Monday, May 17, 2010

May I Go Outside

Part I: Fun & Excitement is one of three Conditions students consistently tell us gets them actively engaged in their lessons. We do an exercise with teachers where we have them make two lists: One of things they do they find fun and exciting and one with things they do that are dull and boring. We then look for common elements. The former fun lists involve interacting with other people (parties, playing games), being physically active (rock climbing, sports), being outside (hiking, gardening), and having choices (picking a movie). The latter lame lists involve being alone in a crowd (waiting in a line), being stuck inside (because of weather), doing repetitive tasks (ironing), doing required work (cleaning, laundry). Then we ask: "Which of these two lists look more like what we ask students to do each day in school?" Admittedly it's a bit of a "Gotcha."

Part II: I learned in Teaching 101 that you should never teach a class outside no matter how nice the weather or how much the students beg. It's too difficult to maintain focus, there are too many distractions, and it is too difficult to be heard. When I was teaching (pre-QISA) I never taught a class outside--not when I taught in high school, college, or grad school.

Part III: Working on Fun & Excitement, one of our Demonstration Sites developed May, I Go Outside. During the month of May teachers could sign out one of three available spaces to take students outside for a lesson. The catch was that they could not simply move an existing lesson outside (e.g., read aloud on the lawn rather than read aloud on the carpet). They had to incorporate the outdoor environment into the lesson. The outside had to be a focus so as not to be a distraction. Develop adjectives based on things you see outside for a story. Count the links in one chain on the swing set and then multiply to get the total number of links. Collecting at least four different kinds of bugs for science class.

Part IV: When I retire back to teaching, I can't wait to go outside!

Post your Fun & Excitement best practices at

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