Espresso Shot: 9 Ways to Take English Class Outside

Now that Spring's here, your students are getting antsy, and their attention keeps drifting towards the window. You may be antsy yourself, dreaming of Saturday morning when you can finally spend some time in the back yard or at the park. Well, the ladies of the Secondary English Coffee Shop are here to share some of our favorite ways to take English class outside.

1. 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. One of my favourite activities is my poetry "scavenger hunt". We go to a nearby park and I send my kids to different locations to "find" inspiration. Then, when we do return to class, they have follow up activities to do. It's always one of the best days of the semester! Read more about it at my blog. -Room 213

2. I love it when a gorgeous day coincides with my plan to use a podcast in a lesson! Students almost always have their phones and earphones with them, and we go out to get some fresh air while listening. This is also great for students who need to move, or students wanting to lie in the sunshine! To read more about how I use podcasts in the ELA classroom, check out this post-Stacey Lloyd

3. Have your students play the role of photographer by sending them outside with their phones or cameras to capture images that can be used as inspiration for writing. Students can take pictures of anything that inspires them and send you best picture they took via email. Then, you can print the pictures, provide credit for who took the photo underneath, and use them as prompts for narrative or descriptive writing. This would look great on a bulletin board display with the pictures and writing displayed next to each other! -Presto Plans

4. Like Presto Plans, I love sending my students around the school to take pictures. We do this as part of our Photography Analysis unit, and students create the photos that their peers will analyze. We work on playing with space, perspective, light and shadow, and many other aspects of photography as we shoot. This is a great activity that can happen within school walls if, for some reason, you can’t take students all the way outside. The photo below was taken in the auditorium as students rehearsed for the musical.  -Nouvelle ELA

5. If you’re trying to review before an assessment, try “Quidditch”! We went outside to get ready for final exams. This game can be adapted to other non-grammar topics as well! You can read more about this at my blog -Secondary Sara

6. One of my favorite ways to help students find writing inspiration is to take them outside for a quick writing exercise. When we do this, we go to the quad or a grassy area on campus, and I instruct my students to write. It is more of a freewriting exercise than anything else because I want to instill in them that writing can be more than just an academic assignment many of them loathe. I have them describe with all of their senses what they are experience, or have them make up a story using the outdoors as a blank canvas, or have them write their feelings. -The Daring English Teacher

7. Sometimes I take my students outside just because, especially after spending a LONG winter inside the classroom! Last year, we went outside on the first nice day of spring and completed some peer edits on essays. Everyone was spread out, enjoying some sun and because they weren’t confined to their desks for a change, they seemed to focus that much more on each of the edits! -The Classroom Sparrow

8. The outside environment is the perfect place to have students think about the five senses to write an Imagery Poem. Even if the weather isn't perfect you can still spend some time outdoors soaking in the sights and sounds of the outdoor world. Ask your students to think about all of their sense and brainstorm vivid verbs and descriptive images to help students paint a picture with their words. And the change of pace and switch in location will help get your students' creative juices flowing. Have fun! -Addie Williams

9. I am a huge proponent of helping students practice mindfulness through yoga, meditation, and nature. Having the opportunity to take students outside, even just briefly, is a powerful opportunity! You can work with students on basic yoga techniques, breathing exercises, and meditation practices to help prepare them for the day ahead of them. Practicing these outside in nature provides a specific space and time for students to unplug, focus, and balance their minds for the day! -The SuperHERO Teacher

What are some other ways you bring your English class "into the wild"? Let us know in comments, or reach out @secondaryenglishcoffeeshop. We can't wait to hear from you!

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