5 Benefits of Brick-Based Counseling
Planning engaging and meaningful small group activities each week can be a challenge for many school counselors. As an elementary school counselor myself, I strive to prepare exciting, hands-on activities that are aligned with Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) standards, such as the ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors for Student Success. One of the best tools I have found to make small groups fun, purposeful, and easy-to-implement is LEGO® activities that incorporate SEL by providing students with opportunities to build and discuss structures representing various emotions, situations, coping skills, and more!
Let’s take a look at 5 benefits of implementing Brick-Based Counseling in your program!
Engaging: It is no secret that many kids love to build stuff with LEGO® materials. In fact, in my time as an elementary school counselor, I have met very few students who didn’t enjoy building things out of LEGO® bricks. By incorporating a Brick-Based Counseling approach in your small groups, or even one-on-one, you are able to create an atmosphere that is comfortable, exciting, and familiar for many students.
Expressive: Brick-Based Counseling activities offer an alternative opportunity for students to explore and express their thoughts and ideas around different SEL topics besides just talking or writing. Due to the nature of building with LEGO® bricks, each student has the power to create and there is no correct way to build their structure. This helps to establish a flexible environment for students that allows room for differentiation and aligns with a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework in which students have multiple avenues for expression and engaging with their learning. Once students have completed their structures for a given prompt or activity, the structure they built can be utilized as a reference to help facilitate meaningful group discussion. As an example, a student might build an emotion robot with multiple blue pieces to represent feeling sad, which in turn, may help a student to open up and discuss what they are sad about.
Inclusive: As a school counselor, I work with a wide variety of students who have different ranges of abilities or needs. Many traditional counseling groups can be verbally intensive and center around a lot of discussions or filling out worksheets, which for some students may not be comfortable, accessible, or equitable. Utilizing a Brick-Based Counseling approach provides an alternative means for students to explore and express ideas around SEL topics using a hands-on building approach that enables participation in another way besides verbal discussion. In my professional experience, I have found this approach to help support inclusion for students with limited English proficiency, communication-related disabilities, and other diverse needs by providing opportunities to participate in SEL that are not as language-intensive.
Simple: Brick-Based Counseling can be implemented with a simple tub of LEGO® materials that you likely already have sitting in your office. By focusing on activities that utilize LEGO® bricks, you don’t have to worry about a ton of prep work such as printing off worksheets, getting art supplies, or any of that stuff. You can certainly supplement building projects with other activities if you would like to, but for the most part, Brick-Based Counseling activities are grab-and-go and easy-to-implement. To make things even better, LEGO® materials are super durable and almost never need to be replaced like other art supplies or materials. The biggest challenge is that kids like to save their projects and don’t want to take them apart. I usually tell them that it is similar to making a sandcastle and that I might be able to save it for a little while, but eventually, I might need to take it apart so that other students can use the pieces too.
Versatile: Last but not least, a Brick-Based Counseling approach is incredibly versatile! There is literally no limit to what you can build with LEGO® bricks and you can use them for all kinds of SEL topics! Whether you are working on emotion management, self-esteem, goal-setting, friendship, or even college and career readiness skills, there are tons of activities you can implement with your students using the exact same tub of bricks year after year! Here are a few simple Brick-Based Counseling activities you can try with your students!
Activities to Try!
1. House of Emotions: Students will build a house using different colored bricks to represent various emotions. These emotions could be written down on a piece of paper and color-coded with crayons to help keep track of identified emotions. For example, blue might represent sadness, or orange could be used to express excitement. This activity is great for discussing emotions in general or it may be used to discuss emotions related to their home life, such as for a changing families group.
2. Conversation Constructors: Students collaboratively build a tower with LEGO® bricks by taking turns adding pieces each time they use a targeted skill in conversation. For example, each time someone asks a question, offers a compliment, paraphrases, or uses another conversation skill, they get to add a brick to the tower. This is a fun game to encourage students to practice using a skill, or as a tool to help students visually track their progress. Set a timer for one minute and have students keep track of how many times they used the targeted skill and see how high they can make their tower. Afterward, you can discuss the impact of using the different skills, such as how it felt to give or receive a compliment, or how it felt when their partner showed they were listening by paraphrasing what they said.
3. Mountain Climber: Students will build a mountain to represent a goal they are trying to reach. Possible features to include may be obstacles on the mountain that represents barriers to success, tools to help them reach their goals, and people or friends on the mountain that are a support system. These features could be labeled or written down, or you can let students just talk about what they included. Students can use a Minifigure® character to represent themselves and place it in various locations on their mountain to discuss different stages of their journey in reaching the summit and accomplishing their goals.