Geography - Out of this world

11th January 2013 at 00:00
Practise directions by showing an alien the way to school

Something strange happened in the middle of the night: a spacecraft landed in the woods near the school.

The children in the class are shocked - some nervous, some excited. "What if the aliens are evil?" mutters one, obviously worried. They are quickly reassured that these aliens have come in peace. In fact, one of them wants to visit the school. The children are suddenly much happier.

This is the scenario in TES contributor counter33's journey topic plan, which encourages children to show their understanding of the world around them by guiding an alien to school.

After children have learned basic navigational terms - such as directions and the names of landmarks - ask them to map a route for the intergalactic traveller. You could even take them outside and physically track the alien's journey to school.

Start at the alien crash site - perhaps it is in a wood, the school field or maybe even in the middle of the high street. If you have selected a secluded area, why not arrange some clues for the children and ask them to work out the exact spot where the spacecraft - now hidden away for safety - landed.

Next ask the pupils to work out how to get back to class. How many footsteps does it take? How long is the journey? What landmarks do they pass? Do they need to turn left or right?

Once everyone is back in the classroom, the children draw a storyboard of the alien's journey showing what he would see at different points of his trip. To finish, get them to create a map and put it in an envelope with a welcome letter, ready to send to their new alien friend. Or, if you are doing the activity within school grounds, get pupils to create signposts so the alien can find his way to class without a map - it is a great opportunity to get creative while practising directional language.

Let the children test-drive each other's maps and signposts and ask them to role-play the emotions the alien may feel at different points of the journey. You could shout out various scenarios, such as "The alien has just heard about school, he's really excited and wants to go there" or "The alien took a wrong turn, he is sad and confused".

The next morning, there is a pile of sweet wrappers next to a piece of paper, which reads: "Thank you. Wow, school's amazing, you're so lucky to have one." Could it be from our alien friend? Will he return? Who knows.

What else?

Check out counter33's journeys topic plan.


Try TESiboard's "Going to school, I see" activity to help pupils talk about the sights they see on their morning walk.


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