A little ‘stretch and challenge’ for the New Year!

Virtual Primary Humanities Network meeting (Term 3)


Starting the New Year as we mean to go on!  Despite still being virtual in nature, I thought I would still try and provide a little ‘stretch and challenge’ during the third Primary Humanities Network meeting of this academic year.  After reviewing the suggestions given towards the end of our last meeting and bearing in mind the themes hitting the headlines and hot topics for discussion of late, I decided to focus today’s session around ‘critical thinking both in and beyond the classroom‘.

After formally welcoming everyone (many regulars and a few new teachers too from throughout the UK and further afield) and outlining the aims and structure of the meeting, I began with the usual ‘educational round-up‘ (Ofsted developmentslatest news, useful websites and new resources, many of which were FREE).  I referred to recent e-news from the leading subject associations here as well, namely the Geographical Association (GA) (https://www.geography.org.uk/), Royal Geographical Society with IBG (RGS-IBG) (https://www.rgs.org/) and the Historical Association (HA) (https://www.history.org.uk/).

I paused for 15 minutes so that attendees could bookmark favourites, explore web-links and materials further, ask any questions that they had, share best practice with others via the chat feed facility or by unmuting themselves.

The main part of the meeting kicked off with the following activity, which individuals embarked upon diligently and shared their thoughts enthusiastically in ‘breakout rooms’.

Next, we looked at critical thinking in and beyond the classroom in some depth.  I projected the slide below (critical thinking: a model for achievement – https://www.geography.org.uk/Critical-thinking-in-the-classroom) and provided a brief overview.

We then explored each circle in turn, along with a number of strategies that could be employed to nurture pupils, e.g. becoming better at thinking – flat chat, true for who? and question generator; making better sense of information – double bubble and argument frames; becoming more open thinkers – continuum line and silent debate.  Learning may also take place beyond the classroom environment, so attention was given to critical thinking and fieldwork.  Reference was made to 8-way thinking, epitome words, ‘so what’ chain, hexagonal linkages, plus- minus- interesting (PMI) and odd one outCase studies were integrated wherever possible, so that participants could see how easily such strategies might be included in day-to-day teaching and learning from EYFS to Year 6 and beyond.  Teachers attempted a few activities as well.  I allocated a good 15 minutes or so for independent exploration; a time for delegates to delve into those strategies that were most relevant to the age group that they currently teach and jot down a few ideas or activities to introduce to colleagues or incorporate into future lessons.

We finished with the below activities.  The first one generated much open discussion in ‘breakout rooms’.  I look forward to seeing evidence of and hearing about teachers’ experimentation over the next month or so.  The latter provided some very positive feedback, as well as a number of suggestions for possible themes for our next meetings.

Feedback from attendees can be viewed here:

Sum up today’s online meeting in five words/in a sentence or two:

Packed with ideas and resources.

Full of ideas, reminders and things to explore further!

Great ideas to support promoting oracy in the classroom.

Useful ideas and great case studies.

Lots of simple, but adaptable strategies.

Insightful; informative; useful.

Very helpful for a new Subject Leader!

Very useful to consider lots of different ways of encouraging children’s critical thinking.  Lots of resources to immediately use, which will fit in with planning.

Resourceful; full of ideas; practical.

Informative; inspiring; useful ideas.  Enjoyable!

Activities that are easily implemented.

Great ideas to get our classes thinking across all subject areas, not just geography.

5 words – inspiring; useful; thought-provoking; resource-filled; helpful.

Lots of information ready to use and share with staff, but also lots of information to take away and think about.

Practical ideas and lesson structures that are easily implemented.  Thank you!

Great ideas to promote discussion and thinking.

Thanks so much.  Really helpful and lots of great ideas.  See you next time.

Thank you, Emma.  Very useful and lots to think about!

Thank you, Emma, another great session!

Thank you so much.  This has been so helpful.

Brilliant!  Thank you.

Can’t wait to watch the recording and make more notes.  Many thanks.

I found the virtual meeting yesterday really informative and inspiring.  It has been a great help to me and has given me some excellent ideas and new resources to try. 

Thank you, Emma, for all your tips and ideas shared at the network meeting last Friday.

Possible themes for future Primary Humanities Network meetings:

  • How to assess geography in a meaningful way.
  • Creating a progressive geography curriculum.
  • Progression.
  • Fieldwork.
  • Skills progression by year group; more information for staff as PDFs or activities.
  • Fieldwork and progression in map skills from EYFS to Y6.
  • Skills focus (mapping/fieldwork/historical).
  • Linking the arts/humanities into STEAM.

Our next virtual event will be from 1.00 pm to 3.00 pm on Friday 18th March 2022.  Further details will be distributed by e-mail to any contacts that I have and a post added to this blog in a couple of weeks.

Stay safe and healthy in the interim.  Hope the remainder of Term 3 goes smoothly.










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