A Definition of Teaching Aids

Using only textbooks in teaching can become boring for teacher and student. Introducing tactile or visual aids to explain concepts is a way to break up lessons, reinforce retention and increase engagement. Teaching aids are materials the classroom teacher uses to help students understand the concepts she introduces during lessons. These teaching aids can take many forms, from beans students count and sort while learning simple kindergarten math to photos of famous people and places introduced during a middle school history lesson. Choosing aids that match with student grade levels and corresponding interests and abilities helps to engage students beyond a simple lecture format. From manipulative to media, these teaching aids used in context can compliment classroom instruction.

Manipulatives

Manipulatives are tools used to make abstract concepts more real. These teaching aids help children understand mathematics by looking at it from different views. Manipulatives may include color tiles, pattern blocks, interlocking cubes and a variety of measuring tools, all of which the students can easily handle. Many math standards suggest that teachers at all grade levels model mathematics concepts with manipulatives in the classroom.

Electronics and Media

Teachers use interactive whiteboards, tablets and computers to stimulate their students and hold their attention with visual tools. Taking students on a virtual tour of an Egyptian pyramid will make that fabled landmark come alive in a way no book can. Speaking via online video with volcanologists while they conduct research on an island volcano in the Pacific Northwest will make the entire class part of the adventure. An interactive whiteboard connects the teacher's computer to a projector, which can be used to show a lesson on a touch screen to the class. The interactive lesson allows students to manipulate objects on the screen and they become participants in active learning rather than simply spectators in a passive process.

Graphic Organizers

Visual graphics that helps organize students' thinking are known as graphic organizers and can be used in any classroom subject matter. Students use them to organize their learning by constructing Venn diagrams, t-charts, story maps, flow charts and timelines. Once students organize their ideas, they can spot trends and patterns in the concepts. An example of a graphic organizer would be to have students map out the timeline of a specific war. By creating a timeline for a conflict like the Civil War, they are making a visual representation of concrete and memorable events during that war.

Primary Sources

Primary sources are the original documents from a historical event. These pieces of living history gives students an opportunity to think critically about an event from the past by analyzing the document or picture. Local history museums will often loan out historical documents and other objects to teachers so that they can share them with their classroom. Alternately, teachers can schedule field trips to these museums to have the class learn more from direct contact with primary sources. A field trip might include reading over documents issued by a past president or letters between historical leaders relevant to the classroom lessons.

Realia

Objects from real life or "realia" are often used in classroom instruction with these primary sources assisting with vocabulary development and background knowledge. Bringing in relatable and concrete real-life objects can help teachers in showcasing concepts with tactile and visual materials tied to the subject being taught. For example, students studying types of rocks can sort real rocks according to weight, color or texture. Realia can also be used to demonstrate concepts like manners, holidays and weather.