Yesterday I had an email from Michelle who owns Chelltune asking if I had any articles / experience about story sacks, I believe she is looking at them from a visual learning point of view with her signing books and finger puppets. I've seen them used in classroom situations when working with children with autism and then used the resources from the sacks in small groups / individual work to help the children understand the book and the surrounding topics and vocabulary. Many of the resources that we sell at Littlesheep Learning could be incorporated into story sacks and we are currently researching some new products and eventually hope to have some of our very own style of sack - "Story Sack Topic Packs" including some of our favourite resources.
Here is some information about Story Sacks, their use and their assembly to get you started!
What is a Story Sack?
A story sack is a teaching and learning resource. Typically it is a large cloth bag containing a children’s book along with supporting materials to help make sharing the book more interesting and engaging.
Why make Story Sacks?
Story sacks are a fun way for carers and children to share stories together. They were developed by Neil Griffiths as a popular, non-threatening way of encouraging carers to start to share stories with their children in a way that is positive, theatrical, special, interactive and fun.
Who Uses Story Sacks?
Originally it was mainly schools and nurseries that used story sacks, however, they are now increasing used by other groups such as childminders, libraries, health visitors, speech therapists, social workers, children’s hospitals, prisons, family centres and adult learners.
How do you make a Story Sack?
Start with a bag – it doesn’t have to be a fancy one, infact you can make a story box or basket if that is more convenient. It’s just something to contain all the resources in one place.
Next you need to choose your story. The story you pick will depend on the child or children you are making the sack for and any learning objectives you want them to gain from the sack. When making your first story sack choose a favourite story – it will make it easier to think of things to add to the sack!
Then you need to fill the sack! With some stories the possibilities for items will seem endless and with others you will need to be more creative. Here are some of the things that are often included:
- soft toys / puppets of the main characters
- costumes / props / scenery / photos to support the story
- an audio tape / CD of the story
- a video of the story or related material
- a language based game
- a related non-fiction book
- craft and activity ideas / colouring pages
When choosing items for your story sack, read and re-read your story, what are the themes, who are the main characters / where is it set / does it use colours / counting / letter sounds / listening skills. How could you use it as the basis of non-fiction work; can you incorporate first experiences, new vocabulary and other topic based activities. What art and craft ideas can you think of that link in with the book you have chosen - if you search for the title of the book you want to base your sack around you can often find example activities and colouring pages!
Here are some quick ideas I've had for some contents for story sacks based around popular books to get you started:
The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle (Puffin Books)
- Soft toy caterpillar / butterfly
- Lifecycle of a butterfly sequencing cards
- Days of the week / number sequencing cards
- Play food props
- Non-fiction book about caterpillars and butterflies
- Activity ideas / colouring sheets including suggestions for fruit printing and painting butterfly pictures
Peace at Last, Jill Murphy (Walker Books)
- Three bears
- Puppets for the other animals in the story, e.g owl / cat
- Environmental sounds listening game; for example Orchard Toys Crash, Bang Wallop! or Cock-a-doodle-moo! or the listening lotto game Soundtracks
- Activity ideas / colouring sheets including making paper aeroplanes / clock faces
Little Red Riding Hood, Heather Amery (Usborne Books)
- A doll dressed as Little Red Riding Hood
- Puppets for the Wolf / Grandma / Woodcutter
- A basket with pretend cakes / flowers
- Wolf mask / Red Riding Hood’s red cloak / Granny's glasses / shawl for dressing up as the characters
- Pictures of forest / grandma’s house
- Non fiction books about wolves / forest wildlife
- Activity ideas / Colouring sheets including making cakes for Grandma!
Incey Wincey Spider, Annie Kubler (Child’s Play)
- Spider finger puppet
- Length of drain pipe
- Weather pictures / symbols
- Non-fiction books about weather / spiders
- Orchard Toys Insey Winsey Spider game
If you are making your story sacks to lend to children to take out of the setting also include some learning targets, a short guide to questions to ask / discussion points to consider and other ideas to extend the activity. Finally it is worth laminating the activity idea cards to protect them and including a list of what is in the bag so that nothing gets lost!
Story sacks are also ideal for sharing popular dual language books in areas where people speak English as an additional language.
If you are still stuck for ideas feel free to ask! I'd also love to hear about your favourite story sacks and resources and how you've used them so please add your comments below!