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Creating hands-on activities for English class

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

Children are often busy, but some are busier than others. These kids have difficulty sitting still and focusing and so sometimes struggle with school work.

Some subjects like gym, Science and Math would be much easier for a busy child because they offer movement and hands-on activities to help them learn. Other subjects however, like English or History are much harder to offer in a hands-on way.

Manipulatives are easy to find for math and science class but are there manipulatives you can use for English? Yes there are!

Story Stones

Get or make a set of story stones. These usually come in a bag and you can take turns pulling one out of the bag. To start with, pull about five each. Then take some time to arrange them to create a story idea.

Each person can tell there story and hold up the stone or point to the stone when the story gets to that part.

For more fun, take turns adding to one story using the stones you each have. So one person starts the story about a Yak, the next person shares where the story takes place (like desert) according to a stone they have and so on.

you can also use these stones in an I Spy type game where you use adjectives or inferences as your clue (depending on the concept you want to teach).

For example: I spy something that swims in the water.

I spy something that is shiny.

I spy something that lays eggs.


Stories can really come to life with puppets. You can use them to act out a story you just read, or to have the child create a story of their own. Often it is easier for them to re-create a story they are already familiar with. Then once they are comfortable storytelling you can ask them to create their own characters, make their own puppets and tell a story of their own creation.


When we worked with my busy child we would often utilize the whole house for certain lessons. For example, for spelling we would hang letters around the house, we would give him a word and he would run around the house gathering the letters to spell that word. We would write on a beach ball, or make big dice with words or letters on them. You could toss a ball with letters on it back and forth and with each catch he would offer up a word that started with that letter (phonics), or we created a ball with words on it that he would have to use in a sentence. Similar activities could be done with dice, or take it further for older kids and put story starters on the dice. Roll the dice, read the story starter, and then keep the story going.

The key to preparing any lesson for a child in the best way for them to learn it is to understand first, what is the easiest way for them to take in information, what information do you want to present then what fun way can I present it that utilizes the best way they learn.


Board games and card games are another great way to strengthen the learning in a way that children will enjoy.

Games like Scrabble and Boggle can help enhance spelling skills - or just us the tiles to spell their word list. Games like AB Seas and Letter Construction can help reinforce letter recognition and phonetics. Combine two sets of alphabet flash cards for a phonetic game of fish. Instead of asking for an A - you can ask for an ahh (offering the sound rather than the letter).

For older students you can get magnetic poetry which has words on magnets. Students can put the words together to write sentences, poems and stories. This builds the creative process without creating a stumbling block with how something is spelled or fits into a sentence. The student could then copy the words from the magnets that they arranged to record their story. (or if writing is a struggle, take a picture of the story/poem).

Allowing children to play while learning will not only reinforce some of the lessons they have learned before, or are working on now, but it will also allow them to enjoy learning, it becomes something they look forward to doing rather than a chore they need to complete.

Education should be about the child, not about the topic being taught. So present learning in a way that best suits the child, allows learning to be fun and decreases some of the struggle.

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