A place of their own

17th October 2003 at 01:00
Greg Cracknell reviews geography resources for foundation and key stages 1-2

According to Ofsted, primary geography is in the doldrums, with standards of achievement lower than in any other subject. One way to improve this situation is with good quality teaching resources. A wide range of materials is available: the traditional pupil book, teacher support materials, teacher guides with photocopiable material for children, big books, and CD-Roms. Links with literacy are particularly strong. With time for geography often limited to 20 hours or so per year, the opportunity to develop the subject through literacy must be welcomed. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority scheme of work for geography is not a prescribed plan for the subject, so it's not necessary have a precise fit, but the national curriculum for geography should be covered. Key features to look for:

Structure

Make sure the various components fit together in a coherent structure.

Coverage

How far does the resource follow the national curriculum requirements? How does it link in with the QCA scheme? Are there any links with the National Literacy Strategy (NLS) and the National Numeracy Strategy (NNS)?

Learning strategies

Is an enquiry approach followed? Is there any emphasis on fieldwork for local studies? Is information and communication technology an integral part of the resource? Does it move away from worksheets for children? Is there any attempt at differentiation?

Teacher support

How much help is given with medium-term and short-term planning for effective learning? How much background information is given for the teacher?

Design

How easy is it to use? Is it colour or black and white? How attractive are the materials to children?

Resources

A good resource base for primary geography would be made up of the recommended resources, as well as locality packs, globes and atlases, and a range of local maps, photographs and relevant internet sites.

Greg Cracknell is senior lecturer in primary geography at University College Northampton

TITLE

Connections Oxford University Press Price: One book per year for Years 3 to 6. Pupil books pound;6.50 Teacher notes pound;7 Tel: 01536 741171 www.oup.com

STRUCTURE

There is a pupils' book and teacher's notes, with one title per school year for KS2. Parallel series are available for science and for history.

COVERAGE

Each title for every year covers a single QCA scheme for geography. The series doesn't attempt to provide full coverage of the geography national curriculum.

LEARNING STRATEGIES

The series mainly aims to help teach literacy through a geography topic, using non-fiction aspects of the relevant part of the NLS. Consequently, aspects of geography such as enquiry and fieldwork are secondary to the literacy aspects.

TEACHER SUPPORT

The level of support is good within the aim of the series. Detailed guidance is given for each double-page spread in the pupils' book, both from a geography and literacy perspective. There is a detailed table showing links with the NLS and the geography QCA scheme. However, differentiation will need to be developed by the teacher.

DESIGN

The pupils' books are clear and colourful, and the language is accessible for most of the students targeted. The teacher's notes are straightforward and easy to use.

VERDICT

This is a great series for increasing the amount of geography taught in schools. It will not replace other series, as it doesn't provide a complete curriculum, but it's worth investing in for schools following any of the four QCA schemes.

TITLE

Developing Literacy Skills through Geography Hopscotch Price: Three books covering Years 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6 pound;16.99 each Tel: 01249 701 701 www.hopscotchbooks.com

STRUCTURE

Each of the three books contain 10 units with enough material for one or two lessons. They also include differentiated activity sheets at three levels and follow-up ideas for literacy and geography. There are parallel books in a range of other subjects.

COVERAGE

Each unit provides part of the material for any geography topic, but not complete coverage. The units link well to QCA geography and there are excellent links to NLS.

LEARNING STRATEGIES

The aim is to cover literacy and geography objectives in the same piece of work, using the three-part lesson approach. As a result there is little emphasis on enquiry or fieldwork but, as this is for only part of a geography topic it isn't a problem. The books can be used to provide extra geography work away from a school's main units.

TEACHER SUPPORT

Most teachers will find this series easy to use. There are lots of good teaching ideas with differentiated activities for the children. The activity sheets are interesting and enjoyable to do.

DESIGN

The books are clearly laid out and easy to follow.

VERDICT

This is not a stand-alone geography series, but these books should be in every school. There is excellent cross-subject materials to support geography topics.

TITLE

Explore KS2 Geography Heinemann Price: (exc VAT) single and multi-user CDpacks pound;39.99 and pound;79.98 per title; online module subscription and manual pound;150 per year, pound;270 for two years. Electronic learning credits can be used Tel: 01865 888066 www.heinemannexplore.co.uk

STRUCTURE

There are seven topics, each containing articles, resources, activities and ICT activities. These can be printed out by teachers or directly accessed by the students. Each topic also includes one to three weeks of related literacy plans. Microsoft Word is needed for some of the material, but this should not be problematic for most users. Parallel books are available for history and science.

COVERAGE

The series comprehensively covers the geography national curriculum for KS2, with links given to the geography QCA scheme, NLS and NNS, and the ICT national curriculum.

LEARNING STRATEGIES

There are some good attempts at enquiry and fieldwork in some topics, but much less in others. A number of tasks only require reading and response from children. There is excellent use of ICT, as well as literacy plans for teachers to use. Pupil materials are generally differentiated at two levels.

