Effective Geography Teachers

What characteristics do they have ?

Some ideas from delegates today...
What would you add ?

1. Know each child.
2. Classroom environment is one where the boundaries are recognised - it's their space and students are working effectively while they are in it.
3. Consistency - stick to the routine and communicate expectations
4. Enthusiasm - willing to help - banter is good
5. End of lesson: thanking and congratulating good work - thanks for the lesson
6. Noise - comfortable - relevant to the task
7. Being organised within schemes of work - previous lessons are being built on... linking lessons and having a connection - prior learning
8. Calm - a presence...
9. Rapport
10. Inspiring - everybody feels connected with the lesson

Dark Sky - new weather app...

Promises to offer hyperlocal forecasts and warnings of when the rain will start.
This morning over breakfast it told me there'd be snow flurries for the next hour or so in central Birmingham. I didn't believe it.... it was right though...

Shackleton's Journey

I bought this today from Topping bookshop in Ely, which is what all bookshops should be like: a treasure trove of new discoveries all beautifully presented in book-lined rooms in the centre of the city. There's a splendid view of the city from the windows, and I always find something to buy, so I try to pop in once a month and support them.

Amazon says it's not out yet, but I'm looking at it now, and it's a beautifully illustrated book telling one of the greatest true-life stories ever.
Check it out if you get the chance, and I guarantee that you'll buy it too...
We've just finished teaching our Pole to Pole unit, but this will go in next year....

RSGS journal and projects...

Thanks to colleagues at the RSGS for sending me a copy of the latest 'The Geographer' journal.

This is full of interesting articles on issues to do with the geography of health. There's also a nice report on me receiving my Tivy Education medal.

Thanks also to Joyce Gilbert, the Education Manager of the RSGS for getting in touch and involving me in a project which has already taken me down some interesting new avenues... and introduced me to the interesting idea of the sennachie or shanachie (which can mean a 'storyteller' in Scots Gaelic)

Will be sharing more on that as the project develops...

And a final Scottish connection is confirmation that I shall once again be presenting at the Scottish Association of Geography Teachers' Conference - which will be held in Perth in October.

I-USE website now developing

Regular readers will know that I am involved in the I-USE project.

This has a remit to develop statistical literacy across a range of subjects, and in a range of EU countries to start with, but eventually across the whole community.

Please follow the Twitter feed @StatsinEdu and also join our FACEBOOK group.

More to come on this project shortly...

Come and see our WORKSHOP at the GA Conference in April

Pole of Cold Resources now live...

Over the Christmas holiday, the Pole of Cold team were making their way towards Oymyakon: the Pole of Cold (coldest inhabited place in the Northern Hemisphere)

I've blogged about the project before, which has its Twitter feed and Facebook page.

Meanwhile I was a little closer to home... in fact I was at home, working on a resource for the From the Field section of the Royal Geographical Society website.

These resources are now live on the KS4 From the Field section of the RGS website.

Check them out here: 3 lesson plans with all the materials, plus plenty of extension ideas and other materials, with more to come...
Thanks to Matt Podbury for some kind words already. Let me know if you use them or take a look.

Thought for the Day

"Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible" 
Frank Zappa

Happy Australia Day

Plenty of visitors to the blog from Australia, so I hope you've had a great Australia Day so far !


Canva is a new poster design tool which is currently in beta.

It allows for the creation of posters by dragging in images and text. A range of free images are available, or a wider selection can be used for a payment. I'm not sure how many people might pay for a particular image or just use an alternative tool, but the interface and look is quite nice, and it's easy to generate a good result quite quickly, which looks attractive.
A range of formats is also available, for creating posters, Facebook headers and other documents.
Here's a social media card that I created, showing my Twitter name for those of you who don't already know it.
Worth checking out.

Knee High

One of the projects that Explorer HQ is currently involved in is a project called KNEE HIGH.

The Design Council is offering support for ideas which help the health and well-being of young children in certain parts of London

This video shows two of my co-directors Dan and Helen talking about our idea, which has got through to the 2nd stage of the design challenge...

A Make, Take & Explore Den for the Knee High Project from Mission:Explore on Vimeo.
In 2013 the Design Council in partnership with Guy's and St Thomas’ Charity and the London Boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth set a design challenge:

"We are looking for fresh ideas with the potential to radically improving the health and wellbeing of children under five living in Southwark and Lambeth."

After speaking with children, parents, teachers and a range of experts we have been developing the following response to the challenge....

Take a look at the projects and we'd love it if you could vote for the TAKE, MAKE AND EXPLORE DEN at the bottom of the page.

