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!
You guys… Thanksgiving is only 6 days away! Less than a week! The excitement!!! With Week 12 behind us, I feel like the next month or so is just going to fly by! Before you know it, it will be time for the holiday break. Even though the days are growing cold and short, I still enjoy keeping up my High Five for Friday tradition to focus on the important highlights.
1. Vocabulary Loop Game – I was inspired by some elementary vocabulary loop activities I found on TpT and Pinterest, so I began searching for an 8th grade version. When I didn’t find one, I made my own! I have 35 laminated cards with vocabulary words we will encounter this year. Each student gets one card (some may get two depending on class size). As the first student reads out the definition on his/her card, the class listens to see if they have the matching vocabulary word. Then, the winner readers his/her definition, and so forth. The last card loops back to the first card. Sorry if that sounds confusing! The goal is to play this frequently and to beat our class record each time. I plan to add clear instructions and make this available on TpT soon (UPDATE: It is now posted here). We played it this week, and the students said it was both fun AND helpful!
2. 28th Amendment– This past week, I had my Social Studies class split into small groups and research/propose a potential 28th Amendment to our Constitution. Their class presentations included 3 pieces of evidence and an explanation of how the proposed amendment connects to the principles of our constitution. After a rigorous day of debating and voting, the class reached consensus on our new 28th Amendment: Legalize Gay Marriage. I was very proud of my wise, hard-working, respectful class!
3. Holiday Change Drive Update – We are continuing our school wide change drive to provide a holiday donation and gifts to the local Ronald McDonald house. The jugs are right outside my classroom, and I get to see students walking by all day long dropping their change in. It is so heartwarming to see! In case you are wondering, the girls are totally winning right now 😉
4. Book vs. Movie – This past week, we read “Battleground” by Stephen King, then watched the movie version (from Nightmares and Dreamscapes on TNT, which I purchased on Amazon). I had my students make a T-chart of all the differences they noted. Afterward, we discussed this handout that I made regarding reasons a director would make changes from the original text version (CCSS RL8.7 – click for this free download.). The students told me they had always wondered why there were differences, and they enjoyed trying to figure out the logical reasoning behind them (besides just assuming the director just ‘felt like it’).
5. First Snowfall– Most of the United States is under a cold snap and has received some snowfall this week. Wisconsin, of course, did not escape this fate. We have only an inch or so, but it is freeeeeezing (literally! it’s less than 10 degrees)! I just hate being cold. Dear Elsa, I do NOT want to build a snowman! I’ve even had to break out sweaters for the dogs. To highlight a silver lining, I will say that I do enjoy my winter fashion, from sweaters and boots to scarves and hats. I am also looking forward to a bit of a thaw coming up, as I was told we might return to the 40s soon.