Saturday, 25 July 2009

Starting with geography: using picture books to plan an integrated topic in the primary school

If you are looking for alternative starting points for planning an integrated topic in the primary school – then a picture book could provide a very accessible way in.  I think this particular book could provide a starting point for Year 2’s (6-7 year olds) to Year 4 or maybe even Year 5 (8 – 10 year olds).

First the book that you choose has to have a strong geographical theme running through it.  My chosen book, `What if …’ is about recycling so it fits very nicely into the theme of ESD (Environment & Sustainable Development).  This is a theme that is shared equally strongly with science and also with citizenship.  So we have a very good basis for a geography/science/citizenship integrated topic.

Now I realise that all over the land in the world of the English primary school the words `we’re delivering a skills based curriculum’ are currently `hot’ but I want to argue here for thinking about concepts.  We need to start with the `big ideas’ of a subject. 

I want to start by explaining how to do this where geography is the lead subject.   First I developed a planning grid of empty boxes with headings that focus on both geography’s `big ideas’.  In terms of `big ideas’ I want to highlight PLACE, SPACE & SCALE as being the most important for primary geography though you’ll notice in my planning grid that I’ve linked together `place & scale’ and then `location & space’.  On the exemplar sheet I’ve prioritised `environmental interaction (including ESD)’ as this is essentially what the book is about.  Though I’ve also included `interdependence & connectedness’ – two very important ideas that were largely neglected in the current English National Curriculum programmes of study for geography, and then `changing human & physical processes’ and `cultural understanding & diversity’.  On the blank planning sheet I have left the boxes under `curriculum links’ blank.  Though as I read through the text of `What if …’ I realised that the book also embraced art, science and citizenship – so I added these headings onto my sheet.

So how did I use the planning sheet?

First I read through the book and listed all of the ideas that the book suggested to me.  These are in black type.

Next I looked at these ideas and though about `activities’ and the kind of ideas that might be developed into activities and I listed these in blue type.

I haven’t done the next stage – but what I would do next is to choose three or four of these ideas/activities and  develop them into an outline for a medium term plan.

If anyone uses this idea and adapts it for use with their own class I’d love to hear how it goes.  Please add a comment or get in touch by e-mail.  You’ll find contact details on the Geographical Association website.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Using picture books to develop geographical ideas

When teaching an integrated curriculum it is important to understand how the `big ideas’ from different curriculum subject or area can contribute the developing children’s understanding of the world.

Place space and interconnectedness are three of geography’s `big ideas’.  Here they are used in conjunction with `key questions’ to help you plan the geography component of a study  starting with a picture book that has a strongly geographical theme.

Using story: `One World’ by Michael Foreman


One World
View more documents from wendyn57.

Starting from Picture Books – The Sea and Coast

Approaching curriculum planning with GEOGRAPHY and CREATIVITY in mind:

  1. Use the books to provide you with the outline plan for a short or medium term unit. Three books that could provide a useful starting point for a KS1 & lower KS2 link ENVIRONMENT & SUSTAINABILITY through GEOGRAPHY & SCIENCE.
  • One World, Michael Foreman 0-09-983480-4
  • High Tide, Low Tide, Mick Manning & Brita Grandström 0-7496-4181-9
  • The Rockpool, David Bellamy & Jill Dow 0-7112-1386-0
  1. Use the book in conjunction with an outline planning frame to identify key learning concepts that will be the focus of work with your class. An exemplar frame has been provided for `What if? (Mick Manning & Brita Grandström)
  1. Decide which are the two/ three most important geographical concepts listed on the frame. These will form the basis of the children’s learning so highlight them. Do the same for other subjects. The time that you are able to devote to this unit/project will influence your choice.
  1. Identify additional resources that will help you provide more in-depth learning in relation to identified concepts.
  1. Plan activities to support learning.


To ensure whole school continuity and progression you will need to identify where key geographical concepts will be taught by each class in school and map this onto your whole school plan.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Making Geography Happen

The photograph that forms the new banner for this blog was taken at a recent meeting of the `Making Geography Happen' group. This project, set up by the Geographical Association, involves teachers from two secondary schools and three primary schools. The teachers involved have been devising and teaching geography themes designed to motivate learning and to demonstrate how good teaching `can make geography happen' in classrooms.

To find out `what works' the teachers have involved their pupils in the evaluation. They have also been looking at what things help children progress in their geographical understanding.

I particularly liked this Year 7 (11-12 years) project on `The school of the air' in Alice Springs. One very motivational element of the project was the final presentation where pupils were encouraged to present their `reflection logs'in any way they chose. There were crocodiles with tongues that unravelled to show the logs. Rugby balls that opened up and even a `shopping trolley'.

Ideas and resources from this project will form a new section of the Geographical Association website. I'll put up a new post when the project goes online.