Forest Friday lessons for K-2

If you’re reading this, it probably means you’re interested in nature education and getting your students outdoors as much as possible. In today’s teaching world, however, it sometimes seems impossible to find the time for it. I’ve found over the years that having a designated time that I ALWAYS bring my students outside, no matter the weather or our schedule demands, is the best way to make sure we actually go outside. Forest Friday is the name I use for our hour outside each Friday. I’ve also heard it called Wild Wednesday, Nature Hour, or other catchy names. It doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as you commit to it each week!

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I sometimes struggle with planning what to do each Forest Friday. Many teachers, at private schools or at schools with more flexible standards (and/or more trust in their teachers), use their Forest Friday time for free play in nature. I would love to do that, since I believe strongly in the benefit of outdoor play for kids. I do teach in an urban district, however, and between state standards and pressure from the administration, we aren't allowed to just have free play in the forest.

Consequently, I want to make sure I have a learning objective for each of my lessons. I made this resource for K-2 teachers who are looking for ideas for what to do in their outside hour each week. Each of the lessons hits on one of the Common Core Standards, including speaking and listening, writing, and numeracy. It also helps reach some of the Next Generation Science Standards, and incorporates movement and creativity too!

I've included 10 lessons that can be used for K-2 students (and probably older and younger too). The lessons are: 

1. Sit Spot
2. Shape Hunt
3. Color Scavenger Hunt
4. Camera in Nature
5. Nature Poetry
6. Observation Circle
7. Number Line in Nature
8. Ways to Make a Number
9. Time Wheels
10. Nature Mandalas

To purchase or learn more, click on the picture above, or find it here on Teachers Pay Teachers!

I've been super inspired by several books, including The Sky and Earth Touched Me by Joseph Bharat Cornell, as well as teacher-bloggers like Little Pine Learners and Run Wild My Child. I highly recommend them! 

For more information on Forest Fridays and getting your students outside, try these resources as well:

Forest Fridays: How Nature Can Boost Empathy, Imagination and Well-Being

Out of the Classroom and Into the Woods

Outdoor Education: Tips and Tricks for Behavior Management in the Outdoor Classroom

Mindfulness in the classroom: a six-week unit

mindfulness in the classroom: a six week unitI've talked before about teaching mindfulness in the classroom - I started it this year with my students, and LOVED it. My kindergarteners are young and energetic and emotional and impulsive, there's no denying it - but learning the components of mindfulness, including mindful breathing and finding a quiet space to calm down, really made a difference in how they interacted with each other and with themselves. I found students reminding others to be mindful, utilizing our Peace Table to calm themselves down, even referencing mindfulness during math lessons! Since this year was my first year teaching it, I was kind of pulling together resources in a haphazard way, throwing in a mindful moment here and there. While my favorite time to teach it was Morning Meeting, I didn't always have time (or remember) to practice it with my students every day. But that's the life of a teacher! If it's not in the curriculum, it's hard to prioritize it. Sooooo....

I decided to make a mindfulness unit! I wrote up a formal unit that lays out the lessons I did with my students more explicitly, and I plan to use it during the first month of school this year. You can find it here on my TPT store!

Mindfulness Moments in the ClassroomThe unit is designed to last for six weeks, with each lesson introducing a new mindfulness technique that you can teach all week long. Like I said, I tend to do my mindful moments during Morning Meeting, but there are lots of other times that would work as well. See my post on mindful moments during transitions! The unit includes a lesson on introducing the Peace Table, which I HIGHLY recommend using in classrooms for any elementary age. The Peace Table is a concept adopted from Montessori education, and is an amazing resource for teaching emotional intelligence, cooperation and problem-solving for young students.

The unit also includes lots of resources on where to learn more about mindfulness education. See also my post on learning to practice mindfulness in your own life!

And if you have ANY questions about teaching mindfulness or meditation in the classroom, just send me a message! Namaste :)

Sun & Moon partners in the classroom: a freebie

Just posted a new freebie over at my TPT store! I use partners in my classroom for lots of things, including turn & talks on the carpet and buddy reading in Reader's Workshop. In my effort to bring more nature into my classroom (even in the form of clipart), I made up a list for Sun & Moon partners. You can print it out and post it somewhere. Then when you ask your kiddos to turn and talk to their partner, you can say "Sun partners go first," or vice versa! Click on the image below to download the freebie, or find it at my TPT store here.

Sun Moon partners

Homework checklist for kindergarten {editable}

Homework in kindergarten! As strongly as I feel that we are already overworking our kindergarteners, I have parents asking me every year for what they can do at home. For a few years, I tried just telling parents that they shouldn't worry about homework this year - the amount their kids would receive in older grades would be enough for a lifetime! But inevitably parents would beg for homework, and I would put together makeshift math packets or sight word worksheets. This was time consuming and inconsistent, since I didn't have a time to put together a new packet every week, and the stress it caused for me was not worth the gains the kids made (or more likely didn't make). But this year I finally found a solution that works - the Homework Checklist! I learned about the Homework Checklist from the phenomenal book Cultivating Joy and Wonder. The teacher-authors of this book use the checklist to disguise playing outside as "homework," an idea that was right up my alley. Here's how it works:

  1. Every Friday I send home the checklist. I ask that families choose five items to complete with their child, and bring it back by the following Friday.
  2. The first four items on the list are always the same. In my opinion, these are the five most important things that developing kindergarteners should be doing on a weekly (if not daily) basis:
    • Read a book to yourself.
    • Read a book with someone.
    • Exercise or play outside for 30 minutes.
    • Help someone in your family cook a meal.
  3. The rest of the items on the list change each week according to what we have been studying. I use this for all kinds of ideas, including but not limited to:
    • doing a shape hunt around the house during our shape unit
    • writing "how to" books with a family member during our How To Writer's Workshop unit
    • assigning a sight word scavenger hunt in magazines at home
    • walking around the yard looking for signs of spring
    • practicing counting to 100 independently

Homework Checklist from teachruneat.com

I am so excited to have found a way to incorporate homework that is kid-friendly and developmentally appropriate. I make sure to let parents know that they are not required to do any of the items, and can in fact add their own ideas. I like to think that this encourages families to spend time working on fun and engaging tasks together with their kindergarten child, rather than just helping them complete worksheets in the traditional homework format.

If you'd like a copy of the checklist, I just posted an editable version on my Teachers Pay Teachers store! You can also click on the image above. I hope