I have a Teacher Challenge for you. Yes you! When is the last time you used manipulatives in your classroom? If you don’t teach elementary math or science, then you probably rarely use them. But the students LOVE them, and they increase their engagement, communication, and learning! That is why I am challenging you to find a way to use manipulatives in your next unit of learning.
A manipulative is a physical tool for teaching. They are things that we can physically touch, rearrange, alter, and, well… manipulate. Manipulatives can include blocks, money, puzzles, or any tool that you give your student to use to explore a concept or skill.
I love using manipulatives because the students love DOING. They are engaging with learning through listening, speaking, and movement all at once. Students can explore tough concepts and find new ways to express their learning besides traditional reading and writing. This is a great way to differentiate for various student populations as well.
Let me share some examples of how i used manipulatives recently in my 7th grade Language Arts classroom. During a novel unit on The Giver by Lois Lowry, I wanted my students to practice vocabulary words as well as demonstrate their reading comprehension in some non-traditional ways.
Character Ranking Manipulative
This activity is designed to (formatively) assess Reading Comprehension and engage students in a deeper discussion of the novel. I had my students get in partners and cut out tiles with all of the main characters’ names on them. Then, I gave them various tasks for reordering the character tiles based on their knowledge of the character. For example, I had them rank/rearrange based on the following traits:
youngest to oldest
least to most authority
least to most likable
unintelligent to intelligent
ignorant to wise
shy to outgoing
deceptive to honest
happiest to saddest
I wasn’t looking for any one right answer (except for #1!), but rather wanted to encourage my students to discuss, challenge one another, and delve deeper into their understanding of the characters and their roles in the novel. I’m always shocked at the wonderful ideas and interpretations they share with the class. It also provided a great opportunity for teaching various concepts such as authority, wisdom, ignorance, and deception.
We did a fair amount of vocabulary instruction in class, so this activity was simply for reviewing. I created a blank pyramid (you can buy one here in my TpT store if you’d like), and filled it in with the words/definitions we have been studying. Then, in partners, I had my students cut them apart, mix them up, and attempt to recreate the pyramid. We did this for several days, attempting to get faster each day. They started requesting this activity because they enjoyed it so much!
A few tips on using manipulatives:
I keep a bucket of scissors in my classroom for this purpose
You only really need one set per class, but you can also have one set per student so they can take it home and practice on their own
Save all your business envelopes from the spam you get in your mail. They are FREE and great for storing your manipulatives!
12/12 – a Lucky Day! And only 13 Days Until Christmas! The excitement is surely palpable. I finished Christmas shopping and wrapping last weekend (please refrain from hurling things at me), because I am just that Type A person. I don’t like surprises or putting things off until the last minute – this means I can enjoy myself and worry less (a good goal all around).
We had a really productive, great week and I have many exciting highlights to share!
1. Newsela – I’ve been using Newsela with my intervention groups (2 small groups of 4 students each) for the past month. We have seen steady progress. I can’t say enough great things about this website! They translate high-interest current events topics into leveled articles with Common Core aligned quizzes. I select an article, choose a Lexile level, and we read and discuss the article together as a group. I give my students highlighting or annotating tasks as we engage in text-based discussion. Then, they take the quiz on their own. They are building skills and confidence – love it!
2. Manipulatives for Adolescents – When I asked my students to bring scissors and glue to class on Tuesday, their quizzical expressions slowly turned into a smile. They hadn’t been asked to cut or glue for many, many years. In Social Studies class on Tuesday, however, I had them cut apart and sort facts into the correct pre-Civil War Compromise we had learned about that week. They practiced several times, then glued down the correct answers. Not only was this engaging, but it was also a great review activity that tapped into several different learning styles. (You can purchase this activity as part of a mini-unit here).
3. Personal Narrative Revision – In Language Arts class this week, we are working on revising our Personal Narratives (which I have called “Small Moment Assignment”). To practice revision, I gave my students a model paper that needed a lot of elbow grease. I split up the model into 5 color-coded sections, and I assigned each section to a small group. The group was tasked with revising their section based on everything we have learned in class about what makes a great personal narrative (sensory language, metaphors, descriptive words and details, specific adjectives, suspense, foreshadowing, higher level vocabulary, adding a hook, sentence variety, etc.).
The left picture is the original, and the right picture is their revised version (you can click to enlarge and read). It is SOoooOOoo much better now! I was very proud of the work they were able to do. Each small group read their part and presented to the class the techniques they used/added. Then, students had a model/plan for how to attack revision successfully, and they went off to revise their own papers with a partner. I would do this again in a heartbeat!
4. Uncle Tom’s Cabin – In Social Studies class, I often try to work in Art History and art criticism techniques. We ‘read’ images and look for deeper meaning within the context of history. This week, we viewed this illustration from Uncle Tom’s Cabin as part of our unit on The Civil War. I had my students first identify what they see (just take inventory of what is here), then begin to comment on what the illustration might be trying to communicate about the different characters. The slave is depicted as old, feeble, weak, and on all fours like an animal. The slaveholder is standing, powerful, wealthy, ‘looking down on’ the slave, and about to kick the slave. We then discussed the impact of this image on various groups within society at that time – how the image would be viewed and interpreted. I think it is very important to discuss images with students to practice the power of inference.
5. Snuggle Time – Only 6.5 more work days, and this will become my life for a whole 12 day Winter Break! Yes, to them I am nothing but a treat-dispensing, door-opening, warm human dog pillow, but it’s the best job and someone’s gotta do it!
Only 13 days until Christmas, and the countdown continues….!
How was your week?