Learning Center


How can we utilize classroom supplies safely?

august 25, 2020

Elementary teachers will attest that the daily reading block has been complicated by the challenges of social distancing. What was once an opportunity for kids to huddle up, sit elbow-to-elbow, and share with others has now become an exercise in teaching kids to work independently, with at least six feet of separation.

But pandemic or not, teachers are still charged with delivering differentiated instruction that results in students who can read fluently, work with words, and comprehend text. For beginning readers, the path to this end has traditionally included lots of work with manipulatives.

We know that working hands-on with letters, words, and pictures helps children to construct meaning out of language. With that in mind, it’s important to offer this type of learning while also adhering to safety guidelines for the sharing of supplies.

Making it work

Here are three quick tips to use manipulatives in tandem with social distancing:

1. Print a letter grid onto cardstock and have students cut the letters apart. Children can put their letters in their own unique baggies and then store the letters with their personal supplies. When it’s time for word work, they can pull out their own baggies and use the letters inside.

2. Make a homemade dry-erase board for each child by laminating a piece of cardstock or sliding a sheet of cardstock inside a gallon-sized baggie. Either way, students can wipe it clean at the end of each day and store the cardstock and individual dry-erase marker inside the baggie. Like the cut-apart letters, this is then stored with the student’s personal supplies.

3. Secure a container to store each student’s manipulatives. With so many supplies in the mix, it won’t take long before each child’s storage area becomes a personal junk drawer. You can prevent this from happening by providing each student with a grab-and-go container to house all personal supplies.

The beauty of this type of container is that it also allows for a quick transition to remote learning, should that be necessary. When students depart for a period of remote learning, they simply grab their containers of manipulatives and then take the supplies home with them.

If you have more ideas on how to utilize manipulatives while staying within safety guidelines, we would love to hear from you in the comment section below.

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