Due to the success of the first webinar series and further interest and demand, the Geographical Association (GA) approached me to see if I would be keen to lead another six online sessions, this time using Zoom. The ‘In the Know’ series is designed to help primary school teachers with their background knowledge of geographical themes and topics that they are expected to teach. Of course, I agreed as I am well aware that teachers and Geography Subject Leaders need as much support as possible during the current somewhat challenging times.
A course programme and overview, along with its overall aims and outcomes and fees, can be found by accessing the web-link below:
The first webinar, which focused on ‘Climate, biomes and vegetation belts’, took place this afternoon. Pupils learn about weather from the beginning of their primary years. However, understanding the relationship between weather and climate and how they affect the habitats of different animals and plants, creating biomes, is a complex geographical concept. For example, did you know that boreal forest is the largest terrestrial biome, Antarctica is a desert or that more than half of Earth’s plants and animals call tropical rainforests home? As the human effects on the climate become increasingly apparent, it is imperative that Earth’s future custodians have an understanding of the interconnections that link all life on our planet.
Judging by the reflections in the chat feed towards the end of the session, participants found the webinar to be extremely useful; a quick, easy and cost-effective means of boosting their subject knowledge. Some of their ‘concluding comments’ (summing up their learning in five words or a sentence or two) can be viewed below:
- The breadth of biome knowledge.
- Importance of subject specific vocabulary in geography.
- Great information quickly – specific and succinct.
- Recall of vocabulary.
- Interesting facts, vocabulary and definitions.
- Re-visiting (and learning some new) technical geography words!
- Some interesting ways to embed vocabulary.
- The different biomes and activity ideas.
- Difference between often confused terms (biomes; vegetation belts; climate).
- Understanding of vocabulary and terms.
- High expectations of vocabulary.
- Quick and interesting.
- The importance of vocabulary and specific knowledge.
- Use Digimap for Schools more – we subscribe, but have ‘fallen away’ in Lockdown.
- The importance of specific vocabulary.
- Gained subject-specific knowledge.
When asked to list any of the suggested teaching ideas that they might ‘give a go’, many stated the following:
- All of the vocabulary activities to be honest!
- Different vocabulary activities.
- Digimap for Schools activities.
- Google Earth Pro.
- More specific with vocabulary (we always start every lesson with a vocabulary activity, so anagrams would be nice).
- Missing words to help with vocabulary.
- Identifying zones on maps.
- More focus on activities linked to subject-specific vocabulary.
Attendees were also encouraged to consider any changes that they might make to current teaching and learning in their school. These included:
- Separate biomes and vegetation belts and be more specific when teaching it.
- Making sure at the start of a geography topic vocabulary is taught explicitly.
- School knowledge organiser needs updating!
- Greater investigations into the difference between biomes and climate zones.
- More emphasis on key terms.
- Add vocabulary activities in as retrieval ideas after teaching the biome unit.
- A broader range of activities
- Ensuring specific vocabulary is being embedded.
- Ensure familiarity with vocabulary does not obscure understanding.
- Ideas to Geography Subject Leaders I work with, especially around vocabulary.
- Was great and in 45 mins!
- Great session, thank you!
- Quick and informative, fast-paced.
- Quick and to the point with ideas.
- Focus on vocabulary and understanding – with real life ideas to try.
- Lesson ideas.
- Ideas to try.
- Good pace.
- Good range and detailed content, explained clearly.
- Breakdown of vocabulary; ideas for activities for each of the ‘zones’.
- To the point knowledge.
- Ideas that are easy to put into practice.
- All of it!
- More of the same, please!
- An idea of how to block this knowledge into a scheme of work.
- Ideas to help with planning, e.g. Should biomes be taught as a unit or is knowledge better taught in place-based studies?
- Any ideas on interactive/physical activities for children?
PDF downloads are also available to purchase via the GA’s shop, either as ten individual titles or as a full set (https://www.geography.org.uk/ebooks). These provide straightforward, accurate and trustworthy background knowledge, explanation, diagrams and glossary on topics in the geography National Curriculum so that teachers can develop their geography teaching with confidence.
I look forward to the second webinar next Thursday afternoon, which explores ‘Rivers and the water cycle’.