Geography at Alexander First School
Vision – what they start with and what they leave with
Geography is a subject that is packed with excitement and wonder. It helps children gain a better understanding of our world’s people, places and environments, and the interactions between them. Geography helps children to understand how and why places are changing, and to better imagine, predict and work towards what the future may hold. Underpinning all of this is strong spatial awareness that deepens our understanding of what places are like, why and how they are connected.
This vision of geography is what our geography curriculum at Alexander First School is built around. Through our carefully tailored curriculum, children will develop into explorers. We aim to excite children about the possibilities of what the world has in store for them to explore and experience. Children should leave Alexander First School with a sense of their place in the world, both culturally and physically, and a desire to enquire into the world around them.
The Subject Lead Team
The vision the subject lead team have set out above is one that all staff strive for. We want the best for all the children at our school and work collaboratively to achieve this. Learning is a journey for all in school. Children progress through the school, building on their geographical knowledge and skill set whilst teachers are willing to adapt their practice to meet the needs of all their learners and take on board feedback given by a subject leader.
The geography subject team have worked with colleagues across the school to design a curriculum that we thought was relevant to our pupils and one that they would enjoy. The geography team have suggested a breadth of topics that would meet the needs of the National Curriculum and we have worked collaboratively to sort them into year groups where cross-curricular links could be made. We have ensured complete coverage of the National Curriculum and, where appropriate, that objectives are revisited in later year groups to ensure depth of learning. Finally, we have written a geography long term plan that was agreed upon by all teaching staff. This is regularly reviewed to ensure it is relevant to the children at our school.
To ensure an effective geography curriculum, we regularly monitor teaching and learning through lesson observations, book scrutinies and pupil voice. This enables the geography subject leader team to gain a solid picture of strengths and weaknesses in school and take action, where necessary. We also ensure teachers have the relevant resources to teach geography effectively. We are able to invest in high-quality resources for learners to use both inside and outside the classroom and online resources for teachers. This ensures teachers can plan exciting lessons for our children. Finally, as part of our role, we attend relevant CPD courses and disseminate any useful information to staff. This is usually in the form of staff meetings. The aim of these is to improve standards of teaching and learning. We feel it is important that teachers in school know that they can come and speak to the subject team if they need guidance on anything to do with geography and we will always signpost them in the correct direction.
We love to see children passionate about where they come from and the world they can explore. That’s why we lead geography with zeal and feel lucky to be in a role that gives us the opportunity to see some of the great work that goes on in school from both teachers and learners.
The Geography Curriculum
At Alexander First School, the National Curriculum objectives are split into overarching topics. Geography plays a varying role with some topics heavily focused on geography, such as ‘Around the World’ in year 1 which focuses on the oceans and continents with a focus on Africa, and other topics where it has a more of a cross-curricular role, such as ‘Village Settlers’ in year 4.
The geography curriculum is designed to offer breadth and depth in both knowledge and skills. We feel this best prepares children for their future learning. However, a key driver in developing the geography curriculum was also enjoyment. As mentioned in the vision above, children should love their geography learning and teachers at Alexander First School do all they can to make geography interesting for children.
The objectives for geography in KS1 and KS2 are clearly set out for each year group in the National Curriculum. They are as follows:
Key Stage 1
Pupils should be taught to:
Human and physical geography
Geographical skills and fieldwork
Key Stage 2
Pupils should be taught to:
Human and physical geography
Geographical skills and fieldwork
Early Years Foundation Stage
We begin the children’s journey into the Geography curriculum in Nursery and Reception, as part of the topic work covered during the year. The objectives that underpin this learning can be found in the both the natural world and people, culture and communities part of the Early Learning Goals. Geography makes a significant contribution to the ELG ‘Understanding of The World’ through activities such as going on walks in the local area, exploring the woodlands and studying various exciting places in the world. The children are also given chance to discuss their own exciting geography discoveries, whether that be a holiday or somewhere they’ve seen in a book. This is an important foundational stage where children can learn about other cultures and start becoming global citizens.
