Use Manipulatives to Strengthen Literacy Skills

Posted February 6, 2018 – AWE Learning Staff

The use of manipulatives for early learners is most commonly associated with teaching math concepts, but manipulatives are also equally as important in building literacy skills. Manipulatives provide a way for students to learn concepts in a developmentally appropriate, hands-on, experiential way. They are engaging for early learners and increase their level of excitement when learning to read and write. When using manipulatives, studies have shown that young learners participating in hands on activities, while listening to a message or lesson presented, are more likely to retain details of what they’ve heard.

Young learners often participate with manipulatives in the classroom or in a library, during independent or paired reading, or a group read aloud. According to Language Magazine, when early learners can interact with the stories they are reading or listening to, they are able to grasp a greater understanding and draw meaning from the text. The use of models gives young learners the opportunity to discover the elements of the story and provides examples and hands-on materials to assist in learning new concepts. The use of manipulatives when learning literacy topics, allow early learners to explore the basic elements of a story, including but not limited to, main purpose and theme, retelling stories with detail, sequencing, comparing and contrasting, and more.

Manipulatives also encourage students to ask questions and make inquiries. In fact, manipulatives can even encourage failure, which results in developing a deeper comprehension of the content. Failure teaches the importance of perseverance and hard work. These scenarios make early learners pose questions such as what went wrong, and what can I do differently next time? By asking these questions, it helps to prepare young learners for real world situations, including the work place.

Although manipulatives are not often associated with writing, the use of hands on figures helps students to work through the writing stages – planning, writing, and revising, in a fun and visual way. As mentioned, manipulatives help to encourage enthusiasm. This excitement will help to foster successful writers. Manipulatives give young learners the chance to see and feel items, encouraging them to include more detail. This helps young learners to thrive in the planning stage in preparation for the writing phase. Lastly, by sharing manipulatives with others, young learners are encouraged to collaborate and present their ideas to their peers and teachers to receive feedback and ideas.

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