Spotlight on Building Towers in First Grade

What an adventure with first graders! We have tackled a few building events and worked on team dynamics. So, after a few short weeks, it was time to tackle something bigger!

I decided to try a tower event! My big kids love building towers, so I thought this might also work with the littles!


I learned very quickly that the materials were going to need to be easy to manipulate. The test class had masking tape, but they couldn't tear it and trying to cut with scissors was a disaster. So, I opened the cabinets and searched for something different. We came up with colored tiles and cardboard tubes!

I tried to match the tubes and make sure everyone had three that were the same length, but this didn't always work! The little kids found that the tubes were hard to stack. So, they resorted to many other things to make tall towers.

Fill 'em up!

One idea was to just fill the tubes up with tiles! This didn't make them taller at all, but it did seem to make them less easy to knock over. I was told by one little smartie that 
"this is what a bricklayer does!"

Add some roads!

I also saw a lot of roads being built to connect the tower parts. Very, very quickly this little tower adventure turned into a storytelling adventure. Every group had a story to tell about what their tower was for and what all the parts of it would do. They were quite imaginative!

By the third class, I made the story part of the challenge. Build the tower, name it, and tell us all about it!

Finished towers were fun!

Some teams also discovered that piling the tiles and then stacking the tubes would make a really tall tower and they loved making those piles!

Some things I definitely discovered:
  1. First graders really loved their towers.
  2. First graders approached this task with imagination. Every road or tile or tube had a function and a story about it.
  3. They were NOT competitive at all! It didn't matter to them that their towers were little. My big kids compete endlessly to have the tallest, biggest, best, but the first graders never thought about it!

So, that's our first tower event. Each team had three cardboard tubes and a bin of tiles. They were told to build a tower! Easy prep, easy directions, lots of fun!


  1. I teach STEM to K-4. I had a hard time with the tape at that age too. What I do now, is tape a long strip of masking tape to the tables and then have them lift the tape and cut a piece as they need it. That way they have enough tension to cut it and the tape doesn't get stuck to itself. Figuring this out has saved me in a HUGE way.

    1. Yes! That is exactly what I do with my big kids! With these littles I am finding that they are not really great at using scissors, so last week I started cutting small pieces of tape and leaving about 15 pieces on their tables. It helped a lot! Thanks for stopping by!


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