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Work on Words Wednesday - Cheap Manipulatives!

Y'all, I'm so excited to share a bit more about Working on Words with the group!  Last week, we took a closer look at Word Games, and how to use them in your small group instruction.  Today, we'll look at Cheap Manipulatives.
Font: KG Fonts, Digital Paper: Sassy Designs
First, let's address the fact that most teachers (myself included) are basically broke.  The schools don't have enough money to purchase all of the manipulatives our kiddos need to have true opportunities to manipulate letters/sounds and practice building words in a kinesthetic way.

Next, let's just talk about our students.  Yeah, we know the state/county/insert-your-official's-name-here expects students to spend two or three days on a topic, master it, then move on... only to be tested on it in a standardized format months later.  These people are not educators - you are.  As an educator, you have the understanding of child development to know the importance of time, repetition, and kinesthetic activities in the storage of knowledge in long term memory.  We all know how important it is for students to use manipulatives and concrete examples in math throughout elementary school, so why do many schools assume these manipulatives are not necessary to master phonetic concepts?  I don't have a good answer for you, but I do have good news...  Lean in...  I'll whisper it to you... Go ahead and provide these things because you know they need them - even if it's not on a test.
Even fifth graders can benefit from the opportunity to explore words in a kinesthetic way.  Here's a collection of tried and true (and cheap) manipulatives to use while students are working with words:
Clothespin Letter Clips - Love these!  Buy the big bag of clothespins from WalMart, Big Lots, etc (under $5.00) and have 2 different colored permanent markers.  Label the consonants one color (I choose black) and the vowels another color (I choose red.)  I added capitals on one side and lowercase on the other, 'cause I'm fancy like that.  Toss in a few wooden paint stirrers (free from the home improvement store), and you have a cheap set of manipulatives!
Scrabble Tile Tracings - Y'all already know of my love for Scrabble from my first Work on Words Wednesday post, but why leave those letters in the box?  Set them out and teach kiddos to place the letters under their paper one at a time and use the flat part of the pencil lead to shade over it.  Viola - instant record of their Word Work for their notebook.
Magnetic Letters - I have the fancy-shmancy kind from Lakeshore, but they also sell magnetic letters at dollar stores and discount stores.  Keep your eyes open, and you can score a real deal!  Add metal cookie sheets from the dollar store, and you're set.

How do you use cheap manipulatives in word work?


  1. Love the Scrabble Tile tracing. Thanks for sharing.
    First Grade Carousel

  2. Great idea for some cheap tangible letters! Teachers do love cheap!! :)

    Mind Sparks

  3. I'm loving your Work With Words series!!! Keep the great ideas coming :) I'm off to our local thrift store to see if I can find any goodies!


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