Literacy Bags in the

 Upper Grades


Updated 7/06

What are Literacy Bags?

Management Tips

Where Do You Get the Materials?

Ideas for Bags

Examples of My Bags

Links to Sites With Literacy Bags


     This summer my "project" will be to create literacy bags to be used in my fourth grade classroom over the school year.  Literacy bags are large tote bags filled with  books, activities, website and maybe a game or video about a  specific topic.

     There are a few good websites about how to use them in the lower grades (especially kindergarten).  I have looked all over the internet and have not found that much information for how to use these bags in the upper grades. One WONDERFUL site I did find was very helpful and had bags all the way up to the middle school grades!!!  So using this site and bumbling through it on my own I will try to jump start this home-school connection in my own classroom

Updated 7/06: Okay, I have some not so good news. I never was able to start the literature bags this past school year.  I started the bags over the summer and got pretty far in collecting materials and bags.  However, with between teaching and going to school and spending time with my husband, well, the bags never were completed.  BUT, this summer is the time!  I will finish the bags if it kills me!  Also , since I have moved out of a trailer and into a classroom, I actually have room to store them!!

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Ok.  This will be interesting because I am not sure how I will manage these! This will be a learning experience for myself as well!  Here are a few ideas I have to get myself started.  If you have any other ideas, or better ways to word items please let me know!

Time Line Procedure

Informing Parents

I will send home a parent letter informing parents of this new program.  I have developed a few rules that I will be using. 

  • Students may not check out any bags without a signed parent permission form.

  • Parent are responsible for replacing any damaged or missing items.  Maximum cost of each item will be $7 and I will have the final say on whether and item will need to be replaced.

  • Also, parents will be responsible for double checking whether on not the material is appropriate for their child.

  • I also will be having a scary bag with spooky stories and things like this.  I am really thinking that this might have a separate permission slip because people can get very sensitive about this subject.


Any other ideas???  I would love to hear from you guys!!!



Check Out Procedures




I believe I am going to wait awhile before introducing the bags.  I will only have about 10 bags so not every child will be able to take one home.  I will ONLY allow students with permission  slips to check out.  We will do check out on Mondays and the bags will be checked in on Thursdays.  It does not give students a full week, but then I can't have to worry about it on Fridays (a hairy afternoon anyway) when we have cash out.


Check Out:

Students will have to take everything out of the bag and use the check list include to make sure they have all items in the bag.  It will be their responsibility to make sure the materials are in acceptable shape.  After they have done all of this they will sign out the bag. 

Check In:

Students will check in bags by signing the form and once again, pulling out materials and checking to make sure they have all items and they are in acceptable shape.


I am hoping because I am having children check so many times then I will be able to keep materials in decent shape.  Basically whoever LAST checked the bag out will be responsible for the condition of the materials.


I will keep a checklist for each bag in a binder. Students will sign the checklist in the binder in order to take it home.  Click here to see an example of this checklist. This checklist is a modified version of the one I found here.  The binder will also include all the parent permission slips, and an inventory of what is in each bag.


Lost or Damaged Items


If an item turns up missing/ and or damaged I will be sending home this form and will call the parents as well.  I hate just to send home a note like this without an explanation.  However, I will admit I am the note queen and hate calling parents!


Students who have damaged materials or list materials  and did not pay to replace them will not be allowed to check out again. I am thinking about a two strikes and you are out program for students how damage/ lose items but do pay. They have two chances and then they can't take part any longer.



Update 7/06: Before sending any of the bags home, make sure to check with your media center specialist.  To cover myself  I will have the media specialist go through the books and the lists of books to make sure all the books have appropriate content.  This way is a parent contests one of the books sent home, I am covered because the book has been approved by the school (via the media specialist).  I am going to try to do this right before school begins, but it will take some time due to the number of books I have collected.  I am very hesitant to send home any of the movies due to this reason.  Luckily, none of the movies (2) cost over $2 so I don't feel too bad!

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      I have been scavenging local garage sales in order to find things to include in my literacy bags.  I have had vague ideas of what topics I would like to include.  I know I want to include many of the topics that we have in our Social Studies curriculum because I feel like we short change this area.  However, I really want to buy as little as possible for these bags and rely on many of the materials I already have.

     In order to cut down on costs I have been scavenging local garage sales (it is May- and garage sale season!) to find as many cheap and inexpensive things as possible.  I have done pretty well I think. Here are some pictures of the materials I have bought.  All these materials cost about $15 or so. 

