Last week I saw this happen. We were talking about learning from the Bible, hearing the words and learning what to do. As we were planning, we decided to put Lego bricks in the blocks center and encourage children to make letters. (The sheet that came with my bricks had examples of making letters.) We arranged the center to encourage children to make letters and words.
We put out the Lego bricks and the page of samples. I even made an "E" as a beginning point, and added some words to spell.
What happened? The boys came over and built towers and columns and even a spaceship. And I talked with them about what they were doing and even worked in the emphasis for the day. As I sat there talking with a couple of boys, I noticed a couple of "structures" lying to one side. One looked like an "L" and one like an "I." Someone had made a couple of letters before discarding them.
As the time went on, several of the boys moved to other places to work and play. One boy made his way back to the blocks center and began to work. When he was done, he called to me to see what he had done. "Take a picture," he said. I did.
Elijah had spelled his name. He figured out many of the letters himself. "I did look to make this (J) and this (A)," he told me. I was very impressed with his work.
Would he have built his name if I had not placed example sheet in the center? If I had not made an "E"? Probably not. But he did experiment and try it out...following the suggestions I had placed in the center.
In all the centers, I try to give some subtle and not-so-subtle suggestions of what to do. Kids need to express their own ideas; but they need teachers to help stretch their thinking for new ideas.