Guest Blog ~ Holly Staniford

We were vaguely aware of the grass tickling our toes and a bee bumbling around in the clover as we lay on our tummies gazing into the, ‘pond of doom’; affectionately named due to the murkiness of the water. The conversation began with the children wondering if there were any frogs lurking amongst the weeds. They moved on to water snails, and a discussion about how they might make a snail hotel, and how many rooms they might need to accommodate all the brother and sister snails. This was followed with a comment about how the pond reminded one of the children of a witch’s cauldron, and didn’t witches throw snails into their potions?

As I lay with them listening to this medley of conversation and intrigued by the tangents they were going off on, it reminded me of the value of the outdoors in encouraging and stimulating imagination and rich, meaningful language. I have been using the outdoors as a stimulus for teaching literacy to KS2 children for over 14 years, and their engagement, imagination and the language they use outdoors as opposed to in a classroom, never fails to amaze me. Children learn best when learning is relevant to them and when they have experienced it for themselves, and in literacy, sparking imagination, encouraging narrative and building up a bank of vocabulary is far more easily achieved outdoors.

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If we want to encourage our children to progress in literacy at school, one of the most valuable ways we can help them is simply to get them outside. At a time where many children’s top priority is playing on their tablet or X Box, it is even more important that we provide them with opportunities to explore, discover and nurture their curiosity in their surroundings. The multi-sensory nature of the outdoors means that memories that are made there, and the language and emotions associated with these memories, have a unique richness and depth that are a precious resource when back in a classroom. During their outdoor adventures, children are unwittingly developing their oral language skills, which underpin the vast majority of their literacy development.

There is little more confidence building than being given the freedom to discover, problem solve, create and achieve outdoors; If given these opportunities regularly, children build up the confidence to consistently apply the language, skills and experiences that they have built up through their outdoor escapades, to everyday curriculum learning. In turn, this can only lead to happier children who are far better equipped to achieve.

~ Visit Holly's website at www.literacyintheleaves.com


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