Only recently have we been able to take advantage of some lovely warm, sunny days. Spring time has been rather elusive, bringing exceptionally cold weather and very muddy school yard conditions. So it was with great joy this week that we were able to take our class library outdoors, along with sunhats and sunglasses, to sit on the front lawn under the shade of an enormous maple tree. At the beginning of the week, we were in sparse shade, but the students noticed that by the end of the week, the leaves on the tree had filled out and there was plenty of shade for 20 of us to spread out in.
On the way out of the front doors of the school, I let the office know where we were going in case they needed to find us. Once outside and using the shade of the reading tree as our reading space, the students sat wherever they wanted and however they wanted. Some sat cross legged, alone with their books, while others lay on their backs, tummies or their sides to read. One student who tends towards anxiety, however, was really only able to take advantage of the fact that he could lie down in the grass with a book over his face. He was enjoying the relaxing more than the reading, and it was clearly what he needed to do at that moment. After his break, he came back into our discussion circle, relaxed and happy.
Our school is on a quiet street, but even with a few distractions such as vehicles going by or a person walking their dog on the sidewalk, the students were calm and very quiet. Considering I would usually describe my group of students as ‘high energy and talkative’ rather than ‘calm and quiet’, this was a pleasant transformation. I believe being outdoors had everything to do with this. Before reading a story to them , I asked the students if they found that they read less, the same or more when we brought our reading outside. They overwhelmingly claimed that it was not only more, but a LOT more reading that they were able to enjoy when we were outside. As a French Immersion teacher, I couldn’t have been happier to see and hear that my students were able to focus and read in French.
Our outdoor library, such as it is, consists of a few bins of books from our classroom library that we bring out to the front lawn. It is really not any different than when we have our reading time in the classroom – it just feels a whole lot more special because it’s outside. Now the students expect every reading block to take place under the reading tree. It is a delightful time in our day.