Meaningful Outdoor Activities for Back to School

If you receive our newsletter, you know that the whole team at Somewhere to Share is anxious about what 2021-22 is going to bring. The last 18 months have left us wondering “is this the worst it will be…” then surprising us with… nope!

My school is in rural, southern IL and we are under a mask mandate from our governor (thank heaven!). Our students will be in class masked again BUT… that means we can:

  1. EAT LUNCH AT SCHOOL!
  2. ATTEND FOR FULL DAYS!
  3. HAVE HOMEROOM AGAIN!
  4. HAVE SPORTS!

Obviously, no one likes masks but if it keeps us in a normal routine and OUT OF REMOTE LEARNING, I am will wear them on my face, knees, elbows… whatever it takes. Last year was exhausting and I can not wait to be fully in person again.

Last year we were on shortened class periods. It was needed. Don’t get me wrong, COVID transmission stayed at bay all year because our school did the right things… BUT the shortened periods meant we got to do the meaty parts of the lesson and I had to “shed the fat”… things we love like SSR/FVR (sustained silent reading), songs of the week, follow up games all got the axe as we had to keep distant and do much of our work online. The most joyful parts of the lessons were just… not a good fit for the situation.

I got a text from a friend that got me thinking… This year, I get my WHOLE 48 MINUTES BACK! YAYYYYY! But the kids will also be moving from 5 to 8 hours masked! As we transition back, it would be nice to have some meaningful ways to get them outside and allow them mask breaks.

So, together with Martina Bex, Nelly Hughes, Melisa Lopez, and Kristy Placido, I want to share 10 meaningful activities that we brainstormed to get the kids outdoors without losing the flow of your lesson!

  • Take students to the sidewalk and give each student a piece of sidewalk chalk. Have them sit two per square (if you can find a 90 degree angle, you get twice the squares the same distance from you). Tell your class story and as you tell/ask it, have students draw out the events with their chalk.

  1. If you don’t have a place to use sidewalk chalk, you could do the same thing with mini white boards and an expo marker.

Take a tour Sarah Breckley style! Your kids have seen your school campus… but have they had a guided tour?

Read a chapter aloud and have students do the follow up worksheet on paper. Give them clipboards so they have a flat surface!

Play a game of veo veo. You can take turns picking an object! For a twist, look for objects in the clouds!

Read a chapter of your current class read while sitting on the school lawn. If you’re not far from the doors, you could even do FVR/SSR outside then come back in for the lesson.

Read the chapter inside then do your follow up outdoors. Here are some great ideas for adapting comprehension questions to an outdoor activity:

Red Light/Green Light: Write out 10 true or false questions about your story or reader (or print from the teacher’s guide if you have it). Read each statement aloud. If it is true, it is a green light, students take 2 steps forward. If it is false, red light! They should not move! If they do, they should take one step back.

Order Up: Type a series of 10 events in a large font and print out enough copies for the closest ten under what you need. Ex. My 1st hour is 24 so I would just print 2 and have 4 students with no paper. In my first hour, I will break them into 2 groups of 12 (if you’re an odd number, just have a group of 12 and one of 13). 10 kids get an event on paper, 2 are the supervisors. The group will try to order themselves based on the events of the story. The supervisors will step back and line up their team then call you over when they believe they are done. If you have teachers guides for readers or are doing a story based unit that has an ordering activity, this is a fun way to make it meaningful outdoors but it does mean you have to do a little extra prep work making the larger print event papers!

Jump the Line: This is another great way to do a True False activity! Our school has a practice field for the marching band right outside my room so there are convenient lines already painted on the grass! You could chalk a line on the sidewalk, lay out a series of yardsticks or rulers, or even spray paint your own line (with permission please). One side of the line is True and the other is False. When you read each statement, students will need to decide whether to “jump the line”. Ex. They all start on the true side. You read a true statement, they will not jump. If you read a false statement, they will jump to the other side of the line.

Check out a unit with an outdoor theme: Both La biodiversidad and El agua es vida have unit activities that take students outside!

Hope that these ideas help you transition back to school and make the most of any outdoor days we can get before the cold sets in! We’re thinking of you as you go back! Our team is over the toxic positivity… we just want you to go back knowing that there are like-minded educators walking this crazy road with you.

Author: senoracmt

I began teaching Spanish in Illinois in 1994. I have taught levels 1-4 in a small rural high school, 8th grade introductory Spanish, Biology 1, and 101 and 102 at the community college level. My Spanish classes are partnered with the community college to offer students 8 semester hours of dual credit on completion of Spanish 4. In 2011 I met Carol Gaab and Kristy Placido and have since co-authored the book "La hija del sastre" with Carol Gaab and authored the novels "La Calaca Alegre", "Bianca Nieves y los 7 toritos." "Vector," "48 horas" and "Bananas" through Fluency Matters. In 2006 I became National Board certified and I have been serving as a mentor both for candidates seeking certification in world languages other than English and a virtual mentor for candidates in all certificate areas. I completed my Masters degree in Spanish education in 2011 and did my research on the use of Understanding by Design to create meaningful cultural units for the language classroom. I am a frequent presenter on this topic, please consider me if you are interested in a workshop on backward design. In 2013 I was named the ICTFL Foreign Language teacher of the year and in 2014 I was selected as CSCTFL's teacher of the year. In November of 2014 I was lucky enough to be one of the five finalists for the ACTFL National Teacher of the Year in San Antonio, TX. What a "Cinderella" experience! You can reach me via email at senoracmt at gmail.com.

3 thoughts

  1. These are great ideas! Last year, I made a great big memory game and we played it outside. I laminated the cards and held them down with rocks in the grass. We had a great day!

  2. These are fantastic ideas! I really appreciate you & your other contributors for sharing!

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