All of us are geographers - we live in, negotiate and act out our lives in the real, messy world. But what we think about different countries can be conflicting, amazing - and often confusing. Often what we think we know about the world is different to how it actually is. Drawing out and sharing these imaginations can be a powerful base for an assembly.
Cue pupils entering to a piece of music with a distinctive style and one or more images of a place in the world that links to the music. Use stereotypical combinations that pupils will understand - sitar music and the Taj Mahal, or kangaroos and didgeridoos. It will make it easy for primary children to answer the questions: where is this place? How did the picture and music cues help you?
Then challenge their traditional thinking. Introduce images from a locality and ask pupils to identify the place and how they know it. Include some images that are easy to name - and some that are not. I used pictures of a part of our local coastline that most pupils were unfamiliar with and which gave a flattering view.
"I wish our beach looked like that," said one. Other pupils were shocked when shown a close-up photograph of a pile of rubbish in the school grounds.
Having introduced the idea of the unexpected in the everyday through local pictures, explain that they are going to do a short quiz. You show pairs of images and give pupils the names of two places in the world but don't say which image and place go together. They have to show their guesses through a show of hands. The trick is to choose pairs of images that challenge stereotypical thinking - a sunny landscape in Iceland or an urban skyline in Kenya, for example. Pupils will go for the obvious choices at first but then begin to expect the unexpected.
Finally, ask pupils which image surprised them the most, and why, and how they might find out more about what places are like.
Follow this with a short, silent reflection using an image of the world from space as a focus. Ask pupils to think of a place they want to visit and imagine what it is like. Take feedback afterwards and suggest that some pupils might want to find out if their ideas are accurate or not. The main point to emphasise is that we often make assumptions about what people are like without trying to find out more
Paula Owens is curriculum development leader (primary) at the Geographical Association
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