WOW! Geography 2014 - teaching & learning resources for the KS3 & KS4 geography classroom

tutor2u Geography

Fracking - 5 minute debate

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I am teaching a lesson on fracking this week and in planning for it I discovered the Guardian's five minute debate videos. The website has an excellent five minute video debate on the pro's and con's of fracking which I think will make a great plenary combined with a vote at the end of the lesson.

Other geography related topics on the website include nuclear power, migration in developing countries and the impact of cycling on traffic in the UK. These could be used as starters or plenaries, or as inspiration for pupils to create their own five minute debates.

The Pressure Builds on Chinese Agricultural Sector

Saturday, April 12, 2014

In today's China, over half of the 1.3bn population already live in cities, with millions more expected to join them soon as the Chinese government pursues its policy of mass urbanisation.

A consequence of urbanisation is that China's traditional agrarian sector is not able to feed the domestic population. With less land, increasingly scarce or polluted water and fewer rural workers, the issue of food scarcity is an important threat to China's economic transformation.

One response for China is to increase the amount of imported food. Another is to invest in bigger "commercial" farms. But, as this FT video explains, in the short-term, the pressure remains on traditional farming methods.

read more...»

Tourism maps

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The following maps would be great starter activities for tourism. Firstly ask students to guess what they think would be the countries most visited by tourists and then show them this map to see if they were right.

This could be followed by getting pupils to guess what the most popular tourist attractions are in the world and then compare them to the map below. Lots of opportunities for further analysis and discussion I think.

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SMOG: Saharan dust + air pollution = health warnings

Friday, April 04, 2014

There has been a lot over coverage in recent days about the smog caused by a mixture of air pollution and the arrival of dust from the Sahara Desert. This is an excellent news item to highlight links between several geographical themes, including human and physical topics. Pupils could use this material in AS/A2 essays relating to meteorology, health issues, urbanisation and sustainability. The maps below show the air quality index on 2nd and 3rd April and corresponding health advice to those "at risk" as well the general population.

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Free map

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The Specialist Travel Consultancy have created a 'Destination Inspiration' map and have about 200 to give away FOR FREE. 

They are ideal for KS3 and beyond and full of interesting facts, quizzes and inspiring ideas for educational adventures around the world.

For more details and to find out how to order yours visit:

Free map

The Specialist Travel Consultancy have created a 'Destination Inspiration' map and have about 200 to give away FOR FREE. 

They are ideal for KS3 and beyond and full of interesting facts, quizzes and inspiring ideas for educational adventures around the world.

For more details and to find out how to order yours visit:

How to read a synoptic chart

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Those studying weather and climate will be familiar with synoptic charts. Students of AQA's A2 Geography course need to know how to interpret synoptic charts for the Unit 4A paper even if they do not study meteorology as a topic. I have found this video very useful in helping to explain the fundamentals of synoptic charts including isobars, air pressure, air masses, fronts and wind speed and direction.

Other videos can be found here including...

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Free resources from Geopacks

These are excellent resources written and designed by Rick Cope (ex-Head of Geography at Backwell School and former director of Castle Head Field Centre in the Lake District) released every couple of months. The most recent is a great tool for studying Keyhaven Marshes (a case study often used in coastal and ecology topics).

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National Geographic 101

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A must for all Geography teachers is the National Geographic's 101 video library.

National Geographic 101 videos

These videos explain a wide variety of natural phenomenon. Extreme weather events, tectonic and mass movement processes are explained.

This week I'm using landslides 101 as a guide to mass movement processes. landslides 101

Developing better questioning

Friday, March 21, 2014

Questioning can be an excellent way of differentiating and checking progress in a lesson. I have used the image below to help me to frame questions more effectively. As you move to the right and the bottom the types of questions are more challenging and encourage pupils to think more deeply.

I have also shown this image to pupils when asking them to come up with their own questions as a starter or plenary activity.

How sustainable is your smartphone Interactive

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A WOW Geography interactive from the Guardian exploring the positive and negative impacts of smartphones. 

Students can analyse the different components that make up of their phone, where they come from and see the impact on our environment from mining for the precious metals that make up a smartphone. 

On the other hand how the positive improvements in food production, responding to disasters and health are outlined. This is a resource that just keeps giving and covers a broad range of Geographical topics from sustainability, economic Geography, inequality and exploitation. 

A must for all Geography teachers and students. 

How sustainable is your smartphone

Five great apps for fieldwork

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

This week I have been looking at iPad and mobile phone apps to enhance fieldwork. Here are some of the best.

1. Skitch

This free app allows to take and annotate photos and then share them with others.

read more...»

Wind speeds around the world

Thursday, March 06, 2014

These maps of wind speed are great. You can scroll across the world to see wind speeds in any part of the world. This would be a good starter for a lesson on weather and really interesting to look at when a hurricane occurs.,51.78,2224

Geography as an option

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

As option time approaches it's always helpful to have some promotional materials to hand. These are a couple of really useful videos to show both pupils and parents.

