I love the outside. I’m one of those strange people that actually picks cold, wet days to go for long walks (you see less people!). I reckon getting the kids outside is beneficial too.
I’m fortunate to teach in a tiny school, in a great setting, where we’re not required to book the playground space or hall space – if we want it, we’re pretty much guaranteed to be able to have it without having to organise it with the other classes. I try to make full use of this… Even when it’s cold or wet.
Why? Well, partly because it breaks up the morning. We have assemblies most mornings, first thing, so a quick game of something outside is a good way to let steam off before we get back inside and open up our books.
More importantly though, I also think the kids learn better when they’re not in a familiar setting; there seems to be a kind of feeling of wonder: “why are we outside? What are we doing? I thought you said it was literacy now!” It’s really great to see 99% of the class confused and eager to find out what we’re doing. When they’re engaged, they learn better. We all know that.
Recently, I’ve taken to reinventing some of the classic multi-skills games into maths and English games. The game ‘Compass’, where children run to north, south, east or west, has become a SPaG practice game where I shout a word and the children decide which word class it is (adjective, verb, noun or adverb). Another great one involves putting a box of differentiated mental maths questions (certain people can only pick certain colours) in the middle of four groups and getting each team to send a person, answer a question and return to the group to send the next person. The kids love it.
There’s also times when the outside isn’t just a fun alternative to the classroom but it’s also absolutely required. Teaching air resistance and giving the class a huge sheet of card to hold and run around with makes it far more real than sitting and talking about it in the class. Going on a minibeast hunt and classifying what we find into vertebrates and invertebrates makes it far more real than looking at pictures of the animals.
I was going to stop writing here. I love the outside and I think all the children need some time out there learning. I haven’t stopped writing, though, because I’m remembering some of the children, some that I’ll never fully understand, who prefer to be inside learning. The 1% that weren’t fully in awe of being in the playground instead of their seat. The classroom is, obviously, the key area of the school, and we need to use it in that role. There’s a fine line between using the outside to enhance learning and using it for the sake of it and we’d be poor teachers if we used it so often that the 1% increased and more children lost interest with being outside.
This is the same for anything we use; textbooks, interactive whiteboards, laptops, colouring pencils, hot-seating…