Take Home Book Bags were a key factor in getting my students engaged in their reading every night at home. With some trial and error, I was able to get the system working (almost) seamlessly in my classroom. I compiled all the important elements in this post to help you create a routine with your students and implement book bags successfully!
Send home a permission slip
A permission slip allows parents the opportunity to opt-in to the book bag program. It outlines how the book bags work and ensures that everyone is on the same page. A permission slip helps keep parents and students accountable for all the materials that are being sent home. If you are interested in a free downloadable version, come join our Facebook group to grab it!
Implement a set day for checking the bags out and a separate day for checking the bags back in. In my classroom, Mondays and Fridays were super busy days so we chose to check them out on Thursday (we actually called them Thursday Book Bags) and students were required to return them by the following Tuesday. Having a day in between allowed students to bring their back in if they forgot on Tuesday and it also gave me a day to check the bags.
On check-in/check-out days, I recommend having something else for the students to do so that it moves quickly. I also suggest doing it at the same time every week. This makes it a routine for you and for your students. My students worked on their Morning Work while we did book bags. We were able to complete the process in less than 10 minutes!
Prepare All Materials
I made all copies for the activities and worksheets in the book bags ahead of time. I created a file system to hold all the materials. When it was time to refill the bags, I just had to reach into the files to grab the new papers.
Track Bag Check-Outs
Each week, I marked down which student checked out each book bag. I had a chart with each student’s name and all the book bags. I drew a circle when a student borrowed a bag and checked off the circle when they returned it.
This allowed me to keep track of students who didn’t return bags (which didn’t happen often) and also which bags each child had already borrowed throughout the year. I encouraged them to choose a different bag each week, so that they could explore new topics and so everyone had a chance to check out each bag.
Use a Bag that Closes
While any type of bag can be used for the book bags, I recommend using a bag that can be closed. To keep the materials from falling out, a bag with a velcro, zipper or button closure is helpful. I also tried to get bags that would fit in a student’s backpack for easy transport to and from school!
Don’t Spend a Lot of Money on Books!
To fill the book bags, you’ll want to stock up on a few more books. You could write a project for Donors Choose or ask for donations. Check out this Facebook Live for even more ways to get books for cheap.
Pay Attention to Student Interests
Provide students with a wide selection of book bags to choose from. The more bags you have, the more eager they will be to check one out. Ask students what topics they want to read and learn more about. This will build their engagement in reading at home. Feel free to join our Facebook group and make a suggestion for new bag ideas!
Have Enough Bags for the Class
I recommend having enough bags for each student, so that each child can take a bag home every week. You could even have a few extra to ensure that there are a variety of books for students to choose from.
Keep a Visible Chart of Book Bag Choices
By keeping a visible chart in your classroom, students can see which bags are available. I had mine in a high traffic area in my room, where kids could look at it as they walked by. This will make check-out easier, since students will have an idea of which bag they are interested in.
Rotate the Check-Out Order
Each week, switch up the order in which students check out their book bags. This will keep it fair and allow each student the chance to have the first pick. Some weeks I made it completely random, while other weeks I chose a student who was working hard during check-out time. They all wanted to be sure that they got the bag that they wanted, so this really motivated them to stay on task!
Don’t Make it a Requirement!
I never made Take Home Book Bags a requirement in my classroom. I gave all students and families the option to participate. I always had a majority of my students opt in, however. Once students were using the book bags, I did not require them to complete the activities inside. I explained that they were merely for fun as extension options of the books. I stressed that the reading was the most important part!
Ready to start Take Home Book Bags in your classroom? Check out Take Home Book Bags in my TpT store!
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