Geography of Ukraine

The NY times has put together an excellent map resource to help us understand the Geography of Ukraine and the current crisis in the region.

The maps show the areas of Ukraine which are in favor of the incursion by Russia. They also show the percentage of native Ukrainian speakers as apposed to Russian speakers. While the economic importance of  Ukraine is also visualized through the map of the gas pipelines passing from Russia through Ukraine to Europe. 

Maps of Ukraine

Similarly the BBC has produced an excellent analysis of the Geography of the region.

BBC Ukraine in maps

Map of Crimea showing key locations

Nice idea to get students to develop their own maps of the region using the National Geographic's MapMaker Interactive. 

MapMaker Interactive

Do you know your Algeria from your Angola? Boost your knowledge of location with Brainscape

Sunday, February 23, 2014

We all know that Geography is about a lot more than flags, maps and capital cities. However knowledge of where countries are is important for everyone who is interested about the world; for geographers it is fundamental.

Brainscape is an excellent web tool which allows users to test their knowledge and improve this over a short period of time. Using the tool on Windows allows free but limited content. The free iPad app also offers the following content: African countries, Asian countries and currencies of the world. Other regions can be purchased.

read more...»

Sinkholes have been causing havoc recently - but what exactly are they?

There have been many stories about sinkholes opening up recently in the UK and elsewhere, swallowing cars and creating scenes worthy of a sci-fi blockbuster. However, geographers know that these features can be formed through natural processes (such as those occurring in karst landscapes) but their dramatic appearance can also be triggered by human activity. The photograph below is from 2010 and shows a 200ft sink hole that appeared in Guatemala City, killing at least one man when it caused a three-storey building to collapse. Thankfully, those that have appeared in recent months closer to home have not resulted in any deaths but these eerie features have been appearing more frequently of late. The reasons behind this are concerned with both human and physical Geography.

The video below shows footage from both the UK and around the world and gives an overview of the causes of ground collapse.

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GCSE Geography Revision Quizzes - Master Quiz Listing

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Our GCSE Geography teacher team are hard at work creating a comprehensive series of MCQ-based revision quiz to support students. As soon as each revision quiz is ready, we'll add the topic to the list below. 

Are you also taking GCSE History or GCSE English? Then take a look at our revision quiz topics for those subjects too!

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GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Alaskan Oil

This GCSE revision quiz tests your knowledge and understanding of the topic of Alaskan Oil. Each time you take the revision quiz on Alaskan Oil 10 questions are drawn from our database on the topic - so you get a new quiz every time!

Launch GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Alaskan Oil

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Aid

This GCSE revision quiz is on Aid. Each time you take the revision quiz on Aid 10 questions are drawn from our database on the topic - so you get a new quiz every time!

Launch GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Aid

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Droughts

This GCSE revision quiz is on droughts. Each time you take the revision quiz on droughts 10 questions are drawn from our database on the topic - so you get a new quiz every time!

Launch GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Droughts

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Brazil

This GCSE revision quiz is on Brazil. Each time you take the revision quiz on Brazil 10 questions are drawn from our database on the topic - so you get a new quiz every time!

Launch GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Brazil

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - USA

This GCSE revision quiz is on the USA. Each time you take the revision quiz on the USA 10 questions are drawn from our database on the topic - so you get a new quiz every time!

Launch GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - USA

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Bangladesh

This GCSE revision quiz is on Bangladesh. Each time you take the revision quiz on Bangladesh 10 questions are drawn from our database on the topic - so you get a new quiz every time!

Launch GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Bangladesh

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Rocks & Landscape

This GCSE revision quiz is on rocks and landscape. Each time you take the revision quiz on rocks and landscape 10 questions are drawn from our database on the topic - so you get a new quiz every time!

Launch GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Rocks & Landscape

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Water

This GCSE revision quiz is on water. Each time you take the revision quiz on water 10 questions are drawn from our database on the topic - so you get a new quiz every time!

Launch GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Water

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Transport

This GCSE revision quiz is on transport. Each time you take the revision quiz on transport 10 questions are drawn from our database on the topic - so you get a new quiz every time!

Launch GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Transport

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Tourism

This GCSE revision quiz is on tourism. Each time you take the revision quiz on tourism 10 questions are drawn from our database on the topic - so you get a new quiz every time!

Launch GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Tourism

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Resources

Test your knowledge and understanding of the topic of resources with this GCSE Geography revision quiz. Each time you take the revision quiz on resources 10 questions are drawn from our database on the topic - so you get a new quiz every time!

Launch GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Resources

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Map Skills

This GCSE revision quiz is on map skills. Each time you take the revision quiz on map skills 10 questions are drawn from our database on the topic - so you get a new quiz every time!

Launch GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Map Skills

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Industry

This GCSE revision quiz tests your knowledge and understanding of the topic of industry. Each time you take the revision quiz on industry 10 questions are drawn from our database on the topic - so you get a new quiz every time!

