When planning any curriculum over a longer period of time, it is very easy to plan for breadth of learning. We plan topics according to the National Curriculum and then whatever time if left we use to plan in other themes/topics that our children are interested in.
But what if we adopted a longer term vision for Geography? Rather than trying to split the knowledge and skills into different year groups and doing short term projects once/twice a year on an aspect of geography, why not look at a longer term plan to deepen children's understanding. A two-year plan for KS1 and a 4 year plan for KS2.
The key thing here is that we look to the purpose of and the aims of the Geography curriculum. Not the programme of study. Yes, we have to use the programmes of study as the driver, but our aims and purpose need to be clearer. After all, it is about developing geographers not covering geography. Stop planning for coverage and start planning for understanding. Use the programme of study to ensure your children are able to further develop their understanding as detailed in the aims and purpose of the National Curriculum. Note that the aims and purposes do not mention 'achieving' anything in Geography but determine what must be developed.
Purpose of Geography Curriculum(As taken from NC 2014 document)A high-quality geography education should:
Develop contextual knowledge of the location of globally significant places – both terrestrial and marine – including their defining physical and human characteristics and how these provide a geographical context for understanding the actions of processes.
Understand the processes that give rise to key physical and human geographical features of the world, how these are interdependent and how they bring about spatial variation and change over time.
Are competent in the geographical skills needed to:
Collect, analyse and communicate with a range of data gathered through experiences of fieldwork that deepen their understanding of geographical processes
Interpret a range of sources of geographical information, including maps, diagrams, globes, aerial photographs and Geographical Information Systems (GIS)
Communicate geographical information in a variety of ways, including through maps, numerical and quantitative skills and writing at length.
An idea to develop geographical understanding over time
My Travel Logbook
With thanks to Chris Quigley of www.chrisquigley.co.uk for helping me formulate this idea.
Every child has a blank pages travel logbook that they use to record all the places and spaces that they have looked at throughout KS1 with a separate logbook for Key Stage two.
Every 3rd week in school, an afternoon is dedicated to Geography with a vast number of skills used to help the children learn about the world we live in, with particular emphasis on , "Develop contextual knowledge of the location of globally significant places – both terrestrial and marine – including their defining physical and human characteristics."
Using the programme of study as the driver to meet the aims and purposes is key. But it is to be developed over time - it is not to be achieved.
Over the two years, the children will develop their understanding and knowledge in the following ways:
- Identifying on the class world map/UK Map where the place is.
- What the place looks like
- What is it next to?
- What is the weather like there?
- Who lives there?
- Identifying physical and human characteristics from sources of information (videos/pictures etc)
- Develop their geographical vocabulary to include all the terms used in the programme of study.
- What is its landscape like?
- What language do they speak there?
- Who is famous from that country?
- What is their flag like?
- What are schools like there?
Obviously, this would not be done using a powerpoint presentation and not all of the above would be done in every session. By developing this over time, children will become fascinated by the world around them, as they learn about different places all over the UK and the world. Using this as a basis for learning over time, will free up time for other parts of the curriculum (hopefully).
Over time, the children's travel logbook will be developed.
- Photos of activities
- Work written
- Maps developed
- Human and physical characteristics
My Travel Log book will meet the following aims and purposes, as well as the programme of study.
- Inspire in pupils a curiosity and fascination about the world and its people that will remain with them for the rest of their lives.
- Equip pupils with knowledge about diverse places, people, resources and natural and human environments.
- Develop contextual knowledge of the location of globally significant places – both terrestrial and marine – including their defining physical and human characteristics.
Programme of study
Pupils should be taught to:
Name and locate the world’s seven continents and five oceans.
Name, locate and identify characteristics of the four countries and capital cities of the United Kingdom and its surrounding seas.
Human and physical geography
Use basic geographical vocabulary to refer to:
key physical features, including: beach, cliff, coast, forest, hill, mountain, sea, ocean, river, soil, valley, vegetation, season and weather
key human features, including: city, town, village, factory, farm, house, office, port, harbour and shop
Geographical skills and fieldwork
Use world maps, atlases and globes to identify the United Kingdom and its countries, as well as the countries, continents and oceans studied at this key stage.
Use aerial photographs and plan perspectives to recognise landmarks and basic human and physical features; devise a simple map; and use and construct basic symbols in a key.
I'm still trying to develop this into a clearer long term project for our own curriculum, with precise details still being made in readiness for 2017 onwards.
One further thing - by having a UK Map and a world map in every classroom, we will be continually using this to identify countries, continents and oceans.
Notes and thoughts taken from Chris Quigley conference on 15.02.2017 'Learning without Lessons'
So, are we too concerned with assessment that it is leading learning rather than the other way round?
The quandary I have here is that how do we show a child's depth of understanding, their strengths and areas for development? How to move away from ages and stages/ levels / end of year expectations to something more meaningful? Detailed pupil profiles as used in EYFS interest me. Would this approach work throughout school? This is based on a continual progression of skills and understanding, whereas we are always concerned about 'achievement'. Coming back to the previous point of 'Nothing is ever achieved'. A real brain baffler and a complete change of approach would be needed in schools for this to happen. With our high stakes accountability system comes the urge/need to show that children are achieving. But what we really need is a system whereby we can show that children are continually developing their depth of understanding.
This key message of nothing is ever achieved, is also apparent in many aspects of curriculum design. The NC is designed in such a way that it prescribes some aspects of history/geography etc to learn about and have knowledge of. However, what we should be doing is using this context as the driver to develop historians, geographers, etc. Not using it as a tool to 'skim' a topic. We need to develop a depth of understanding of why history is important and not what history is. This goes for many other subjects.
My Key Questions
- How can we move away from assessing achievement or what is being 'done' to assessing understanding?
- Are schools too concerned with having a lesson objective / learning objective achieved to enable teachers to develop learning over time?
I mean, do children really 'achieve' something in every lesson? I suppose this comes down to your interpretation of a lesson.