In Key Stage 2 children start to think in more depth about how writers use figurative language to create effect in their writing. Personification has the potential to be such an obscure concept for children with, “personi-whatsit,” being something I overheard recently. Teaching this outside allows for far greater understanding, as children can truly experience the meaning.
In my bag of supplies, I always carry luggage labels with me, and they come in handy when teaching personification. The children can be given words or asked to write words themselves, connected with human emotions or actions. This can be done as an introductory activity, or as a reinforcement of previous learning. The labels can be written on and hung on, or (if that’s not possible) near the relevant object. I sometimes use laminated pieces of white card, as these can be hole-punched and threaded with string. They can then be written on with whiteboard markers and used over again. Luggage labels and pencil/pencil crayon are my top choice though, as the words are more likely to stay on if it rains, and they can be taken inside after, to act as a transferrable reminder of the work done outside.
A Y4 boy who had labelled a stick, told me a whole back story as to why the stick was lonely, including the way it, “stood awkwardly.” Another child explained to me why the nettles were angry, and went on to putting it into a structured sentence without prompting. Someone else talked about how the sun was smiling, and when I asked why replied, “because the flowers are dancing!”
The outdoors can give us an emotional connection with our surroundings; it is an invaluable resource when wanting to give the children an understanding of figurative language. I love the richness of language that being outdoors can conjure, when given the opportunity. When I am working outside with the children, I am constantly modelling figurative language, whether I am teaching it that day or not. Using the outdoors as a vehicle for this technique, cements the children’s understanding through language, experience and context.