How do you make spelling fun in your classroom? With ABC Manipulatives! You’ve heard of math manipulatives – tangrams, interlocking cubes, fraction bars, coins, counters, etc. You’ve heard of building manipulatives – K’nex, Legos, Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys. In this post, I want to share with you my stash of ABC Manipulatives. Try some of them to add fun and engagement to any literacy center!
Manipulatives are sets of small objects that engage children both physically and visually during the learning process. They provide an effective hands-on discovery experience for the student, boosting his or her confidence and communication skills while representing an idea (such as a word) in more than one way. And best of all, they are excellent resources to use with learning-disabled students as well as those with limited English skills.
My students are crazy for the ABC Manipulatives that we use in our classroom. Every week when new sight words are introduced, the kiddies eagerly anticipate which bag of ABC’s they will get to use. It didn’t take much money to build my stash – either I bought them at the Dollar Store, found them at yard sales (for cents!), or discovered them around my house (I have three grown kids and as I am not the world’s best cleaner, there are plenty of games, toys, etc. hiding in all corners of my house).
Here are the ones I use:
Who doesn’t have a Scrabble set buried in a cabinet somewhere? They are a great resource because each set comes with several copies of high frequency letters. These tiles also come with a few blank ones so you can use them for any missing letters.
I found these at a yard sale but you can pick them up at any Walmart or Target. They can be a little pricey ($9.99 for one bin I saw) but luckily many new mothers are given these as baby shower gifts. Eventually, they wind up at yard sales so keep an eye out for them.
Need I say more? I can’t tell you how many times I have seen Boggle games at yard sales, usually for $1 or $2. At one sale, I counted 5.
I found these at the Dollar Store. I bought three packages so that my students would have enough of the frequently used letters.
These cubes came from a Boggle-like game that my children had received one Christmas. The cubes are the size of dice and are very light. I like how the vowels are printed on red cubes. And both upper- and lowercase letters are represented.
Bulletin Board Letters
You can find these at a teacher store, but the Dollar Store has a lot of different colors and patterns. And you only have to buy one pack because the package includes several copies of each letter (plus punctuation!). The kids love the 4-inch size because they can spread them out on the carpet.
These dice are part of a Campbell Alphabet Soup game that my children received as a Christmas gift. You might have this game as well hidden in a cabinet at home.
Another Dollar Store find and again I bought three packages so there were enough repeat letters. I provide metal cookie sheets (again, from the Dollar Store) to attach the letters to. A big hit with the kiddies.
The ones shown here can be ordered from a school supply store. I have them because the schools where I have worked were getting ready to throw them out. Can you believe it? The alternative is to find the square beads embossed with letters at a craft supply store (a great way to use those 40% coupons!).
The ones shown here have been pre-printed with letters but how easy would it be to take math counting cubes and write letters on them using a Sharpie? (you can see one of them in this picture – can you find it?)
As you can see, these manipulatives are bright and interesting and come from a variety of places. I’m not recommending that you try to find the exact ones I have shown above. Instead, use these ideas to think about where you can find your own ABC Manipulatives. Several of these sets came from games that were either unusable or hadn’t been played for a long time. Several sets came from yard sales. One set even came from the trash. I challenge you to find different ones and let me know in the comment section below.