Going up a gear

31st October 2008 at 00:00
Getting boys to make critical evaluations and enter debates is easier if you start with strong images. Paula Richardson explains all

Have you worried about how to get boys interested in the lesson you are about to embark on? So many topics fail to catch their attention and inspire them to want to learn.

To try to overcome this reluctance with a Year 9 class I devised starter activities that I hoped would grab their attention without alienating the girls. The starter activity is fairly crucial to the success of any topic and I chose to use pictures from magazines that advertised cars in different places and environments as my introduction to looking at contrasting areas.

Pupils worked in pairs studying magazine pictures that showed a variety of cars in locations such as coastal roads attacked by angry waves, a central city area dominated by skyscrapers, a wild mountain landscape and a long, straight, Route 66-type desert road.

They made a list of adjectives for the location and types of cars advertised. This was followed by questions asking them to identify the locations or ones similar to the picture, using an atlas.

They also reflected on the relationship between the car and the environment - what was it that the advertisement was trying to say to the potential buyer? Would it work as well if the picture was of a quiet suburban area? Were any of the descriptive words suitable for landscape and car?

This lesson tapped into those pupils who were really interested in cars, the objective being to try and channel this interest into a more critical evaluation of the relationship between location and machine.

The most important thing is that it gets them debating. Having asked them to look more closely at a particular environment you can now move on to your main topic, such as coastlines.

Paula Richardson is a geography adviser and visiting teacher in Surrey.

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