Bored With the Classroom? Writing Outside with Structure and Purpose

Recently, I was thinking about unique ways to get my students writing outside of the classroom. Often our students are stuck within the boundaries of four walls, which sometimes isn’t all that exciting to look at. Sure, posters and images of foreign landscapes might be inspiring, but nothing can replace authentic experiences.

If we want our students to engage with their senses, they need opportunities to connect with nature – or at least the outside world. For that reason, allowing students to write outside encourage a more genuine connection with the senses.

I presented the following scenario to students at the beginning of the classroom:

Scenarios are a great way to bring to life an activity you wish to complete. Rather than presenting a stock standard writing activity (eg. write about a time you went to the beach), you are encouraging students to work within parameters and draw their attention to specific requirements of the task. Open-ended tasks are great, but students are not filled with infinite ideas – especially if they have arrived from lunch or a totally different learning environment. You need to feed them something to get started.

Here are a few examples I provided:

We then went outside to an area that occupied both grass and concrete. Students spread out and found their own quiet area to write and imagine the world as unfamiliar and strange. They were encouraged to make a dreamlike world where everyday items became unfamiliar and odd. They wrote for 5 minutes before swapping seats/spaces with another student. For example, sitting on concrete steps instead of the grass. They continued to write from their new vantage point before returning to class.

After going back to class, students then had to label their writing with the items they had described. The more ideas the better. We had an opportunity to share their writing to the class.

The next and final step was to turn their descriptions into a simile. For example, if they had said “I was sitting on a green blanket”, it would be transformed into “The grass was like a green blanket”.

There are a range of advantages to this writing activity:

  • Students work within the parameters of a scenario, reducing the likely of being lost in an open-ended activity and time constraints.
  • Students practise visualising everyday items as other everyday items.
  • Students transform descriptions from metaphors to similes.

Give this activity a go! If you would like the original powerpoint, please download from below.

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