Follow Crafty Explorers on Twitter too...

Watch out for details of the launch event(s) when you can come and say hello to us...

5000 up...

After the million views achievement of last week, this is the 5000th post on this blog. What it lacks in quality it certainly makes up for in quantity :)

Bearing in mind that each post varies from a brief 'Thought for the Day' to a fully formed piece with plenty of links, images and supporting resources, I've certainly sunk many thousands of hours into this blog and I hope you find it useful.

There's a search box top left which will enable you to search through on any particular key words. Each of the posts is labelled.
Here are the top 10 labels over the last 6 years or so - there are plenty more where that came from....

1. Geographical Association
2. CPD
3. Mapping
4. GIS
5. Mission:Explore
6. Resources
7. The Geography Collective
8. Fieldwork
9. Twitter
10. iPhone Apps

Paula Owens on CBeebies

Really useful post and resource for those teaching Primary Geography.
A new set of characters called the Go Jetters who teach young people about key geographical ideas.

Geography helps children to make sense of their world. Very young children are naturally curious, and they love to actively explore the world around them, noticing all kinds of detail. That’s why they need to develop geographical vocabulary like the names of places, people and things, and the words needed to describe and locate them.
It helps to think of children as little geographers – they each have their own world of private geographies  - the places they name for themselves with meanings that only they understand: the dens where they hide out with their friends, special meeting places in the school playground. Whether they’re playing in the back garden, or splashing through a muddy puddle on the way to school, children are intrepid explorers making new (to them) discoveries about the world every single day. 
Check them out...

Meet Kyan, Xuli, Foz and Lars; four adventure-seeking superhero Go Jetters who live high above the clouds, and love to explore new places all around planet Earth.

Mentored by a disco-loving unicorn named Ubercorn, the Go Jetters accept any mission and tackle challenges head on through problem-solving, teamwork and amazing inventions. 

Feeling hot...

Australia has been suffering from some real problems with the heat over the last few days. This is not new. During the summer months, the temperature often rises to dangerous levels, and there are wildfires and other problems.

I've contacted a few Twitter followers who live in Australia to ask them about how the heat is affecting them, and had some interesting stories in reply with some useful resources.

One place to go currently to see how many risks there are facing people in the country is the Bureau of Meteorology site. These are sometimes of particular value when exploring a country. The Iceland version has tectonic updates as well as the weather forecast, for example.

Crafty Explorers

I've blogged before about the involvement of Explorer HQ colleagues with the Design Council's Knee High Challenge.
Our CRAFTY EXPLORERS pop-up shop is opening soon in Nunhead, London, and you can follow what we get up to on the new TWITTER FEED.

Kidsmeet flashback...

I was reminded earlier this week of an event I took part in last March when I was invited down to Portsmouth to work on HMS Warrior with students from a number of local schools to hack the curriculum at an event called KIDSMEET.

It was an exciting and interesting morning as it was certainly flying by the seat of my pants, and responding to student questions and ideas as we went. There were some really nice outcomes and Jo Debens, who was one of the organisers of the whole event (which included a range of other activities going on at the same time in other nearby venues) has summed it up here, and I also came across a few rare pictures of me in action. I don't often get to see these, as I'm usually too busy working or presenting to get pictures organised...
Plenty of interesting ideas for new curriculum topics and approaches...

Thanks again to the team at Priory for the original invitation, and to the teachers and students involved for their enthusiasm...

Images: Jo Debens

The Ice Man

'The Ice Man' was my first children's book that I wrote by myself, having co-authored a number of books along with fellow members of the Geography Collective.

It features the story of Otzi: the Ice Man of the book, who was discovered in the Italian Alps in the early 90s

There were some parallels with a current story which was featured in the Daily Telegraph earlier in the week.
Melting ice in the Italian Alps is revealing a large number of corpses which date back to World War One.
What else will be revealed around the world as the ice sheets and glaciers shrink back...
Or are we actually heading for a new Ice Age ?

Check out the term Maunder Minimum.....

Mission:Explore Water

Our latest Mission:Explore book on the theme of WATER is officially launched tomorrow.
It contains a range of new missions on the theme of WATER, all illustrated as usual by Tom Morgan Jones.
The book can be downloaded free of charge

If you download it, or even if you don't please click through to support our THUNDERCLAP.
This also ends tomorrow.

There's anther WATER connection that I came across today while researching some AUSTRALIAN risks.
The Bureau of Meteorology has a free WATER STORAGE APP that can be downloaded to help with the problem of water shortages at certain times of year due to droughts and high temperatures. A reminder of the importance of water..

