An explanation of our critical thinking process using Legos

Building Blocks

An explanation of our critical thinking process using Legos


When you were a kid I bet you played with Legos. I used to have a box full of bricks and my favorite thing to do was pour out the bricks and see what jumped out at me. A door? I’d build a house. A tire? I’d build a car. I’d mix up the bricks and see if anything caught my eye, but I’d let the bricks tell me what to build. I wasn’t very good at it.


Some people would sort the bricks by color, regardless of size. They tended to finish a project because they were organized from the beginning.


Some people would sort by size, regardless of color. There are probably a million different ways to sort the bricks and everyone has a preferences. None are wrong, but some methods might be a better fit based on what you want to accomplish, your experience, and your perspective.


Let’s pretend for a moment these 9 bricks stood out to you. After sorting bricks by size and color, they asked to be used.


You could build a simple wall with all bricks in vertical alignment.


You could make a wider and shorter stack using the same 9 bricks. Same bricks, different structure.


Perhaps you want something more interesting. Using the same bricks, we can build a different structure. May be a pen for the horses.

Regardless, the same 9 bricks can build a variety of structures. Same bricks, different outcomes. You decide the outcome based on your “vision” of the 9 bricks.


Back up and consider a different perspective…

Imagine the Lego bricks (or building blocks) are actually the facts, key points, main concepts in each paragraph, etc. you would find in an article you read. Basically, anything you would highlight while reading the material. If you took those notes and wrote them on paper, they might appear to be a jumbled mess, much like the Lego bricks here. If we want to do something with these building blocks, we need to organize them.


Let’s organize the building blocks by theme or category. If we use the materials in our Expectations and Objectives Module, our categories might be 1) expectations of the teacher and 2) responsibilities of the student. That’s one way to organize the information.


Someone else might be more specific. Maybe they have 1) expectations of the HS teacher, 2) expectations of the college professor, 3) responsibilities of the HS teacher, 4) responsibilities of the college student.

Doesn’t matter how you sort the building blocks. However, you need to be able to describe the blocks in the category.

“All of these bricks are 2 x 2 and dark red. These are all 1 x 3 and tan.”

Using our content…”These building blocks all show that the responsibility for learning falls to the college student, not the professor.”


If we take the building blocks we identified, you can build something.

That is, use the single sentence summary of the category as your paragraph theme and the individual building blocks as supportive facts in the paragraph.


What you end up building may use the same building blocks as your neighbor, but the outcome may be entirely different. Why? Maybe your goal was different. Maybe you have different experiences, leading you to have different perspectives. Regardless, our job is look at the building blocks and figure out what needs to be built.


Critical Thinking with Legos

Our 4 Step Process:

Find the Legos. Identify the building blocks. This includes facts, paragraph topics, main ideas, and/or anything you’d highlight in the text.

Sort the Legos into Groups. Group the building blocks by theme/topic.

Describe the Lego Groups. Summarize the content of each group in one sentence.

Build your Structure. Organize the one-sentence summaries to identify what you are concluding from the material.

Why do we post building blocks for each module?

Identifying the building blocks means you are reading the materials before class. You have to do the research on a topic. This shows you did.

Organizing building blocks (sorting) is essential to critical thinking. You’re analyzing the information and trying to make sense of it.

Summarizing the category in a single sentence is also part of critical thinking. You are analyzing the information in preparation for evaluation of the information.

In class, you’ll evaluate the information.

Each step builds on the previous.

Revised Bloom’s Cognitive Taxonomy

Cognitive Level Cognitive Process
Create Designing something new; Generating, Planning, Producing
Evaluate Making judgments; Checking and Critiquing
Analyze Taking information apart and exploring relationship; Differentiating, Organizing, Attributing
Apply Using procedural information in a new but similar situation; Executing, Implementing
Understand Making sense of information; Interpreting, Exemplifying, Classifying, Summarizing, Inferring, Comparing, and Explaining
Remember Finding information; Recognizing, Recalling
Building Blocks




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