TEACHER SUPPORT

The materials on the website and on the CDs offer good support. The user manual is essential to help devise a KS2 geography plan from these materials. Progression is more through literacy work than through the geography topics.

DESIGN

The electronic format is a strong point of this series. The materials are colourful and easy for teachers to use. Pupils will need some guidance to follow the topics.

VERDICT

Topics on analysing data and the environment are very useful, but the topic on settlements is not so practical. If the series were bought with electronic learning credits it would offer valuable support.

TITLE

Folens' Geography Highlights Folens Price: Geography for Infants, Geography for Juniors 1 and Geography for Juniors 2 pound;14.95 each Tel: 0870 6091235 www.folens.com

STRUCTURE

Each book follows a similar pattern, with an ideas page for the teacher and three photocopiable worksheets.

COVERAGE

The series covers the entire range of the QCA scheme for geography.

However, these books would not provide the full materials needed to teach each topic. The series is designed to slot into existing planning as additional support material.

LEARNING STRATEGIES

Local fieldwork is encouraged throughout, but there are few references to enquiry or to ICT links. There are some good discussion ideas for children and extension activities could be used for differentiation.

TEACHER SUPPORT

There are some good teaching ideas in each unit, including introductions to lessons, and extension and follow-up ideas for each topic. Progression is apparent through the series.

DESIGN

The design is clear and easy to understand, but is in black and white with some background colour shading. The worksheets are generally attractive.

VERDICT

The series does what it sets out to do well. It provides extra support materials to slot into existing schemes. However, some other series offer a better whole course at a similar price.

TITLE

Folens' Geography Packs folens Price: Big Book 1 and Teacher Resource Guide 1 pound;49.95, Big Book 2 and Teacher Resource Guide 2 pound;49.95 Tel: 0870 6091235 www.folens.com

STRUCTURE

Targeted at foundation stage (Big Book 1) and key stage 1 (Big Book 2), the big books contain a series of double-page spreads, which are backed up by teachers' notes and photocopiable worksheets. Big Book 1 is based on popular children's stories, nursery rhymes and poems. Big Book 2 is linked mainly to local area work with a range of skills development included.

COVERAGE

These books were published before the advent of foundation stage, NLS and NNS, but Big Book 1 easily has enough material for geographical aspects of "knowledge and understanding of the world". Big Book 2 links in well with the curriculum and would be helpful for a number of QCA schemes.

LEARNING STRATEGIES

Activities are generally enquiry-focused. Good, purposeful links are made to other subjects and areas. Using the big-book format, the packs enable the development of geographical skills within the local area framework.

Some links are made to ICT and to fieldwork possibilities in Big Book 2.

TEACHER SUPPORT

There's good support for a range of activities, but it needs some teacher development for medium-term and short-term planning. A wide range of activities are included for other subject areas.

DESIGN

The packs use a clear, colourful and easy-to-use big-book format. The teacher's books are also clear and colourful.

VERDICT

Big Book 1 is an excellent teaching resource for foundation stage. Big Book 2 provides a range of good support material for KS1 geography. Extra resources would be needed, however.

TITLE

Geography Success Oxford University Press Price: Two books pound;6.50 each Tel: 01536 741171 www.oup.com

STRUCTURE

Geography Success comprises traditional pupils' book and photocopy masters, with a starter book for KS1, books one to four for KS2, and copymasters for each key stage.

COVERAGE

Each book links in with a range of QCA schemes for geography and has parallel links to the NLS. There is sufficient geography content to meet all the requirements of the curriculum.

LEARNING STRATEGIES

There is limited enquiry, with a few direct links to ICT in the activities, although these are referred to in the support materials. Some of the activities involve fieldwork. At times - particularly in the starter book - the activities do not match the age group very well.

TEACHER SUPPORT

Support mainly takes the form of a detailed grid showing NLS and cross-curricular links, under headings from the QCA geography scheme. The term these should be taught in is also given. This series does need some input from the teacher to lead into a medium-term plan.

DESIGN

The design is fairly easy to follow and the pupils' books are colourful.

VERDICT

This series is reminiscent of secondary geography texts in the 1980s and early 1990s. The advantage is that each child has their own book.

TITLE

Junior Geography Kit Nelson Thornes Price: Two Pupil Resource Files with CD-Rom pound;51.50 each, and two parallel Teacher Resource Books pound;27.75 each, each covering two years from KS2 Tel: 01242 267100 www.nelsonthornes.com

STRUCTURE

The resource file contains pupil activity and resource sheets, colour photos and a CD-Rom. The CD-Rom has copies of all the resource sheets and colour photos, as well as additional photos and maps, colour artwork from the pupil sheets, and web links. The teacher's resource book has a detailed introduction and lesson plans.

