Bag Ladies’ Best Ideas for Hands-On Learning

A Bookbag of the Bag Ladies’ Best: Resources, Ideas and Hands-on Activities for the K-5 Classroom
By Karen Simmons and Cindy Guinn
(Maupin House/Capstone, Revised Edition, 2018 – Learn more)

Reviewed by Elizabeth OBrien

I picked this book to review when I saw the title, A Bookbag of the Bag Ladies’ Best by Karen Simmons and Cindy Guinn. I am a true Bag Lady and happy to admit it. This review is for all the teachers out there who are bag ladies too.

I also somehow knew that the words bag lady meant the book would give me more ideas to allow students to explore, discover and create. The book is divided into different chapters by classroom subject areas. However, ideas suggested in one subject area could be easily used in another subject area. Just add your own creativity and what works for your lessons.

Add photography to science class

Let’s peek at Chapter 3 which focuses on Science. One activity that stands out and is easy to do in the classroom is called “Photograph Pose Story” on page 31. The pages all throughout the book are easily organized with two boxes, 1) Materials Needed and 2) Ideas for Application, at the top at the page. Then you’ll find steps to complete the activity. For the “Photograph Pose Story” you need a camera/phone. The authors simply suggest taking photos of children pretending to do different actions – jumping, driving a spaceship and riding a horse.

The authors then recommend the students use the photo of themselves to create stories and illustrate themselves doing the activity. I would like to add if you are familiar with author Nina Crews, many of her books are based on real photographs. Her books Snowball and One Hot Summer Day would be great to add a visual to this activity for students to see real children doing a movement.

Puppets and time capsules to enliven Language Arts

On to Chapter 4 which is filled with Language activities. I personally like this chapter the best. There are three activities – File Folder Stick Puppet Stage, Story Time Capsule, and Zipper Baggie Quilt – that stand out. I mentioned that each page gives steps to follow – there’s also a little illustration showing what the project should look like at each step. The File Folder Stick Puppet Stage is every easy, especially if you can get a box of file folders from your school’s supply room. It lets the student create a cut-out window for the stage. It shows how the student can wear the puppet stage around their neck also. I feel the puppet stage would be great as a table top theater as well.

The Story Time Capsule on page 69 needs two clear plastic tumbler style glasses. The authors suggest students can pick any topic. The students need to be given time to collect or create small items for the time capsule. After all the items are collected they are placed in the middle of the cups and both cups are taped together with packaging tape. This gives a spaceship feel to the story time capsule.

Many classrooms do beautiful quilts. The Zipper Baggie Quilt on page 79 is a very simple way of doing a plastic quilt. All you need are zipper style baggies for each student in your class and some duct tape. You simply attach the book baggies together using duct tape to make a plastic quilt and insert the student work.

Quick “glasses” for readers

Chapter 5 is all about Reading. Students will be very happy to make Eyeglasses. This calls for a tricky supply in that you need to collect enough six pack plastic rings from aluminum cans. Each six-can ring will make three pairs of glasses according to the directions.

After you have the rings and some pipe cleaners, the activity only has two steps. Step 1) Cut a six-pack ring into three pairs of glasses. 2) Cut the pipe cleaner in half and bend one end of each half loop into ear loops. This is the only page in the reading section where they added a literature tip box and suggested Glasses: Who Needs ‘Em? By Lane Smith. Also good for any students that are Harry Potter fans. These glasses are great to transform into Harry Potter!

I think as a teacher you will be happy with a lot of the activities in this book. The Bag Lady authors even allow you to give yourself the Official Certificate of Merit on page 141 for completing one of their activities.

Elizabeth OBrien has worked for the Department of Education in New York City for the last 15 years in many different roles. Her main desire as an educator has been to allow children to explore and discover by giving them the right guiding tools. Her favorite quote from Albert Einstein is “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” Above she is Professor Sprout from Harry Potter visiting a Grade 4 classroom.



MiddleWeb is all about the middle grades, with great 4-8 resources, book reviews, and guest posts by educators who support the success of young adolescents. And be sure to subscribe to MiddleWeb SmartBrief for the latest middle grades news & commentary from around the USA.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.