It was great to see the inspiring and engaging duo of David Weatherly and Jeff Stanfield once again for their annual roadshow (http://www.contemporarygeography.co.uk/contemporary_geography_training_opportunities.html). Due to my strong links with schools and individuals across the county, I was invited by David and Jeff to attend today’s event … often, I am able to support them in their delivery of material by adding local snippets of information.
This year’s theme was ‘Developing mathematical fluency and language and literacy through geography‘, hugely relevant in light of the big focus on mastery, not only in maths, but now in many other areas of the curriculum.
The key aims were to:
- demonstrate to colleagues how and why expertise in English and mathematics is vital in enabling high quality learning outcomes in geography.
- design key question-led enquiries in geography, which integrate numeracy and mathematical fluency and language and literacy to enable children to perform better in geography.
- ensure learning in geography, which connects with English and mathematics through the curriculum, is outcomes-focused and progressively challenging for children.
- know how to plan effective assessment methods (beyond levels) matched to subject performance descriptors to identify achievement in learning connected to English and mathematics.
Following registration and the chance to grab some refreshments, David and Jeff introduced themselves and welcomed delegates, some of whom I had met before at previous conferences or they had been participants on CPD workshops that I have run locally; others were newcomers to the field of geography.
David began his session with reference to the historical master, Mercator, and his recognisable map projection. He then went on to discuss real mastery and how we can teach it in geography. David emphasised that geography provides real life contexts for learning and applying literacy and numeracy. He referred to National Currciulum links, as well as comments from Ofsted, e.g. evidence suggests that children do better in English, maths and geography when such an interconnected approach is undertaken. David talked about the ‘flat-lined’ progress that is frequently seen between Years 3 and 6. ‘Getting better’ is often linked to knowing more, but it is far more than this. Mastery is not about the rote learning of information, but has three parts to it: teaching discrete facts and information; identifying concepts and applying/contextualisation. We must ensure that we deliver a progressively challenging curriculum.
We had a short break for refreshments, which also provided the opportunity to chat briefly with other delegates, as well as David and Jeff. Afterwards, Jeff took over, exemplifying good practice at Key Stage 1. It was brilliant to see him ‘zoom in’ on Greenland and polar bears here, a topic that I have explored with youngsters this academic year, both in the classroom and via a Global Learning Programme (GLP) Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3 transition project. Jeff showcased the infamous ‘secret street detectives’ approach to enquiry, referred to Blooms taxonomy to ensure the shaping of outcome-driven learning objectives, highlighted that everything we do has an explicit link to geography and reinforced that written work is not always necessary; talking is good! He led us through a scheme of work that he had recently produced, based on the well-loved book, ‘The Jolly Postman‘ by Janet and Allan Ahlberg and which addressed the theme ‘Our place, our locality‘. This gave the opportunity for some ‘hands-on geography’ and further interaction among delegates. As always, Jeff’s anecdotes were a pleasure to listen to and incorporated some live entertainment as well!
After a lovely lunch in the hotel’s airy dining room, we were certainly not allowed to slump! To begin with, David elaborated on the mastery approach and shared some very valuable tips with us. As teachers, we should plan by the outcome required. We should not take a resource and then think what activities we could do with it. All learning requires an activity, but not all activity constitutes learning – there must be an element of challenge and progression. There must be no low-level activity as time is at a premium; instead, there needs to be rigour. He suggested that the mastery approach works well for boys as it is fast-paced, involves much verbal feedback and limited writing. He quizzed us on how often we differentiate by gender; there are very few instances when we do this. Girls frequently out-perform boys in schools because curriculum planning plays to their preferred style of learning. Later, David demonstrated the mastery approach by talking us through an example of key question-led, enquiry-based learning, e.g. ‘How is India saving the tiger?‘ This was, undoubtedly, a fresh means of studying the country of India and very apt as it was the central theme for a Global Learning Programme (GLP) Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3 transition project that I was due to deliver the following day!
A period of reflection and action planning was allocated to the final part of the conference. Unfortunately, I had to leave a few minutes before the end as I was tutoring after school. From my perspective, the day had enlightened me further about the mastery approach, inspired me to put it into action the next day when at Birdlip Primary School, provided new ways to explore India with youngsters and an innovative take for ‘secret street detectives’ enquiry work.
Thank you, David and Jeff, for inviting me today. I hope that I did not ‘chip in’ too much! Glad you liked the Arctic Alive (http://www.canadaukfoundation.org/arctic-alive/) and Wicked Weather Watch/Polar Ocean Challenge links (http://wickedweatherwatch.org.uk/ and http://polarocean.co.uk/). Look forward to seeing you both again before too long.