Getting to know the locals
It has been frustrating for teachers, authors and publishers alike to respond to a resources gap in national curriculum geography, and teaching materials suitable for the teaching of localities in European countries is just one problem area. There was little comfort in being encouraged to use a twin town (if you had one) or a family holiday (likewise) as a resource-base. One of the packs does admit its origins in a local education authority study trip.
Experience tells us there is no adequate substitute for the reality of "places", but there is still the pressing need for classroom learning about distant localities. The national curriculum goal-posts may have been moved but these packs are still good learning resources, well conceived and well presented.
The visual stimulus of the 32 photographs in each of these packs, Germany and France, provides ample material for virtually any class, spiriting them away for a field visit of the mind. To help in this classroom trickery there is a Teacher's Resource Book with a paragraph or two on each of the photographs, including questions to be raised. The numbered photographs are untitled so they can be viewed without written clues.
Background notes for the country, the region and the locality are sufficient to help make a confident start. Brief notes on each of the 32 photocopiable activity sheets give handy cross-references to the photographs.
The activity sheets are a mixed-bag and a few will duplicate the type of tasks now found in the geography textbooks. Those sheets more specific to the photographs will be more helpful in providing a range of structured tasks.
It is a surprise these packs do not focus on named individuals, families and schools. This does mean, however,that they may be used appropriately either side of the key stage 23 divide.
The localities of Wasquehal, near Lille, and Speyer, near Heidelberg, are clearly set within a broad context. Perhaps by anticipating post-review geography, the packs are correctly identified by the name of the country and not the locality. The localities might not become as famous to teachers as a certain Indian village, but they are set in the geographical context of the country and within Europe by brief information for teachers and a range of activity sheets. The places are not stereotypical of their respective country and are fit for a variety of learning purposes.
The photographs and supporting material demonstrate many of the geographical themes and combine to create a real sense of place.
The high-quality photographs are printed on strong laminated card. The right emphasis for the production costs has been put on the cards and not on the plastic wallet holding them together with the teacher's notes: whether you use indexed trays, ring-binders or supermarket cardboard boxes as your preferred storage medium you will find many of these photo-cards moving between them, and on to wall displays, according to the geographical theme of the moment. They are likely to remain in constant use.
That is the real value of these two packs, each providing a good locality study in its own right as well as a valuable and flexible supplement to other geographical resources. If you need to close that resources gap with a good selection of desk-top photographic material you would be well served to start here.