My Summer (2017)

Having only been in a permanent role and therefore playing a huge amount of catch up since January ( and horribly neglecting this blog), this Summer was the first opportunity I have had to have a look at some materials and (re)develop some resources with some new ideas embedded into some old topics. I trawled twitter and many many blogs for ideas (apologies if I have utilised any of your ideas- please let me know if I have not repped you!) and came up with some bits and pieces for Earth Forces and Human Planet.

I thought I would share the entire units, images, resources et al as the further I get through my career I truly believe that sharing is the best way of getting feedback and improving my own practice and helping anyone who could use it. Anything you find useful, please let me know. Any mistakes, let me know!


I hope a few people find them even remotely useful!

Human Planet ( different biomes, some atlas and a few odd pieces chucked in!)

Earth Forces ( EQ/VOL/TSU)





Lego Edinburgh for land use

After studying land use theory with my Higher and attempting to engage them with the urban environment around them through live photo analysis of fantastic city views, I thought adding a little Lego to proceedings could help a little.

I drew a simple city outline on the tables, identified two locations and then told the class to build the city. This served many purposes, it allowed pupils to reaffirm their location knowledge of the city, ensured that pupils had to think about the buildings they were making and their height/purpose/shape. To extend this further, I asked questions throughout, using Bloom’s to differentiate the questioning to the point that many pupils were answering without even thinking and it was becoming obvious that a large amount of the knowledge was not being embedded.

This ranged from land use models, the bid rent theory, locating of retail parks, transport network effectiveness among other things.

The photo I have attached was half way through the processes and many elements were added including an awesome Murrayfield stadium!

We are going to consolidate further through an examination question next lesson to establish exactly what is required for further lessons but the Lego seemed to work a treat!



Glacial features on OS maps

A large percentage of my pupils at the moment struggle with OS maps beyond merely identifying map symbols and taking grid references. To develop this, I have formulated some tasks linked to the analysis of OS map and glacial features.

There is a guess who of key features to get pupils thinking, an OS treasure hunt and a secondary task to scaffold the ability to identify the correct features. The map usage and linking it with exam style questions has worked really well so far, stretching pupils to the point of proper challenge.

Feel free to use anything from the resources that you like.


People in High Places

My new school has a dance studio with a fantastic view of Edinburgh. Having seen it several times, I wondered how I could use it to engage my sixth form pupils with the city and see it as a living organism rather than just a map.

Using the awesome compasses on rocks you find at viewpoints as an inspiration, tomorrow, as a class, we will be creating a 360 degree field sketch of Edinburgh, punctuating it with personal experiences, landmarks, varying land uses. The plan is to introduce by asking what the pupils think of when they think of the city, then on large sugar paper and with huge felt tips to develop a skyline of Edinburgh by engaging with the landscape.

We will then use the images to develop understanding during the urban environments topic, building upon it and utilising it when looking at the urban assignment we will be undertaking. I will post pictures of the skylines tomorrow and offer some evaluative tone to proceedings.

UPDATE: after attempting the task today, the results were great, pupils appreciated how little they knew about the local area, they engaged with the concept of a city being a living space and the sketches they created are now on the wall as a revision and progress tool as we add to them over the coming weeks. Although they are ugly as anything, it will be nice to see pupils refer to and improve them over time.



Lego and fieldwork structures

After visiting Pedagoo Fife today and listening to a really interesting piece of educational research on the role of Lego in building confidence and interactions with Autistic pupils delivered by Judith Scott, I felt there was something I could use the theory for.

The concepts are from here and detail teamwork, communication skills, positive interactions, all things that are crucial in conducting Geographical fieldwork. I took the ideas of different roles, akin to thinking hats or similar and embedded them into basic fieldwork structures that could be rolled out with year 7 or 8 /S1/2 to ensure that best practice in the field is followed every time and each pupil knows how best to work in the field.

The reason for this is the amount of times I have seen groups not working as a team in the field, being disorganised, annoying each other. I feel that the Lego way in coould give clear structures, a fun starter activity so the pupils identify fieldwork data collection ( often the most dull part of fieldtrips) with fun and they collect the best data possible for their needs.

I am going to give it a go with a class whenever I get a job to have the chance to but I really quite like how it has turned out. It could also give a chance for a best Lego photo in the field competition. I may even get each group to be in charge of a Lego minifig for the purposes of this ( similar to Alan Parkinson’s work a few years ago).