Launch GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Industry

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Globalisation

This GCSE revision quiz tests your knowledge and understanding of the topic of globalisation. Each time you take the revision quiz on globalisation 10 questions are drawn from our database on the topic - so you get a new quiz every time!

Launch GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Globalisation

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Development

This GCSE revision quiz is on development. Each time you take the revision quiz on development, 10 questions are drawn from our database on the topic - so you get a new quiz every time!

Launch GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Development

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Climate and Weather

This GCSE revision quiz is on climate and weather. Each time you take the revision quiz on climate and weather, 10 questions are drawn from our database on the topic - so you get a new quiz every time!

Launch GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Climate and Weather

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Volcanoes

How much do you know about volcanoes? Each time you take the revision quiz on volcanoes, 10 questions are drawn from our database on the topic - so you get a new quiz every time!

Launch revision quiz on Volcanoes

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Earthquakes

Here is an online quiz which tests knowledge of the basics of earthquakes. Each time you take the revision quiz on earthquakes, 10 questions are drawn from our database on the topic - so you get a new quiz every time!

Launch revision quiz on earthquakes

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Ecosystems

The basics of ecosystems are the subject of this 10-question revision quiz. Each time you take the revision quiz on ecosystems, 10 questions are drawn from our database on the topic - so you get a new quiz every time! 

Launch revision quiz on ecosystems

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Rivers

This GCSE geography quiz looks at the topic of rivers. Each time you take the quiz, ten questions are drawn from our database - so you get a different revision quiz each time to help test your knowledge and understanding of rivers

Launch the revision quiz on rivers

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Coasts

This revision quiz looks at the topic of coasts. Each time you take the quiz, ten questions are drawn from our database on coasts - so you get a different revision quiz each time to help test your knowledge and understanding of coasts.

Launch the revision quiz on coasts

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Deserts and Tundra

This GCSE revision quiz looks at deserts and tundra. Each time you take the quiz, ten questions are drawn from our database on deserts and tundra - so you get a different revision quiz each time to help test your knowledge and understanding of deserts and tundra.

Launch the revision quiz on deserts and tundra

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Farming

This revision quiz covers the topic of farming. Each time you take the quiz, ten questions are drawn from our database on farming - so you get a different revision quiz each time to help test your knowledge and understanding of farming.

Launch the GCSE revision quiz on farming

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Renewable Energy

This GCSE geography quiz looks at the topic of renewable energy. Each time you take the quiz, ten questions are drawn from our database on renewable energy - so you get a different revision quiz each time to help test your knowledge and understanding of renewable energy.

Launch the GCSE Geography revision quiz on renewable energy

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Glaciation

This GCSE revision quiz tests knowledge and understanding of glaciation. Each time you take the quiz, ten questions are drawn from our database on glaciation - so you get a different revision quiz each time.

Launch GCSE Geography revision quiz on glaciation

Winchester and its ground breaking flood protection

Friday, February 14, 2014

Winchester has frequently suffered the impacts of flooding in the past. The historic city on the banks of the River Itchen has therefore been preparing for the worst after the recent prolonged heavy rainfall. Firstly, with help from the Environment Agency, fire fighters and the Navy, a 70ft flood protection barrier has been set up to protect an important area of the city centre which includes a primary school and the city's art college. They have also brought in high volume water pumps to move the flood waters away from vulnerable buildings.

In addition though an innovative idea is being trialled to divert water away from the river Itchen itself. Sixty one tonne bags of gravel are being dumped in the river Itchen to slow the flow of the river and divert it into a large holding pond which has been created across an area of water meadows to the north of the city. This should reduce the water levels in the city centre. Depending on the success of the project it could be something that could be used in other places to prevent flood damage in the future.

There is a really useful item on this on tonight's One Show on BBC One (17/02/2014), which will hopefully been on iplayer too shortly.

Snappy ICT starters and plenaries

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Try for a simple, free, desktop application that allows you to create interactive resources for your classroom. It includes an order sorter; timers and countdowns; group and question selectors; and a useful voting system that turns pupil responses into a pie chart.

Mind map app

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Below is a mind map created with the iOS app SimpleMind+

This is a free app which allows the user very easily to create a mind map which can be colour coded and manipulated as it is constructed. It has obvious potential for revision but also as a starter to a new topic to assess prior knowledge. The fact that the boxes can be moved around means it is fluid and flexible so students can change their minds or adapt their ideas as they go along.

This would be really effective if students could use a tablet each or in pairs as when projected onto a whiteboard the text is very small. However, students can construct as a class and receive a print out of the finished article - either via Simplemind if you purchase the full version or by taking a screen shot of the iPad.

This free resource is certainly worth exploring.

The Thames

 "The isle of Wonder" video from the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony gives students a fantastic overview of the river Thames from its source to the Thames Barrier. 

Danny Boyle's "Isle of Wonder" Olympics 2012

The importance of the Thames Barrier to the City of London cannot be understated considering the recent tidal surges and flooding. 

