FAQ About Teaching Manipulatives

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Teaching Manipulatives
Teaching manipulatives can include a variety of objects students can use to build or move around in some way. At times students might replicate something as close as possible to the original, depending on the lesson objective, while other times they might use their creativity and imagination.

Examples: blocks, puzzles, counting chips, play money, rubber stamps, tiles, cubes, beads, cups, macaroni, rocks, candy pieces (i.e., M&Ms), craft sticks, foam shapes, small plastic/rubber animals or people, magnets, tubes, pegs, magnetic numbers and letters, etc.

Questions About Using Teaching Manipulatives as Tools for Bible Learning Activities

Other than time fillers, why should we use blocks, puzzles, or other teaching manipulatives with children?

As active learners, it’s important to give children hands-on opportunity to learn, engage, and interact. Using manipulatives as teaching tools gets beyond merely visualizing to constructing or manipulating objects to represent what they are learning. When they’re able to construct something pertaining to a Bible story or truth, it helps their understanding by giving them a more concrete perspective of an abstract or unknown concept. It’s a way to physically represent what they’re learning. It’s up to the teacher to help children get beyond the play value of these tools to make the connection to what they’re learning.

Aren’t blocks, puzzles, and other manipulatives primarily for preschool aged children?

These kinds of teaching tools are primarily used with younger children, some even with lower grade school levels, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be used with older children, youth, and even adults. For older ages, these kinds of teaching tools should be used sparingly but they can serve a good purpose from time to time. For young children they’re often used to reinforce or visualize what has been learned, i.e., making something related to the lesson such as building blocks used to build a wall around Jericho. For older children through adults, they might be used more so for discussion starters or to teach a lesson related to the process, i.e. pairing off to put a puzzle together that fits the lesson theme and discussing the benefits and maybe the difficulties of working together.

Teacher Training Resource: Blocks, Puzzles, Other Manipulatives as Bible Learning Activities


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2 Replies to “FAQ About Teaching Manipulatives”

    • That’s a valid question, TJ. There are low cost and no cost ways to still use teaching manipulatives if you’re willing to invest a little time into collecting common materials that may be more readily available or can be purchased at a low cost. For example, you can make puzzle from magazine pictures or old Bible story teaching pictures. You can use rocks, boxes, cups, and cardboard tubes for building blocks. If counting, you can use small stones, pieces of candy, macaroni pieces, and the like. And, remember that fingers are manipulatives which can be maneuvered in different ways to visually communicate.

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