A Good Geography lesson?

For some strange reason I spent the night being rather ill, after some sleep, I finally woke up early this morning with a headache, so I didn’t do the work I wanted to do.

Spending some time on the sofa, I was thinking about what makes a good Geography lesson. I want to get the new lessons for the pilot scheme correct. It’s strange to reflection on this, because after teaching for nine years and mentoring for five of these, you would expect me to have a fully formed opinion.

I expect all lessons have similar features that make them rigorous and successful for the learner; I’m no lover of educational theory, but I expect a set interview answer to the question ‘What makes a good lesson?’ might include

Well planned.

An appropriate and orderly start.

Clear learning objectives, or success criteria, that are shared with the class.

Learning Objectives put into context of the previous learning.

Engaging activities that are effectively differentiated, so to support the less able and challenge the most able students.

(There is much debate about teaching styles, but any worthy teacher over the course of a series of lessons, will vary activities and their teaching approaches to appeal and strengthen all students approaches to learning.)

Appropriate teaching pace, that is varied to according to the ability of class to ensure rigor.

A reflection, previously I think called a recap, at the end of the lesson that draws students to the original objectives. Allowing the teacher the ,Ofsted, ‘ How do you know?’ event.

An appropriate and orderly end.

(When appropriate a purposeful homework task that has clearly defined outcomes.)

Anyone who has witnessed my lessons knows that the above rarely happens. 🙂 I wonder though how this approach is specifically adapted to the Geography teacher, what makes a Geography lesson unique from a History lesson, or is the success of a lesson based on these general criteria.

On reflection, perhaps a successful Geography lesson also includes

A clear notion of place.

This is perhaps very difficult to always achieve, but I feel all Geography lessons should have a definite place. Students should be able to put this place into geographical context, especially in relation to their own location. As Geographer we must attempt to illustrate the place and its context with maps, at varying scales, and inherently into our lesson.

Relevance.

It is hard to justify to students the importance of Geography, if the topic is not relevant to the students. It is clear that topicality works; but sometimes this is not possible, so we always need to think carefully about how we do this, how we gauge interest in the subject and make it relevant to the individual.

Interdependence.

Often I feel that my lessons suffer from the departmentalization of knowledge. Students should understand the processes of the place, whether human or physical, are dependant, if not symbiotic to a wider geographical perspective.

Perspectives and Values.

Despite the complete sterilisation of curriculum, it would be a misnomer to disregard, that our personal value system and geographical perspective is transmitted to students over the course of a year. We must be aware of our own perspective, building in differing viewpoints, and hopefully guiding students to a formative viewpoint.

Sustainability.

I suppose a personal perspective, and a highly charged concept, but whenever relevant, we should be guiding students to sustainable solutions to problems that face physical and human environments.

Resources.

The Geography teacher will always attempt to use a range of resources to stimulate the student, but Geography is inherently visual, and I fail to believe how I could live in the past without access to a data projector.

At the moment, I’ve ran out of steam but I’ll probably return and update this..

Of course, it is difficult to define the perfect lesson and teaching is a complex interplay of several factors; that sometimes the teacher has limited control over. It would be simplistic to think that

Student-teacher relationship,

The emotional and physical state of teacher and students,

The built environment and

Weather

do not have an impact on the success of a lesson.

Just thinking aloud…

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