So what is the Thames Barrier and how does it protect Londoners?

read more...»

Brain drain leaves Romania’s health service in crisis – the flip side of migration

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Only two months ago, the front pages of many British newspapers displayed shocking headlines predicting a huge wave of immigration from Romania and Bulgaria following the easing of EU border controls. It was predicted that the migrants would be from the very poorest areas and that they would be ready, with packed bags, to flee to the UK on the stroke of midnight on 31st December 2013 to take advantage of our benefits system, health service and housing. The “flood” of poor Eastern Europeans failed to materialise – but the movement of highly skilled medics to the UK and other EU nations is proving critical for the Romanian health service.

read more...»

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Tropical Storms

This GCSE revision quiz is on the topic of tropical storms. Each time you take the quiz, our database selects 10 questions at random on the topic - so you can take this revision quiz more than once to check your knowledge and understanding!

Launch GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Tropical Storms

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Wildfire

In this GCSE revision quiz we explore the topic of wildfire. Each time you take the quiz, our database selects 10 questions at random on the topic - so you can take this revision quiz more than once to check your knowledge and understanding!

Launch GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Wildfire

GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Coniferous Forests

This GCSE revision quiz is on the topic of coniferous forests. Each time you take the quiz, our database selects 10 questions at random on the topic - so you can take this revision quiz more than once to check your knowledge and understanding! 

Launch GCSE Geography Revision Quiz - Coniferous Forests

Powerful storms batter coast

Thursday, February 06, 2014

The powerful storms that hit the UK this week show us how vulnerable our coastline is to the powerful forces of the sea.

Destructive waves hammered the coast of Devon and Cornwall. This force caused the spectacular collapse of the sea wall as well as the undercutting of the railway line and nearby road as shown in the video below. This powerful force of water is known as Hydraulic action. The collapsed material may now smash against the cliff face wearing it down through a process known as Abrasion.


Pic: Collapsed sea wall and exposed railway

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Explaining what an urban model is

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

This is a starter that I use to explain what an urban model is. I make a paper aeroplane and ask the pupils to tell me what it is. They all call out that it is a paper aeroplane. I then ask them what are the differences between the paper aeroplane and a real aeroplane. They come up with a huge number of differences on size, scale, features etc. So I then say to them that it is interesting that despite all the differences they still all recognised it was a plane. I then tell them it is a model - a smaller, simpler version of what it represents, exactly the same as an urban land use model.

Sinkholes uncovered

Monday, February 03, 2014

In the news today a sinkhole has swallowed a car in Buckinghamshire.  

This image would provide a great starter for a lesson on the causes and effects of Sinkholes.

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Ways to stop flooding

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The recent floods have provided some excellent case studies for the causes and effects of flooding. To complement that the BBC have produced a really useful web page about how flooding can be prevented. It includes some clear maps and diagrams as well as good examples.

Revising key words

It's that time of year again when we turn our minds to revision. A good way to revise key terms is by using domino cards. Just cut up the cards and get pupils to arrange them in the correct order. The same template can be used for any topic.

Maps that explain the world

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

40 more maps that explain the World is an awesome Geography resource compiled by the Washington Post. Students and teachers alike can use this resource to get a visual understanding of  the world around them. It's helpful to dip in and out of this resource and use the maps to teach and learn about a vast array of geographical subject areas such as inequality, colonialism, culture and climate change. 

40 more maps that explain the world

Map No. 1: Where the world's people live, by economic status

Data source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, World Bank. (David Whitmore, John Grimwade / National Geographic)

This map series follows on from the original forty maps that explain the world.

40 maps that explain the world

Map no. 40: The world seen from space: 12-month time-lapse

Grey army to the rescue: benefits of an ageing population

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Studying the positive and negative impacts of an ageing population is an important part of the population topics at both GCSE and A Level. A report by the Royal Voluntary Service has highlighted the significant role played by the over 60s in the UK's voluntary sector.

Exam questions often ask students to consider the economic, social and political consequences of the increasing proportion of the elderly in a country's population and this article provides recent factual detail that can be used in putting forward the economic and social advantages of such an age structure. According to a recent report the over 60s contribute the equivalent of £10 billion to the economy through unpaid work each year which is in addition to the £40 billion contributed through taxes and spending of the "silver" section of society.

Daily Telegraph article: Grey army of 5 million volunteers 'plugging gaps in social care'

Connected world - flights in real time

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A great way to introduce Globalization and how interdependent we are with people and places is to explore the below interactive from the Guardian. 

The interactive shows all commercial flights in the world skies over the past 24 hours. 

World Flights interactive

Half of global wealth owned by 85 people

Monday, January 20, 2014

In a new report Oxfam says that half of the world's wealth is owned by eighth five people, who could fit on a double decker bus.  The world's richest eighty five people have a combined wealth of £1 trillion, which is the same as the poorest 3.5billion people on the planet. Unfortunately this appears to reflect the growing divide between rich and poor.

