Outdoor Activities for Better Language Acquisition Process
‘Teacher, Can we please have a class outdoors?’ this question was asked by a lot of my students, and ‘No’ was my typical answer. Why do students want to have an outdoor session? Is it really useful? What outdoor activities could be done to help when teaching English? These questions ran through my mind every time one of my students asked me to have a class outdoors. So, I decided to find answers to these questions.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Ahmed A. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Reasons to have classes outdoors
Why teach outside at all? It is known that students like variety and diversity. Of course, some students enjoy the typical in-class sessions – but many others would like a chance to do things differently. Going outside the class keeps class time fresh. Outdoor activities also help students participate actively in their learning. Moreover, what could be a better way to understand a given topic like food, sports, the environment or the vocabulary used for public transport than by going out and seeing them in action?
Teaching outdoors can be very useful for students in one way or another. It can help in improving the students’ academic achievement, making learning more engaging, and nurturing creativity. It can also help in encouraging the informal style of learning, providing challenges, improving attitudes towards learning and stimulating, inspiring, and improving motivation. But, before selecting an activity, some questions should be asked like: Is the idea an educational experience – or is it just fun? How will teachers support their students’ learning? What do teachers want their students to learn?
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Choice of activities
Well-selected outdoor teaching activities break up the routine, grow student confidence, and connect nicely with coursework. Some various ideas and activities can be done outside the glass walls. We could start with free reading time. If teachers give their students time during class to read, why can’t they take their books outside? Students will love finding a cozy corner where they can listen to the birds, take in the sunshine or shade, and still devour the words on the page. Students can read independently or do group reading activities like jigsaws. Also, if a teacher doesn’t have a reading period in his/her schedule for the day, why not take their students outside to write? Students will find so much inspiration outside. Teachers could ask them to write a letter to a friend or family member talking about the change in seasons or nature-themed writing prompt like If you had a wild animal as a pet, which animal would it be? Also, they could write a story from a wild creature like a squirrel, worm, or insect.
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Another activity that can be done is scavenger hunts, they are lots of fun. Teachers can easily do an outdoor scavenger hunt that emphasizes new vocabulary for their students. One option is to give them a list of items you want them to find: stick, stone, leaf, grass, etc. Another option is to challenge the students to find items that begin with every letter of the alphabet. Teachers can set out one page with one each of the 26 letters written on it. Set students free, and have them put their found objects on the appropriate page. Though it may be troubling to get something for every letter, this will be a great activity for introducing new vocabulary.
An additional activity is listening closely. Teachers can play lots of listening games outside that will challenge and entertain their students. Start by pairing them, blindfold one, and have each person direct his partner to a specific area of the school grounds. Also, teachers can describe an object to their students like a leaf, a rock and so on, and once they figure out what it is they can run and get it. The first to find the object the teacher is describing wins the round. Moreover, a teacher can even bring a book outside and have his/her students sit on the grass and just listen to what he/she reads.
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World around us
Furthermore, teachers can use a little outdoor time to inspire your students to research. They can have their students gather as many different types of leaves as they can, and then return to the classroom or the library to find out more information on each of the plants. Then, they can use that information for group presentations or individual research reports. If they can’t collect leaves, they can look for birds depicted in a birding book for their region. After returning to the classroom, the students can share their experiences.
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The ideas and activities are endless but teachers must be very careful when planning such activities to achieve the most benefit from them. An unplanned activity can be useless or simply wastes a lot of time and effort which turns those activities into boring ones. Teachers should do their best to make learning fun for their students. But overdoing an activity will ruin its main purpose.
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