I am thinking of including a bag of materials on the Wright Brothers and their famous flight.  I found a few books on making paper airplanes and on how planes work.

I have several books at school that are wonderful about pioneers and the Oregon Trail.  I found this American Girls book (which I did not have) and a set of plastic Oregon Trail figurines.

I am going to have a bag about sports.  I have several books at school that are biographies about famous players, as well as books about specific sports.  I found these need wooden games in which you move the golf tee pegs.  I thought kids would like them!

I can't decide if I will combine this with the sport bag or have an entire bag devoted to games and cards.


Here is just a hodge-podge of things I found.  I want to have a medieval bag ( the castle book)  The Space Atlas will be in a bag about space.  The Ultimate Spy book will wither go in the Revolution War bag or Civil War bag.  I have LOTS of stuff at school about these wars.  Rock Bingo will be great in a Rocks and Minerals Bag.  I need to watch the videos and double check to make sure they are appropriate.  The Scooby Doo video may go in a Scary Story bag and the Fish video would go in an Oceans bag.

     I am also going to go  though all the books I have in my classroom library and try to find high interest books to include in these bags.  I am also going to check in to the local library and see when the library will have their big sale.  Sometimes the library will sell all the books they purge from the system.  they are still good- but have a library tag on them!  Scholastic is another great place as well as Book Closeouts.  Click here to find other places I have found cheap books!

     Speaking of garage sales...I have spent about $25 total and here are all of the things I have found!

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What to include

Possible Themes

Bags for the Literacy Bags!

Visitor's Tips

What To Include:

I am thinking that I will include (if possible):

  • fiction books

  • nonfiction books

  • toys/ manipulatives

  • game

  • Something authentic from the period/ topic

  • craft/ activities to do at home

  • websites

Possible Literacy Bag Themes/ Topics


Ocean Space Money Dinosaurs
Monsters (Yeti, Loch Ness, etc) Birds Mammals Snakes
Magic tricks Our United States Scary Stories Dragons
Explorers Colonies/ Colonial Times Revolutionary War Civil War
Westward Expansion Lewis and Clark Building/ Construction Flight/ Wright Brothers
Automobiles Transportation Poetry Favorite Author bags
Computers Fairy Tales Games Sports
Mysteries Medieval/ castles Rocks and Minerals Women in History
Chocolate Crafts Horses Underground Railroad
Cats Dogs Caldecott books Newberry Winners

These are just ideas I brainstormed while sitting here at the computer.  This website has MANY more ideas and lists.  When I created my bags, I thought about books I already had, topics that we teach in fourth grade, and what kids would find interesting.

Bags for Literacy Bags!

When I first envisioned Literacy Bags I was thinking of ordering bags in bulk to cut down on costs.  I searched Oriental Trading Company and came up with these bags.  I had every intention of ordering these until my mother mentioned that these my not be thick enough to hold the weight of the bags and may not be wide enough for al l the materials!

I ended up going to Ebay! and finding 12 large cotton, canvas tote bags.  I paid about $14.00 for them!


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Visitor's Tips

This wonderful idea was shared by Debbie Palmer, a third grade teacher in California:

Hi – I stumbled upon your website and I thought I would tell you about one of my class’ favorite take home bags I made (I made about 10 of these one summer).  I store them all in canvas bags and for the decoration I cut fabric designs that match and wonder under them on the bag and use fabric pens to write the title on it.  So, the one my kids beg for (I teach third grade) is If You Give A Moose A Muffin – I found a moose fabric, but the moose out and attached it to the front of the bag.  In the bag, is the book, a muffin tin, a small box or paper sack container of muffin mix (I get them on sale at Big Lots – dollar store) and I just add one each time it goes home – laminated directions, and a bound book I made with decorative lined paper and they were to read the book, make the muffins and write a story about making the muffins with their parent.  All of my bags have a writing element – this one also has a parent journal (fabric covered journal) for the parent to model good writing while the child writes – they put in either a muffin recipe, or write about their experience making muffins with their child.

Hope this sparks some ideas!

Thanks for the great idea, Debbie!



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Examples of My Bags

Links to Sites With Literacy Bags

Ponton's Pond

Take Home Bags- 2nd grade

Click on the shelf to go home


All graphics are from