"Widening inequality is creating a vicious circle where wealth and power are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, leaving the rest of us to fight over crumbs from the top table," said Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam's executive director.

The image below would make a great starter to a lesson on global inequalities and what we can do about it.

Migration is an Economic Positive

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A positive view on the economic effects of migration here from the Reuters UK Economics correspondent.

Edward Hadas argues that migration to rich countries has little long-term effect on wages, unemployment or state finances. At worst, it exposes defective economic structures. At best, it distributes capital to poor countries.

Of course, that's not an argument you here from most politicians in the UK!

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Britain’s Weather and climate

Tonight's Countryfile on BBC one had a really clear explanation of why Britain's winter weather and climate is like it is. John Hammond the BBC weather presenter showed why places of similar latitude have a very different climate to us here in Britain. You can see the episode on BBC iplayer and the clip is about ten minutes in and lasts about five minutes.

China’s Demographic Challenges

Timothy Beardson argues in this interview with Reuters that demography is the biggest challenge faced by China.

read more...»

Tasty soil profile

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A good way for teachers to help year 7 students understand their living world is by getting them to create their own soil profile using this link. Tasty Soil

A podzol soil sample 

 The best thing about this activity for the students is that they get to eat their freshly constructed soil profile. 

Explore Everest

Friday, January 10, 2014

This is an excellent website that allows you and your class to explore the mountains of the Himalayas. It is a multimedia resource with maps, panoramic photos and videos.

Visitors to the site can take a virtual trek to the Everest Base  Camp, visiting many well known places along the way like Lukla, Namche Bazaar  and Gorak Shep.

It would provide an excellent introduction to glacial retreat and climate change.


Weather Warnings

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Good resource from the Environment Agency on how they gather the information on rain patterns and put out flood warnings to communities.

Nice idea for teachers to get students to produce their own Prezi on the flooding that has hit the United Kingdom.

Understanding the Weather

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

An excellent way to introduce weather and weather forecasting is to watch the below videos  from the BBC.

The first video explains the key terms involved in a weather forecast. 

Students can also use the MET Office website which provides a wide range of weather information including key weather terms and weather examples  A fantastic resource to show real time global wind patterns is teacher can now get students to act as Weathermen/women and explain different weather maps.

This second video gives a nice visual presentation of the changeable weather over the United Kingdom. 

 The final video helps students to understand why there is so much rain in the UK.

The topic of weather is always good to introduce during times of extreme weather conditions such as the floods in Britain or the polar vortex in the United States.

China: The Social Costs of Urbanisation

thought-provoking and heart-breaking piece here from The Independent which reports on effective orphanisation of millions of children in China. 

read more...»

Cutting up the world

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

This is an idea for a starter to introduce the topic of food supply. It particularly appeals to visual learners.

I use an apple to represent the earth. I then cut the apple into quarters and put three quarters to one side, these represent the oceans of our world. The quarter that is left I slice in half. I put one of these halves to one side. This represents the areas of the earth where people are unable to live or work on. The poles, deserts and very mountainous regions. An eighth is what is left this represents the area where humans live. I then slice that section into four sections and up aside three of them. These sections represent the places where the soil is too poor to farm - where it is too rocky, wet, cold or steep to produce food. They also represent urban areas, where we choose other land uses. The final 1/32 that is left is the farmable area of the earth on which humans are totally dependent.

Once I have completed the demonstration pupils can draw a diagram or pie chart to show the results. This is a great way of numeracy in a lesson too.

The Polar Vortex - Explained

Monday, January 06, 2014

In a winter of seemingly permanent extreme weather, the very cold weather in North America looks like it is going to take the prize for extreme weather of 2014.

Temperatures across the United States have plunged to their lowest levels for 20 years, as almost half of the population (around 115 million people or so) have found themselves trapped under what is known as a "polar vortex".

The life-threatening polar vortex is a persistent, large-scale cyclone. They are usually found around either the north or south poles – it is rare for them to swing as far as to affect densely-inhabited areas.

In many parts of the US, it has not been this cold for almost two decades. Because of that, medical experts are reminding people that frostbite and hypothermia can set in quickly at -15 to -30F (-26 to -34.4C), and that it is vital to be dressed properly for the temperatures.

This short video from Channel 4 explains what a polar vortex is.

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Mind mapping

Mind maps are a great way of linking ideas. They are a useful tool for visual learners and are brilliant for revision too. Recently I have  been using them to show progress in a lesson. Pupils draw a mind map at the start of a lesson to show what they already know and then at the end of the lesson pupils add what they now know in a different colour. 

Continuing with contours

To help revise contours I have created this starter. I collected sixteen pictures of famous peoples faces from magazines, and drew contour maps from the on acetate sheets. I cut out all the pictures and contour maps and gave one to each pupil as they entered the classroom. I then asked all the pupils to find their corresponding famous face photo or contour map. This was a lively activity that got everyone working together when I told them I was timing each class and there would be a prize for the fastest group.

