Teaching outdoors can be daunting if you have a challenging class or if you are new to outdoor learning. When I taught challenging classes, the change in environment would often see a change in behaviours. Children want to be outdoors and enjoy the change in environment, and this can improve behaviour. However, there are a few strategies you can use to help you.
How I ask children to stand in a group is often determined by the weather. If it is wet and windy, my voice will not carry as far, and children feel cold when standing still. Therefore, I would instruct the children to stand as penguins – huddled together to keep warm and close to hear.
If I wanted them close but not as close my instruction may be “Sticky elbows”. This sees all children standing in a circle with their elbows close to their sides but touching the person beside them. This gives a close circle.
If I was wanting to be a little more relaxed, I may give them an area to sit on, this can often be on a large tarpaulin or designated area.
Before I have the children positioned, I need to think about my own position. I often found ensuring I was the person facing into the sun rather than the youngsters really helped them focus. This is especially important if you are showing them something. This can also be true in high winds. Ensure you are the one facing the wind and the children will focus more.
Explain to the children that whilst you are outdoors, in their playground, during teaching time it is the groups teaching space and you expect the same behaviours as a classroom. It is such a simple distinction but can really help.
If the children are over a wide area you need a clear strategy for bringing them back together as a group. For this, I had 2 strategies. I would either use a whistle or my voice. If it was a whistle, I may use an ocarina or duck whistle as they are a gentler sound. If I was using my voice, I would tell children that it was their job to pass the message on and get everyone across. Often, with a new class, the first time outside would see us practising this at the start of the first lesson outdoors.
What to Teach
For my first lesson outdoors, I would always select something simple which would allow time for us to go over the behaviour expectations and practice coming together as a group. For me, this was often an art lesson using Andy Goldsworthy as a stimulus.
Also remember that you can spend as little or as much of a lesson outdoors as you feel comfortable. You do not need to teach the full lesson outside!
What tips do you have for those teaching outdoors?