The resource is here

Let me know if it is something anyone likes.


P.S the first part where they actually make a kit is best serviced by Daily Mail giveaways or Toys R Us apparently.

What must a Geographer be able to do?

After a discussion with a colleague, I started rethinking what I would want from a Geography student in my department, what skills would they need, what should they be able to do. I jotted down some ideas and then reflected on them with said colleague. Interestingly, we disagreed about some, some were counted as ‘obvious’, some may be more useful in the years to come and some were a little out of date.

Then I remembered that I had a similar document from my PGCE year and the differences between our list and the one I was given nearly ten years ago were obvious. There was a little mention of GIS ten years ago but not much in the way of independence in that field and in our little list, we made more of a feature of the application of skills. This may be down to our personal preferences,in the same way that I always feel the importance of a critical nature should be paramount for all Geographers.

Have a look and see what you think we missed. The animal choices are inconsequential, I just liked the drawings.

They are all based around Scottish levels of education as well if you wonder what the S refers to.


Learning new things ( Google, SOLE and pedagogy)

Having no job at the moment means that I am developing resources about things that interest me, reading articles that appeal and trying to improve my practice as and where possible.

I started by undertaking a Google educator certification exam, which was incredibly helpful, allowed me to develop my IT skills and learn heaps of new things. I would thoroughly recommend doing it, especially if you use google classroom or you have a chromebook at home (

Then, I started perusing the thousands of pedagogical blogs around, I particularly like, full of great ideas, thinking and usable resources, Magpied Pedagogy for developing new resources ( and Harry Taylor-Wood’s improving teaching ( These among others had led to me creating various bits and pieces, some of which I have sent down to my old department, some I have kept and most of which I have tried something new in.

It was whilst delving around I found some work on SOLE learning from Newcastle University and thought I would create a lesson and homework based around a topic I have wanted to teach for a while, which is the best ecosystem. I always see this as a ‘who would win out of a shark and a robot’ type question and it appeals to my argumentative nature!

Using the SOLE methodologies ( I created the lesson, fiddled around with how it looked and think it has turned out ok!

Feel free to steal, use, develop as you wish!

Hope everyone is having a nice start to the term!



Giant Art Attack graphing

With a little nicer weather comes the urge to make every lesson an outdoor one. I am a weak willed man when it comes to getting outside, I need no excuse, so I put together something as a revision tool for year nine that incorporated two passions; the outdoors and Art Attack.

Each group of pupils was given a series of data that included information they had covered before ( discharge, population et al.) The idea was that in the lead up to fieldwork write ups, they had to select the correct type of graph to produce, work as a team to make a huge version of the graph on the field using the materials provided to them ( cones, buckets, rope) and then move to an upper floor of the nearest building to look down on the graph and describe to the group what their graph showed.

They had to feed back on why they chose that graphical type, had to follow our established HALT’M technique to describe what the graph showed and for differentiation ( beyond the data set) some had to explain the patterns they identified.

All you need for this is cones, a field/open space and somewhere to look down on it from. It was great fun, the pupils really thought the choice of graph though and it linked really nicely into their fieldwork write up!

art attack graph#I have added some little dots to point out one of the graphs to help!



Glacial landscapes around me

Having moved to Scotland 2 weeks ago without a job ( and still not having a job for the upcoming academic year) I thought I would get down to planning some lessons just in case linked to the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence. Being based in Edinburgh is awesome, there is Geography all around and it has increased my long held interest in Glacial and Geological studies, things that I have not been able to teach for a long time.

With regard to this and view out of my windows up here, a lesson on crags and tails came to mind, using Edinburgh Castle rock as my basis. As I need no excuse to make something practical based, playdoh and sugar cubes slid their way into proceedings. I am sure that someone has thought of doing this before and I apologise if someone has but if anyone may find it useful, I have attached the link to my google slides for you.

The concept is that the water will dissolve the sugar and not the playdoh, leaving a more resistant ‘rock’ with a sugary tail where the water has been forced to pass around the playdoh. Then onto a storyboard to show the process and finally linking it in to Edinburgh more specifically and a little exam question at the end if required. All the links to videos et al are there as well if you like. Should be a laugh, if a little messy!