SIOP Feature #20:  Provide hands-on materials and or manipulative for students to practice using new content knowledge.

Giving students an opportunity to touch, move, and manipulate content and language can have a powerful impact on student engagement and on learning.  Students are naturally drawn towards the physicalization of learning.

The first feature in this SIOP component asks the teacher to use manipulatives and other kinds of hands-on materials as a means of getting students to practice the new content.  While it's much easier to blow off hands-on, tactile activities, students find them engaging and meaningful.  It doesn't have to take too much energy or time to create tactile activities.  Here are three easy ways:

  1. Cuisenaire Rods:  Students use cuisenaire rods to create a scene from a story they just read.  Then, they describe the scene to their peers.
  2. Scrambled Stories:  Students unscramble math problems, paragraphs, and stories that are written on strips of paper and mixed up.
  3. Dice:  Students roll dice and perform a task (E.g. ask a question) that corresponds to the number they rolled.

Strategies to promote responsible usage of manipulatives

Two students performing activity in classroom setting

So, the question is not, "should I give my students something for them to handle/hold?"  The question is, "how should I structure this so that students use the manipulatives responsibly, as I planned?"  Research shows that teachers often balk at trying out a strategy if they feel classroom management might become an issue.  Here are three tips on making sure the discussion is worth it:

  1. Teach students how to use:  It may sound funny, but most students probably aren't used to using manipulatives.  Of course, they want to roll the die (off the table).  Yes!  They want to build a tower with Cuisenaire Rods (and knock it down).  You're right.  They will probably be tempted to play with the manipulatives (as opposed to listen to you.  However, this shows us two things.  First, that they are really drawn to manipulatives (like we are).  Secondly, that they need to be shown how to use the manipulatives properly.
  2. Let them play first:  Giving students 3 minutes to build something with the Cuisenaire Rods before you ask them to build something specific is a good strategy.  "Get the wigglies out now!" my third grade teacher used to say as she shook her body.  Why fight against a students' desire to play?  Let them play first.  After just 2-3 minutes, they will be ready to listen to you.
  3. Be specific about expectations:  Students need to know the expectations.  If you do not want them to roll the dice off the table, you can boost the chances of this happening by telling students -  "In order to use the dice, you have to keep the dice on the table. I am giving you a small plastic bowl for you to roll the die in."
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TESOL Trainers provides empowering and engaging professional development

  1. TESOL Trainers can design and deliver SIOP professional development workshops in a short-term or longer-term fashion. We offer 1-2 day SIOP trainings, and we offer professional development that spans one academic year or more.
  2. The focus can be an overview of SIOP or an in-depth look at SIOP, its 8 components and 30 features. One or more aspects of SIOP can also be the focus {e.g. scaffolding, engaging students, turn-and-talk, etc}.
  3. In addition, we offer a for-credit option with our SIOP PD for any institution that would like to reward their teachers by providing graduate credit for their efforts.
  4. Any SIOP training can be combined with a Peer Coaching training to scaffold all teachers into implementing the strategies with fidelity. See more about iCOACH© here. Peer coaching is an empowering way to support all teachers.

TESOL Trainers offers SIOP professional development online

TESOL Trainers can make SIOP come alive for all teaching staff.  Our use of experiential learning, engaging lessons, and scores of easy-to-use techniques empowers teachers with new approaches to connecting students to the language, the content, and one another.

John Kongsvik, the director of TESOL Trainers, presents a model lesson on run-on sentences here. The 150 participating teachers become students an get a feel for what the lesson is like through the eyes of a learner.   

Everyone who participates in our professional development says the same thing:  "This was the best workshop I have ever attended."

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