Doug Belshaw book

One of the things I'm going to do later in the year is work on a few projects related to technology across the subjects, and also the notion of cloud based schools... This is part of a couple of European projects which I have been asked to participate in.
As part of this work, I'm going to be heading to Lisbon and Athens in the next few months to work with teachers and academics from a number of European countries.
I need to update my knowledge of various wider areas of pedagogy, related to new technologies and applications.

To help with that I've downloaded Doug Belshaw's e-book on Digital Literacies, and will also be doing some other reading...

Will share the presentations from my seminars here of course, along with the stories surrounding the journeys to the venues....

World Population Map

A high resolution image, with thanks to Urban Photo blog on Twitter for the tipoff...

Click HERE to be taken to the full image.

One million views...

Some time last night, the counter of views of this Living Geography blog went past the ONE MILLION mark.

One million readers of posts on this blog is a remarkable number, and another reminder of the reason why I started blogging in 2002.
I started this particular blog when I heard that I was going to be joining the Geographical Association in 2008. At the time, the idea of Living Geography was being developed by the GA and a book of the same name was published by Chris Kington, featuring a range of contributors.
Unfortunately, my job at the GA was prematurely curtailed, and I then used it to document two years of freelance effort and travels working for a wide range of organisations.
It's now my daily geographical diary, and I have a separate blog to share my current teaching ideas and resources.
As always, take a look at my itinerary of events down the right hand side of the page, and if you'd like me to work with you on something, get in touch via my About Me page.

Thanks for reading ! We're already on the way to our second million...

Student curation...

One of the possible future trends in Geography (and other subjects) is a shift towards student curation of content to support learning, as well as a move towards the 'flipped classroom' and 'cloud-based learning' (which is still basically classwork or homework) with content and software delivered by apps and through digital devices.

As social media networks and feeds develop, there is a flow of relevant information, and this dizzying pace is often not captured, or perhaps is too distracting for many people.
What did we do without it? Are we better off for its existence?

Some tools such as IFTTT exist to help 'streamline' these networks so that something which is added to one network is automatically added to another one (or more)

Will we move towards a point where topicality has to change its timescale until what is taught is only those longer term issues, or things which don't change. Or will it go the opposite, and we'll be doing the Geography of the Now...
Living Geography requires some updating, and I was reminded of that earlier this week in a blog post by Angus Willson, and a tweet from Russel Tarr.

For example, I've been teaching about RISK this week using Michael Schumacher and people driving through flood water as examples to discuss, alongside other images. A colleague is heading for Reunion later in the year, and students will be asked to 

Which social media can be used to support student curation of material ?
I've been using iPads a little this year but not as much as I expected to because of various issues with connecting (I'm still wary of them working as I hope they should, even though they haven't been too bad...)

Some of these I am already familiar with and use

FLIPBOARD magazines
BLOGGING of course... 
SPOTIFY play lists

Are there any good examples out there of curated homeworks from students.

Next Thursday - Google Earth course...

My weekend will be spent preparing updates and new materials ready for this course...

UEA PGCE visit

Over to UEA this morning for the annual visit to the PGCE cohort. I'm still in touch with previous colleagues who are now into their careers. Extra special to see Sarah, who was a PGCE colleague in my department around 10 years or so ago I think.

We had a session on curriculum making and a few ICT ideas related to the new curriculum.

I took in lots of books and props and colleagues had the chance to create some Margaret Roberts' style ISMs to kick off an enquiry.
Lots of good ideas on food, volcanoes, mapwork, Story cubes and rivers using Horrible Geography books.
Thanks to all involved, and to Nick Gee for the invitation.
Here's a few ideas on the Google Drive use that I mentioned...
Keep in touch !

Dian Fossey Google logo...

New book out in February

Just checked, and it looks like my latest children's book, written for Collins is out in February.
It's on the theme of 'Extreme Survival', and is aimed at Key Stage 3 students, and takes the form of a reader, with some questions at the end to promote discussion and development of literacy. It's in a similar format to my Ice Man book, which seemed to go down well.

I get a modest payment from each sale so please go ahead and purchase a class set or three :)

New Rory's Story Cube sets...

