Using Manipulatives in Spanish Class

Using Manipulatives In Spanish Class

Using manipulatives with students is often thought of as an elementary school activity. However, I have found manipulatives, both physical and digital, to be highly engaging and helpful for secondary students as well! Read on to learn some of the fun ways you can use and re-use the same manipulatives with your Spanish students!

What Are Manipulatives?

Again, if you’re not an elementary teacher, you may not know what manipulatives are! The are items that students can physically move around from one place to another. In Spanish class, each piece that students move has some sort of content on it.

The 2 kinds of manipulatives I use are paper and digital. Paper manipulatives take some time to create. You need to type or print out enough for a class set, and then cut them out. (Sometimes I have the students do this, or kids in a study hall or a student aide!) You can put each set in an envelope, and you can even laminate them so that they can be re-used for years!

When the pandemic hit and we went all digital, I learned how to make digital manipulatives in a Google Slides presentation. With these, students can just drag and drop the “pieces” to where they want them to be.

As you think about creating manipulatives for your students to work with, think about what students are having trouble with and make that concept into a manipulative activity! Keep reading for examples!

Subject/Verb Agreement Manipulatives

Here is a very simple version of using manipulatives. Create one “tile” for each subject pronoun. These tiles could be index cards, printed paper that you cut into tiles, or digital tiles. Next create a matching set of tiles- which could be the English translation for the subject pronouns, or they could be the present tense endings for -ar and -er/-ir verbs. Each student, or pair of students, gets one set. Their job is to match everything, and maybe even line them up in the correct order of a typical verb chart. *This is not a complicated or higher order task, yet it fully engages students because they are physically doing something. To add fun, you could use these each day for a week and set a timer with less time each day. Can they do it faster??


Another basic use of manipulatives is vocabulary. Matching English and Spanish definitions can be a great review. There is always the option on Spanish and English matches. But another fun game I have created is a puzzle! Mine are all square, and each piece is a square, but students need to find how the pieces go together so that each “side” of each square ends up touching it’s match. I’ll include a picture below! This activity is not so higher-order for Spanish, but it is definitely tricky in terms of spatial intelligence. I love watching some of my students shine in this area!

This is one of the “clues” to my Christmas in Spain Escape Room. Students have to rotate and drag and drop the pieces to form a puzzle. These kinds of puzzles can also be made on paper!

Here is a vocab puzzle for Día de Muertos.

Sentence Structure

A more advanced way to use manipulatives in Spanish class is to practice sentence structure. This can be done at any level, but I’ll give you an example I use with my Year 3 students learning the present subjunctive. I tell them a sentence in English, and they move the word tiles around to form the sentence. I read the correct answer, and the students check themselves.

This is more interesting to them than writing sentences. And it also does a great job of reinforcing the 3 parts needed in a subjunctive sentence!

Here is a digital activity that I use for present subjunctive!

Students can drag and drop the tiles to form sentences. This is one of many slides in this activity!

Using Manipulatives for Listening Comprehension

This is a really fun idea! Cut the lyrics of a song into segments. Play the song several times and have the students put the lyrics in the correct order. Here is a picture of “Libre soy” from Frozen.

These paper manipulatives can be reused in each class, year after year, and are great for students who need something active and different to stay engaged!


Present Subjunctive Interactive Drag and Drop Sentences: Digital Manipulatives!

Dóa de los Muertos vocab puzzle

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