Let me say that I am loving using Writer's Workshop in 4th Grade. I am still under Lucy Calkins' Launching Unit for the beginning of the school year. Today we completed a lesson about using objects around you to spark memories. I combined this lesson with one about writing narratives. Her lesson calls for using Roxaboxen (a strong narrative describing a place where children go to make their own neighborhood in their community). Roxaboxen has fort building, community making, make believe wars and stores, and even their own form of currency (shiny, smooth black pebbles)
My kids LOVED this story. Immediately, hands were up wanting to share their own outdoor experiences with friends. It was refreshing to know that some of my little friends still do the same things I did as a kid with my neighborhood friends. I started by saying "do you guys ever just go outside with your friends and BUILD STUFF? Get your hands dirty and MAKE THINGS?" Only a few looked at me like I was crazy, the rest entered this crazed moment where they had to share about their adventures. Homemade ovens, bandana-wearing, fort building, nerf gun wars. Love it.
You don't have to use Roxaboxen, and you don't have to have the perfect lesson. I want to just encourage you to trust your teacher instincts. I had no plans to go outside when I added this lesson to my plan book. It wasn't until I saw their enthusiasm for being outside making things that I tweaked the whole thing and we headed outdoors!
What resulted was a lot of engaged writers. Students were finding their small object then settling in a cozy spot to start their writing. My school is lucky enough to be located right next to a small park and we have a beautiful courtyard that is perfect for outdoor learning. Even if you do not have these types of spaces, I still encourage you to get outside with your kids. The fresh air, the possibilities, the engagement... it's well worth your time.
Some tips for making it happen:
1. Don't wait for the perfect lesson, just grab your notebooks and pens and head outside.
2. Build the anticipation, let students know ahead of times so they look forward to going outside.
3. Set guidelines BEFORE you head out. Perimeters, behavior and how long you'll stay out.
(A big one for us is NO HUGE BRANCHES. Sounds crazy, but we have a lot of trees which leads to lots of branch sword fights o_0)
4. Bring all supplies outside. Keep it simple: notebook and writing utensil.
5. Once students find their item or cover their objective have them sit and write, write, write. Being in nature can be so inspiring and altering for young writers. Just being outdoors while writing is very powerful.
Don't forget to relax and have fun!
I'm challenging all of you to get outdoors for learning this week. It doesn't matter what subject area or for how long, just get outside and see where it takes your learning. Use this hashtag so we can all follow along: #OutdoorLearners