New in my Rory's Story Cubes collection. Regular readers will know that I've been using these for some years now and was an early champion of their use in geography as guiding some interesting story telling. Some great new icons on these dice to help with enquiries (using the clues set) and features such as volcanoes (using the prehistoria set)
Just need the enchanted set now.
Accept no alternatives - go for Rory's - the original story cubes  :)

Assessing the new curriculum

One of the questions at training events I led recently was about how to assess the National Curriculum.
Earlier this year, levels were removed from the new curriculum, and disapplied for the existing one for the time being, and there were several posts relating to the issue.
Tom Bennett wondered 'what do we pretend now' ?

There were suggestions that there would be:
a) exemplars of best practice from the DfE - I'm not aware that they've been released, and they really need to be published soon if people are going to build those into their planning - assessment should after all be thought about fairly near the start of the planning process...
b) 'solutions' from some of the big publishers, who may tie this in with textbooks which they publish - although it may be that they are focussing more on exam courses than on KS3, I expect there are new versions of the popular KS3 series primed and ready for publication in 2014...
c) school based solutions, which may be connected across local or regional networks or clusters of schools so that there is some sense of collaboration and continuity...
d) recommendations from organisations like the Geographical Association (remember Eleanor Rawling's excellent book from the previous curriculum change) or the RGS-IBG.

A recent contribution from the Hunting English blog in December provided some interesting food for thought

Whatever it is that schools use, they will need to start using them fairly promptly to get used to them, and have something in place for the new academic year, and to show to 'visitors'....

The DfE launched an appeal for schools or other organisations who have ideas for how to assess student work during the last few weeks, and publicised this via the TES website. Some of you may have missed this. This is called the ASSESSMENT INNOVATION FUND.

The deadline for applying is February the 14th....

The proposals will be supported with up to £10 000
One condition is that the proposed scheme is shared, and available to download by all...
Over to you :)

Firefly planner

Had a quick demonstration of this new student planner app at a staff meeting earlier in the week. It's created by Firefly.

We use their system for our school's VLE, and it connects with a system called iSAMS for our school administration.
The app is available for iPad only at the moment, but will be appearing for iPhone and Android.

It looks like it might have some potential for storing student marks and other information, as well as creating seating plans and other features.
Now all I need is an iPad... ;)

Latest reading...

Just £1.49 for the Kindle

I am familiar with many of the places mentioned in this book, as a child of the 60s....

New East London GA Branch - launch event next week...

Are you in or near East London next Tuesday night ?

Why not pop over to the free launch event for a new GA Branch
Dr. Simon Carr of QMUL is currently co-ordinating the new programme.
Here's the details:

FREE Launch Event
The London 2012 Olympics: Evaluating the Legacy of the Games
5.30 - 7.30pm, Tuesday 14 January
School of Geography, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, E1 4NS
Nearest tube: Mile End and Stepney Green; bus routes 25 and 205.
The Geographical Association East London Branch would like to invite you to join us for a launch event hosted by the School of Geography, Queen Mary University of London.
The launch will comprise two talks examining the legacy of the London 2012 Olympics given by:
  • Professor Steve Cummins (London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine)
  • Emmanuel Gotora (The East London Communities Organisation, TELCO).
We hope the evening will provide insight and inspiration about our East London location as well as examine the theme of a popular case-study and fieldwork component used throughout the National Curriculum and at GCSE and A Level. There will also be a brief introduction to the new GA Branch and an invitation to join and be a part of its future development.
This event is free to attend and is aimed at teachers, teaching assistants and others involved in the preparation, teaching and evaluation of teaching, whether they are members of the GA or not. Refreshments will be provided.
If you have any enquiries about the GA East London Branch or the launch event, please email Dr Simon Carr. We would be very grateful if you could email to confirm attendance for catering purposes.
We look forward to meeting you soon.
Geographical Association East London Branch

Ice Wave

There are some astonishing images and videos coming out of the USA which are linked to the continuing plunge of extremely cold air.
There were some intriguing stories too. I tweeted about the videos showing boiling water evaporating before it hit the ground, which then led to a spate of hospital admissions after people slipped over

I liked this story about resilience today compared to the olden-days...
Here's a video from the Telegraph website showing an ice wave... beautiful but scary....

Thanks also to the Google Earth blog for link to a KML file to allow it to be viewed in Google Earth.

Environment Agency Prezi

A useful Prezi produced by the Environment Agency which might be useful for those using the current flooding situation as a context for learning...

TeachMeet in Cambridge

The latest Teachmeet to take place in the local area is going to be held at Chesterton College, Cambridge on the 6th of February.

This is a day when Teachmeets are being held all over the country (and beyond...)

I would have tried to attend this, but am already in London leading an NQT Conference for the GA, which will also include a Teachmeet element as I want to take part in this particular day, having attended one of the early Teachmeets up in Scotland, hosted by Ewan McIntosh.... still remember Ollie Bray presenting while standing on an escalator...

