I've been teaching 4th and 5th grade for the past 7 years so I have never had to "get back to the basics" of what multiplication really looks like in younger grades, until this year.
I work with a student who has Downs Syndrome and so I am working on how to multiply with her. She has a great knowledge of place value with the base 10 blocks so we began multiplication by using them. You can get the Tupperware to keep your base ten blocks nice and neat at the dollar store! They have changed my organization life!!
My awesome co-worker, Rose (who has her own blog you need to check out), gave me the idea of using an ice cube tray to help represent the "groups".
It keeps things organized and she can see how many groups she has made and how many more she needs to fill.
When we have put all of our blocks in the groups we, "dump and count" to find our product.
Then, we write our complete number sentence on a laminated sentence strip with a handy-dandy expo. We have also added in creating our own little "story problem" where she writes the, who, usually a person, and then the "what" usually some sort of food. (In this case it was cookies).
This has really helped her see what multiplication means and she really enjoys using the manipulatives and creating her own authentic problems! And I have to admit- I enjoy "getting back to the basics" of what multiplication looks like!