Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Getting creative

Below are some ideas I have stumbled across recently to make my lessons a bit more hands on...

Geography twister game - the example in the link below shows a world map cut into squares. Students are told the continent or country that they have to put their foot/arm on. This tests their locational knowledge whilst having a bit of fun - the map could be enlarged and all students in the class could be given turns to choose countries.

Simon says - latitude : An interesting way I found recently to teach the lines of latitude. They are a difficult thing to learn and I will be trying this idea out with my year 8s!

Country top trumps: Why not get students to find out about different countries and create trump cards about the countries. They could include statistics such as population, land size, death rate, birth rate, natural increase, GDP per capita, literacy rate etc... By creating the cards and then playing in pairs they could learn about different countries.

Oreo plate boundaries: I found this idea when I was trying to jazz up a year 9 lesson about plate boundaries. The idea is that the students investigate the different plate boundaries by moving an oreo  and breaking the outer biscuit. The worksheet below is a bit American so I will be creating my own version.

How do my summer holidays link to Geography?

I asked my Year 8 students this question last year as a homework task and some of them struggled to link their everyday experiences to a subject. To help them out this year I started to think about how my own experiences this summer could be linked to Geography.

1. 7 days in Halkidiki, Greece

Tourism - I was surprised to see how many cars with Serbian number plates were squeezed along the beach front. Thinking logically a trip to Halkidiki for Serbians is like a trip for Brits to France - good enquiry question - "Why are there so many Serbians in Greece?". The local hotel owners were less than complimentary about the Serbs complaining that they do not spend enough money in local tavernas or shops, choosing instead to bring their food with them in their cars.
2. 3 days on a narrow boat in Oxfordshire
Rivers - As a group of complete novices navigating the Thames (thanks to College Cruisers) we soon discovered the difficulties of meanders (natural river features) and locks (human river features). "Why did Miss Norman have to go round bends and use giant keys?"
3. 4 days in Plymouth
Urban rebranding - As we reached Plymouth after 4 hours of driving we were greeted by a new sign declaring Plymouth as 'Britain's Ocean City' - comments were passed as to whether this was fair on other cities, e.g. Cardiff. I have been visiting Plymouth for five years and never before have I seen so much building and so many new projects. It is clear that in the space of a year they have injected money into the local economy and are trying to rebrand Plymouth. Much of the building is related to the university or art and design college but Plymouth is starting to move away from that tired seaside town look.
This year I think I will be a little more kind towards the year 8s who hand in their homework - it isn't too easy a task but definitely a useful one. As many academics have argued linking our everyday experiences to the subject is vital so that students understand the importance of Geography and feel more motivated to learn. From a teacher's perspective, thinking about your summer holiday could even create some intriguing enquiry questions! 

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Geography and Wimbledon

Watching the tennis at Wimbledon is one of my favourite things about summer. I even focused my undergraduate dissertation on nationalism at the famous tournament.

This made me think about how you could teach about Wimbledon in Geography.

When I completed my dissertation I looked at the different nationalities of players at Wimbledon. Students could be given a list of competitors and asked to map the different countries - is Wimbledon a sign of globalisation? How has sport become more globalised over time? They could even compare the list to a tournament from the early 1900s.

This interesting graphic that I found on Twitter last week shows the production miles of Wimbledon tennis balls. You could use it as a starting point for a lesson about interconnections and globalisation. "Where do tennis balls come from?" There would be some excellent opportunities for mapping, both using atlases and using GIS skills, and for numeracy if the students were to add up the total number of miles.


How about how Wimbledon is aiming to be sustainable? In 2012 they introduced sustainable strawberries as the report below shows. "What is special about Wimbledon's strawberries?" This could be compared to other sports grounds to compare sustainability.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Where to find enquiry lesson ideas

One brilliant source of inspiration for enquiry lessons has to be BBC documentaries, and in particular Simon Reeve.

Only last week, I taught a lesson entitled, "What is Simon doing in the desert?", based on a clip from an episode (below) from his Tropic of Cancer series. Students learnt about the Namib desert and how sand dunes are formed before discovering that Simon was sand boarding; the newest tourist craze in Namibia involving hurtling down a huge dune on a piece of what can only be described as MDF.

I have been watching his Australia series (still available on BBC iPlayer) and it has been inspiring me with new ideas for lessons. During the first episode you could create a lesson on biodiversity in the outback of Australia - feral camels who have started to destroy the local ecosystem have been rounded up to manage and control their numbers. "Why has Ian been rounding up camels?"

In the first episode, there was also a story about millionaires who made their money from tuna fishing in Port Lincoln in South Australia - "Why are there so many millionaires in Port Lincoln?" - could be used to explore the issue of overfishing and whether certain species of fish should be protected.

Or you could even use it to teach about economic migrants. One bin man left his life in Hull to teach people to drive trucks in Australia where he can earn enough money to buy a speedboat. Many UK migrants are moving to Perth to have a better lifestyle with a larger income. "Why did a bin man leave Hull to move to Australia?"

I hope that the next two episodes give me just as many ideas for future enquiry lessons!

Monday, 8 April 2013

I had the lucky experience last Saturday to lead a teacher to teacher session at the GA Conference in Derby. It was well worth the 6am start and the 3 hour train journey for the people I met (one of the highlights was being starstruck by sitting in front of Professor Iain Stewart), the ideas people shared and the chance to share my own work.

The first lecture of the day I attended was by Terry Callaghan about the future of the Arctic and why people are so interested in it. Aside from the scientific evidence that he showed to prove that the Arctic is warming it was interesting to hear some of the impacts on both the abiotic and biotic world. For example, the melting of permafrost and the increasing depth of the active layer may lead to damages in infrastructure, damage to ecosystems and the potential destruction of gas pipelines.

Terry Callaghan also argued that the Arctic faces a range of challenges and opportunities for both Arctic residents and the global community. These challenges include sea rise in countries such as Bangladesh and insecure travel routes whereas the opportunities include a development of trading routes such as the northwest passage. Overall, a fascinating lecture about a part of the world that will increasingly become an important battleground in the future.

I was keen to watch Margaret Roberts (as a pioneer of enquiry) talk about controversial issues to a room of PGCE students, NQTs and PGCE tutors. She questioned whether issues such as global warming should be taught from both sides (e.g. scientists who believe in global warming vs. those who do not). Most of the people in the room decided that as geography teachers we should teach both sides but stick to the science. Activities such as role play, class discussions and spider diagrams should be used to explore these controversial issues with the teacher acting as a neutral observer.

Leading my teacher to teacher session was probably the highlight of my day. I was so pleased to see so many turn up and also many wanting to ask questions. I started my enquiry journey during my PGCE at Henry Box (James Clark as my mentor showed me how it enthused the kids in his department) and it was exciting to share my ideas with other people.

The final session of the day was entitled 'Geography of Hope' by David Hicks. David argued that geography teachers should also focus on the hopes of the future, the success stories of sustainability rather than the doom and gloom of climate change. An interesting approach which made me think about my teaching and whether my lessons are often a little pessimistic. As geography teachers should we not also be teaching students that they can help to look after the world, instead of teaching them about the gloomy future which is predicted?

The trip to Derby was really enjoyable and I would recommend the GA conference to all geography teachers. It makes you remember why you love the subject so much and forget about the paperwork and marking of the daily routine.