Even more outdoor activities (to enjoy that great weather!)
When spring rolls around you can practically hear everyone’s better mood. Warmer, longer days make for happier people overall—and classtime is as good as any to take advantage of great weather. Following on from our introduction to outdoor activities for the EFL classroom, we’ve rounded up a few more of our favorite outdoor classroom ideas.
1. Conversation starters
Away from their everyday classroom surroundings you may be surprised how much more your class gets into speaking activities. This discussion activity is a little different, as it lets students propose topics and lead conversations. To prepare, ask each student to think of three things they would like to talk about or get their classmates’ opinions on (current affairs, controversial topics where appropriate, or “ordinary” topics are all acceptable) and write them on slips of paper. Mix the slips of paper in a bag or container. Now, demonstrate the activity by picking out a topic at random and acting as conversation moderator: Ask questions, allow students to give opinions, and give your own. Then, have students take turns to pull out a topic and do the same. This activity can be completed as a whole class or in smaller groups.
2. Free-writing and reading
What’s more relaxing than reading under a tree or while lying on the grass? Give your students time to enjoy this bliss with a free-reading session in which they can read a chosen English novel, short stories, or set class text. If reading is not your current focus, take their creative minds outdoors for a free-writing class, allowing them to write on the topic at hand. To bring nature into their writing, ask them to write about environmental topics. (Topics for beginners through to advanced learners may include animals, the weather, the environment, what they can see around them, favorite landscapes, endangered species, and thoughts on current environmental policy or affairs.)
3. The sound of silence
Calm a rowdy class or engage students in a touch of mindfulness by asking them to sit silently for five minutes and simply write a list of sounds they hear. (Get more grammar for your buck by asking for sentences in the present continuous.) Later, students compare lists in pairs. You’ll be surprised by the different sounds your class will have heard.
4. Bring me a _________
Prepare a list of riddle style instructions describing items you would like your young learners or teens to bring you. (“I’m a tree’s feather; not yellow, not blue” is a leaf, “I’m brown and sticky” is a stick). Give them a set time limit to decipher the clues and bring as many items as possible.
5. Blindfold walk
Students lead their blindfolded partner around a short obstacle course or by using the natural surroundings at your school or nearby park (benches, trash cans, trees, low plants, and stepping stones). This activity gives students higher stakes practice when giving directions.
Tip: do this activity the day after revising expressions they’ll need (such as turn left/right, go straight ahead, take _______ small/large steps, crawl, crouch down, duck your head etc).
6. Treasure map
This activity requires a longer preparation time investment, but is really enjoyed by students of all ages. Prepare a series of questions related to your current unit of study and hide them around your school. To find these questions, pairs must solve a treasure map of clues that tell them where to go. For example (adapt clues according to level, ability, your school’s layout, and include other staff members if this is possible/appropriate):
“Where would you go if you needed to wash your hands? Look for the next clue there.”
“Search for Question 2 between the two tallest trees.”
“Mrs. Walsh at reception has the next clue—answer correctly to receive Question 6.”
Once they are at the correct place, they will find an English question taped there to answer. Students must answer all questions before bringing them to you. Correct as an open class. The pair with the fastest time/most correct answers wins.
7. Run it off
Move classic classroom games outside and take advantage of the extra space by making them bigger and better. Younger learners will especially love the chance to burn off extra energy. Games to consider include circle games such as “Change places if”.
Another sure-success for young learners is “Vocabulary tag”. Students play tag as normal, however, are able to avoid being tagged by shouting out a vocabulary word from your current unit of study. (E.g., if studying clothing, a student could shout out “skirt!” and the person who was It would no longer be allowed to tag them and would have to find another student to tag.) Add challenge by making students assume a pose (such as kneeling down, or stretching out their arms and legs in a star shape) before shouting out the word.