Tag Archives: teaching

How I became interested in Geography….

Stephen Scoffham, one of the authors of Teaching Primary Geography, reflects on what geography means to him and how he became interested in it.

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What is it that first attracted me to geography?  The simple answer is that I don’t really know. Some people seem to have a clear idea of what they are going to do in life from a very early age.  They want to be doctors, or vets, or to make lots of money in business.  I remember, as an infant, being asked what I wanted to do as a grown up.  I couldn’t really think of an answer but wriggled uncomfortably on my bottom instead.  ‘I want to be a train driver’ I finally blurted out without much conviction.  Fortunately, the teacher, Mrs Brown, seemed convinced.  In those days, when the railway engines were still driven by steam, being a train driver was a glamorous enough job which appealed to young boys.

Thinking back, perhaps it was looking at maps as we went on holiday by car which made me interested in geography.  And planning trips in the countryside must have nurtured my interest in the physical environment.  Also, my father, who was involved in planning in his role with the Local Authority, probably passed on his interest in design and architecture.  I know it sounds a bit naff but I remember enjoying colouring in maps and diagrams in my work at school.  At one point as an adolescent I spent a few weeks making a relief model of India during a spell of illness and forced convalescence.  This was a great hit and the geography teacher was delighted.  My model was proudly displayed on the wall of the geography room for quite a number of years after that.  No doubt it was discretely cleared away some time later when the builders came to redecorate. Anyway I don’t know what happened to it.

I studied geography at ‘A’ level (it wasn’t very well taught and I didn’t enjoy it that much) so I decided to branch out at university.  I opted for a general course which combined a number of subjects.  This was a bit of tricky balancing act as it meant switching from one topic to another and I didn’t have enough background knowledge to make sense of everything I was learning.  However, after three years I ended up with a sound degree and a specialism in philosophy and history.  Not a hint of geography at this stage.  Just a broad grounding in humanities which played to my interest in making links and connections.  I’ve been developing this way of thinking ever since.

On graduating I worked as a primary and secondary school teacher before becoming the Schools’ Officer for an Urban Studies Centre (community study base) in an historic town.  At the same time, I developed a career as a self-employed author of teachers’ and children’s books.  I gradually realised that my interest in the urban environment and outdoor learning was steering me towards geography.  I was also lucky enough to develop a long-term partnership with two local head teachers.  We began by working together on materials to support active learning in the school environment and immediate surroundings.  Then, after banging on many doors, we were appointed as consultants for a new school atlas series just as the National Curriculum was coming on stream. I moved into teacher education soon after that.  It has proved to be a wonderful and supportive professional environment ever since.

This latest book, Teaching Primary Geography, is also the result of a collaboration.  I first met the co-author, Paula Owens when she was a student in initial teacher education and we have both been deeply involved with the Geographical Association ever since.  Sharing ideas with Paula has been a really stimulating and creative process.  I always think that two minds are better than one and we are particularly proud of the way we have found ways to include sustainability and British values in each of the different areas of study.  We are both convinced that the curriculum needs to address contemporary issues.  Hopefully you will be too as you read through our ideas and suggestions.  Do let us know what you think.

pc403rzd_400x400Dr. Stephen Scoffham has published widely for schools and teachers in the field of primary geography. He is the editor for the Geographical  Association’s Primary Geography Handbook (2004, 2010), chief  consultant/author for the Collins Junior Atlas, UK in Maps and World in Maps and joint author of the newly issued Collins Primary  Geography textbook scheme. In 2014 he won an award for his work on  devising and Teaching Geography Creatively (Routledge), a  resource book for teachers.He is currently based at Canterbury Christ  Church University where he is a Visiting Lecturer in Sustainability and Education. You can follow him on twitter @StephenScoffham

tty7hjr7_400x400Dr. Paula Owens is an education consultant and author. Along with Stephen, she is the co-author of Bloomsbury Curriculum Basics Teaching Primary Geography. Her career has spanned teaching and leadership in primary schools and curriculum development lead for the Geographical Association. You can follow her on twitter @Primageographer

Bloomsbury Curriculum Basics: Teaching Primary Geography is available to purchase here 

 

Castles in the Air

Using the past as a springboard for young writer by Paul Mason

The idea for the book came while walking the grounds of Walmer Castle in Kent.  What would it be like, my daughter asked, to sneak in and live there?  I spent the afternoon taking in the thick walls, and deep, grassy moat; the Duke of Wellington’s bedroom with its camping cot, the row of cannons pointing out to sea, the pair of Wellington boots—scribbling down notes, possibilities, real detail.

