Discover sense of place or be cast away

22nd February 2008 at 00:00

A back-to-maps approach has helped one independent boys' school almost treble pupil interest in GCSE geography.

Magdalen College School in Oxford teaches about one continent a term in key stage 3, starting with South America in Year 7 and moving through Europe, OceaniaAustralasia, Asia, Africa and North America by the end of Year 8. In Year 9, pupils learn about hazards ranging from hurricanes to crime, finishing with a look at Antarctica.

Each term begins with a blank map. The pupils' first task is to label and learn the countries, terrains, mountain ranges, lakes, rivers, cities and travel routes. They go on to investigate themes relevant to the continent, such as the mining industry in Africa.

This approach led 75 pupils to embark on geography GCSE in Year 10 last September, compared with around 30 before the programme began two years ago.

Nicholas Hewlett, head of geography at the school, said: "It's far more interesting for us to teach geography using this approach.

"Learning where countries and their capitals are is important and we ought to relish it."

Geography teachers at the school make sure their lessons are topical and their knowledge is up to date.

Mr Hewlett said: "Our Year 8s are studying Africa, so we adapted our study of the impact of colonialism to spend two weeks looking at the current situation in Kenya. Unless we update our teaching in this way, we will be seeing the death of geography."

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now