Ted's teaching tips

29th September 2000 at 01:00
This benighted picture offers a stark reminder of the very different housing environment in which people live. Children are often sensitive about their own homes, so questioning should not be too personal or intrusive.

Environment What is the grey background to these houses (a huge wall of slate in Blaenau Ffestiniog, where slate was first quarried in the 16th century)? Can you think of different and contrasting types of rural and urban environments where people live (mountains, deserts, seaside, city, village, forest, lakeland, ice-filled landscapes)? How do people adapt to these different locations (think about food, heating or cooling, water, shopping, clothing, social life, schooling, jobs, transport)? In what sort of environment would you (a) most and (b) least like to live: what is your idea of heaven and hell on earth?

Housing Think of different types of house that people inhabit in Britain (terraced, semi-detached, detached, cottages, flats, mansions, palaces). What about housing in other lands and former times: what would you find, where, and when (skyscrapers, shanties, huts, igloos, tree houses, cave dwellings)?

Imagine you have left school and are in your first job; how would you set about finding somewhere to live? Suppose you wanted to rent somewhere (agency, small ads, word of mouth, council housing (usually a waiting list), private landlords). Role-play buying a house: work through what estate agents do (lookat local property ads), survey, legal side, deposit needed, mortgage, banks and building societies, period of loan; calculate monthly repayments from a bank or building society pamphlet.

Slate What is slate (a metamorphic - changed by pressure, heat or chemical action - rock that can be split into blocks)? What is it used for (roofing, because it resists wind and rain; worktops; children used to write on slates in school)? Where is it found (Wales is the biggest source in the UK, as in this picture)?

Writingdrawing Choose two contrasting environments where you would most and least like to live and write a description of them, explaining the reasons for your choices. Draw or paint a picture of them.


Housing is essential, but should we buy a house, rather than rent one?

For Property is the best investment ordinary people can make; house values go up faster than other commodities. You feel pride in your own house or flat and any improvements benefit you, not the landlord. Owning a house offers independence and repayments are about the same as rent. It is a valuable inheritance for children.

Against Cash is tied up if you own a house, while rent is paid monthly. If you don't like rented accommodation it is easy to move elsewhere and you needn't worry about "negative equity", "gazumping", estate agents' fees, stamp duty.

Ted Wragg is professor of education at the University of Exeter

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