Here is a list of books to inspire your time outside with your students from SD71! With a list of suggestions about how to use each one.
Another idea I found is to have letters written on clothes pegs and have students clip them to objects in nature that start with that sound. I could see this being done by a few students at a time during outdoor play time with the letter they have learned so far.
I took to trusty pinterest to find some more ideas about practical ways to teach literacy skill outdoors. I found another blog that outlines a few ideas that I found interesting.
ABC Eye Spy
Have students look for letters of the alphabet in signs, etc. when going on a walk (challenge them to find all the letter of the alphabet) or say a specific letter or sound and have them find an object that begins with that, or possibly ends with it to make it more challenging. This could also be done with blended letters, such as ‘sh’ or ‘th.’
ABC Nature Shapes
Have students look for letters that occur in different nature objects, such as the ‘o’ in the centre of a flower or the ‘u’ in a petal.
Moriah recently reminded me that her, Sam, and Shanelle did their SLA wiki project on learning language outdoors, so I was excited to head over to their page and see what they had found!
I read a lot of great information about the benefits of learning outdoors, but what stood out to me as an educator who is passionate about Kindergarten and early primary classes was the rise in students going into the school system who have speech and language problems and cannot communicate at a level that is expected. I have witnessed this first hand with many of my previous students, but I never attributed it to the indoor lifestyle that is so common these days.
Some great practical ideas that I read from these ladies include reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and having students try and build a house for the three bears out of things found in the forest, as well as listening walks. Where students are taken outside to listen and identify to different sounds. Students could be asked to identify the beginning sound in the sound they hear. Another great idea I read about was a letter treasure hunt, where large letters on paper are arranged around an outdoor areas and students are asked to find a letter, where there will be a clue to find the next letter. Students could be asked to sound out the letter they are looking for to practice letter and sound recognition. The letter could also be placed on an object that begins with the same letter.
In her book, Liz outlines a number of simple techniques that can be used outside to work on reading, writing and word work. Her students usually carry their own tools, journals and books, such as clipboard, nature journals and mini books for writing and sketching. They might draw and label a forest object or begin writing a story in a small group or at their sit spot (a personal space where students go for a short about of time to observe and sketch everyday). Students can also be asked to read at their sit spots. However, just like inside the classroom students have to bring a good fit book and work on building their stamina. Liz suggest starting with one minute and working your way up to ten minutes in Kindergarten.
During word work time, students can form a circle to play rhyming games, such as picking an object from a basket or the forest and saying a nonsense word that rhymes (ex. cone, pone).
Sticks can also be used to write names, letters and words in dirt or sand or chalk can be used to practice the same things if there is cement near by.
This is a Ted Talk I watched about how a Nature Kindergarten program was set up in Sooke. Frances Krusekopf spoke about how she noticed children playing outdoors is getting less and less common these days in order to avoid discomfort and danger and because children are often distracted by electronics. However, playing outdoors offers much more space and possibilities. She spent four months in Germany where her son attended a Forest Kindergarten program, something that is traditional for the country. She was inspired by the program and wanted to bring something similar to BC. With the help of other collaborators she set up a program in Sooke at a school next to a forest and a lagoon, where the kindergarten students spend two and a half hours outside every morning. The students had gains in four areas compared to regular kindergarten programs. These areas were: locomotor skills, assertiveness, cooperation and self-control. There are now 20 similar program all over BC.
“Imagine a child playing in a small patch of woods, where the trees might be hiding places, the foundation for a fort or branches to jump and swing. The tall grade in the understory might be a bed, a hiding spot or a farmer’s field. Now compare the imaginative possibilities this child has with a slide or swing.”
-Deanna Erickson and Julie Athman Ernst, NACC 2011
I have been skimming through the book, “Outside Our Window: Developing a Primary Nature Program” by Liz McCaw (an educator in Nanaimo who teaches a Nature Kindergarten program. Although taking your students outside can seems overwhelming, with all the behaviour, safety, weather, and planning considerations to be made, Liz explains many of the benefits that she has found for her students by taking them outside everyday. Her students learn about the environment through an interactive, play-based approach which hopefully plants a love a nature in them, leading to them becoming stewards of the environment in the future.
Other benefits include children learning to take risks, overcome fears, develop persistence, problem solving, regulate emotions, investigate, wonder and use their imaginations, as well as getting a lot of opportunity to play. The BC Ministry of Education recommends at least two hours of free play everyday for Kindergarten students as it is critical for a child’s development and learning. They learn to cooperate, take turns, listen actively and play by the rules and develop executive functioning skills.
Taking students outside benefits their physical development, oral language, social emotional development, and creativity.
In addition to the benefits of outdoor play, Liz also discusses many practical ways to bring classroom content outside. To me, it’s easy to see ways to bring math, science and art outside but not as obvious of how I would bring literacy and Language Arts, so that is why that is the focus of my inquiry.