Even though the weather in Texas is unpredictable, students in Donna Clarrissimeaux’s class at Walnut Grove Elementary can count on an outdoor lesson. The veteran teacher knows Mother Nature delivers when it comes to inspiration. Clarrissimeaux has been a teacher for 40 years and spent the last 20 years focusing on reading and writing in her elementary students.
“It’s good to take kids out and have them see, feel and hear,” Clarissimeaux said.
For the past few years, Clarrissimeaux has made a regular lesson out of irregular weather events. Several years ago in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, she took her students to a safe place outside to experience the remnants of the storm as they passed over Southlake.
“I had one student write how she could hear the cries for help in the wind…” Clarrissimeaux added. “Weather provides a great opportunity because its always changing.”
On the morning of Thursday, February 21 a storm moved through the North Texas area. Students in Clarrissimeaux’s fourth grade class were quick to notice and asked to go outside. The class quickly grabbed their notebooks and pencils and found a sheltered area to sit and write. She said each student spent 8-10 minutes writing about what they heard and saw.
“All you could hear was the sound of the rain and wind. The sensory description students experience is great for personal narrative,” Clarrissimeaux said.
Here are some samples of what two students wrote:
Imaad Virani, student: “The clouds turn darker and darker as the pitter-patter of rain hitting cement reaches my ears. The gutter is shooting out water like it’s a water slide for ants. The hammer-like rain looks like it’s dimming all the lights around the playground. Right in front of me is a small river made by the rain. It deposits itself into a gutter, and the rain has still created more. I’m sure the plants are getting the perfect amount of water because they aren’t bending over, nor are they missing out on water. Now the clouds are starting to part and behind them peeks the light we all love. The clouds are moving faster and farther apart, and that tells me just maybe we will have our regular 2:00 recess today!”
Emily Backoo, student: “The rain is coming down hard now. It’s coming in sheets of pure white. Roaring sounds fill my ears and a faint chill crawls up my spine. Gushing water is streaming out of the gutters and the sun is just coming out from behind the grove of trees that are far, far, far away. The plants next to the science lab are swaying back and forth with smiles on their faces, or so it seems. They play structure has dribbles of freezing cold water dripping off of it. The ground of soil is soaking wet, and it looks like candy, with sugar on top.”
Clarrissimeaux says the outdoor lessons are just one way to get students to organize their thoughts and become strong writers. She says its important- no matter what career a student may choose- that they are able to accurately communicate and stay focused on the point. The outdoor writing exercises will also help students prepare for the STAAR writing test later this spring.
“It is amazing what kids can do when you open up that door to creativity,” Clarrissimeaux said, “allowing them to use their imagination.”