5 of the Best Manipulatives That Every Kindergarten Teacher Needs for Small Group Reading

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If you are a Kindergarten teacher, you already know that one of the most important parts of our job is to provide effective literacy instruction to our students.

When working with my students in small groups, I have found that manipulatives are an essential tool to increase engagement (and heck, even fun) while helping students develop literacy skills. Today I’d love to share my top 5 manipulatives that every Kindergarten teacher should have for small group reading instruction.

Magnetic Letters

Right at the top of my list are magnetic letters. If I had to choose only one manipulative to invest in to get started, this would be it! These are perfect to use for building letter recognition and pair perfectly with an alphabet arc.

For students working on letter recognition, I often use magnetic letters to create a letter matching game where students match uppercase and lowercase letters. For this you can grab a set of uppercase and set of lowercase magnetic letters – or if you’re like me and just have a lowercase set, write the uppercase letters on note cards to have students match lowercase letters to.

There are truly so many possibilities with magnetic letters. I also use them to help students practice building words using the phonics pattern we are focusing on. I like to preplan what words we’ll be building then just put the letters they will need in a small container or baggie to make this practice effective but fast.

Letter Tiles

Similar to magnetic letters, letter tiles are a versatile manipulative that can be used in a ton of ways to help students practice letter recognition, phonics patterns, high frequency words and more.

I love letter tiles for having students map high frequency words in sound boxes. This reinforces what letter/s make each sound which aids in orthographic mapping.

If you happen to have magnetic letter tiles/chips like the ones above you can throw in magnetic wands for students to use when they blend sounds together.

Transparent Chips/Markers

These give me all the nostalgia from my own elementary school days, but that’s not the reason they make my top 5. Transparent chips/markers are fantastic for playing Bingo and other games with students during small groups, but I also love to use them to highlight words since they are transparent!

Try having students hunt for a specific word or phonics pattern on a page and marking it with one of these! They don’t damage books and are easy for students to move if they need to make a correction.

White Boards & Dry Erase Markers

While white boards might seem like an obvious tool, the flexibility they offer gives them a spot in my top 5! I love using these for dictation (whether a list of words or a sentence incorporating specific phonics patterns and high frequency words) because they are still fairly low investment for students, meaning they can easily fix mistakes.

Finger Pointers

Why not add a little whimsy and fun to your small groups? Finger pointers are another inexpensive way to get your students invested during small groups. There are so many options out there, too – witch fingers, google eyes, colorful finger lights, plastic pointers and more!

I have my students who need practice with tracking and one-to-one correspondence pop one of these on before practicing blending drills or diving into a decodable text.

And there you have it! My top 5 recommendations for manipulatives to use during small group instruction that have multiple uses and are generally inexpensive. While you don’t HAVE to have these for successful instruction, they sure do make things a little easier and more engaging for students.

Which is your favorite out of magnetic letters, letter tiles, transparent chips, white boards/markers, and finger pointers? Or… maybe you have a manipulative you’d add to this list. Let me know in the comments!

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