Orientate Yourself to Outdoor Learning: Outdoor Literacy Activities

29 March 2011 · 0 comments

in Literacy Outdoors, Outdoor Courses & Training

These are the ideas and suggestions covered in the Outdoor Literacy workshop at the LTS “Orientate Yourself to Outdoor Learning” event at Glenmore Lodge on 25th March 2011. The theme of the workshop was circles which links nicely to work on cycles in nature.


Getting into a circle

Playing a simple game of Simon Says often warms children up to being outside and listening to and following instructions. Get them to run around touching different objects and using the game to explore the environment. After a couple of minutes say “Simon says line up behind someone else.” If a straight line happens ask the children to consider how to ensure that everyone is lined up behind someone else. Eventually the group will deduce that a circle is needed.

Sticky circle bands

Put masking tape, sticky side up on sleeve. Everyone finds interesting objects to add to their band. Encourage children only to add a little part of an item such as one small petal rather than a whole flower. This activity can work well to help children learn expectations about what they may or may not pick up and use outside. Afterwards use the bands to set the scene for a story that takes place where you are working. Another possibility is to lay the band on card and use it to plan a story or re-tell a journey if the activity was undertaken as part of a walk.

Sticky bands have their limitations. They work less effectively when it’s raining as it’s hard to get things to stick and stay on. A useful alternative is to tie a piece of string onto a twig and wrap a sphere of clay around it to make a “clay ball”. Objects collected can be pushed into the clay to keep them stuck there. With older children, using journey sticks works well.

To end the activity and move onto the next one, I asked the participants to find a big sample of their favourite object on their sticky band.

Story circles

Find an interesting object and bring to the circle. Tell a group story in a round using the objects in the circle. These can be stuck in a clay ball and passed from person to person. Variations including using story stones, creating a one-line “Pass it on” story or poem or acting out a scenario which uses 3 of the objects in the circle. Follow-up activities including making up individual or group stories. Playing “Kim’s Game” and other memory games that help with pre-reading skills.

Circle poems

This is another simple poetry structure that can be found on Alec Finlay’s website. The challenge is to create a circle poem with a maximum of 12 words. Those that work best can be read as an endless circle.

©Alec Finlay
This poetry structure has multiple uses. I like the idea of brainstorming words and creating group circle poems in nursery. These can be laminated and attached to the wheels of bikes, trucks and other moving objects so children can see the poems moving round and round! I think they work well for outdoor work as children can observe and reflect upon cycles in nature, in our lives, how things come and go, etc.

Many pupils will also want to create other shape poems and structures. From a design perspective, it can be worthwhile asking children to consider text, size, font, colours and presentations of the poems. Fun can be had following up this work through using tagxedo word clouds.

A three-circles-in-one variation by one participant!
Anyway, I’m rushing round in circles at the moment trying to finish up various bits of work before the end of the month. Thanks to all the participants for their ideas and contributions last Friday.

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