I’ve found Manipulatives — especially ranking — engage my students and strengthen their memories.
It’s easy to forget how much the body plays a part in learning. Simply placing cards with words printed on them into physical order both helps understanding and strengthens memory. So it was no surprise when Michelle told me how she finds manipulatives a powerful component in her repertoire of teaching methods.
As the above section of a HOW2 manipulative illustrates, dialogue with peers forces students to explain their thinking to each other. In this way, manipulatives, in a socially agreeable context, makes students “think hard” about their learning. And, as professor Robert Coe of Durham University’s Centre for Monitoring and Evaluation explains, thinking hard is the single most important element in remembering.
The trick is to design activities that, while requiring this level of cognitive effort, does it in a socially agreeable and safe way.