The contribution of Geography to teaching in other curriculum areas
Geography makes a significant contribution to the teaching of English in our school as it actively promotes the skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening. We link English skills and geography in a variety of ways. We ensure that children are given the opportunity to complete writing that is geographical in nature. For example, in the English long term plan, texts have been chosen as they link with the geography topic studied, such as ‘The Bluest of Blues’ in year 2. A further example is persuasive writing that has previously been taught through the topic of deforestation in the rainforests. Tasks of this nature ensure that children not only develop their English skills, but also develop vital understanding of the world we live in.
The teaching of geography in our school contributes to children’s mathematical understanding in a variety of ways. The children study space, scale and distance, and they learn how to use four- and six-figure grid references. They also use graphs to explore, analyse and illustrate a variety of data. Children have had the opportunity to create artefacts from other countries, such as masks, demonstrating their knowledge of both shape and symmetry. They have also had the opportunity to complete dates in Roman numerals of famous events around the world.
Computing enhances the teaching of geography, wherever appropriate, in each key stage. Children use technology to enhance their skills in data handling, web-based research and presenting their work. We offer children the opportunity to use iPads to record and photograph images, as well as apps such as Digimaps.
Science, in its very nature, has close links to geography. Both seek to discover and explore the world around us, moving us towards a better understanding of our world. The ‘Working Scientifically’ strand links closely with enquiry-based learning. Through topics such as Plants and Rocks, appropriate geographical learning and enquiry occurs as part of the comprehensive science learning.
There are many close links between geography and history. To understand how a place has changed, we must look at its past. Children get the opportunity to ask about a place’s past and often during history lessons, children have the opportunity to explore the geography of the area they are studying.
Through learning the French language, children gain vast experience that goes beyond just the words they learn. Children experience the culture and customs of France, through food, greetings and school life. They look at maps of France and use their language skills to navigate around them.
We place great importance on educational visits to enhance the geography curriculum. These visits allow children to gain first-hand experience of some of the concepts and places they have studied in the classroom. Fieldwork is integral to good geography teaching, and we include as many opportunities as we can to involve children in practical geographical research and enquiry. These are some examples of the trips undertaken in the past few years:
At Alexander First School, we cater for all learners. It is important everybody achieves in geography. Where it is felt appropriate by the class teacher, tasks are differentiated to meet the needs of the learners.
SMSC and British Values
Geography helps to develop rounded young people and offers a multitude of opportunities to cover and embrace British Values, particularly human geography. ‘Mutual Respect’ and ‘Tolerance of those of Different Faiths and Beliefs’ are values that are naturally woven into geography. Collaborative work during fieldwork develops respect for each other and the development of respect for the environment – and those within it. Children will discover similarities and differences between various groups of people throughout their geography work at Alexander First School.
Geography aids the spiritual development of children through a sense of wonder with the physical and human world. An understanding that all life is linked together and humans and the natural world have to work in harmony to achieve peace.
Social and Moral development is supported through the questioning of what goes on in the world. In 2019, we celebrated World Environment Day and World Oceans Day and children had to tackle difficult issues that affect our world today. Children spoke about their social responsibility to make our lives greener - they concluded that we all have an equal part to play.
Geography supports cultural development by helping children to understand the range of diverse cultures in the world. Through geography children look at how different cultures and beliefs can impact on the environment and human issues. They gain an understanding of the world as a global community.
Assessment for Learning
Children demonstrate their ability in geography in a variety of different ways. Younger children might, for example, dress up in costumes from different parts of the world, whilst older pupils might produce a PowerPoint presentation based on their investigations of different sources of energy. Teachers will assess children’s work by making informal judgements during lessons. On completion of a piece of work, the teacher assesses the work and uses this information to plan future learning. An on-going topic assessment is completed as teachers deliver lessons to monitor and quickly identify where pupils are at risk of falling behind and put much needed support in place. Written or verbal feedback is given to the child to help guide their progress. Older children are encouraged to make judgements about how they can improve their own work.
At the end of term, using their on-going assessments, teachers assess as to whether children are emerging, developing or securing in their geographical understanding. Teachers have access to previous assessment data as a tool to moderate their current judgements. This information is then passed on to the subject lead to support the monitoring process.