Susan Midlarsky

author • consultant • tutor | inspiring excellence

Quick Tip for Teachers: Organize Your Manipulatives

One of the biggest challenges many teachers face when adopting a manipulative-heavy math curriculum, where pretty much every lesson starts with a hands-on component, is how to manage the pieces without sacrificing half the lesson time. Here is one way that may help.pencil case number disks

1. Buy, or ask each parent to buy, as many extra pencil cases as you need for the manipulatives. These cases are usually inexpensive, $1 each or less. Make sure you ask for the kind with the window and for three-ring binders.

2. Have a set of number disks (or color tiles, or play money, or whatever) per child. Sort the parts into plastic baggies if there are a lot of them, or just put them in together.

3. Use a permanent marker to label the pencil case with each child’s name.

4. Keep all the pencil cases in an easily-accessible place, so when it’s time to use that manipulative, each child, or classroom helpers, can easily find and distribute them.

5. Make each child responsible for putting his/her manipulatives back into the pencil case.

End result: hours of prep work and many classroom minutes lost reduced to just a few minutes of taking out and putting back!

Some teachers may want to group each child’s pencil cases onto a book ring, using the grommet holes in the pencil case. Others may want to place all of the same kind of manipulative into organizing baskets for distribution during a lesson.

Have other great classroom organizing or time-saving ideas? Post them in the comments below!

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