I use fall colored rice for another sensory tub that I use around the same time of the year for sorting syllables. And this time, I added some fine motor work by having students pin their sorted cards under the correct number of syllables. It just adds that little extra bit of fun and interest to keep them engaged. (RF.K.2b)
I often use whatever is available and on hand when the need arises. This fall when I was working with my Word Family sorts, I wanted to spice things up a bit so I grabbed a bucket of acorns for my guided reading group to dig through and sort word families. (RF.K.2.c)
During our study of polar animals, these little guys were in our table along with some tinsel, fake snow and Styrofoam. Students retold facts they learned about polar animals through retelling. It was one of the most favorite sensory stations all year. (SL.K.2, SL.K.4, SL.K.6)
I actually keep a list of ideas and items for each month of the year in my planning binder. They’re part of my Getting Started with Sensory Table Activities Pack and will be included in each new monthly Sensory Table pack as well.
I like to use items that will last a couple of years. I have my kids wash their hands before and after they use the table so in my mind, there aren’t as many germs (right?). In any case, colored pasta is always a good way to start the year because it is large and with it you can easily teach clean up procedures. And the color . . . I love using the neon colored food coloring for these because it just turns out so pretty.
Rice is also a good material to use. In the winter months, just white is just fine, but of course, dying it makes it spectacular.
Green for St. Patrick’s Day with discarded gold carnival tokens (I printed real and nonsense words on them.) Who doesn’t like searching for gold?
Natural items are fun and cheap. I can usually wrangle a couple of boys to collect acorns each year for me, but you can almost anything you can find outside.
Colored sand just makes things POP!
How about some garbanzo beans painted gold as in leprechaun’s gold for St. Patrick’s day? And hey, a pot for your gold is the perfect container for some St. Patrick’s Day sensory fun.
In the top drawer of my container, I keep my response sheets and instructional/I Can cards. If they are differentiated, there will be three different envelopes with coordinating colored dots. I also have clean up materials (Don’t you love my Dollar Tree dust pan and broom?), various containers for sorting (I’ll show you how those work in a minute, and things like scissors, hole punches or any other materials that correspond with the tasks cards for the materials that are in the table.
I often allow my students to choose how they want to sort their items, either in buckets (Stick a little velcro on the back of the cards and on the bucket for quick change over of sorting labels.) this sorting tray (Dollar Tree . . . again!) or from a rope with clothes pins. Everyone loves a little variety.
or if there is a response sheet it looks like this:
But I also have modeled the activity prior. When students complete the activity, they have a set of task cards that I have chosen for them to use and that make sense to use with the materials in the table. Students can look through the task cards and choose an activity.
It might be sorting, counting, cutting, weighing, measuring . . . but the part they like is THEY get to choose, and I don’t have to worry about them using the materials in appropriately or doing ‘nothing.’