Geography teachers share some of their best lesson ideas, including place value, maintaining atmospheres, Indian cuisine and model plans
Use photos and images at the start of a lesson to introduce pupils to a place of study. This encourages them to interpret the image as opposed to looking at it at face value. Placing themselves inside the image, pupils notice more details as they connect with and use their senses.
On a small piece of paper, pupils sketch a small stick drawing to represent themselves, pair up, swap the portraits, take it in turns to place each other in the image and then ask some questions: What can you hear? What can you see? What can you smell? The other responds. The task can be adapted for use with images shared on the interactive whiteboard. Use bigger pieces of paper, though.
Sarah Watts is a teaching and learning consultant for the children’s service department at Hampshire County Council
It’s all about atmosphere
If a lesson gets off to a good start, it is easier to maintain that atmosphere. Putting a smile on pupils’ faces as they enter the room also has an impact. When my geography pupils enter the classroom and sit down, most are immediately captivated (or amused) by the starter images placed on my whiteboard. These are normally unusual images linked to the topic we will study.
As a result, they are in a better frame of mind to begin the lesson. This activity works particularly well with lower- ability groups and those with behavioural issues. Go to Google and select “images”. In the random searches box type “unusual weather images”. I have collected many useful pictures to use as starter images.
Inga Irvine is head of geography at The Westwood School in Coventry, West Midlands
Ages 10 to 11
Tikka look at this idea
In geography (QCA Unit 10 – a village in India) pupils learn about traditional Indian cuisine by exploring the village of Chembakolli. We achieved this by approaching a local Indian restaurant — in exchange for a photograph in the local newspaper, the staff are generally more than happy to provide traditional Indian cuisine free of charge to help in the practical element of this unit.
My class of 33 pupils was able to sample poppadoms, naan bread, rice, dahl and four varieties of curry with a range of spices (mild to hot).
Kari Anson teaches at Ladygrove Primary School in Dawley, Telford
Climbing to the top
Topics on mountains get pupils learning outside the classroom. But a trip to the Andes is costly, so why not bring the mountain to them? Use two 50-metre climbing ropes and lay them across the school field. Set up a series of physical team activities — these can be anything that involves working together — leave signs with base camp, second base camp and so on, giving the idea of climbing a mountain. Split pupils into teams and talk about working as a team. Make sure that when they are walking along the rope they always hold it in two hands.
Get them to form a circle each time they get to a base. Along the way, stop and talk about what the weather conditions and climate may be like. This lesson stimulated questions about mountains and provided a good level of physical activity without the cost or long plane journey.
Martin Van Hecke is a Year 6 teacher at Higher Lane Primary School in Bury, Manchester
Ages 11 to 16
A new angle
Help pupils master basic skills by making your local Ordnance Survey map come to life in class. All you need is the map, muscle for moving furniture, chalk, shoe boxes, toy cars and Action Man figures.
First, move the tables to make a frame around the outside of the room. Then draw the OS map in chalk on the classroom floor, to a larger scale but including the grid lines and main symbols. Make buildings and key places out of shoe boxes and raid a toy box for cars and figures. It’s definitely worth the preparation. Then invite your pupils into the room (I did this with a small but challenging group of Year 7s) and surprise them by asking them to stand on their table.
Looking down on the map, they begin to spot things they recognise — their school, the local park, the station. Then ask one pupil to jump into the map. The others can then guide him or her on a route using only the compass points or grid references for directions. Next, they can construct routes to school that avoid busy or unlit roads, and discuss the safest routes.
Nicky Reckless is secondary projects leader of the Geographical Association’s Action Plan for Geography
Look up for inspiration
I was looking for a way to improve the quality of written responses, especially for examinations and assessments. In particular, I noticed that pupils’ responses could be quite vague where they needed to be specific. The introduction of the “banned word” board and “heavenly words” display has worked wonders. The banned words include “stuff”, “things”, “it” and “people”.
There are also semi-bans on words that require qualification, such as “pollution” — air pollution. The idea is that pupils are not allowed to use these words in writing or in verbal contributions, but substitute them for a specific term. This is supported by the heavenly words, which provide alternatives such as “local residents” instead of “people”.
The idea can be easily adapted for any subject.
David Rogers is a teacher of geography and outdoor learning at Portchester Community School in Fareham, Hampshire
Ages 16 to 17
A modelling game has been voted the “most popular activity” by students. Place a set of cards containing the name of a landscape feature on each group’s table. One student per group takes a card and makes a model of it. The first student in each group to name the feature gets the card and begins modelling the next landscape. You can take turns so that everyone gets to model. Remarkably, two of the features on my cards came up in the next exam.
Janet Hutson teaches at South Hunsley School in Yorkshire
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