An update on speaking like a Geographer

Over a year ago, in a previous post for this blog, I wrote about my focus of encouraging students of ALL ages to ‘Speak Like A Geographer’. This was in light of having previously restricted this focus on terminology to GCSE and A Level cohorts – and wondering why they didn’t manage to adjust to the required key words and sophisticated language!

Whilst my classroom display and simple plenaries  (see previous blog) still form an important part of this work, I’ve continued to think of ways to embed geographical terminology across all elements of our departmental teaching.

One key way of achieving this has been the creation of ‘Vocab Lists’ to aid Key Stage 3 students in their revision. For the past year or so I have been providing students with two different resources for their revision: a PDF that could be termed a ‘knowledge organiser’ and a ‘Vocab List’. What is interesting is that the feedback from the student appears to show a preference for the list of vocabulary.
Quite simply, before their formal assessments I provide them with a list of vocab that is divided into words that they ‘must know’, words that they ‘should know’ and words that ‘for a top grade’, they would know.



Their apparent preference for this resource may stem from a few simple advantages of the approach:

  • It lays out on one or two pages a summary of what they need to know – thus making revision a manageable task.
  • It is self-differentiated and students can tackle (and feel as though they’ve completed!) the ‘must know’ section before moving onto the next level and thus the next level of challenge.
  • As their teacher, I feel that this resource fulfills another benefit: It helps to ‘teach’ them how to revise. Far too often we assume that Key Stage 3 students know what revision looks like and how they should do it.

What I’ve found from taking this approach is that by having a simple list of words without the definitions, they are forced to look back in their books for both the context and the meaning of the word. This removes the expectation that they can just use revision materials and instead, reinforces the importance of classwork for revision.

An additional bonus of these resources is that we can now use them to ensure departmental consistency in our rigour and coverage of each topic. Prior to beginning a Scheme of Work with Key Stage 3, we remind ourselves of the terminology that should be covered and embedded throughout our teaching. A future target of mine is to carefully consider how we can adopt a ‘spiraling progression’ of geographical terminology in order to achieve mastery of key concepts – but that’s a task for another day!

Kate Stockings is Head of Geography at The Hampstead School having completed her PGCE at the University of Cambridge 2014-2015. She is an author for OUP and has just completed her Masters in Education.