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Take Reading Outdoors! Creating a Multi-Sensory Reading Experience

From listening skills to visual discrimination, all the early literacy skills can be celebrated and practiced outdoors.

  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2

The warmer weather in spring beckons us all to appreciate the sensory world of nature! This is the perfect time of year to expand the limits of your reading circle to include the great outdoors. How about moving your story time outside today? You will be providing children with the unique opportunity to incorporate the sights and sounds of the outside world into their reading encounters.

Reading is a multi-sensory experience filled with opportunities to use sight, sound, and touch. From listening skills to visual discrimination, all the early literacy skills can be celebrated and practiced outdoors. Here are some ideas you can use today!

Do You Hear That?

By focusing on listening to sounds outdoors you are helping children use skills critical to developing phonemic awareness. Invite children to close their eyes and listen to the sounds around them. What do they hear? Can they make these sounds too? Are any of these sounds similar to letter sounds? The RRRRRR of an engine is the letter "R" and the EEEEEE of a bird sounds like the letter "E"! Go on a listening walk hunting for "worldly" phonemes. Say them, sing them, write them down.

The Sound Of Quiet

Does the sidewalk make a sound? A tree? The ground? Take an old stethoscope outside for exploring quiet sounds. Your children will be amazed to find that there are subtle sounds everywhere. Tell a story about them.

A Playground Orchestra

Singing is one of the best literacy activities you can take outside. Use a sing-along book, such as Little White Duck, to spark the creation of a playground orchestra. Encourage children to use drum or rhythm sticks to make tones and rhythms on play equipment, rocks, trees, whatever. Turn your fence into an instrument by hanging foil pans, spoons, and rattles on it. Read and sing the book together with your outdoor instrumental accompaniment.

Pay Attention

When you take reading time outdoors, your children will need to sharpen their attention and listening skills as they deal with the "distractions" of bird and traffic sounds while focusing their attention on the book. This is good practice for learning to read wherever you are!

A Visual Treasure Hunt

Practice visual discrimination skills outdoors with the camouflage of nature. Hide unusual objects around the playground where they blend in with the protective coloring of the environment. As children search for the items that don’t belong, they will be using core reading and thinking skills.

More Outdoor Ideas

  • Use outdoor play equipment as a "stage" for acting out books.
  • Write a class book with photos taken outside.
  • Construct a comfortable place to read in the playground such as a large refrigerator box filled with pillows.
  • Make a plan for a walk based on a book’s content such as a bug hunt.
  • Decorate a "Book Backpack" for transporting favorite books outdoors.

  • Subjects:
    Reading, Five Senses, New Teacher Resources, Teacher Tips and Strategies
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