Learning on your Doorstep – Ideas for Developing Writing Outdoors

17 October 2012 · 0 comments

in Book Reviews, Literacy Outdoors

It has been a literacy-loaded term and so I thought it would be good to share with your some of the ideas from one primary writing course and news about a relevant book that’s just been published.

Working in groups, the participants were asked to look at ways of developing aspects of writing stories outside.

In the photo below, the group decided that children could be asked to make a character from natural materials to develop and then write about. This reminds me of this wooden spoon project from The Coombes School. The physical act of creating a character gives children thinking time when it comes to developing the personality and other details about where the character might live, what he or she might say, do, think and feel.

With the fox puppet, a group of English as an Additional Language (EAL) teachers put together a super activity which involved lots of repetition and shared story making that began with an oral re-telling of the story of the Fox going on a walk and finding lots of interesting things – collected by the children in advance from a walk of their own. The format is useful for developing sequential memory. This is a rough idea of how it went…

Mr Fox went for a walk today. On his walk he found a leaf. (The leaf is put in the bag and the puppet and bag are passed to the next person)
Mr Fox went for a walk today. On his walk he found a leaf and a stick. (The stick is put in the bag and the puppet and bag are passed to the next person)
Mr Fox went for a walk today. On his walk he found a leaf, a stick and a stone. (The stone is put in the bag and the puppet and bag are passed to the next person)

The story continues orally outside and can then be written up as a collaborative story back in the classroom. A suitable opening and closing for the story can be agreed.

Stories develop and encouraging children to think in terms of a beginning, middle and end or “first, next, then.” In the photos below, story stones are being used to develop this concept. It actually began with children having to find the story stones located around the playground.

As the story is told, the stones are moved to each part of the story. Again, a write up can happen inside or out. It can be worth recording the children’s ideas using a digital recorder so that they remember their ideas.

In this activity the focus was on developing the scene or setting for a story. Children are asked to draw a simple map. Next the children place alphabet letter stones in each section. The maps are swapped and the children have to come up with places that match the letters. For example, if an area has “B” then this could be the beach or bubble fun area.  From here, the children write an imaginative description of their story setting.

Learning on your Doorstep

On the subject of writing, last week a new book arrived through the post, Outdoor Learning on your Doorstep by Isabel Hopwood-Stephens. I’ve been waiting for its publication for several months because it has been a very long time since I’ve come across a book with a specific curriculum focus. Its subtitle is, “Stimulating writing through creative play outdoors for ages 5-9 years old.”

And this is really what the book is about. The book has six projects each with six outdoor sessions, ideally suited for a woodland, but adaptable for most outdoor spaces. The themes include, amongst others, the Enchanted Forest, Celtic Life and Animal World. There is a springboard suggestion to begin each week, a suggested activity to take place in the woodland or outdoor space and ideas for writing activities back in the classroom. It would suit a class teacher who is looking for a literacy-themed approach to a series of woodland visits. Many of the topics involve reading a simple story – which is provided – or receiving and sending messages to various imaginary characters.

Most of the activities outside involve an element of reading and practical tasks such as making natural dyes from plants, creating story sticks and building mini shelters. Each lesson plan is pretty clear and the book has a fresh and friendly style with robust ideas and activities which most teachers should find doable. Yay!

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