Q&A #6969

Use of manipulatives

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From: Ralph (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Sep 27, 2001 at 12:43:28
Subject: Re: Use of manipulatives

Dear Valerie,

You'll be glad to know that your question is one that gets wrestled with no 
matter what the age of the students. My pre-service elementary teachers are 
every bit as likely to engage in "free play" with the pattern blocks as the 
primary pupils I frequently teach  :)

As Kimberley noted, the first time children are exposed to a new manipulative, 
you should build in a period of "free play" to just let them explore the 
manipulative in their own way since they'll do so whether you've built it in 
to your plan or not. In the case of a manipulative like the pattern blocks, 
you'll find that it won't take long even at the "free play" stage before they 
start designing patterns, etc.  

That being said, if I read your question correctly, it sounds like one of 
the challenges being created is that the children will use ALL the different 
manipulatives available to engage in their play activities, mixing and 
matching, etc.  While this might be something that could be done once in a 
while, for fun, I wouldn't suggest it be the norm.  You might want to 
establish a routine that children are to select ONE of the available 
manipulatives to play with for that time period, and give them a 2 minute 
warning when the play period is about to end so they'll know they need to put 
the materials away.  Actually, I recall in my kindergarten classroom, whoever 
I had designated as the day's special helper took it as one of their roles 
to be sure that all the materials that were being used for play got in the 
right place.

This also makes it easier for you to later introduce any directed activities 
you might have where they are asked to do specific tasks using a particular 

Hope this helps.  

 -Ralph, for the T2T service

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