I am a scissors and glue kind of person. As a child, nothing filled me with glee like colored pens and fancy erasers. While I am not a huge fan of worksheets in our homeschool, I really like hands-on, colorful learning. Since cutting and gluing are kind of my happy place, I don’t mind the prep work that goes into Evan Moor History Pockets. My kids love all the interactive activities and the final product.
Product: History Pockets
Company: Evan Moor
Recommended Age Range: Elementary
Time Required: about 20 minutes per week for 36 weeks
Difficulty: Prep work is time-consuming, but easy. Most of the activities have little or no writing (especially for the Grades 1-3 options), so not very difficult for kids either.
Cost: $11-$16 per book depending on the topic. At least 10 editions available on different topics. Literature pockets are also available, though we haven’t used these. (Note that it might be cost effective to get a subscription to Teacher File Box for $13 for one month or $100 for a year. This gives you digital access to ALL Evan Moor products and allows you to print as many copies as you need. I am not affiliated with Teacher File Box. Just a regular subscriber.)
Amazon Product Page (Affiliate Link)
History Pockets might not be for everyone, as they involve a lot of preparatory work. I cannot imagine using these for an entire class. However, if you don’t mind either getting all the activities ready for your students or guiding your students through creating them themselves, then they can be a really fun, hands-on way to learn. The final product is something the child will be proud of and will revisit again and again.
How We Use It
So far, I have used the Ancient Civilizations, Native Americans, Life in Plymouth Colony, and The Civil War history pockets with at least some subset of my kids. This year we will be doing Ancient Civilizations again, as my oldest is the only one that has done it so far.
Four years ago, when I first used History Pockets with my oldest, I did not have a plan. We just tried to complete an activity or two each week, but we didn’t make it to the last pocket by the end of the year. The following year, I implemented our homeschool crate system. Now that I plan our schedule out before the school year begins and prep all the material over the summer, we make it through everything.
Here is my process for planning and implementing History Pockets:
- First, I choose which History Pockets I want to do by searching on Amazon. Then I go to Teacher File Box and locate the one that I want. Although Teacher File Box is a very affordable way of accessing a ton of resources, they do not always make it easy to find what you are looking for. However, EVERYTHING is there. Below I searched for “Ancient Civilizations History Pockets.” All of the pockets are separate links, instead of there being one link for the whole book. Thankfully, the first search result is the first pocket of the book I want.
- I open the first pocket in the book I am looking for. In this example, it is “Pocket 01: What is History?” If you select “Print,” you can see everything that it is possible to print for this pocket. (Note that most computers nowadays will let you “Print to PDF.” This allows you to save a copy on your computer for easy access later.) I will look through that pocket and figure out which activities I want my kids to include in their book. Usually I include almost all the activities, but I might leave out 3 of 4 from the whole book that I feel are either not age appropriate, or I don’t think my kids will enjoy. I write down my list on a separate sheet of paper. This way I know how many activities there will be in total at the end. I also print a copy of each activity for each of my kids.
- If you scroll down on the page mentioned above, you will see links to ALL of the pockets in the book. It is under the tab called “Original Title.” I repeat the above process of saving, reviewing, deciding on activities, and printing for each pocket.
- The pockets are made out of 12″x18″ construction paper. I order that if I need it.
- Next, I go through my list and figure out how many activities I printed. There are 36 weeks in a traditional school year and 36 weeks of folders in our homeschool crate system. I divide up my activities among the 36 weeks. Usually I have more than 36 activities, so I see which related activities are fairly easy and combine them to the same week. The cover of the pocket book and the pocket labels I leave out of my folder system. I like to have my kids do those before the school year starts while so that their pocket books can be assembled and ready to go when the school year begins.
- After I’ve decided which activities go with which weeks, I put in my earbuds, put on an audiobook (see my Scribd review), and spend a few hours cutting out all the pieces and gluing construction paper onto the back of the ones that I want to have a backing. I have 4 kids, so this process usually takes a few days.
- After my 12″x18″ construction paper arrives and my kids have finished coloring the cover and pocket labels, I assemble the books for each kid. Now we are ready for the school year.
- During the school year, once a week, I pull out all the coloring sheets my kids have to do from that week’s folders (usually part of their science and social science). Then I let them watch a movie while they complete their coloring for the week.
- On a different day, we will read over whatever needs to be read for their history pockets. If there is any writing for the activity, we will complete that by the end of the week. All the completed work goes in the appropriate pocket of our history pocket book. The kids can go look back through their book anytime they want.
To summarize, here are some pros and cons I’ve found using History Pockets with my kids.
- A really fun format. Rather than just do worksheets, kids do writing activities with flaps, write postcards, make masks, puppets, pop-up books, and more.
- Makes a great final product that the child will want to look at again and again.
- Quality activities that provide a lot of educational value.
- Activities can be prepped in advance.
- Does not require very much time on child’s part to complete.
- Coloring helps with child’s fine motor skills.
- Writing activities are usually creative.
- Great for a wide range of ages. I have used the Grades 1-3 books with my 4th/5th grader and the 4th-6th grade curriculum with kids as young as kindergarten.
- Personally, having a final product to strive for helps keep me on track. I am less tempted to skip activities when I know we are going to add them to our book that we will be saving for awhile.
- Requires considerable prep time to get all activities ready, especially if you have more than one child.
- Would not be great for a child who does not like coloring. (Though even my kid that is less enthusiastic about coloring likes History Pockets, because I let them watch a movie while they complete the coloring.)
- The final product seems too nice to throw away, which can feel like a problem when you have four kids and not a lot of storage space!
Overall, if you have the time and patience to give History Pockets a try, I have found it to be a very fun, effective way to get kids excited about history!