Thursday, November 11, 2010

Literacy Bags

Literacy bags go by different names: Book Bags, Story Bags, and Book Buddies are just a few. The basic idea behind them, though, is to provide story enrichment activities around a particular theme. They can be used in the home or as part of literacy centers in the classroom. In the home setting, they help you, the parent, show your child that reading is both desirable and fun.

Literacy bags work well in preschool and kindergarten settings, and even in up to 3rd grade if the activities are carefully selected. Above and below are some pictures of the contents of a literacy bag my 4 year old brought home from preschool.
The book was Down By the Bay, which is based on the Raffi song by the same name. The literacy bag contained 3 types of activities: a matching activity with rhyming words, a puzzle activity, and a second rhyming activity that went beyond the rhymes in the book. The picture above is the first rhyming activity -- matching a picture with another picture that rhymes. We had a picture of a pear and a bear, a bat and a hat, and so on.

Then we had a set of very simple puzzles -- just line drawings of animals from the story cut into pieces and laminated. The final activity, below, was to come up with some objects from around the house and then think of words that rhyme with them. The theme here was "things that rhyme."

Another bag that she brought home the following week was for the book The Gingerbread Boy. This one was even more simple -- just the book and a selection of felt pieces depicting characters or objects necessary to the story.

We used the pieces to retell the story, then we used them to sequence the events of the story -- first the Gingerbread Boy met the cow, then the horse, then the farmer, then the fox. First he sat on the fox's tail, then his back, then his head, then his nose...and we moved the gingerbread boy each time to the right position.

If you are a homeschooler, or a teacher, or a parent volunteer, Literacy Bags are something you can make yourself. You could even throw some together for vacation days and summer activities if, like me, you are desperate for stuff your kids can do when there's no school. Below are a couple of resources for creating your own bags. Neither are in print anymore, but they are readily available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble's used book sellers and from Better World Books.

Also, here's a link to a teachers' discussion board with some interesting ideas for literacy bags (also math and science bags, though that's out of the scope of this blog). Some of the discussion assumes training in teaching methods, but several entries are basic, easy-to-apply suggestions.

Literacy bags are wonderful tools to make stories come alive, to help kids think more deeply about what happened in the story, to practice retelling and sequencing, and to build those connections that increase their chances of success in school.

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