Non-Fiction Learning!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016
The weather here has been amazing. I have been itching to get outside instead of working indoors all day. Some of you may not know this, but for the last 3 years I have been working as a private therapist since I left the school system. This gives me flexibility with my schedule and the ability to be home with my little ones so much more. Working privately also gives me the opportunities to take therapy outside of the home or therapy room and get some real life experiences!
Recently we have been doing a lot of work with non-fiction reading about wildlife, animals, and their habitats. What's a better way to teach about these things than to actually get outside and see them?! There is a local park here in St. Pete called Boyd Hill Nature Park. One of the families I work with decided to take our therapy session outside of our typical therapy setting and get some hands on, non-fiction learning!
During the session before our field trip, I gave each child a graphic organizer (pictured above) where they could make predictions about that they would see, hear, and smell while on the nature walk. Ironically, yes, each child had the word "poop" written somewhere in their prediction! Since not all of the kids I went on the trip with could write, drawing picture predictions was also an option. 
When we got to the park, I gave them back their graphic organizers so they could document their observations. It was incredible to see them applying vocabulary they learned to real life situations and not just a worksheet. That day these kids got to touch a snake, see birds, turtles, and so many other animals we had been reading about. All too often the kids we work with do not get to experience the things they read about in the classroom. I love being able to give the gift of hands on experiences to both my children and the ones I work with.

This was such a fun and educational experience. I highly recommend it.  I know it's not possible for all therapists to have field trips with their kids, however, I have a few suggestions:
1. Take therapy outside your typical setting. Go walk around the school. Learning about nutrition? See if you can visit the cafeteria. Completing a unit on bugs? Take a walk outside and see what you can find!
2. Bring in as many topic-related, real life items that you can when teaching a new concept. Kids learn more when they can touch and hold something. A real object will stick in their memory better than a graphic.
3. Volunteer to chaperonne field trips your students will be on. My principal always allowed me to join my students on field trips. I created entire lessons about the trip before we went and continued on the topic after the field trip. The more exposure to vocabulary and new concepts, the richer the learning.
4. Going on a trip this summer? Bring back photos, a jar full of sand, anything that will help put a real life spin on a typical learning experience. Your students will love learning about what you experienced.

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