Saturday, August 22, 2009

Intro to take home activity bags

Homework for Kindergartner's is somewhat a controversial and tricky subject. I handle homework mostly through a series of backpacks that are sent home with each student that focus on a particular skill. The following are some of the backpacks that I created or made form ideas I received at workshops. I did my best to give credit where credit is due.

Here are some tips for creating and managing take home activity bags.
1. Make sure the bags are light enough for a child to carry.
2. Include a luggage tag on each bag so that if they are lost or left they can be returned.
3. Make sure that any items sent home are replaceable.
4. Make extra copies of the instruction sheets. They are most often lost or damaged. It is a good idea to protect them in a plastic sleeve or laminate them.

I keep a roster of which child took home which bag and when. This helps me rotate each bag fairly. I usually send home 3 different bags with 3 different students at a time so that only 3 bags are in the rotation. I check the returned bags as soon as the student arrives and check out their work and ask them how they liked the bag. I quickly restock and consumable materials so the bag is ready to go to the next student.

Unfortunately there are some students who can't handle the responsibility of take home activities. To prevent lost bags I use the following questions to determine readiness. Is the child's backpack emptied daily or full of papers and clutter? Has the family returned their forms in a timely manner? These give me a clue on the organization of the home environment. I also sent home the easy to replace bags early. If a child is late by more than 2 days in returning a bag or objects are missing, that child doesn't get to take home any more bags. If I can, I may ask a classroom volunteer to do the activities with the child so there are no hurt feeling.

Shoe Tieing Backpack

The objective of the shoe tieing backpack is to give young learners a bunch of different ways to practice the complicated skill of tieing a shoe. To assemble is backpack you need a variety of tieing and lacing activities such as puzzles or lacing cards and a shoe. There are quite a few books on this subject and it is always nice to include one with the backpack.
For the instruction page go to:

For the Spanish Translation go to:

reading buddy backpacks

The simplest activity backpacks to create are the reading buddy backpacks. All that is needed is a stuffed animal and books related to that animal. Shown here is a Clifford themed backpack but any stuffed dog and dog related books work.

ABC Backpack

The ABC backpack is great to use at the beginning of the year and then as extra practice for those students struggling with their letters. The entire backpack is made up of alphabet letters. These large foam letters are available at craft stores but you can make your own set of cut outs from construction paper or use magnetic letters. The backpack shown here has 1 set of capital letters only but it would be easy to change them out for lowercase letters later on in the year.

For the instruction page in English and Spanish go to:

Socks Backpack

The socks backpack is my favorite. The objective is to practice the skill of matching. This idea also originated with Shari Sloane.
All you need are a backpack, several pairs of socks with varying colors and patterns, a book about matching like A Pair of Socks by Stuart J Murphy and the instruction sheet found at

The M&M backpack

The M&M backpack is one of the children's favorites! I found this extremely cool M&M backpack at a garage sale but a standard backpack or tote bag works just as well. I included 2 M&M counting books, a baggie of paper M&M's in different colors, a book of graph paper, a box of 8 crayons and the instruction sheet. You can also include a snack size bag of M&M's.

The objective of this backpack is for the children to use M&M's (either the paper cut outs or the actual candies) to create a graph of colors and a pattern. Each child uses one page graph paper in the activity book to graph the colors of M&Ms determining which colors are most and least common. Then the child uses the M&Ms to create a pattern and draws the pattern on the back of the graph. If actual candies are being used the child can eat them when the activity is complete.
For the direction sheet go to:

For the Spanish translation use:

The Scissor Suitcase

The purpose of this suitcase is to give students practice cutting. You need a lunchbox (I highly recommend checking out your school's lost and found for unclaimed lunch boxes before buying any.), a pair of safety scissors and a cutting sheet,( You can make your own or I use a booklet of practice pages that I received from Fiskars. and direction pages.

The original idea for this suitcase comes from Shari Sloane at, check out her activity bags for the English direction page.
For the Spanish translation use the link below.

The glue suitcase

This take home suitcase is designed to help students practice glue control. You will need a lunchbox, small bottle of glue, direction sheets, a piece of heavy paper and shapes or pictures to glue on the heavy paper. I only load enough items for one child at a time and reload it when it is returned. This helps keep waste down and prevents any over gluing. The original idea for this suitcase is from Shari Sloane at where you can get the English direction page.

For the Spanish direction page use the link below.