Glimpses of distant realities
OXFORD PRIMARY GEOGRAPHY Series consultant Steve Harrison Book 1. 0 19 833470 2 Book 2. 0 19 833471 0 Book 3. 0 19 833472 9 Oxford University Press Pounds 4.50 each
The initial attraction of a series of key stage 2 geography course books is that all the hard graft of deciding what to do and how to do it is removed. The two schemes of work reviewed here leave the main decisions to the teacher.
Each scheme has its attractions. They both claim, with some justification, to meet the needs of the national curriculum and they both offer some highly original approaches.
The first two titles currently available in the World Watch series focus on The World Around Us and A World of Movement, giving pupils a spread of curriculum themes like landscape and settlement with a shorter list of places, including Europe. Some themes are shared between both books thus providing an element of progression. Illustrations combine artwork and photographs, though with a regrettable minimum of maps. The text is carefully graded, with a glossary to explain difficult terms.
While some original photographs are included, clearly of real places, the precise location is not always given and there are perhaps rather too many idealised drawings of fictitious places. One big advantage of a book is that it can offer a glimpse of the real world which pupils cannot otherwise experience. Even obviously identifiable places are not always named. Exciting shots of rainforests and deserts remain anonymous.
In some instances space is wasted, like the dramatic lapse camera view of the M25 at night which takes up an entire page to little or no geographical effect. Yet the scheme remains an exciting new addition to the growing pile of primary resources in which a wealth of pictures, available in an accessible form, is there to stimulate enquiry.
Teachers' Guides complement the scheme, including brief reference to the place of geography in the primary school and the structure of the pupils' books. A Photographic Themes Pack and a set of copymasters, not available for review, accompany the books.
World Watch books contain some text; the Oxford Primary Geography "course" features mainly a range of tasks linked to stimulus materials. The focus is much more on real places, even when the emphasis is on themes and skills. It therefore offers a genuinely integrated approach to the revised geography curriculum, in the way the Dearing review intended. For example, map skills are developed with reference not to the time-honoured plan of the classroom but to the layout of the Granary Restaurant at the M6 Welcome Break Service Station. This is clearly "real", though the authenticity of Bill Lumb, Sarah Hunter and Zaheer Choudrey who are to be allocated table space remains in doubt.
Physical geography frequently occupies little space in the primary curriculum. In Book 3 the section on river studies admirably combines diagrams of river features with photographs and maps of actual examples. The publishers rightly claim a careful selection of scales and locations from local to global in the choice of case studies, while the variety of maps employed adds much to the development of this specific skill.
Achievement in geography can be determined by the extent to which pupils begin to understand what real places are like and how they became as they are - through the patterns and processes of human and physical geography.
This series of books, with the fourth still to come, provides teachers of key stage 2 with ample material from which they may fashion a geographical experience of excitement and relevance for their classes which will promote such achievement.
The clear benefit to teachers of the quality of resources in both series stems from the fact that they are not actually textbooks. Rather they are collections of geographical source material conveniently bound in book form. They are there to be used by teachers to enhance their own schemes of work and to enrich the experience of pupils.