My class of seven to nine-year-olds learned reading for a purpose and the importance of clarity when we linked direction in geography to precise description in literacy. They drew objects on paper, following my verbal instructions. I explained that if my instructions were clear and their listening skills good, all pictures should look similar.
I asked them to write their name in the top left corner and draw a cat immediately below it, then added more complex instructions. I could assess their listening skills, sense of direction, and understanding of words such as below, beside, and to the right of. When I wasn't specific enough some objects were drawn in the wrong positions. I apologised and explained I had learnt the importance of clear instruction.
We had studied the compass and its use in locating features on maps. They then wrote descriptions of imaginary islands. Pupils were encouraged to vary their sentence starts, not to begin each one with "In the northsouth...". Writing frames aided the less able. They then drew an island from another child's description. This involved them engaging in a reading and comprehension activity, inventing simple geographical symbols and artistic execution. Where a description was unclear, they asked the writer - eg "Where exactly do you mean the volcano to be?" or " What is the landscape of this island like?" It was a truly cross-curricular activity, with reading, writing, geography, drawing, and speaking and listening. The maps were displayed in the classroom and visitors encouraged to match each with the corresponding piece of writing.
Michelle Gregory Senior teacher, Oakfield First School, Windsor