Touch of humour
All three of these textbooks aim to address the new national curriculum, but only geog.1 makes specific mention of the QCA schemes of work and incorporates material on one of the more innovative topics, the geography of sport. I tried this material with a Year 9 class in the summer and found it easy to use and fascinating to see a few sluggish students leaping to life.
Other refreshingly up-to-date case studies in Book 1 include internet shopping. The book takes a lively approach with clear diagrams, well chosen photos and some good touches of humour in cartoons and photos of Walter, a teenager who adds a human face to the section on global links.
This textbook will please teachers who rarely use text, as the focus is on resources and activities. The teacher's book gives helpful ideas on structuring lessons and a series of worksheets graded to aid differentiation. This makes a package that should be enjoyable and accessible with mixed ability classes.
Living Geography Book 1 includes a much higher proportion of text, though it still makes good use of photographs, especially in the discussion activity at the start of each hapter. It aims to promote enquiry, but the teacher might have to work a little harder to keep the learning active. There is a focus on United Kingdom case studies, but there are also some helpful contrasts, such as a Zambian village in the settlement section.
Differentiation is achieved through stepped questions and outcome, but I felt that the extensions section for each chapter could have offered a more coherent synthesis across topics. The three assessments give more opportunity in this area and, if worked through in order, encourage a developing independence in geographical investigation. The homework and assessment book supports teachers in assessing work against Levels 2-5+, and includes a selection of worksheets, which I felt missed the opportunity to innovate.
Of the three books, Think through Geography 1 seems to offer the clearest opportunity to develop and challenge more able students. This is aided by the use of continuous sub-sections rather than double-page spreads. Each section introduces an enquiry, develops the issue through text, resources and short activities, then culminates in a project such as planning a village or producing a visitor's guide. I suspect that, if children worked through the book from start to finish, this pattern could get rather repetitive, but as most teachers use textbooks selectively, it has the potential to be a useful resource.
The teacher's resource book includes detailed and accessible notes, informed by research on progression and differentiation. The website addresses included throughout the student book are a helpful move forward (though more guidance on how to use these would be welcomed). At the time of writing, Thinking through Geography is also the only one of the three packages to have some of the promised support material actually available on the publisher's website - in this case a photo tour of Banjul which ties in with the first section of the book.
Liz Taylor is lecturer in geography education, University of Cambridge