5 Easy Outdoor Non-Fiction Writing Activities for Elementry Students

cover image 5 easy non-fiction writing activities/ a person sitting outside on the grass writing in a journal

So often we think of non-fiction writing as being academic (and maybe even a bit boring.) When I think of non-fiction writing activities, I often think of writing essays or reports. It’s usually something that I feel like I have to do, not something that I want to do. However, despite this, non-fiction writing skills are just as important for students to develop as fiction writing skills. Below you will find some fun and easy outdoor non-fiction writing activities to try with your students today.

Benefits of Taking Writing Outside

By taking writing outside, your students will not only be covering your curriculum content, but they will also be experiencing some of these other amazing benefits. More information on the benefits of writing outside can be found here.

  1. Your students will experience the overall benefits of outdoor learning
  2. Outdoor writing enhances students’ observation skills which also influences their descriptive writing skills.
  3. Spending time outdoors has been shown to increase creativity
  4. You have built-in subject matter all around you when you take writing outdoors
  5. Writing outdoors lends itself to be naturally cross-curricular in nature. Not only will students be working on writing skills, but they will also be immersed in science, social studies, and even art while they are outdoors.
  6. Spending time outdoors helps students to build a connection to nature and their learning space.

Tips for Organizing Outdoor Writing Activities

  1. Clipboards or a hard writing surface are a must
  2. Have a set of extra pencils and erasers ready. I find that pencils tend to go missing frequently outdoors.
  3. Provide students with folders or a zipper pouch to keep their writing in. This allows them to take their work outside without things blowing away.
  4. Sit cushions (like these from the Outdoor Learning Store) make sitting more comfortable.
  5. Have a designated spot for lessons and sharing. This is especially important if you allow your students to have freedom in choosing their writing spots.
  6. Establish a writing routine. This way your students know what to do and understand why they are outside (they aren’t just playing!)
a group of 4 children sitting in the grass in a park writing

5 Easy Outdoor Non-Fiction Writing Activities

Find My Tree

This is a great descriptive writing activity that allows students to really practice their observation skills and communication skills. It involves stealth as well as strategic writing. In this activity students secretly choose a tree. They then must write a paragraph describing the tree (without giving away which tree it is) that is detailed enough for someone else to find it. You will need a couple of class periods at least for students to do this activity.

  1. Students will secretly choose a tree and stealthily observe it. They don’t want anyone else to know which tree they are studying. They must look for features that make that tree unique.
  2. Students will then write a descriptive paragraph telling about that tree. They need to try not to put any details that will give the tree away too easily (such as it is the closest tree to the gate.)
  3. Students will then exchange their descriptive paragraphs and try to find the other person’s tree. Students can continue exchanging paragraphs and trying to find others’ trees.
  4. If you wish, you may want to have students revise their writing after the first round of tree searching. This way they can take feedback from their peers and use it to make an even stronger paragraph.

This is My Space

This is another descriptive writing activity that allows students to both hone their observation skills and their descriptive skills. In this activity, students will choose their favourite spot (or their sit spot if they have one) in the outdoor learning space. They must then write about it as if they are describing it to someone who has never been there. (If you want to get really creative you can have them write as if they were describing it to someone who is from another planet.)

  1. Have students visit their favourite space. They can spend some time observing their spaces and taking note of the different smells, textures, colours, sounds, etc. in their space. You can have students sketch the space if you like.
  2. Students will then write a descriptive piece about their space. They can describe the space as if they are telling someone who is from another planet about that space.
  3. If you wish you can have students share their work with the class and the other students can try to guess what space they are talking about.
a boy using a magnifying glass to look at a dandilion

How to Get There from Here

Giving a good, clear set of instructions is an important skill to have. This activity allows students to practice giving instructions in a clear and accurate way. They also get feedback as to how effective their instructions actually are. In this activity, students choose a destination and write a guide for someone else on how to get there.

  1. Choose a starting point for your students to begin their writing.
  2. Have students choose a destination…one that isn’t too close, but is challenging enough to make things interesting for someone else following their instructions.
  3. Have the students follow the path to the destination and take careful note of landmarks, obstacles, or interesting things along the way.
  4. Students then write a detailed set of instructions for someone else to follow on how to get to their destination.
  5. Once students are finished they exchange their instructions with another student. They try to follow the instructions provided by the other student.
  6. The students may provide feedback for each other on what they found helpful and what they would change for next time.
an adult and 2 children looking at a document in a forest

This is the Best_____

This is a prompt to help students work on their persuasive writing skills. In this activity, students choose something from their outdoor learning space to study and then write a paragraph convincing others that this is the best (whatever they chose.)

  1. Have students choose something in their outdoor learning space that they particularly love (it could be a rock, a tree, a special spot, etc.) Have them spend time observing and making note of all of the features and attributes of that item.
  2. Have students write a persuasive paragraph convincing others of why their chosen item is the best.
  3. If you like you can have students respond to each other’s paragraphs with a counter-argument or a paragraph supporting the writer’s choice.

A Thank You Letter to _____

I often struggled with finding realistic ways for students to practice writing letters. So often the letter writing seemed fake or like an assigned task that kids didn’t really take seriously. In this activity students will choose something from nature that they are grateful for and write a thank you letter.

  1. Have your students visit your outdoor learning space and choose something in the space that they appreciate.
  2. The students will spend time in observation making careful notes on why they appreciate this item.
  3. The students will then write a thank you letter to the entity they chose. In their letter, they can highlight specifically what they are grateful for and how it helps them.
  4. You can choose to have students read the letters to their chosen entity or find another thoughtful way for the students to share. Be mindful that the letters might be personal to the students and they may wish to keep them more private.
two kids sitting by a stream reflecting

Now Let’s Get Outside and Write!

These 5 outdoor non-fiction writing activities are a fun way to spend some meaningful time outside developing your students’ non-fiction writing skills. Each of these activities allows students to spend time outdoors, engaged in observation in their learning space. This outdoor time will allow students to build their connection with nature while also reaping the benefits of spending time outdoors.

You don’t need to follow these activities exactly perfectly. Feel free to adapt them to suit your learners, your learning space, and your curriculum needs. If you make some changes, let us know how it went and what you changed. Your creativity can help inspire others to make these activities their own.

Keep Reading for More Outdoor Writing Activities…

Get Outside With Your Students All Year…

Similar Posts