Geography at Highfields – Curriculum Intent
Highfields provides a geography curriculum that is ambitious and designed for all pupils. It is coherently planned and sequenced towards cumulatively providing the necessary knowledge and skills for the pupils’ future to empower them to take their role as informed and active citizens in the 21st century.
Its emphasis is not just on geographical knowledge but also skills and concepts. It has the same challenging academic ambitions for all pupils. They all work from a shared starting point to answer the same key questions. An enquiry approach is used as a shared experience, with key and supplementary questions, to encourage curiosity, geographical thinking, exploration and research, and to combine relevant knowledge with skills. This encourages teaching and learning to become a joint pupil / teacher ‘adventure’ or ‘journey’. Pupils will often discover that some of the questions have more than one answer, some of which are ‘better’ than others. This is particularly true when environmental issues are discussed, and experts propose different solutions. Pupils can explore how ‘real world’ decisions are made!
‘Real’ geography teaching and learning
At Highfields, our focus throughout is on contextualized geography, using real, named, localities and environments which can be located on appropriate maps. Where possible, our teaching is aligned to our local geography and cultural capital, with units covering our local community of Manningtree, our local rivers, the River Stour and the River Colne, and our residential field trip to Cromer in Year 5 includes a focus on the UK’s changing coastline. We look to avoid stereotypes, for example, an illustration of the variation in features is given wherever possible to overcome this (not all cliffs are white like those at Dover, especially in Norfolk!).
Throughout the units, knowledge, skills and concepts are brought together holistically, underpinned by the development of a strong and evolving subject vocabulary with which to talk about and discuss the geography being learned.
Rationale for sequencing of teaching
From Year 1 to Year 6 the scope of each unit increases, expanding from the pupils’ own environment to the wider world. Place studies start local and increase in scale to regional, national and global, allowing for revisiting, developing and challenging ideas and concepts.
Similarly, consideration of the weather and seasons progresses to more in depth study of the importance of climate and finally addresses protecting environments from global warming and combating climate change.
Our curriculum has been designed to align to our teaching of science and history. For example, children study coasts in Year 5 so that this can be included in their residential visit to Cromer. The geographical teaching of animals and their habitats, has deliberately been separated from the science units, but is still close so that connections and retention of knowledge can be encouraged.
Some units are essentially human geography, other physical geography, but most are holistic geography interleaving concepts and knowledge, considering human and physical geography together – the real, undifferentiated world of the pupil.
Through the development of our own knowledge organisers, the regular retrieval of prior knowledge is encouraged and both teachers and children are able to make links between knowledge in other areas in the curriculum.
Providing access for all pupils and valuable life skills
At Highfields, we believe that all pupils can and should receive their entitlement to geography within a broad and balanced curriculum. Those working towards expectations will work on the same tasks but may need greater support and may not complete all levels of an activity. They may choose to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding orally or visually to avoid limited literacy skills hindering their achievements within the subject.
Where possible, pupils will be supported through paired and group work. Questions posed within lessons provide opportunities for all pupils to be able to contribute. From a common starting point for each activity, pupils are led through the unit, progressing as far as they can with each structured task. This provides informal differentiation, as some will be able to get further than others.
Pupils working above expectations are expected to undertake activities with greater independence and to be provided with some opportunities to demonstrate their initiative and make choices on how they learn and can communicate their knowledge.
Geography is dynamic, and work should be active and visual, not dependent on reading and writing. Visual literacy is important; it has been referred to as ‘graphicacy’, the fourth ‘ace’ in the pack, along with literacy, oracy and numeracy. Graphicacy is the pictorial communication of spatial information. It is a life skill needed to understand maps, diagrams (such as flat-pack furniture assembly, car maintenance, electrical wiring and plumbing) and photographs (such as choosing a holiday destination or clothing from a catalogue) which we value strongly on our primary curriculum.
We seek to open possibilities for all our pupils, inspiring through insights into the wider world, as developing their sense of responsibility to respect and protect their local environment and ecology.
Please contact me, Mrs Wilton, if you have questions or would like to talk about any aspect of geography at Highfields.
Enjoy looking at our photo gallery.
Year 6 using 6-digit grid references with local places and explaining how a compass works