COVERAGE

There is complete coverage of the geography national curriculum, with links to the QCA geography scheme, NLS, NNS and the ICT national curriculum.

LEARNING STRATEGIES

The kit uses an approach fully based on enquiry and local fieldwork, with ICT playing an integral part throughout. Differentiation and extension activities are also available throughout. Progression is evident in both the files.

TEACHER SUPPORT

The level of support is excellent, with appropriate detail given for teachers to develop their own medium-term plans. There is also additional support on the publisher's website. Teachers will find these resources easy to use in their local area.

DESIGN

The design is clear and very easy to use with the photographs and CD-Rom supplying all the colour.

VERDICT

I recommend this series above all others for KS2. It has a very good approach to geography, linking enquiry, fieldwork and ICT together. It is flexible and excellent value for money.

TITLE

The LCP Geography lcp Price: (exclude VAT) KS1 resource files pound;59.95, and KS2 pound;79.95; KS1 mapping activities pound;29.95, and KS2 Years 3 amp; 4 pound;39.95; KS1 flipbook pound;55, and KS2 Years 3 amp; 4 pound;55; KS2 Years 5 amp; 6 mapping activities pound;49.95, and flipbook pound;55 Tel: 01926 886914 www.lcpuk.co.uk

STRUCTURE

There are two resource files, one for each key stage, with units that are directly linked to all the QCA geography schemes. The main files are now being supplemented by mapping activity files and flipbooks. Each unit has comprehensive teaching notes and a range of photocopiable activities.

COVERAGE

The coverage is comprehensive. Each unit is linked to the equivalent QCA scheme. Some of the units, such as the one on Chembakolli, are generic and the ideas can be applied to any overseas location. This series could be used "off the shelf" with little extra preparation.

LEARNING STRATEGIES

As this series follows the QCA scheme so closely, some element of enquiry is inevitable, but this sometimes seems implicit rather than deliberate.

Fieldwork is encouraged in some units. Some good use is made of possible ICT links.

TEACHER SUPPORT

There is excellent support for any school directly following the QCA scheme. A good geographical practitioner would find much of value here in the detailed medium-term planning, which is ready to adapt to local situations. However, less experienced teachers with not so strong geographical skills may only reinforce bad practice by using it.

DESIGN

The main files are black and white, with only the flipbooks in colour. The series is generally easy to follow in that it's totally focused on the QCA schemes.

VERDICT

This series could be used "off the shelf", but this would make for a poor geography diet. The flipbooks and mapping activities are needed to provide skills and colour. This would make it costly to adopt as a school probably wouldn't want to follow all units.

TITLE

Learning Targets Geography Nelson Thornes Price: Two books, one for each key stage, pound;16 each Tel: 01242 267100 www.nelsonthornes.com

STRUCTURE

Each book has an introduction, followed by a series of units covering a geographical topic. Within each unit there are background notes for the teacher, outline lesson plans - generally for three lessons - and photocopy masters for the children.

COVERAGE

The series as a whole meets all the content for the geography national curriculum. Links are given to the QCA scheme for geography.

LEARNING STRATEGIES

Book one shows links with the core areas of the curriculum, including ICT.

There are limited attempts to include enquiry approaches, but it does have some fieldwork. Book two is better - enquiry is evident throughout the activities and these are often extended and challenging. Good links are made to fieldwork and ICT.

TEACHER SUPPORT

The level of support is good. The teaching ideas are sufficiently detailed, with a range of good activities for children, particularly in book two.

Both books contain extension activities that could be used for differentiation.

DESIGN

The books are easy to follow, although the layout is only in black and white.

VERDICT

Given its low cost, there is a lot to recommend in this series. Although it shouldn't be used as the sole source of a geography course, there are some good ideas, especially for experienced teachers able to accommodate it within an existing scheme.

TITLE

Primary Foundations Geography Scholastic Price: Three books covering Years 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6 pound;17 each Tel: 01926 813910 www.scholastic.co.uk

STRUCTURE

Each book contains a detailed introduction, followed by chapters on each main area of study from the national curriculum. These are then subdivided into relevant QCA scheme topics. Each unit has detailed planning grids and lesson outlines, including differentiation and some photocopy masters.

COVERAGE

Coverage is excellent. All aspects of the national curriculum are included, as well as links to the QCA schemes.

LEARNING STRATEGIES

Enquiry and fieldwork play major roles in this series. Links with ICT are made where appropriate. Follow-up and extension activities are included.

Teachers using these books will need to have extra resources, such as photo packs, atlases, maps and computer programmes to supplement the series.

TEACHER SUPPORT

Again, teacher support is excellent. Detailed planning is available at medium-term and short-term levels, which includes lots of ways of incorporating local fieldwork.

DESIGN

The series has a user-friendly approach, but only uses a black and white layout.

VERDICT

This is the best single series to cover both key stages. It is good value for money and highly recommended because of its emphasis on local fieldwork, enquiry and use of ICT.

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