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Making the outdoors work

Sue Cowley on teaching in open spaces

Moving out of the normal classroom space and into the hall or playground can be an invigorating experience for children and teachers. It can also be a potential minefield when it comes to managing your class. Get some practice in now, and when the summer arrives you'll be able to take full advantage of any sunny days.

* Set the rules first: It is difficult to get an unruly class to listen once they've moved away from the confines of their desks and chairs. Set up your rules and expectations before the children leave the classroom. Make it clear that if they refuse to behave as you ask, they will have to come back to the classroom.

* Having a base for "gatherings": Explain that when you arrive in the open space you want the class to gather at a specific point so that you can explain the activities. Decide on whether you want them to sit or stand in a circle, or to gather in a group around you. Use this base as a meeting point whenever you need to address the whole class.

* Agree a silence signal: Having a signal that indicates you want silence and their attention is useful in the classroom, and even more important in an open space. Again, set up your signal before you leave the confines of the classroom. Choose one that doesn't require you to use your voice. In an open space, the signal might need to carry a long way - try waving a hand in the air or blowing a whistle. Insist that the children respond instantly to your command. Spend time practising in the open before the lesson.

* Watch your timing: It will take you longer than you might expect to move the class from one place to another, and to return to the classroom at the end of the lesson. Leave plenty of time for this, rather than having to rush at the last minute. The end of your lesson will be foremost in your pupils' minds the next time they see you.

* Structure the use of space: Your pupils will have less experience of working in open areas. Clarify the way in which they should use the space, for instance, defining the area inside which they must stay. Consider any potential safety hazards and designate these as "no go" areas.

* Ask the experts: PE teachers are experienced at managing behaviour in open spaces and they tend to have good ideas for highly structured management of a class. Approach any PE specialists at your school for additional tips and advice.

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