As a teacher, you probably already know math manipulatives are an effective teaching tool. But did you know that there are reading manipulatives that integrate colors, sounds, shapes and patterns?

It’s true. In fact, these new reading based manipulatives help students grasp everything from letter-sound correspondence to abstract grammatical concepts. Reading manipulatives cater to multiple learning styles, link the abstract to the concrete and engage students by making learning fun.

Even better… recent research has shown that manipulative-based reading instruction can boost student achievement. There’s plenty of first-hand anecdotal evidence from teachers in the classroom to illustrate this.

reading intervention


For example, “Craig” showed significant gains after working with manipulatives in kindergarten. When he entered kindergarten, Craig knew only two letters of the alphabet and could not write his name. His teacher, Marlise Tiffany, confirms that working with manipulatives grabbed Craig’s attention and helped him get up to speed. Tiffany says, “Once he knew he was at the same level as the rest of the class, he grew confident. It all came together.”

For the youngest students, simple manipulatives can be very effective. Foam or magnetic letters are great, as are letter tiles and even alphabet blocks. You can even use D.I.Y. manipulatives, such as pipe cleaners that students can bend into the shapes of letters. One clever teacher even used plastic Easter egg decorations. She wrote several consonant on one half, and a word ending on the other. So students could twist the egg and make words like c-at, b-at, s-at, etc.

Second Grade

Second-grade teacher Lisa Jones reports a positive experience using manipulatives with her student, “Todd.” Whenever the white board came out, Todd would cry. But Jones got a set of Reading Rods®  and her frustrated student responded well. “He thought they were fun and would say, ‘Make me another word.’ It was wonderful,” Jones says. Even better, within 4 months, Todd went up four reading levels.

Even Middle Schoolers

Reading manipulatives can be just the thing for middle-grade students as well. Sixth-grader “Julie” was a struggling reader who had slipped through the cracks. When her teacher, Marsha Young, attended a reading convention in Illinois, she discovered Reading Rods and went home with the Sentence Building set.

You don’t think of using manipulatives with older kids,” Young says, “but I thought I’d give it a try.” Young believes that all her students—especially struggling older readers—can benefit from working with kinaesthetic (hands-on) products. Julie’s experience supports that belief: after working with reading manipulatives, she ended sixth grade reading at a more advanced level.

When it comes to reading manipulatives, be creative! A fresh, hands-on approach to reading can make all the difference for some students.