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Friday, August 17, 2012

Organizing Classroom Manipulatives

One of my "Back to School" projects this year has been to organize all of our containers of plastic manipulatives at school.  Up until now we had a huge shelf of containers with no labels, which made it quite hard for anyone to put things away.  Plus, I knew that it's best for the kids to have things labeled, and that was one area that we scored low on the ECERS last spring (Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale).  Those factors combined with the fact that I in general am prone to label anything that will sit still long enough made this a fun and useful classroom job.

My first step was to measure the container that the label was to go on.  We actually have a variety of containers that hold our manipulatives, but since they're all about the same size, I could pick one size to fit all.

I then made the labels in Publisher and typed in the name of each object.  While doing this I quickly found that it was kind of hard to find a name for all of the odd building toys that we have in our room.  Even a virtual stroll through several online catalogs left me lacking on some names.  So, I basically just made them up according to what the objects looked like.  I figured that the most important thing was to have the actual object on the label.  Once that was there, it didn't matter if one type of manipulative was called "Connecting People" or "Linking People" or "Plastic People".

I then cut and laminated the labels and attached the objects.  My first thought was that I would poke two holes through the label and use a tiny zip tie to tether the object to the label.  However, this proved quite tricky, and in fact was quite daunting to the teenagers who were helping me with the job.  I considered hot glue, but in the past have found that hot glue will peel right off of lamination.

Finally, I decided on glue dots.  If you haven't used these before, they are wonderful.  They're not for everything of course, but in situations where you want to stick two things together without mess, they're perfect.  They are especially nice to use with three-dimensional objects.  I used them not only to stick the objects to the labels, but also to stick the labels to the basket.  

Now, there are a few places that I will use the pictures of the objects instead of the real things. These are in cases where the real objects are too big to stick on.  Or in my containers that are right beside the carpet where the kids sit.  I figured it might be way too tempting pull of a matchbox car that it right at eye-level beside you while sitting during story time.

Regardless, I love how these labels are working, and how it will allow teachers (and kids) to find and put away objects more easily.

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