I’ve set myself four New Year’s resolutions in order to develop my teaching, add new elements to my lessons, and engage my pupils. It may be dark and bleak outside, but inside the classroom there is no need for my lessons to be! Let me share my ideas with you:
- Have a weekly ‘Geography in the News’ starter
During subject promotion periods (GCSE and A Level option choices), I harp on about geography’s relevance to the real world and how we all can observe every-day geography around us. But do I actually put this across in lessons? I have realised that I cannot rely on students to watch the news and make geographical links themselves. Therefore, every week I will produce a ‘News Flash’ of screenshots of news articles from BBC World News to highlight geographical issues and make clear links between the classroom and the outside world!
- Emphasize geographical skills
In Year 7, my students study a topic which focuses on geographical skills: grid references, scale, contours, map symbols and compass directions. These skills can then get overlooked as the students move through the school. So, I’m going to take the time to look through the schemes of work for Year 8 and 9 primarily, adding in these skills where the opportunity arises. For example, for work on the Peak District, I am going to use the ‘Digimaps’ website and get students to answer questions using an OS Map, such as ‘what evidence of tourism can you see in this area?’ and ‘which area would be best for a tourist who likes hiking?’.
- Make better use of reward systems
I am often guilty of being better at following through sanction systems than I am reward systems. This term I’m going to trial a ‘raffle ticket’ reward system with a couple of my classes. Excellent answers, outstanding effort and participation will be rewarded with a raffle ticket (from a standard book of raffle tickets). Every half term I will draw a ‘winner’ who can select a prize (chocolate, stationery, squashy globe, etc.!).
- Enhance synopticity
‘Synopticity’ is a key feature of many A Level specifications, and one which can fill students and teachers with dread! At my school, three of us teach different topics to a single class, making it even harder to draw synoptic links between topics. Geographical processes are inherently connected and without these connections, you cannot fully understand the amazing world around us! I have teamed up with another colleague to deliver a synoptic lesson through team teaching. We took my topic (Migration) and his topic (Changing Places) and looked for an opportunity to explicitly link the two. We have now planned a lesson on how migration impacts the characteristics and development of places within the UK. We are drawing on concepts from our own topics to show how students need to be synoptic in their exams – plus, how every element of geography has impacts on many other areas!
So, whether you are the kind of teacher who regularly sets targets to develop your practice or whether you leave that for your yearly review, I challenge you to think of some ‘resolutions’ to enhance your lessons, engage your pupils and instil a love of geography! Let me know what your resolutions are and, more importantly, if you stick to them!
Rebecca Priest is a Geography Teacher at King Edward VI High School for Girls in Birmingham. She is currently studying for a MA in Geography Education at the Institute of Education and presented a session on ISM at the GA’s 2015 Annual Conference.