I love to take my kids outside, but as we all know, releasing teenagers from the confines of the classroom does not always lead to much work. To make outdoor time meaningful and not just a sun-basking exercise, we have to be smart about what we ask them to do. I decided to make up a series of writing tasks that I can use for reference next week, ones that check off all of the boxes for the things that we are working on in class.
So, instead of sweltering in my classroom sauna, my students were sent off to complete five different writing tasks. I copied the sheets in groups; each group of sheets presented the tasks in a different order, so the kids weren’t all arriving at the same place at the same time. After they finished, they met me under a tree to read their novels.
Next week, during reader’s workshop, I am doing mini-lessons on point of view and setting. We will refer back to the writing tasks that focused on point of view and discuss how a change in setting – going outside for class – affected “our story”. Later in the week, we are starting my “Ideal School” project and they will use the metaphors and similes they wrote in a piece of persuasive writing.
The next day was just as hot, so I sent them outside to do the initial group work I do for the ideal school project. I sent them with chart paper and markers to discuss what’s working and not working in our current school system. Next week, they will present their work when we begin the project.
So, long story short, we went outside. We did meaningful work. We didn’t melt. Most importantly, the kids were engaged and working during days when they would normally be sitting in class in a hot mess.