The book brings literacy to the block center.
As I mentioned above, each structure is labeled with its name, as well as the country where it’s located. While I don’t expect the kiddos to sit there and read every word, it’s still literacy that’s available in the room.
Kiddos have drawn pictures of different buildings, and then used the book as a reference to write the buildings’ names.
Sometimes they’ve even written the names on a piece of paper and placed it by their own structure. On top of that, the building names can sometimes act as a hook for letter sounds (“Oh, ‘pyramids’ the same way as ‘Paul!’”).
Other cultures and countries have a place in the classroom.
Obviously, I couldn’t include a building from every single country in the world. Rather, I chose to find structures from a variety of places. There are still some cultures I’d like represented that aren’t included, but I can add more in the future.
Having buildings from around the world leads to discussions about different people and places. Geography lessons can easily spring from these discussions, as can discussions about people from all around the world.
The structure book can act as a STEM challenge.
As I said, this all started because I wanted the kids to be aware of different engineering concepts. It’s very easy to expand on that and add in other STEM concepts:
Have the children look at natural structures and formations around the world. This would be a great project during an around the world theme, or just because.
Let the kids help take pictures of the structures they’ve made. I’ve always liked to keep photos of past structures posted near the building center. You could also make a small photo album or book for the area too. Let the kids make videos explaining what they’ve made too.
Encourage the children to plan how they will make their own version of a famous structure. Which blocks will they use? They can create their own building plan or a blueprint of what they intend to build. Then have the kids get to building. Ask guiding questions along the way and listen to their observations about what’s working and what’s not working.
Math and blocks go hand-in-hand, don’t they? Talk about the different shapes of the blocks the children are using. Encourage the kids to count and record how many blocks they’ve used to make a structure. Keep a record of that. You can even challenge the kids to build a structure using a specific number of blocks.
World Structures STEM Challenges for Your Building Center
Here’s a look at the most up-to-date version of the structure book. As I mentioned earlier, it’s grown to over 70 pages. I added more structures from around the world, as well as some of the planning pages I’ve used with students in the past. Take a peek:
32 full pages of structures from around the world.
There are a variety of countries represented, from Australia to China to Canada to Peru. I love that there are different types of structures and engineering methods.
10 full pages of castles from around the world.
This addition is perfect to use during a fairy tale theme, or with kids who are enamored with all things castles.
A flip-book version of the 42 world structures.
These are smaller versions of the structures (four to a page, instead of full-size like those mentioned above). The flip-book version is perfect for classrooms that don’t have room for the larger structure book.
Or add them to your math or fine motor center instead so the kids can build the structures with LEGO bricks or math manipulatives.
4 different building plan options.
Get the little engineers planning out what they will build with these planning sheets. Maybe they’ll use the planning pages to determine how to make a structure from the world structure book. Or maybe they’ll be inspired to create their own building masterpiece.
6 different recording pages to document what the kids have made.
These recording pages can be used in a few different ways. Kids can draw picture of what they’ve made to take home and show their parents. They can be used to keep a class record of what structures have been made throughout the year (with kid-drawn pictures or real photographs). You could even make a class book about all of the engineering projects your students have put together!
6 cover choices to add to a class-made structure book.
These cover pages are perfect for putting together a class book about what’s been made in the building center. You can combine the covers with the recording pages – laminate everything and then bind it together into a book. Or you can add everything to a three-ring binder and put the cover on the front of the binder.
Get your own World Structures STEM Book at Preschool Teacher 101.
You can also find it on Teachers Pay Teachers.
Get Your Free Printable Here
Members of Fun-A-Day’s email community can grab a free six-page version of the world structure book by clicking on the button below (or check out our library of freebies). If you’d like to join, you can also do that via the button below (and you’ll get the freebie as a gift).
The free version gives you a sample of what to expect in the full 70+ pages World Structures printable. There are four full-page structures included, along with a one-page castle add-on (to make a small flip-book of four castles), and one of the building planning sheets for the kids.
Originally published August 24, 2014.