My kiddos love and need the sensory bin. It is great for increasing language, working on social skills (sharing, talking to each other), practicing academic skills and gives them the necessary sensory input they need. I have themed sensory bins and one of the favorite themes is our first one...back to school.
It is shredded paper and items that the students will be using on a regular basis (scissors, crayons, erasers, gluesticks, etc.) When I use this bin I have my aid show the students how to use it appropriately and they will either pick out items and record them on the recording sheet or she will ask them to find an item, say the item and record it on their recording sheet. You can find the recording sheet here.
One of our end of the year sensory tubs I made this summer is a yarn and ribbon sensory tub. I am going to be using this at the end of the year and putting watermelon letters in there for the students to match up.