High School for Girls (HSfG) in Gloucester kindly offered to host our second Primary Humanities/Geography Subject Leaders’ Network meeting, and what a warm welcome we received, accompanied by a vast array of delicious refreshments! The turnout was very encouraging, especially for this time of year given that there are so many activities and events taking place both inside and outside school; individuals from thirteen schools across the county, a few familiar faces, but several new ones too. The overriding theme for today’s meeting was ‘Enhancing oracy and literacy and mapwork skills’.
The afternoon began with various introductions and the usual, but necessary housekeeping notes. Next, I displayed the aims of our meeting, namely to:
- share ideas as to how story stones can be used, both inside and outside the classroom (e.g. grid references; OS map symbols; recounting journeys; environmental quality surveys).
- create a set of story stones together and discuss ideas for using them.
- introduce the concept of silent debate.
- participate in a silent debate and then evaluate the outcome together.
- give individuals the opportunity to network with teachers from other schools (to share best practice and establish future rapport).
- provide a number of invaluable web-links and free resources, plus time built in to explore these and ask questions/seek advice.
As you can see, the session was not all about me delivering content; I expected the teachers to do some work too! I used the ‘people in the tree’ activity as a starter, asking individuals to reflect upon a number of words/phrases projected on the screen and to evaluate how confident or familiar they were with these key terms/concepts, shading in a character on the appropriate diagram.
I then explored the concept of story stones in more depth, outlining why they are so useful in geography, linking to geology, important geographical concepts, such as place, space and scale, OS map symbols, emojis and our feelings about place, as well as place as a story setting. At the Geographical Association’s Annual Conference held in April in Sheffield, Nell Seal and Paula Owens provided some great ideas for using story stones with pupils from EYFS to Year 6 and I shared these with participants. Afterwards, teachers had a chance to create their own story stone/s to take away with them, show to colleagues and pupils as an exemplar/s and then possibly hide it/them in the city/county for others to find (a new approach to geocaching!).
Thinking about linking geography and literacy, I shared some great pebble-themed books with teachers for them to peruse at a later date.
Next, it was time for some quiet! Firstly, I explained the concept of silent debate, which I saw exemplified perfectly by Jon Cannell, again at the last Geographical Association’s Annual Conference. Individuals were then invited to view ten photographs displayed on large sheets of paper around the room and asked to comment upon their suitability for a school calendar. They were prompted not only to jot down a simple yes/no, but also provide reasons as to why they had come to such a decision. Later, I steered a whole group discussion based around the following questions to encourage a degree of reflection and some higher order thinking:
- Did individuals agree or disagree? Why?
- Is there a clear winner? Why?
- Is there one that is continually rejected? Why?
Participants were keen to ‘have a go’, and complied with the rules!
I deliberately set aside half an hour to enable attendees to have the opportunity to explore a number of suggested web-links and chat with each other to share best practice. It also allowed me to spend some time with each individual to answer any questions that they had and provide advice specific to their school’s interests/needs. I regard this as being fundamental to establishing firm, long-term relationships with local schools.
The final fifteen minutes saw each participant putting forward their thoughts and ideas as to how they might integrate the concept of story stones and silent debate within their whole school curriculum plan. I distributed two post-it notes to everyone and asked them to sum up today’s workshop in five words/in a sentence or two (WWW/EBI) on one and identify possible themes for future network meetings on the other. Teachers were told that they could add their name, school and position to each post-it note if they wished, before sticking them onto the pebble backdrop as they left the room. I have learnt that this is a simple, but effective means of gaining feedback after a CPD event and also provides guidance when planning the format and structure of our next meeting (scheduled for 1.30 pm to 3.30 pm on Tuesday 25th September 2018, with the venue to be confirmed nearer the time).
Delegates were finally requested to look at the ‘people in a tree evaluation’ drawings once again. They had to consider which one summed up how they were feeling right now and then turn to their neighbour and explain which character they had chosen and why. When asked if this character was the same or different to the one that they had selected at the beginning of today’s session and how far they thought they had ‘travelled’ this afternoon, all stated that they had climbed up the tree, although some felt they still had a little more climbing to do. Such positive feedback makes all the time and effort involved in organising such meetings so worthwhile and highlights how necessary such networks are if we are to invigorate the teaching and learning of Foundation Subjects in our local schools.
Do come and join us for our next meeting at the start of the new academic year; you will be made to feel very welcome.
Below are some concluding comments from individuals:
‘Useful bank of resources; practical.’
‘Helpful; reassuring; informal; nice to share ideas; fabulous suggestions!’
‘Some nice ideas using stones to stimulate interest in locations.’
‘Very good for resources and building confidence in being Subject Lead at school. Insight into Primary Geography Quality Mark (PGQM)’.
‘WWW: Pace, discussion/networking time. EBI: Group e-mail – to share resources for new Subject Leaders.’
‘Some good ideas for linking geography and English.’
‘Being inspired to use new and creative ideas to engage.’
‘Useful; new ideas; links/communication.’
‘Time; activities for EYFS and Key Stages 1 and 2.’
‘WWW: Sharing of silent debate and story stones. EBI: Discussion about teaching of history and geography across schools.’
‘Thank you for today – so good to come home with some more ideas.’
‘Thank you so much for the support you gave in the network meeting on Tuesday. It was really very helpful.’
‘Thank you for a fantastic afternoon – took away lots of ideas!’
‘Thanks for the meeting last week.’
Suggestions for future themes:
- Primary Geography Quality Mark (PGQM)
- New Subject Leaders (what is/how you are a Subject Leader)
- Making geography/history cross-curricular; embedding humanities into English and maths/showing English and maths across the curriculum really clearly
- Timetabling/planning of humanities
- Unpicking the Programmes of Study at Key Stages 1 and 2
- Assessment foci (for mastery as well); What does expected look like?
- Fieldwork resources, e.g. river studies, equipment
- Mapwork skills – teaching across the primary curriculum; being taught to use compasses correctly
- More practical ideas for inspiring geography teaching
- More history
- Topics: climate zones; biomes; vegetation belts; human settlement; change in the landscape
I will do my utmost to cover as many of the above as I can over the next few months. It may be that I also set up two separate working parties, one for new Subject Leaders and another for Primary Geography Quality Mark (PGQM) applying schools. Watch this space for further details!