This post originally appeared on the blog Cait’s Cool School.
It’s springtime and the weather is starting to look beautiful. As soon as the temperatures start to rise just a teensy bit, I’m itching to get outside as much as my students are. The back of my classroom is all windows, which makes us all antsy and excited as soon as we see good weather.
So, how do you keep your students engaged in their learning AND take advantage of their need to get outside? Before going outside, it’s important to set boundaries. Remind students that they will have a job to complete and that if they can’t complete this job, we can’t go outside. I like to set an alarm on my phone to give them a specific amount of time to finish.
1. Measuring playground equipment: In their math notebooks, we create a simple chart. We have three columns: piece of equipment, estimate, actual measurement. We write down the names of the piece of equipment we want to measure. Sometimes we do the estimate inside and sometimes we do the estimate outside, just by looking at the equipment. We need our rulers (possibly some yardsticks), notebooks, and pencils. And our brains! Students are paired up to measure. Afterwards, we see if we had reasonable estimates, and how good our actual measuring is. If we have time, as a class, we go back to the playground equipment and I model measuring again for the big reveal.
2. Nature scavenger hunt: This can be science-y, or just reorienting students to what’s outside their school! Are there trees, flowers, leaves? Did they notice the flag pole outside? Is there anything that makes your school unique? What does your school sign lettering say? See what students can find while you’re outside. Collect data! Talk about what you found when you go inside. Or maybe even write a descriptive paragraph about the amazing things you found!
3. Reading for book clubs, novel studies, or for fun: Students are asked to bring in towels, and we do some of our reading outside, lying on our towels in the grass. Depending on our purpose for reading, we sometimes bring our notebooks, or post-its and a pencil. It’s important to not have too many supplies because, inevitably, someone will lose something outside. You could also bring some sweet custom sunglasses outside, to show how serious you are 😉 I picked up these neon wayfarer sunglasses from Amazon. It was easy to add the writing with a sharpie.
4. Take a break! Take a longer brain break and get some fresh air. Playing outside allows students to let off some steam (and I swear their attention span gets shorter the nicer the weather gets…) and the fresh air can help you feel relaxed. Don’t have a playground to use? Stroll around the outside perimeter of the building and play Follow the Leader. Even the older students don’t mind if it’s giving them a break! And don’t forget about you: take a few minutes to enjoy that vitamin D.
Caitlin has been teaching for six years and has experience with grades 3-5. She also teaches English classes at her local community college. She loves teaching language arts and math! Caitlin’s creations stemmed from a desire to infuse her curriculum with more engaging lessons. Her passion is creating fun, interactive lapbooks and writing units to keep students engaged as they read and write. Find more of her fun classroom ideas on her blog. See some of her teacher life on Instagram. Follow some of the ideas she loves on Pinterest. Check out fun and relevant education articles and ideas on Facebook. Grab some of her classroom resources from her TpT store.