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What is the fate of the UK’s 6 million Christmas trees when the festivities are over?

Friday, January 03, 2014

This is a topical theme that could be explored when term starts to get pupils thinking about sustainability, waste and recycling. 

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Record Breaking Weather

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

This month we have experienced some extreme weather here in the UK. In fact my local weather station data shows that December has been the wettest month for three years. This got me thinking about other weather records and I found some here. Extreme weather is a great topic for grabbing pupils' attention. With this in mind and using the data from the linked website I decided to create a starter activity where pupils match the data to the weather event. Some of them are more difficult than others, as I would never have imagined that the worlds largest snowflake would have a diameter of 38 centimetres!

Word mats

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I have been trying to create better differentiation in my lessons. As a result I have put together some word mats for each KS3 topic. They will be A3 sized and
laminated. The intention is that these will be out on the desk from the start of each lesson and will help all pupils learn the meanings and spellings of key
words. I have tried to use different colours to make them easier to read and the pictures will help both visual learners and the lowest ability pupils. This is an example of one I am using with year 9.

World Mountain Day

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wednesday 11th of December is World Mountain Day. Teachers can approach this topic in terms of the Human importance of mountains.

Ask students to come up with reasons as to why mountains matter. Next show the students the video below which explains some of the reasons.

Mountain formation can now be discussed. The Himalayas for example are formed as India smashes into Eurasia causing the land to crumble and uplift. This uplift and crumble is still ongoing today as shown in the next video.

Now show students the images A & B below. Which mountains are the Pennines and which are the Himalayas. What are the physical differences between these mountains. Can they explain which mountains are older and why?

Picture A

Picture B

A final mountain teaser.

Can any of the students name the famous mountain found on this popular Swiss chocolate?

The formation of this Mountain can be studied later under the topic of Glaciation.

Worst storm surge in 60 years - causes, effects, preparation and responses

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Last week the east coast of the UK was battered by the biggest storm surge in 60 years. There was a lot of coverage before, during and after the event and much talk of the “perfect storm” – almost literally in this case – which made for such high waves.

In order to understand the cause of the surge, students should watch this clip from the BBC.

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Contours - teaching visual learners

Monday, December 09, 2013

This week I have been teaching contours by getting pupils to create a knuckle mountain range.

First I ask pupils to make a fist and set it down on the table, like they are knocking on it.

Then get them to contour the knuckle mountain with felt tip pen circles. Get them to try to keep every part of each circle the same distance from the table (in other words, flat).

They can then add a triangulation point to the main summit and draw blue rivers in the finger "valleys".

When pupils put their hand flat they have a contour map and when they make a fist they have a mountain range.

Random Raffle: More effective questioning in Geography

Thursday, December 05, 2013

A few weeks ago, I met up with a friend of mine whom I used to teach with in one of my previous schools and he reminded me of something we used to do in our Geography lessons, the 'Random Raffle'. This is another strategy along the lines of my Bingo Questioning strategy (which can be found here) to enable more effective questioning and helps ensure all students have an equal chance of being asked a question.

Random Raffle is probably one of the simplest things you can do, but often, the simple strategies can be the most effective. Random Raffle simply involves the use of raffle tickets in lessons. These can be bought at various places for next to nothing and there are loads of different ways in which they can be used.

At the start of the lesson students select a raffle ticket from a container near the front of the class. The teacher can then select a raffle ticket and the person who has that ticket answers a question on the topic. This allows the teacher to match the question to the students ability rather than than the traditional, hands up.

Raffle tickets can also be used to randomly select groups for any group work activities. Another use is pick out 2 or 3 tickets and the students who have those tickets come to the front and provide a short summary of the lesson.

Easy peasy....


Tuesday, December 03, 2013

This animation examines how we manage or are incapable of managing our global supply of fish stocks.

It highlights how fragile our food supply is in the face of huge human demand.

After watching the video students can analyse the policies implemented by Governments to prevent and limit Overfishing. For example how effective have policies such as the European Unions Total Allowable Catch in regenerating fish stocks.

Opportunities in LEDC cities

Sunday, December 01, 2013

When I ask my year 11 pupils to describe the conditions and problems in shanty towns they can write plenty. However, if I ask them to write about the social and economic opportunities in shanty towns they struggle. I am hoping that this video is going to inspire them this week.

90 companies produce 2/3 of world pollution

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Good Climate Change starter activity for students is to inform them that just 90 companies have caused 2/3 of man made global warming.

These companies can be broken down into 3 categories:

  • State owned
  • Nation States
  • Investor owned

Put students into teams and see if they can come up with some of the names under the 3 categories. Award 3 points for a correct answer and subtract 1 for an incorrect answer. See which team can get the most companies.

Can students name British companies on the list.

Now let the students explore the fantastic interactive on these companies from the Guardian at 90 companies climate change interactive

Students can now consider how we as individuals and nations can help to reduce the impact of these polluting corporations.

Immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria - burden or asset?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Migration remains a key theme in many Geography GCSE and A level specifications and is often studied in the context of the broader topic of population change. The lifting of restrictions on migration from Romania and Bulgaria to the UK in January 2014 has brought the issues back into the spotlight. A University College London report released at the beginning of the month told how migrants from the European Economic area (EEA) made a “significant contribution to the UK economy” but this does not mean potential new immigrants will be welcomed with open arms by everybody.

This BBC News reports summarises the key findings.

read more...»

Hurricanes? Typhoons? Cyclones?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Students may be curious to know what hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones are and what are the differences between them.

Firstly a storm is only considered a hurricane, typhoon or cyclone when it reaches speeds of 74 miles per hour (119kph).

Secondly these intense weather systems are essentially the same. They are all tropical cyclones which occur at different Geographical locations during the course of the year.

Hurricane in the Caribbean

Hurricane Katrine

Global spread of tropical cyclones

Oceans and seas of the World

Hurricanes occur in the Eastern Pacific, Caribbean Sea and Northern Atlantic.Hurricanes rarely occur in the South Atlantic. In the Atlantic hurricane season takes place from the 1st of June to the 30th of November.

Cyclones occur in the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific.

Typhoons occur in the Northwest Pacific. Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines was the 28th Typhoon of the year. On average there are 27 typhoons a year compared to an average of 11 hurricanes. The World Meteorological Association gives these events their names. However the Philippines possibly due to the frequency of events has its own naming system so Haiyan is known locally as Yolanda.

So what are the weather conditions necessary for these tropical storms. Warm tropical water, moisture and relatively light winds are the key ingredients. Below is an animated guide to how Typhoons form.

Animation of Typhoons

Video from the Met Office explaining hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones.

Finally students may want to know why these weather systems spiral well this is the Coriolis effect in action.

Coriolis effect explained

World forest gains and losses mapped

A new map of forest changed has been created by the University of Maryland with the help of Google Maps.

The map shows forest change from 2000-12. Green areas are forested; red suffered forest loss; blue showed forest gain; pink experienced both loss and gain.

read more...»

World’s greenest building opens today

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Queen has today officially opened what has been named the world's most environmentally friendly building - the Co-operative Group's new £105m Manchester headquarters.

The British Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) has given the building a score of 95.16% – the highest ever awarded.

read more...»

Haiyan Typhoon

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Philippines is a country of 97 million spread over 7,000 islands although the majority of the population of the country live on just 11 of these.

It is located on the Pacific Ring of fire and so volcanic eruptions and earthquakes are common.

The Philippines: Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Storms

Philippines map

The diagram above shows how susceptible the country is to natural disasters. Indeed the country was hit by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in October with 93 people losing their lives. However Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) looks like being the deadliest natural disaster in the country's history. The President of the Philippines has declared "A State of National Calamity".

Embedded image permalink

Geography teachers can help get their students to understand the effects on this region through looking at The BBC website which has well documented this disaster with before and after images, maps, latest news and videos. BBC - Haiyan Typhoon

Students could also map the region and the path of the Typhoon using the National Geographic's Mapmaker interactive site. MapMaker Interactive

Finally students can examine the international response, how quick the world has been to provide international aid and will this response significantly help the long term recovery of the Philippines.

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If all the ice melted - an interactive map

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

National Geographic has created some amazing maps showing the devastating effects that would result if all the world's ice melted.

The earth currently contains five million cubic miles of frozen water which when melted could cause sea levels to rise by 216 feet.

If this happened cities in Europe including London and Venice would be lost underwater, as would the whole of the Netherlands and most of Denmark.

read more...»

The “Toxic Monster” - Debri from the Japanese Tsunami Nears the US Coast

Over two years after the Japanese Tsunami, the effects are still being felt. The Independent reports here on a "floating island" of debri which is slowly making its way across the Pacific Ocean and towards landfall in the US.

read more...»

UK largest coastal realignment scheme is complete

Monday, November 04, 2013

Today Medmerry in Sussex sees it's coastal realignment scheme complete.

In the past it has been one of the coastal stretches most at risk of flooding in southern England. There has been a shingle beach protecting the area but it required maintenance every winter to prevent coastal flooding during storms. With climate change and sea level rise increasing the risk the shingle beach is not a sustainable coastal protection method.

As a result the Environment Agency has bought up land the size of 300 football pitches, which it will allow to flood, and built defences further inland.

read more...»

Sahara Migration

Saturday, November 02, 2013

This week the tragic news broke of 92 Niger residents dying in an attempt to cross the Sahara desert into Algeria. Every year 1000's of Niger nationals pay to be brought across the desert to North Africa. The migrants in this particular situation died of thirst and exhaustion after the vehicles they travelled in broke down forcing them to try to find help by foot.

Map of African Migration routes

Map showing the routes that migrants take across the Sahara desert en route to Europe

So why do so many people try the perilous journey across the Sahara?

