Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Making Learning Hands-On: Strategies That Work!

Hello Everyone! I am so happy to be visiting today from over at Whimsy Workshop Teaching. I teach grade 1 and 2, and today I'm sharing with you some strategies for engaging students in daily work. 
My regular readers will remember that I had the most challenging class in 20 years last year! Oh my - they were so sweet, but simply had no self-regulation skills whatsoever, and as a result 14 out of 23 were not meeting reading levels. The simply could not focus on a book long enough to learn and implement any strategies. 

However, out of great challenges (or sheer desperation, depending on how you look at it!) comes new understandings. Last year (along with several different management systems) I found one of the most effective things I could do with daily work was to make everything as hands-on as possible. Not a new idea, I know...but last year almost everything got a make-over! I converted almost all of my seat work into manipulative, tactile, and active projects. Here are a few examples:

Literacy Centers: 
For my tactile learners, I brought the word wall right down to their level so they could touch and hold the words. I covered the words with clear glue to make the letters raised and bumpy; students loved the tactile feeling of running their fingers over the letters as they said the letter sound. 

Another must: lots of word and sentence building materials. This includes letter and word tiles, word family cards, pull-through word and sentence builders, letter beads...I even wrote words on all of my unifex building cubes so they could make sentences using one cube of each color. I also wrote them on stacking cups so they could build towers with each cup they "read". 

The beauty of this kind of work is the emphasis on collaboration and discussion in small groups - this made their learning experiential and meaningful as they shared ideas and explored collaboratively.

Of course they do have to write and record their sentences afterwards, but it was the hands-on stuff that got them engaged. We gradually increased their written output to several sentences by the end of the year, and they were all reading at grade level by June.

One of the most popular games was called "Hop Across The Pond". Students made a path across the room with their sight word cards, and tried to hop on each word as they read it aloud with a partner. If they didn't know the word, they picked it up and continued on. Once they got to the end of the path, they had a handful of words that needed more practice! 
I've included this idea, along with 24 others, in a freebie to share with you today. I hope you find some ideas to use in your classroom.

Math Centers and Activities:
Thank goodness for math and how it so naturally lends itself to hands-on activities. The blocks, the dice, the game boards, the counting beans - these were every day materials last year. 

Lots of dice games (love the dice inside dice for differentiation!)

Lots of blocks for building and patterning

And when I had to think of something quick, my motto was "Make It Bigger or Cut It Apart". So, our number charts were huge! 

...and sometimes they got cut up and put back together again!

I'm also sharing a fun math freebie with you today - it's called Build A Monster. Just roll the dice and build a monster with the body part you land on (starting with the head, then eyes, nose, etc). My students play this - and the more challenging version I made with addition - for hours! Great fun to share the monsters with the class afterwards, too. Enjoy!

Even our art lessons got our hands involved. Here is the poster we made for color mixing!

 Thanks for reading, and I hope you've grabbed a few ideas to use next time you have a class full of jumping beans!

Thanks to Lauren for the opportunity to guest post today! 

I'd love for you to visit over at 
or say hello on Facebook!

Thank you to Whimsy Workshop for sharing such fun and interactive learning ideas!

Before I go, make sure you stop by my friend Emily's blog to enter her giveaway to win a $25 TpT gift certificate!!  Just click the button below and scroll all the way down the page to enter the Rafflecopter!


Pinterest Pin It!


  1. Lots and lots of fun, hands on ideas! Love all the pictures! Thank you for the freebie!
    Conversations in Literacy

  2. Thank you for the freebies! I can't wait to make the number beads on pipe cleaners. What a great idea. The glue on the words is fabulous- so is hop across the pond! I am so excited to practice sight words now! :)
    Kindergarten: Holding Hands and Sticking Together

  3. Great pictures, and as the motto says, "If you can't beat them, join them." Looks like you just worked with what you had which is great teaching. Thanks for sharing.
    Carla at Comprehension Connection

  4. When I clink on the link to access the freebie it takes me to TPT. I cannot find the freebie mentioned above.

    1. Hi Megan, I checked out Whimsy Workshop's store, and it appears that those items are no longer available. I'm sorry about that! You could send her a message via her store or on Facebook. Her links are above in the post. I thank you for stopping by.
      :-) Lauren


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...