Tag Archives: themes

Regional Primary Geography Conference (Contemporary Geography)

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.

Gloucestershire schools head off to India!

And, what a great time we had too!

It was a little bit of a squash and a squeeze this morning as 63 pupils and their teachers packed into Year 5 and 6’s classroom at Birdlip Primary School, Gloucestershire, for another Global Learning Programme (GLP)-related, Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3 transition project.  This time, Birdlip Primary School were playing host to students and staff from Cranham C of E (VA) Primary School, Coberley C of E Primary School and Ribston Hall High School, and they proved to be exemplary ones at that!  We received a very warm welcome and much forward-thinking and thorough planning had clearly taken place to ensure the event ran as smoothly as possible.  The day had an India theme since Birdlip Primary School already have a link with School of Scholars in Nagpur in central India and had expressed a wish to develop pupils’ place and locational knowledge of this wonderful country and their understanding of the cultural differences that exist.  In order to give students an authentic experience, I was joined, once again, by Sarah Shaw, an AST for primary dance, and Bharti Tailor, a freelance consultant and, currently, Member of the European Council of Religious Leaders and Vice-President and Trustee Religions for Peace UK.

After a formal welcome and various introductions, I brought out my India box of goodies, as I so often do when delivering this country-themed workshop in schools.  I invited the youngsters to explore the contents of the box with me to see if they could guess where we might be heading for the remainder of the day.  I tried to be quite clever by selecting a few more obscure objects and disguising the bag of rice, poppadoms and naan bread until the very end! Those at Nepalese Chef (http://www.nepalesechef.co.uk/gloucester/), an amazing, local Indian restaurant that we frequently visit, were kind enough to provide an array of culinary ingredients to add to my usual items.  The objects proved to be a brilliant stimulus for introducing key ideas, themes, issues and concepts, which were investigated further as the day progressed.

I had hoped to access Google Earth to take pupils on a virtual trip from Birdlip in Gloucestershire to New Delhi, the capital city of India.  However, their technical support team had only visited the school yesterday to upgrade the system and Google Earth had been disabled in the process.  With little time to download it and restricted administration rights, I had to resort, once again, to my inflatable globe.  This did not matter too much, but it does not quite have the all ‘singing and dancing effects’ that Google Earth has!  We talked about the direction that we would have to travel, the distance involved and how long we imagined it would take if we were travelling by air.  It was also an effective means of showing a different type of map to youngsters … not all are flat and pinned to the classroom wall or found in an atlas! After outlining the learning objectives and format of the day, pupils were placed in mixed -school, -age and -gender groups, named after India’s most populous cities, e.g. Mumbai, Kolkata, New Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Lucknow and Surat.

Developing place and locational knowledge using my fail-safe, inflatable globe!

Following our starter, students rotated around three, different sessions within their city group for the main part of the day.  One had a geography focus, developing place and locational knowledge via a series of short tasks (a mapping exercise, online quiz, mix and match text and captions activity and similarities and differences challenge).

Attempting to locate key physical and human features on a base map of India.

Key Stage 3 students supporting Key Stage 2 pupils with their learning.

Not a bad effort!

Key Stage 3 pupils challenging Key Stage 2 pupils with higher order questions to develop place and locational knowledge.

Intrigued. This Key Stage 2 pupil took it upon herself to explore the region further.

The competitive element begins to kick in! Cities competing against each other to complete an online quiz all about India.

Making effective use of technology to support their learning.

Lovely to see teachers engaging with pupils too.

A Key Stage 3 student acting as a scribe and directing the learning of others within her city group.

Great teamwork! Matching images and captions to discover more about India.

Key Stage 2 pupils discussing similarities and differences between their lives and that of a 10 year old girl in India.

Another ‘zoomed in’ on the culture and religions of India, classifying various images according to their commonalities, before groups competed against each other to complete the best rangoli, a form of Indian art.  As can be seen from the images below, their designs were pretty incredible, especially given the fact that it was the first attempt for many and time was at a premium.

Exploring a selection of images and attempting to classify them.

Justifying their card sorting approach, e.g. why they chose to group certain cards together.

Bharti Tailor sharing her expertise with the children.

And, now, time for the youngsters to ‘have a go’ themselves.

Great teamwork!

Experimenting on sugar paper with special rangoli powders.

Wow, what concentration! Such an intricate technique.

One Key Stage 3 student clearly very impressed with her initial attempt.

Some talented students!

Progressing well.

The last activity had a dance/drama element.  Sarah worked with groups to re-tell the story of ‘The people who hugged the trees‘.  Do read this if you can – it is a lovely, short story with a profound message woven within it.  Students from Ribston Hall High School also shared their recent Bollywood dance experiences with younger pupils.

And, the dancing/drama begins!

Re-telling the traditional, true story with vigour: The people who hugged the trees.

Clearly enjoying themselves.

Incredible what can be achieved in such a short amount of time. Well done, Sarah and pupils!

It was intended that the more creative sessions would highlight the ‘richness’ that exists within India; it is not all about ‘poorness/poverty’ as is so often portrayed in images found within the media or by charities/organisations.  I think you will agree they managed to do this very well?

The plenary, initially held in Birdlip Village Hall and later back in the classroom, was enlightening. Sarah introduced each group’s dance/drama brief and the youngsters performed their production in turn.  Combining their efforts was hugely impacting – the story of ‘The people who hugged the trees‘ was ‘brought to life’ for old and young to truly appreciate.  Next, I embarked upon a reflection of learning/experiences with pupils, bringing out my large, bright, infamous dice.  They rose to my challenges well.  When asked to sum up the workshop, pupils were very positive, stating words such as ‘enjoyable, exciting, educational, interesting, amazing and fun‘.  They mentioned skills that they had developed in the process, e.g. the ability to work as a team, organising information, communication.  The youngsters also considered how they might transfer today’s learning to other subject areas or activities outside of school; many Key Stage 3 students had learnt new dance moves, for example, which they intended to include in future performances that they choreograph.  It was pleasing that they were able to recall much topical vocabulary at this stage too, e.g. deforestation, castes, sari.  Many pupils were keen to explore Indian food and traditional dress when asked what they would like to discover more about.

I finished with a review of the learning outcomes via thumbs up or thumbs down signals. Majority of students held their thumbs up high in the air for all to see, demonstrating that the day had been a worthwhile, thought-provoking and stimulating.  Teachers were appreciative of our input and added that they had learned something too, which made the workshop even more rewarding.

Many thanks to Birdlip Primary School for hosting the event and for Ribston Hall High School for supplying a driver, minibus, teacher and impeccable students.  Thanks, also, to the Geographical Association (GA) for funding the day in conjunction with the Global Learning Programme.  Many of the teachers and children here today would not have been able to have such an engaging and inspiring learning experience if it had not been for this project – the cost of three, highly competent consultants would, unfortunately, be well beyond the budget of these small, rural primary schools.