Active learning is always the most effective form of learning. But what do you do with those who find concentration difficult?

There is an argument that says that the word “Active” in the phrase Active Learning is somewhat redundant since to be effective surely one also has to be active.

But such a recognition leaves us with a problem, for it is clear in every classroom that some students are more active in their learning than others. Which raises the question: what do we do with those students for whom focus and concentration on learning is just not part of their normal form of existence?

In short, is there a way of engaging all your students in active learning, even those who find concentration difficult?

The answer is yes, there is. “Manipulatives” (or card-sorting to give it its more common name) gets children immediately involved in making decisions about your given subject topic. There is no writing involved, just thinking by arranging and re-arranging the cards.

Of course, the level of difficulty of the cards can be varied according to the level of ability of the pupil or student – and in this way every pupil becomes involved in this activity.

In fact, although they are not widely used, manipulatives are proven by research to have an incredibly strong impact on student learning – which is why they might be called “the hidden learning technique”.

The visual nature of the activity is engaging as moving the cards into different arrangements feels to the pupils and students like a fun, games-like activity.

All students have more on-task and productive discussion when there is a shared visual focus. Manipulatives thus give students the arrangements of cards to focus on and sustain involvement

To see how this can work we have produced a free step-by-step visual instruction page on how to execute the Manipulatives technique on our website. It is completely free, and it will take you no more than five minutes to look through (it’s got lots of graphics to help explain the subject quickly, and then you’ve got a new technique up your sleeve).

There are full details on

There are also details of our whole project for raising the quality of teaching through 100+ techniques on