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A weblog designed to share Geography resources with students and colleagues

Monday, November 01, 2010

Writing the earth. Or copying Alan...

Categories: s1 and s2, Glaciation

The blog's been a bit quiet of late, but the classroom work has been going like a fair. Much of what I'm doing in class just now is either as a direct result of new ideas gained or old ones regained from my attendance at the SAGT conference. I attended a brilliant keynote speech by Alastair Humphreys, which showed why he is often invited to schools as a motivational speaker. Alastair has made the impossible possible through his attitude to challenges, such as cycling round the world in four years on £7000, circumnavigating the M25 on foot whilst relying entirely on the goodwill of strangers and is currently preparing to emulate Scott's Antarctic journey, as he puts it, "without the death part"! I'm mentioning this not just because of the fact I enjoyed his talk immensely, but also because, through his website, there are some excellent accounts of his journeys which could easily be adapted for classroom use. I am particularly drawn to a Scottish example which is rich in geographical terminology and would be excellent for use with a class learning about Scotland, weather, rivers etc

The two seminars I attended were by Noel Jenkins and Alan Parkinson, and both made a big play of the role Geography has in developing literacy, a particular area of interest to me. I'm going to share some work over the next week or so which shows the results of some of the things we've tried since, but here's a brief summary:

1) Telling a story around a geographical process - Alan had used the example of 'river as a person' , telling his life story from youth (upper course) to old age ( lower course). This came too late for use with my S3, but I decided to try something similar with Glaciation. When I mentioned this on twitter, Tony Cassidy sent me an excellent example of the story of a Hanging Valley, as told through 'Their Song;' and old show that used to be on the radio sharing sad stories. I introduced a similar idea to my S3 classes (see last post). This was really not easy, as the class couldn't equate the telling of a story with the explanation of a geographical process. For me, the link is explicit. For instance, the story of a corrie's formation has a start, middle and end, there are relationships between the ice and the landscape which are made and broken and the story of both changes as a result of this. I am pleased to say that some of the work I've been looking at this morning shows the promise of being absolutely first class. One story portrays the glacier as a bully, with a total disregard for those around him. Another is being rewritten as a Jeremy Kyle chat show, where the glacier and the corrie are fighting over the custody of the children (scree). Suddenly, these features are personalised and from initial scepticism, I feel as though a fair number of the class are embracing the idea of presenting their knowledge in an unusual way. This for me is key. It demonstrates firstly whether the knowledge is sound and, secondly, whether the real understanding is there should the students be asked to demonstrate it in an unfamiliar way ( a trickily worded exam question?). My NQT is doing something similar for Hurricane Katrina with an S1 class.More to come on this.

2) What if they had a facebook profile? Last year, I was looking at change in rural France (as exciting as it sounds) with an S4 class. We managed to make the topic engaging by having a twitter conversation with a 'Farmer', followed by a facebook/bebo/myspace mock profile for typical residents of rural villages. I was looking back through these today and some are fantastic. Alan had mentioned the template that Tony provided at SAGT, and this morning I had a class who were looking at rural Japan, so we are recycling this exercise using it. This is a really good way to summarise key points, information etc, but is much, much harder than it looks at first glance. I get these back in a week, so I'll try to share some here.

3) QR codes - Noel had a really fascinating seminar which was essentially based around his hobby of urban exploring. There are a number of ideas he shared which would have been of use for the Industry topic I've just finished with S4, for example, telling the story of a building unloved could be a great way to recap on Industrial change, and rebranding a building could be similar in terms of showing an understanding of urban and industrial change. However, he talked about personal geographies and I was reminded of this great post (which I think Alan also mentioned). I had previously asked my S4 to do a five minute walk detailing their response to the urban environment as homework. Much of what was returned wasn't place specific. I'd wondered about what to do with it, as I didn't just want to give it back and for it to disappear, so it would be nice if the authors could 'hide' their personal response to a landscape through these codes. It provides an audience for student work, but also requires a bit of unscrambling. I think this is something I'd definitely like to try with younger classes looking at local geography.
Overall, another really excellent piece of teacher CPD which, as always, will influence my own practice. Thanks to those mentioned here for the great food for thought they have provided.


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