Literacy Moves Outdoors: Learning Approaches for Any Environment by Valerie Bang-Jensen (Heinemann, April 2023) gives teachers practical and useful ideas for adding sensory, hands-on literacy lessons outdoors into their regular teaching routines. As a homeschool parent (over the last 11 years) and homeschool co-op teacher, I frequently have advocated for learning methods far outside of lectures and worksheets, using engaging methods that call upon the senses to help interest the students. Although my most recent co-op teaching situations did not allow for taking the teaching outside, I love the ideas in this slim volume, and I’m confident that teachers in various situations will find ways to make these ideas work for them too.
When I say “practical and useful ideas,” I mean that the author provides ideas that put literacy into actual use for a community or school. The ideas provide literary experiences not just for the students in that teacher’s particular class, but also for community members to participate in and enjoy. The five main ideas take class literacy concepts, including cross-curricular ones, to an outside location. One chapter explains and walks you through setting up a story trail, where a picture book or a student-created book is used to lead participants down a nature trail for a more immersive reading experience. A local library did something similar during the COVID years to our great delight. Also discussed are word gardens, spontaneous outdoor learning, writing and designing signs, and creating literacy trails for conceptual or vocabulary learning. Some of these ideas seemed familiar (I think a local school has a word garden?) and I loved that this book walked through tips and tricks for making the ideas work for other educators, including tips on taking the ideas indoors if it is necessary.
Reading Literacy Moves Outdoors has made me eager to find opportunities to incorporate these ideas into my own teaching, and I feel excited for the next group of kids I get to lead in practical, fun, and (YES) useful literacy exploration. Come to think of it, I hadn’t asked to take my classes outdoors before, so it is possible I may have missed such an opportunity before. Now I see just what a delight it can be, and I’ll make sure to incorporate such ideas into planning whenever possible.
Note: I received a digital review copy of this book.