See the contact details on the poster above for more details...

Misplaced Geography

In previous years, the Geography Collective has been involved in Guerrilla Geography Day.

For 2014, we're taking on the whole year...

The Guerrilla Geography Project is an international collaboration between people (un)like you to explore and take action on vitally (un)important problems, ideas and issues. Open to all, we invite you to join in and take action. 

Explore absence, create presence and transform the lost to found and found to lost by taking part in our 2014 Guerrilla Geography Project: The Misplaced.

We have all had misadventures, mislaid belongings, been misbelieved and missed somewhere, something or someone. Sometimes the geographies of what we miss, mistrust or misunderstand are stronger than those that are present.

This year’s Guerrilla Geography Project is all about exploring, playing with and creating misplaced things, situations and thoughts.

Take part by following these simple steps.


Plan your guerrilla geography action. We are sure that you will have your own ideas, but here are some to get you started:

Explore: Find, photograph and share pictures of misplaced things.

Play: Intentionally lose something. Who will find it?

Create: Make a piece of artwork that intentionally takes something ‘out of place’.

Think: Remember something that you had forgotten. 

Act: Protest against a misplaced idea.

Connect: Transform something from being lost to becoming something found.

Disappear: Lose yourself by taking a step too far. 


Do it.


Share what you have done with the Guerrilla Geography Project community by either:

A) Tweet us a link to your story at @GuerrillaGeo using #GuerrillaGeography.

B) Email us your story to guerrillageographyproject@gmail.com

C) Share a picture on Flickr, making sure you include the tag: Misplaced.

D) Request to become a Guerrilla Geography Project collaborator and blog it

Should Geographers learn to code ?

Read this article by Alex Singleton in Geographical journal to help you decide...

Geography Soup...

Thanks to Simon Jones for curating and bringing my attention to the Geography Soup channel on Vimeo.
Some really intriguing videos to view... got to love a good time-lapse too...

Back to school...

New school year started today.

Started new units on 'You are what you eat', 'The Geography of my Stuff' and 'Risky World'

Remember that you can follow what I get up to on my teaching blog: GeographyTeacher2.0
This will continue through the year...
Feel free to follow the blog...

Pole of Cold: an update

I've been following the travels of the Pole of Cold team since they left the UK over a month ago heading for Siberia.

They have been posting on their Twitter and Facebook pages, and also uploading phonecasts to iPadio.

There are now almost 50 of these short messages from the road.

At a time when the USA is experiencing extremely cold temperatures in the mid-West, the idea of cold temperatures is in the news...

The Ice Age - a very short introduction...

If you haven't come across the 'very short introduction' series yet, they are well worth exploring. They are slim books in small format written by experts in their field, and there are lots that are relevant to Geography, including a VSI for Geography itself...

One of the latest is the VSI for 'The Ice Age', written by Jamie Woodward. It comes out at the end of the month.

The book has a Twitter account (which I'm all in favour of, as my books generally have blogs or Twitter accounts too) which is HERE.

Follow the account for regular Ice Age tweets from the book...

A spot of Dylan to start the year...


First bit of professional reading for the New Year is this article in the journal of Research in Geographical Education Online (RIGEO)
It's an article by Michael Solem, David Lambert and Sirpa Tani

I went to a workshop to help launch the project at the EuroGeo conference in Bruges last May, and it was a fascinating experience to discuss issues relating to GeoCapabilities with colleagues from around Europe. There was a good mix of academics and teachers.
The essential idea of the project is to explore the particular things that the study of geography develops in learners in terms of their capabilities. 

What does the study of Geography enable you to do that you couldn't before.
What are the purposes and values of geography education in this sense...

I'll be following the project this year, and feedback on how it develops in terms of what is possible in the classroom context...

You can download the article here (PDF download)

Happy New Year

Happy New Year everyone - this is the first post in my 11th year of blogging. It's been interesting to see the steady growth in the educational value of blogging which has, in some ways, been supported by the arrival of Twitter. This allowed those who were already blogging to publicise their work, and have it shared, but also led to many new teachers getting a taste for sharing short updates, who then decided to go for the longer format of blogging.
There have been some very useful blog posts written in 2013, and I'm sure 2014 will see many more as we move into a time of curriculum change, and new assessment models.
I'll be sharing many geographical items here as you would expect, and also over on my teaching blog which will include resources and planning through the year to come...

Geography Teacher poem...

By Brian Patten...