As the weather warms up, your students are probably itching to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. It can be tricky to keep students on task inside when they’re longing to head outdoors. To be honest, it might be hard for you as the teacher to stay motivated inside too. So instead of fighting nature, head outside for class with these easy outdoor learning ideas!
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DIY Outdoor Learning Ideas
Taking the learning outside does not require extensive planning or prep to make outdoor learning effective. All you need are a few basic materials that you probably have in your classroom, in your PE department, or can borrow from the teacher next door. 🙂
This outdoor learning activity is versatile and can be used to practice many different skills. To get set up, create a large square by setting 4 plastic cones up in the corners. Attach word families, sight words, teen numbers, or equations to the cones using notecards and tape.
One student is the “caller” and stands in the middle of the square. They close their eyes and count down from 10 as the other students run between the corners quietly. When the student counting down reaches 0, they call out a word, number, etc, with their eyes still closed.
Any students standing in that corner must sit down as well as anyone not in a corner yet. Play continues until only one student is left standing and is the winner. The winner becomes the “caller” and play continues. To differentiate this activity, each time the “caller” calls a word, number, etc, all students must say it and spell it aloud.
Build a Shape.
This outdoor learning idea is a great way to practice 2D shape recognition and learn about shape attributes. Give each student a plastic cone. Call out a shape or have students take turns drawing a shape notecard. Students must work together to build the shape by arranging the cones to build a rectangle, square, triangle, circle, etc. After they build the shape, discuss how many sides, vertices, and if the shape has straight lines or curved sides.
Similar to the 4 Corners activity, write skills such as a CVC words, sight words, teen numbers, or equations on notecards and attach them to the plastic cones using tape. Set the cones up in a pyramid shape and have students toss plastic rings, solving each skill as they hook it with their ring.
You can even make this a relay race by having students toss one ring at a time, solve the skill, remove the cone, and tag the next person in line to toss and solve. Play continues until all of the cones have been solved and there are no cones left.
Sidewalk Chalk Activities
Word Work Hopscotch.
This outdoor learning idea simply requires sidewalk chalk and gross motor skills. Draw a simple hopscotch game with chalk and write sight words, CVC words, or CVCe words in the spaces. As students hop through the course, they’ll pause on each space and say the words they’ve hopped on. After making their way through the course, they can hop at full-speed back to the start.
Ten Frame Roll.
To play this outdoor math game, draw a double ten frame on the sidewalk with chalk and write numbers 1-20 inside. Students will roll a large foam dice into the ten frame and read aloud whichever number they land on. Then, they’ll count up to that number.
You can make this game more challenging by drawing more ten frames and working with larger numbers. You could even draw a 100’s chart to practice identifying numbers to 100.
Math Fact Switch.
This math fact outdoor activity is perfect for partners. Each partner will write an addition or subtraction equation in sidewalk chalk, leaving off the sum or difference. When both partners have written their equation, they’ll call “switch” and switch places, solving each other’s equations.
They can use chalk to draw a model to solve if they need. To extend this activity, they could write fact family equations and solve all 4 when they switch places.
To play this game, draw squares using sidewalk chalk and write a CVC word or word family word inside each square. Students will toss a bean bag into the squares, reading the word in the square they landed in. If they get it right, they get a tally mark, which they’ll write in chalk off to the side of the magic squares. The student with the most tally marks at the end of 5 or 10 minutes wins.
This game can easily be adapted to use with sight words, color words, addition and subtraction equations, teen numbers, etc.
Beach Ball Activities
Catch and Solve.
To prep this game, simply write an addition or subtraction equation in permanent marker on each stripe of a beach ball. Have students stand in a circle and toss the beach ball around. When the teacher says stop, the student that catches the ball will read the addition or subtraction equation that their thumbs land on and solve. Play continues after they’ve correctly solved the skill. You can even play music and have students stop when the music stops.
Again, you can easily differentiate this activity by using different math and literacy skills such as sight words, word family words, teen numbers, etc.
Beach Ball Review.
This outdoor learning idea is a great way to spiral review skills. Write a category on each stripe of the beach ball, such as sight words, CVC words, CVCe words, addition facts, subtraction facts, teen numbers, etc. Toss the beach ball and whichever stripe the student’s right thumb lands on, they get a review question from that category. As the teacher, you may want to have a list of 8-10 questions in each category to refer to.
I hope you’re able to head outside for some fresh air and outdoor learning with your students this school year. If you’re looking for more outdoor ideas, you can find 14 more in my outdoor games and activities blog post.