Since we have been spending our days outside playing for the past 5 months I wanted to share how literacy fits in to our outdoor classroom. I’m proud to say, it really is no different than how it fits in to our indoor classroom. Our door area is rich in child led literacy!
A packing slip inside a box becomes an instant story inside her little house.
We have totes filled with books and blankets for the children to access as well as placing books in other areas of the playground. It was no surprise to see the reading areas utilized by children of all ages all summer long. Yes, some books were damaged in the process as hard as we tried some days they didn’t get put in at night and got damp, some days they got muddy, some days they’d get ripped by small hands or feet. THAT HAPPENS, it doesn’t mean we stopped putting books out. Those situations became learning moments and and we still adhere to the belief that books belong in the hands of children even if when they get ripped, chewed on, and damaged.
Our littlest players love books and have baskets and baskets available to them inside and outside.
They love being read to and it happens on their time, never ever do we say, “It’s time for story time stop what you’re doing and come listen.” They hand us a book and we read it. We have little players that are barely two that want to be read to all day long. This has not occurred from a structured story time but has evolved from the freedom of exploring and having books to use and have read to them all day.
Outside reading is just like it is inside. The books can be moved from one area to another. As adults it’s our job to help children remember to put them back because they often go quickly from one activity to the next, dropping and moving. Often we just need to pick up books and get them to a safe spot for the next child to move. It’s no big deal, we can do it and it allows for developmental play and activity to happen.
We have loved loved loved watching the interaction of our mixed ages engage in books together as well. These interactions occur naturally and organically creating a love of reading, a connection to each other and the modeling of book etiquette! This has so much more meaning to learners than any adult directive can offer.
Reading time can look so many different ways. Notice I am reading a book and some children are engaged in their own books. I was handed book after book to read. I didn’t have to require the attention of everyone on the book I was reading. A LOVE OF BOOKS is occurring and that is what is important. I read a favorite “Abiyoyo” about 3-4 times the other day. Each time I’d read it more and more children would join us. Then someone would ask me to read it again and again and again. Some of the children were there for each reading. I didn’t call anyone over, they’d just see and hear and join on their own.
Paper, writing materials and their own desire to convey a message is the fundamental to learning to write. The materials are available and used often. We have a true belief that we don’t have to make children practice writing we foster a reason to want to write. When they discover meanings to and a need for writing words they will naturally seek out how and want to write. We allow our older students to be helpers in the infant room. Surprisingly we adults could NEVER get the order of turns correct so we suggested the children make a list. So then it was a daily contest to see who arrived to play care first in order to make the sign up sheet for baby room helpers. There are times too that they want NO BABIES around or in their forts and they have to write a sign to convey their message.
We have had in the classroom a mystery word that the children come up with. It could be from a topic of interest, a special event approaching, a word from a book we’ve read, but the word is a word the children pick, again child led. I would write the word and hang it up and then hid the individual letters around the room for the children to find. As they found the letters they would then place them and hang them up under the word I’d written.
Being outside I wanted to have a way to hide letters but they needed to be weather proof, sturdy and an amazing loose part to our outdoor learning environment. So I went to my friends at Dornbos Sign and they made us an amazing set of lower case and upper case letters out of roadsigns. We had them for 10 minutes and they were so engaged and wanting to find “their letters” and spelling their name I called and ordered more so that we have multiples of each letter. I am beyond excited to watch the letter play evolve and begin our mystery words in the outdoor setting.
Literacy outside is just as meaningful and engaging as it is inside and I love love love how our students are growing, evolving and exploring their environment. Markers, paper, books, letters, sticks, paint, just like inside and to be honest I think the having no walls, no echoing sounds, and natural lighting is more beneficial to the development of their minds and bodies.