Little Miss Teacher Blog

By Clara Fiorentini

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Outdoor Literacy Learning - Infants

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Taking learning outdoors has so many wonderful benefits for young children. Nowhere is it written that we should keep our infants cooped up indoors in a classroom for the entire school day. Getting outdoors, exploring and looking at the school yard in a different light is so important. For a country that experiences rain for most of the year, it's a wonder that we're so afraid of a bit of drizzle sometimes. I recently visited the most wonderful and inspiring preschool, who base almost all of their learning and play outdoors, and simply refer to the classroom as their 'fancy changing room' - they only stay indoors if there is a full blown orange weather warning! Amazing.

There are so many simple ways to take learning outdoors with the infants, especially their literacy learning.  It doesn't have to be a big ordeal - the more simplistic the better and the more frequent the better!

Promoting Literacy Learning Outdoors:

1. Chalk in the Yard
Something as simple as a bucket of chalk in the yard can trigger all sorts of lovely emergent writing opportunities. Be it for some letter practice or even just free play at lunch-time, the opportunity to play and write on the ground with some chalk fosters all sorts of important skills - from gross motor to balance!

2. Letter Wands
You might have seen my recent post on Letter Wands. Take the letter wands outdoors and let the children hunt for objects in the school yard or school garden that match the initial sound. Extend this by going on a letter hunt in the locality! 

3. Letter Warm Ups
Bring literacy into you PE warm ups. Use equipment to make some letters, blends, words or names - emergent literacy galore!

4. Storytime under the sky
There is nothing as lovely as just taking story time outside. Foster a love of reading anywhere!

5. Alphabet stones / Story Stones
Story stones and alphabet stones are a lovely feature in a school garden. If you're concerned about them being dangerous then perhaps creating story stepping stones would be a better fit. However, fostering a level of trust with the children is important. Some schools let the infant classes work with real tools like hammers and nails, so in that case, what's the harm with a few story stones?

6. Lunch-time Library
My own school does something similar to this and I think it is such a wonderful idea. Rather than just toys in the yard, why not have a lunch time library. A box of books that can come in and out at yard time is a lovely way of encouraging the freedom to just take some time to relax and read a story at lunch time.

7. Nature Letter Making
Making letters and words with leaves, stones, twigs, grass - teach the children how to write with nature. We've all written our names with a stick in the sand, writing in mud or soil is just as fun, if not even more so! 

8. Story Prompts
Practicing the Language Experience Approach with story writing? Why not set the pupils off on a quick spin around the yard to find some story prompts to inspire some story telling. Extend this by visiting the park and hunting for some story stimuli.

9. Act it outdoors
Action packed picture books like 'We're going on a Bear Hunt' and 'Farmer Duck' are lovely to act out. Why not head outdoors and act out the story outdoors? Physical story telling!

10. Sight Word Scavenger Hunt
Hide some of your sight words around the yard. Encourage your pupils to head off with their buckets to find and read as many as they can. On completion lay them out and practice reading them. Another nice adaption of this would be to write a few sight words in chalk on the ground. Call them out (like Ship to Shore) and encourage the pupils to run to the right word. 

"Using the real world is the way learning has happened for 99.9% of human existence. Only in the last hundred years have we put it in a little box called a classroom."
Will Nixon, Letting Nature Shape Childhood

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