Manipulatives and More!

Manipulatives can be an exciting tool to add to your teacher toolbox for Social Studies, they provide you many opportunities to both teach and practice Social Studies skills and content.  There are so many benefits for students as well:

  • Manipulatives will help students focus better and have more fun learning.
  • Manipulatives engage students physically and visually.
  • Manipulatives often give students opportunities to interact with other students and learn teamwork.
  • Students learning with manipulatives will be able to practice the skills of categorization and comparison.
  • Student retention will increase after using manipulatives.
  • Students are incentivized to participate which improves their social skills and communication.

Manipulatives for Instruction

Find or create tangible artifacts for students to explore. Ask a series of spiral questions like: What do you see? What do you think each artifact represents? What do you think the purpose of these artifacts are? Can you categorize the artifacts? Is there a cause and effect relationship between any of the artifacts? What would you title your box?    You can find resources for your boxes at garage sales, dollar stores, or Goodwill. Artifact boxes work great to introduce and era or region, but you must be careful to avoid controversial topics with these boxes.  Do not create one for the Civil War, Reconstruction or the Holocaust.


Modeling clay or Play Dough is another tool you can use in the classroom.  Give your students a reading over a topic and challenge your students to create a 3-D visual of what they have just read. Your directions can look as simple as this –

1.Read the handout.

2.Choose a topic in the reading that appeals to you.

3.Create a sculpture out of Play Dough on your topic.

4.Write a brief summary explaining your topic and your sculpture.



Scavenger hunts are fun for students! You can create clues or different questions on cards.  Students can hunt for the answers by reading placards you have posted around the room. Provide an answer sheet and watch them go!


Manipulatives for Review

Manipulatives are wonderful for review! Not only do they get your students off of the computer, but they also provide visual models for skill-based practice.

Use sorts to categorize content, and then challenge students to make cause / effect connections. Sorts help students categorize large chunks of information into a game-like format.


I absolutely LOVE Hexagonal Thinking! Hexagonal thinking helps students make connections across time, as well as making a mind-map for your kids.

Are you reviewing for a “Causes of” or “Events Leading to” test? Make manipulatives of the key events and allow students to practice sequencing the events as well as creating a spectrum of the most/least important event.


Check out my store for these manipulatives for your class!

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