Reading and writing has always been an effective way for students to learn. But students learn and retain information better when they are given multiple facets. Students learn best when learning is active, they are engaged in hands-on classroom games and activities, and they’re involved in what they are learning. Whether you’re learning about math or science, history or language arts, hands-on classroom games and activities can be added and adapted to any curriculum.

Social Studies

Social studies involve learning about history, geography, and government, among many other topics. Any social studies subtopic that students are learning about can be turned into a hands-on activity. For example, when learning about maps, students can create their own salt map. If they are learning about Native Americans and their culture, students can prepare a traditional meal or learn a traditional dance and present it to the class. If they are learning about ancient civilizations, they can create a model of a civilization, write their own play and present it, or recreate an artifact for that time.

Language Arts

There are endless possibilities for hands-on activities when it comes to language arts, especially for elementary students. Here are a few ideas.

  • Use pipe cleaners, magnetic letters, sand, shaving cream, or clay to form letters, practice writing letters, sentences, rhyming words, opposites, etc.
  • Use plastic Easter eggs to help students to learn opposites, rhyming, or compound words. To do that all you have to do is write one word on the outside of one of the eggs and the other word on the other egg. For example, if you want students to learn compound words, write “base” on one egg and “ball” on the other egg. Then students match the eggs.


Older students can benefit from hands-on activities as well. Here are a few ideas for them.

  • Older students can learn about dialogue, imagery, and character development by recreating scenes from a novel they are reading.
  • They can learn complex parts of speech and grammar by constructing sentences. To do this all they have to do is write words of various kinds (adjective, participle, preposition, etc.) on cards and arrange themselves in a line to create a grammatically correct sentence.


Since ancient times, manipulatives have been used to help solve math problems. An abacus, tallies, stones, beads, and wooden counting boards are a just a few of the tools people used to help them learn math. Here are a few hands-on activities to help students learn math today.

  • Kindergarten students must learn about coins and their value. Have students use a magnifying glass to observe each coin, have them sort coins into jars, and toss coins to predict their landing.
  • Students can learn how to count money by filling a plastic Easter egg with coins. For example, write on a strip of paper, __ nickels = 25 cents. The students would then have to put the correct amount of nickels into the egg and write the answer on the paper.
  • Students can take a yard stick and go around the classroom and measure items.


Have students use beads, coins, or candy to help them solve math problems. Any manipulative that you think would keep them actively engaged would be considered hands-on.


For science, hands-on learning can entail observing, predicting, setting up experiments, and more. Here is a simple hands-on experiment for elementary students that examines what items will float and sink.

  • For this experiment, all you need is a bowl of water, a cork, a stone, a coin, and a grape. Have students first predict what items will float and what items will sink in the water. Then have groups of students observe as they place the items in the water one by one.


Hands-on science experiments are fun and keep students actively engaged. You can find dozens of activities online that will wow your students.

Hands-on learning through activities and games is just one component that will help improve student learning. If you couple this with active learning, students will be become more engaged, effective, and efficient learners.