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Day 4: Stackables

My co-author, Sheila, suggested adding these after she began seeing them in classrooms a few years ago. She first saw them used to teach geography (city/state/country/continent), but eventually we both saw them used to teach many different concepts.

So what is a “stackable”? Essentially they are manipulatives that can be used to teach relationships between ideas, concepts, or things. They are designed to teach a sequence, cycle, or hierarchy and can be used in social studies, science, math, and many other subject areas.


Create your stackables using any product you have available. Styrofoam can work as can plastic or paper. Simply paste an image and word or phrase on each cup in the series. You may want to use a glue or sealant over the image to make sure that they graphics don’t peel or move as students are stacking them.

If possible, create several different cup sets for the classroom so that students can review with different content. For instance, you might use several different nesting cup sets created for food chains with some having a hawk at the top of the food chain and some having a whale. You could also create some variety in geography cups by using different countries and planets.

We featured stackables in our book because we see them as a potential support for students with disabilities who cannot easily express what they know or understand. If you know a learner who cannot explain an idea but can potentially show you what they know using this tool, consider creating a set of stackables for home or school. Some of the stackables we have seen include city/state/country/continent; food chains; place value; inch/foot/yard/mile; and layers of the earth.

For more differentiation ideas for K-12 classrooms, check out From Text Maps to Memory Caps [Paul Brookes Publishing].