If we look at Niger itself we can see why many are so desperate to leave. Niger is a Sub-Saharan landlocked nation with a rapidly growing population of 16 million people. The country is the lowest ranked country in the world in terms of its Human Development Index as compiled by the United Nations.

The UN uses indicators such as health, education and income to see how developed a nation is relative to others.

In terms of life expectancy people in Niger can only expect to live to 55.The Infant mortality (deaths per 1000 children under 5 years of age) is exceptionally high at 143 per 1000, in the UK the figure is 5. Adult literacy rates are only 29% while the majority of citizens survive on less than $2 a day (per capita income = $701).

Human Development Index Map

As we can see in the Map above North African countries present a greater opportunity for Sub-Saharan Nations as they are rankedhigher on the Human Development Index. For example per capita incomes in Algeria of $7,418 are multiple times more than what can be attained in Niger.

For many though the Journey to North Africa is only the first step on their journey. The final destination again fraught with danger is to gain entry to the European Union. The dream of a better life in Europe for themselves and their families can often end in tragedy as was the case in the Mediterranean on October the 3rd where 366 migrants lost their lives when their vessel sank off the Italian Island of Lampedusa while last week hundreds more where rescued attempting sea crossings in unseaworthy vessels.

The Brutal Reality of China’s Urbanisation Programme

A thought-provoking video here from the BBC which reflects on some of the effects of China's rapid urbanisation programme.

China's government planning to move 100m people from rural areas to cities in the next 10 years, but many Chinese feel abandoned or intimidated by the change.

The process of industrialisation and urbanisation in China is far from complete...

read more...»

Waves - A Great Example of a Tidal Bore

Some fascinating footage here of a tidal bore which swept up the Qiantang River in the eastern Zhejiang Province of China in August 2013. No-one was killed but 30 people were injured as crowds gathered to watch the tidal bore.

read more...»

Looking for China’s Lost Rivers

A thought-provoking short video here which follows photographer Carlos Barria as he tries to track down some of the many lost rivers in China. Is climate change to blame or is the main cause the rapid industrialisation of China that has taken over areas that used to be arable land?

read more...»

Create Online quizzes with Kahoot

Friday, November 01, 2013

Kahoot is an easy to use online tool for creating quizzes and surveys. Students respond to the quiz using their own device (laptop, ipad, iphone, andrioid phone or PC) and you can collate the responses centrally on your device.

read more...»

Family planning in Ethiopia: demographic transition and so much more

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ethiopia has experienced falling crude birth rates in recent years - as seen in the graph from World Data Atlas below - but there is still a significant "unmet need" for family planning in the country. An article from allAfrica explores the various causes and consequences of this gap between supply and demand.

read more...»

Gender Gap Mapped

The World economic forum looking at the gender Gap between women and men in 2013. Great interactive map below to allow students to examine differences across countries. Countries are scored out of a value of 1 under the 4 categories below and given a positional rank relative to other countries. Good idea to get students to choose 3 countries and consider why differences exist. Here is an example.

The UK is ranked 18th overall with a score of 0.7. The UK achieves a maximum score of 1.0 in the categories of educational attainment and health. Political empowerment of women is the lowest category score (0.3). In terms of Health and survival the UK is ranked 92nd. France is the number one ranked country in this category.

Yemen is the lowest ranked country as women in this country lack many of the political and economic freedoms enjoyed by men. Iceland is the highest ranked country. 40% of the parliament in Iceland are women a much higher representation level than the 22% in the UK and the 2% in The Yemen.

Students can produce their own graphs by using the map below and suggest ways to narrow the Gender gap.

More information on the report can be found at Global Gender Gap

A wasteful world

Great video to use as an introduction to a discussion on recycling and our environment.

read more...»

China’s Big Problem - Water

Is pollution the most important environmental issue facing China? Is it China’s insatiable demand for energy or minerals? Possibly. However, as this discussion suggests, the answer is probably water.

In the past half-century, China has lost half its rivers. Today, much of China's water is wasted or polluted. In response, China's leadership have focused on trying to increase water supply, investing billions into gargantuan engineering projects to solve its crisis. Much less has been done on the demand side - water is still very cheap in China and little is done to recycle water or penalise water polluters.

The video from The Economist features an excellent analysis of the water problem in China including discussion of potential policy solutions.

read more...»

Take Your Seats on the World’s Longest High-Speed Railway

Monday, October 28, 2013

Anyone who has had to suffer the depressing quality of service and transportation on the UK's Easy Coast line (or any other British railway line for that matter) can be forgiven for weeping when they see this video.

At the start of 2013 China completed the world's longest high-speed rail, linking Beijing to Guangzhou. A journey time that previously took over 22 hours has been reduced to just eight hours.

The line from Beijing to Guangzhou is just part of a stunning programme of infrastructure investment in high-speed rail in China. The current programme (which started in 2007) has China aiming to complete 10,000 miles of high-speed rail connecting all of China's major cities by 2020. The total investment is over $300bn which puts the UK's proposed investment into HS2 into some perspective!

read more...»

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