Leaf loving literacy activities

22 October 2010 · 4 comments

in Literacy Outdoors, Outdoor Courses & Training

Today I have been fortunate enough to facilitate a workshop “Roots to Nature” about literacy activities outdoors at the Growing Greener Futures Conference. Below is a summary of the activities undertaken during the workshop. As it’s autumn, I decided to focus on literacy activities that use leaves.

Leaf pairs (visual discrimination)

The fun began in the classroom, with every participant having to choose a leaf from a bag and find their partner who has the same leaf. The participants then lined up in their leaf pairs to go outside. The challenge here is to have enough pairs of leaves that have been collected beforehand. This can be done with children on a previous visit to a wood or area with lots of different leaves. Alternatively, teachers can ask children to bring in two leaves that are the same from home.

Leaf line up (team problem solving, talking and listening in groups)

Once outside, each participant had to find a leaf on the ground which they liked and to bring it back to the gathering circle. The challenge was to line everyone up in order from the person holding the largest to the person holding the smallest leaf. This creates a lot of discussion as the terms “largest” and “smallest” are quite vague when it comes to leaves. For example, is the stem to be included in the size? Is width more important than length? With some classes, it’s possible to negotiate and define the measurements used more accurately. This activity is a great way to introduce some measurement vocabulary into meaningful discussions required to complete the task.

Leaf slide show (developing vocabulary and comprehension skills)

Next we looked at our leaves through our leaf slides. This allows us to closely examine the veins, pattern and structure of leaves. The value of repeated close observations of natural materials is often forgotten. Every leaf, even from one tree, is slightly different. Just as people are all one species yet come in different shapes and sizes, the same can be said of leaves of the same species. Biodiversity happens within as well as between species.<

Trying to imagine what leaves remind us of is a good idea. These can be scribbled on the leaf slide as a way of building up a collection of descriptive phrases and words.

Syllable Poems (collaborative creative writing)

Poetry is a natural form of writing to undertake outdoors and poets all over the world lay testimony to this. For example, William Wordsworth would frequently create his poems whilst walking the Lakeland Fells, with his sister Dorothy taking notes by his side. Robert Burns wrote many poems based upon the places, natural phenomena and animals he saw as he went out and about. Group or class poems can be a very enjoyable way into writing poetry. Within each workshop we created a group poem about leaves.

The structure of this poem is simple and based on syllables and the object being described, e.g.
Object, Object, Object
1 syllable word, 2-syllable word, 3-syllable word, object
1 syllable word, 2-syllable word, 3-syllable word, object
1 syllable word, 2-syllable word, 3-syllable word, object
Object, Object, Object

The number of lines can be as long or as short as needed. Each line of words should begin with the same initial sound. Try and arrange the poem so that the lines are in alphabetical order. It’s quite helpful for children to work in pairs or trios to develop each line. The poem can then be recited with each child saying their part in turn.

The Leaf Man (developing characters)

The potential of leaves and other objects to be used in outdoor literacy activities is huge. For example, after hearing the story of the Leaf Man, children can create a leaf man outside on the playing field or on a patch of soil, either in groups or individually. This can be used to develop character descriptions that consider:

  • The physical aspects of the leaf man
  • The sort of life he might have
  • Where he chooses to live
  • What he thinks about and feels

The Growing Green Futures Conference was a warm, positive event that was great to be a part of. Thanks to everyone who attended and a special thank you to Martin Waller who organised it. In particular I found it amazing to meet lots of people that I follow on Twitter and being able to put a face to a name. Thank you.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

(V.Kerr) School Time Adventures October 23, 2010 at 00:11

Wow so many great ideas! I like the find the leaf match outside.

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Abbie October 25, 2010 at 00:08

Great activities. SO wish I could have been at the conference.

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Juliet Robertson October 25, 2010 at 06:33

Thanks for your comments. It was a lovely event. The “Leaves, leaves leaves” poem is a lot of fun.

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SquiggleMum November 2, 2010 at 12:51

Another idea is to get children to form letters with leaves. Most kids love making their own name!

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