Why not use The Simpsons for geography in a creative and thought-provoking way? I asked my key stage 3 pupils (it works with all abilities and particularly with the less motivated pupils) to suggest five things a family would see on a visit to Japan and five things they would do. Then I showed The Simpsons episode, "Thirty Minutes over Tokyo" (available on videoDVD), and asked them to mind-map or list what the Simpsons see and do. The episode is about a visit to Japan and there are around 40 things to note. The workers singing their company song was one of the children's favourites.
The students compare their lists of what goes on in the episode. Then they imagine they are Japanese and write a letter to 20th Century Fox saying whether they thought the episode wasa true picture of Japanese life, whether they were pleased with what was shown and suggesting what should have been left out. They were also asked to point out what was essentially Japanese but had been left out, and to say whether they felt the Simpsons should have stayed in Springfield. They had to give reasons for their opinions.
To extend the exercise, they completed a storyboard to show what the Simpsons would see and do on a visit to Neston, our home region.
Other episodes can be used to explore perceptions of other countries - for example, The Regina Monologues (England) and The Crepes of Wrath (France, of course).
And you could use other episodes to enhance different themes, such as the the episode about the three-eyed fish to introduce a new topic on, say, river pollution.
Stephen Schwab, Head of humanities, Neston High School, Cheshire and geography adviser for Cheshire