Practice & Application with Digital Manipulatives


My 5-year-old daughter recently learned how to bike without training wheels. We read picture books on biking, I showed her YouTube video lectures on how to bike, gave step-by-step instruction, and supplied her with all the knowledge she needs to master the art of biking.

Does this sound realistic? Absolutely not!

Practice and Application

This is actually a common mistake that I make in my own instructional practice. I pick out the right books at my students’ levels. I show an engaging video or multimedia scaffolds to hook their interest and activate prior knowledge. I make sure every child understands my lessons by making content comprehensible. But one crucial element is missing: practice & application. We can’t expect a learner to master new content without hands-on practice, just as a child can’t master biking without real-life experience.

As SIOP® Feature 20 suggests, hands-on practice with manipulatives enhances students’ learning and retention of new concepts and skills. Manipulatives-physical objects such as tiles, cubes, or puzzles – allow learners to engage with new concepts in a visual and tactile manner. Here are 5 Jamboard templates and ideas to easily integrate digital technology into concepts and objects needed for literacy development. Click the link below and make any modifications you need.

1. Virtual Check-In

This template to check in with students’ social-emotional health also doubles as an attendance tracker. Share the link to all students and give editing power to all. Complete the activity as a class to increase engagement and community building.

2. Virtual Four Corners

Pose a statement related to your content and write it in the center of the template. Students write a rationale on a sticky note and drag the note to the corner that best represents their stance. As an extension activity, students can read each other’s responses and mark them up using the drawing tool to show agreement/disagreement. The sticky note manipulatives create an inclusive virtual learning environment and give a bird’s eye overview of where each student stands.

3. Drag-and-drop Main Idea & Details

Insert any graphic organizer to a Jamboard frame and create interactive learning experiences using pre-filled sticky notes and pre-selected images as manipulatives. In this template, students drag-and-drop sentences and place each sentence and matching images to appropriate places in the organizer to show understanding of the concept of main ideas and details. This activity works best when each student completes the task independently.

4. Sentence Sort

This template is used to help students craft complex sentences using conjunctions, punctuations, and sentence manipulatives. I like to use Jamboard’s sticky note and image features to create digital manipulatives. If you want to add more sentence tiles, type your sentences on a word document, take a screenshot, and insert it to Jamboard as an image. This activity works best when each student completes the task independently.

5. Word Work

This template can be used to help students engage with letters, phonics, and break down word parts. Add an image prompt and color code the sticky notes for vowel/consonants or affix recognition cues. This activity works best when each student completes the task independently.

There are alternative tools you can use to create digital manipulatives such as Google Slides, Google Draw, or Seesaw.

Students achieve mastery not by knowing more, but by doing more!

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Note: Fresh Ideas for Teaching blog contributors have been compensated for sharing personal teaching experiences on our blog. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.


About the Author

Esther Park

ENL/ELA teacher