For Your Classroom

Outdoor Activities for Any Class

Does it bother you to be cooped up in a classroom day after day? When I was teaching, I would find myself looking wistfully out of my classroom windows on balmy days, wishing I could just take my students outside, like Maria and the von Trapp children in The Sound of Music

Maybe you haven’t made any outfits out of curtains lately, and maybe you don’t play guitar, but if you’re itching to drag your class out into the sunshine and fresh air, read on. These are my favorite easy ways to take your students outdoors while still covering academic content. 

A quick note: for safety and other reasons, it’s usually best to notify a neighbor teacher, office, or admin. that your class will be out of the room for a while.

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Scavenger Hunt

There are lots of different ways to set up a scavenger hunt-type activity outdoors. One version that my students really enjoyed was simply a long grammar worksheet cut up into sections. (If you need some good grammar worksheets, check these out.)  

  • I made 2 copies of the worksheet, cut it up into sections and taped all the various sections to the bleachers on the soccer field. (It was a multi-page worksheet, so I had enough sections to include everyone.) 
  • I divided students into 2 teams and assigned a team captain to each team. 
  • Students moved around the bleachers collecting and completing the worksheet pieces. 
  • When a team thought they were done, I provided the answer key to the team captain and the team worked together to check and correct their answers. First team done correctly won. 
  • A couple of things I would do differently next time to prevent problems:
    • Print the worksheets on 2 different colors of paper so the teams know which pieces are theirs. 
    • At the start of the game, guarantee disqualification for anyone who steals worksheet pieces that do not belong to his team.
  • You could play this game with questions, problems, terms, and more on the pieces; it doesn’t have to be a worksheet.

For a different type of outdoor scavenger hunt review game, check out this post. Instructions for the scavenger hunt are the second section. This version can create an individual competition or a team competition. 

Laura Randazzo’s “Swat Teams” Game

This looks like such a fun game for any age! Laura explains how to play inside, but I can see how it could easily be transitioned outside, which might be even better since I’m sure this game gets loud!

Bring out the sidewalk chalk

You might be surprised at how excited older students are to play with sidewalk chalk. (I think this goes without saying, but before you take the liberty of covering a parking lot, cement wall, or sidewalk with chalk, you’ll probably want to check with your admin to verify that it’s ok. Also verify that there will be NO vehicles or significant foot traffic during your activity.)

  • For a simple activity, print definitions or questions in a very large font and place them around the area, with room for students to write underneath. (Also bring out some rocks or weights to place on the papers to keep them from blowing away!) 
  • Have enough questions/ definitions for each student to answer a few.
  • Have students move around the area, writing their answers under the papers. 
  • For a competition, print 2 (or more) sets of the questions on 2 (or more) different colors of paper. First team to correctly answer all of their color of questions wins.
  • Similarly, have students draw diagrams or mini murals related to the topic you’re currently studying. If these are for a grade, take pictures to evaluate later.
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Giant Hexagonal Thinking

Have you ever tried hexagonal thinking? Betsy Potash came up with this brilliant critical thinking activity that pushes students to creatively make connections between concepts and ideas. Check out her explanation video and free kit here.

This would be such a fun activity to take outdoors: make full page hexagons and laminate them, then let students work in a flat grassy area, rather than on tables inside.

Work outdoors

Another student favorite outdoor activity that’s no prep for you is to just let them take their work outside. Students can work on reading, writing, a worksheet, a collaborative project, and more. Let them spread out on the bleachers, picnic tables, or playground. Or give students a heads-up the day before and have them bring their own blanket (and maybe a snack!) and sit on the field. My rules for this are that they must sit alone (unless they’re assigned to work together) and stay on-task the entire time or we go inside. I wouldn’t advise allowing school-issued devices to be carried outside.

For more review game ideas, check out this popular post.  

What outdoor activities do you do with your students? Share with me in the comments below!

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