A Gibbon quote comes to mind: “There is more pleasure to building castles in the air than on the ground.”  I often like to use one to inspire the other. The past can provide young writers with a powerful springboard.

I took a class to visit a scale replica of a steerage deck on an 1840’s immigrant ship. They perched on bunks in the dimly lit deck as it rocked back and forth, listening to the waves crash, the boards creak. They pictured the hard yards of the early settlers, and put down some evocative description.

Here in New Zealand, a trip to a marae can be a source of inspiration. The wharenui or meeting house often symbolises an ancestor–with a beam for the spine, rafters for ribs and the heart represented by a strong post.  Carvings inside usually tell stories of those that have gone before, great leaders and navigators. (Check the local tikanga or rules before visiting.)

Of course, the past can creep into the classroom too.  I once brought in an old travelling chest.  The students could look and touch the worn leather, but weren’t allowed to open the lid.  What hid inside? Who did the trunk belong to? Where were they travelling? What would they themselves pack in the trunk if they were going on a long journey?

An inquiry into family history began with a mini-museum of personal heirlooms. An old hat that belonged to granddad. A medal. A treasured photograph. The young writers made them breathe in poems and stories. Given the chance, castles in the air can begin here on the ground.

Paul Mason is a former primary school teacher. He writes fiction for Bloomsbury Education including the Skate Monkey series which has two new titles, The Cursed Village and Fear Mountain, publishing in January 2017.

Teaching Primary French and Spanish

Angela McLachlan, author of Teaching Primary French and Teaching Primary Spanish in the Bloomsbury Curriculum Basics series with Amanda Barton, explains how these new titles can reassure and encourage anyone to get started with primary languages:

We were really excited when we heard about the new Bloomsbury Curriculum Basics series about a year ago, and were keen to create something for languages that new or more established teachers with little or no experience of teaching languages, and whose language skills are rusty, could use to make a strong start in the classroom. French and Spanish are the mostly commonly taught languages in primary schools at the moment, so we started there.

One of the challenges when writing a practical, ‘hands-on’ primary languages book is the absence of a National Programme of Study that addresses learning a9781472920683-Frenchcross individual year groups in the 7-11 age range. In other curriculum areas, very specific concepts and content are outlined in detail for each year group, so that teachers can plan and map progress in learning from the very beginning of that age range, all the way through to the point where children leave primary school and embark on their journey through secondary education. One implication of this is that there can be very wide diversity in the kinds of programmes of language-learning that children receive, particularly in England. So we thought about the kinds of language, lessons and activities we’ve taught or seen that primary children most engaged with, and were able to use regularly throughout the school day and across the school year. We finally decided on 12 initial areas of learning, with a single chapter focusing on each area of learning, but ensuring that progression in learning was embedded across the chapters, with clear links between them.

Each chapter is based around three sequenced lessons that centre around a given area of learning, and each addresses specific aspects of the Programme of Study for Languages in England. That said, these areas of learning are relevant for primary classrooms pretty much anywhere, so teachers working in other parts of the UK or beyond will find the lessons just as relevant. Although each lesson is structured around a very basic 30-minute framework, we’ve suggested ways teachers can extend the learning, and make it more appropriate for the particular year group they are working with. There are lots of ideas for how to align learning with other curriculum areas, too.

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For those who do not specialise in teaching languages, a crucial element for us was to be very specific about both the language the practitioner needs to make the most of the lessons, as well as the core language that pupils are to engage with and hopefully learn. We’ve also given guidance on how words are pronounced, and it’s a good idea tosupplement this with hearing the words themselves. You’ll find that many words in the online dictionary www.wordreference.com also come with an audio file, which is enormously useful for pronunciation practice – and within the chapters themselves, we’ve suggested a range of websites and online resources that include audio content.

Beginning to develop an understanding and appreciation of the countries and cultures in which French and Spanish are spoken is an integral part of developing competence in, and love for, the languages themselves. Chapters one and two offer lots of facts about languages in general, and French/Spanish in particular; we’ve chosen ‘fascinating facts’ that we’ve had great success with ourselves in the past, with children really keen to talk about their ‘favourite fascinating fact’, and to continue their exploration to discover more.

There are several resources available online to get you started with your lessons; other resources we suggest for each lesson can be prepared quickly and easily, with step-by-step instructions for how they might work best.

We’re looking forward to seeing the books in print, and hope that they go some way to reassuring and encouraging non-language specialists to get started with primary languages!

 

The Bloomsbury Curriculum Series: