A technique for graph interpretation exam questions using TEA

Guest blogger Adam McAllister (@McAllister_Geog), geography teacher of two years, shares a strategy for interpreting graphs. 

Despite my young years, it was clear that when working with data and graphs in lessons, children struggled with interpretation. Both children in key stage 3 and those studying GCSE struggled with graph interpretation. As a result, I started to use and embed TEA (trend, example, and anomaly). A simple but effective strategy. However, was it as simple as I first thought?

Well, the answer was perhaps not. Trying to embed new strategies with children can be rather challenging as I found out! It is all about routine, routine, routine. Children have to be trained to do the things that we expect. It is just like riding a bike. You have to learn/be taught first before removing the stabilisers – and much confidence!

T stands for trend. Children need to look for a trend or pattern in a data set or graph. There must be a trend to identify, otherwise, the exam question would be rather pointless in my eyes. Trends that I would ask children to look for would be the basic increase/decrease for one, but whether the data/graph fluctuates. Other things that I would ‘train’ them to look for would be whether the rate of decrease and/or increase is rapid, slow, constant.

E stands for example. At this stage of TEA, I would ask children to look for an example or evidence that backs up the first initial point that have identified. Whether this is quoting the rate of increase, the years at which there is a decrease. It is also vitally important to embed that if a graph or data figure has a specific unit, this should also be quoted in any given answer.

A stands for anomaly. This one may be a little trickier. At times there may not be an anomaly. It is okay that we and the children we teach accept this. If an anomaly is identified, this needs to be placed into the answer. Examples would include a decrease/increase or significant change in the data or figure. An anomaly could be as simple as something that does not fit the trend you earlier identified! Again, this should be supported with an example or evidence.

TEA Graphs in Geography

TEA Graphs in Geography

Working on this strategy at my current school has seen improvement of answers given, in relation to data and graph interpretation questions. It is still a work in progress currently, but I am delighted with the strides taken forward!

Adam McAllister
August 2019

Click to download resources

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Close Encounters of the Geographical Kind

Guest blogger Brendan Conway (@mildthing99) shares his light-hearted take on the geographer’s curse, or blessing, of not being able to switch off during the holidays. 

Each year during the summer break, one geography colleague after another confesses an inability to switch off their professional brain. Perhaps this is the way it should be? So immersed are we in our subject that when the holidays arrive, it’s probably unreasonable, undesirable and impossible to expect that we’ll suddenly stop seeing the special geographical things that other people don’t.

The way that a geographer’s senses are attuned to the environment is a bit like an infrared camera at night. Invisible to most, our sensitivities are keenly alert to the geographical radiation oozing from the most commonplace artefacts, events, people or places.

Recently, Aqeeb Akram @mrgeogaa shared this tongue-in-cheek Tweet, inspiring several sympathetic responses from geographers.

The phenomenon was captured superbly by Megan @geography_meg in this Tweet from 2017:

Occasionally (or even quite often), the ‘inner Attenborough’ can take over as we feel the irresistible urge to explain phenomena to anyone prepared (or even unprepared) to listen.

During a flight over Egypt a couple of years ago, a couple of fellow passengers in the neighbouring seats spotted clusters of weird dots in the desert below. They speculated that they might be some kind of secret military base or something to do with the Ancient Egyptians. I had a look and was able to reassure them that it was a centre-pivot irrigation scheme, which creates circular fields thereby ‘greening’ the desert; this is what’s known as an agricultural ‘tech fix’…

… then the drinks trolley arrived.

A centre-pivot irrigation scheme

A centre-pivot irrigation scheme

The audience may not always be so proactive. On another holiday in Zimbabwe when visiting Victoria Falls, my non-geographical friends became highly preoccupied with the majesty of it all. Fortunately for them, I was able to enrich their experience (whether they liked it or not) with talk of fluvial erosion, rejuvenation and (for those still listening) endorheic lakes.  ‘Thanks – I think I’ll just sit here and marvel at it’ one of them said.

At times like this, a scene from the movie Close Encounters of The Third Kind comes to mind. Following his ‘close encounter’, the central character Roy Neary (played by Richard Dreyfuss) is sitting with his family at mealtime and can’t stop visualising, then carving a distinctive mountain with his mashed potatoes. His wife and kids watch him with incredulity and not a little despair. Later on, he creates even more impressive models of the mountain elsewhere in the house.

So far, so good. However, in the story, the mysterious landform represents his calling to a special place where he will be voluntarily spirited away by benign aliens. However, as any geographer will tell you, he does slightly miss the point, because nobody tells him that the mountain is, in fact, Devil’s Tower Wyoming, a spectacular igneous intrusion or volcanic plug which has been revealed by millions of years of differential erosion and sub-aerial processes. I know this having once driven all night to enjoy watching the sunrise over it without any extra-terrestrial assistance.

Although geographers might at first appear to be pouring cold water on fires of enthusiasm with their seemingly prosaic explanations, we are in fact proffering far more promising avenues of awe and wonder. So let’s not worry about the fact that our geographical engines have been purring away in the background for the whole of the holiday, like the data projector we forgot to switch off on the last day of term. Those thinly-veiled field trips you might have called holidays will sustain an endless supply of anecdotage back in the classroom well into the future.

Brendan Conway
August 2019

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Does the GCSE Geography Curriculum need further modernisation?

Guest blogger James Pledger (@JamesPledger) argues the need for further modernisation of the GCSE Geography Curriculum. 

Two months ago, I spoke to Mohammed in his small shipping container, a part of the Katsikas refugee camp in Northern Greece. We were chatting about causes of the Syrian civil war that had forced him to flee his home in Homs and make the dangerous trip across the Aegean Sea. Following the conversation, on top of realising how utterly desperate the situation in Syria was, it occurred to me how inextricably linked to ‘geography’ the outbreak and continuation of this war were. From the drought in Syria from 2009-2011 (widely viewed as a result of climate change) that caused high rural-urban migration; to global geopolitics, population increases, globalisation, divides between young and old that manifested in the Arab Spring, as well as the introduction of social media/improved technology, it is clear that there were a huge amount of modern geographical factors at play. This got me thinking, surely it is time to modernise the GCSE curriculum further to reflect more of the issues mentioned here?

This is not to say that there have not been significant improvements in the most recent specifications from all exam boards. The environment generally receives a good deal of attention from the majority of the exam boards; there is always some mention of global ecosystems and the mechanisms of globalisation are also touched on by the three main examining bodies. However, let us go further. There are several changes which seem sensible for the geography curriculum to reflect our world in 2019.

1.) The UN categorises anthropogenic climate change as the ‘defining issue of our time’. Therefore, there should be 2/6 of the geography GCSE curriculum dedicated to it. Also, phrases such as ‘there are a number of possible causes of climate change’ preceding lessons on the natural causes of climate change should be avoided; this surely does not give an accurate impression of the situation to students. It provides the kind of ‘balanced’ argument that Nigel Lawson used to when appearing on BBC Breakfast next to a climate scientist.

2.) ‘Development and progress’ should also make up at least 1/6 of each course, but be taught slightly differently. I would use Hans Rosling’s research from the GapMinder Institute to highlight the extent of human progress over the last 100 years, avoiding the traditional Global North/South fallacy and using case studies such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in addition to traditional case studies which generally show LIC countries being exploited by TNCs.

3.) ‘Geopolitics’ should make up 1/6 of each course. This is a topic reflected in university and A-Level Geography courses but completely avoided at GCSE. Is this due to an assumption that the students will not understand, as it is an increasingly important part of geography? In the future, water, food and energy tensions will be played out geopolitically; there seems to be a great chance being missed here to make synoptic links.

4.) Globalisation and technology must be included in the specifications, again making up 1/6 of the course. Social media, automation, anti-biotic immunity, rural-urban migration; almost all of the issues that contributed to the civil war in Syria and Mohammed ending up in Greece should be touched upon within GCSE Geography in my opinion. If we do not as geographers, where else will students be getting this type of information from?

Clearly, all the changes laid out above leave only 1/6 of ‘free’ space to teach anything else! In all the current specifications, there is an adequate section on the biosphere and global ecosystems, which I believe should stay. That means that the specification is full and that in fact, what is being suggested here, is an alternative GCSE curriculum, based on the geographical challenges that will face our students when they leave the classroom.

I know that geography purists won’t like these suggestions. I fully appreciate the value of learning about tectonic plates, earthquakes and volcanoes. I understand how teaching about natural processes like meanders can be interesting and provide local knowledge. I know that the UK has been largely omitted from my suggested specification.

Currently, UK geography makes up a good portion of all the specification content across exam boards, and I know that much of that will be lost. But there is no other subject that is equipped to teach these increasingly important issues. I would argue that an awareness of the impacts of climate change, of the effects of social media on populations and of massively improved global health is much more important to equip our students with than knowledge of meanders or types of erosion. GCSE Geography should look to the future, to plan for the present.

James Pledger

What’s your view on the proposal made by James? Feel free to leave a comment below. We’re keen to encourage debate on Internet Geography, just remember to keep it polite! 

Internet Geography is offering a platform for guest bloggers for this academic year. Got a teaching strategy, interest or anything geographical you’d like to share? Please contact us. We’re unable to offer a financial award but we’ll send you a little treat in the post.

Increasing ‘word consciousness’ in the geography classroom

Guest blogger Abdurrahman Pérez (@mr_perez5) discusses his strategies for increasing ‘word consciousness’ in the geography classroom.

What struck me the most while reading Alex Quigley’s (@HuntingEnglish) fantastic ‘Closing the Vocabulary Gap’ (aside from the inspiring reminder of the duty we have to disadvantaged children to better their vocabulary) was the focus on explicit vocabulary teaching. He wants us to make our pupils more ‘word conscious’, and in Episode 13 of ‘The Staffroom’ podcast, he described words as possessing “layers of meaning” and teachers needing to be explicit with students about these when helping them understand specific vocabulary.

Simply put, we cannot just expect them to know, retain and use words magically. We cannot assume. We cannot leave it to anyone else. If you want your pupils to confidently breakdown dense texts, write superb answers to increasingly complex exam questions or to generally be able to understand, analyse and cogently explain (either in writing or verbally) the world around them (as good geographers do), then we need to go about teaching this deliberately. I think some teachers shy away from this – and some say they ‘do not have time to teach vocabulary, isn’t that for English teachers?’ – however, ultimately, it is obvious:
A. You are the expert in the room.
B. Your pupils deserve to be challenged.

Word consciousness

Word consciousness

That is why my department and I are focusing on keywords and command words at GCSE and A-Level. In truth, I had begun to do this before reading ‘Closing the Vocabulary Gap’, but anyone who has read it will know that Alex provides you with a thousand and one brilliant practical ways to refine your approach to teaching vocabulary, many of which I’ll take up myself this coming year and use to improve this resource. Without wanting to explicitly make the activity fun – after all, any geography teacher will tell you any and all geography-related content is fun (right?) – it has become a little bit of a game, more so with GCSE actually. I am still developing my A-Level approach so I’ll actually only discuss what I do with my Year 10s and 11s.

The goal of this is that the more familiar your pupils are with key terms (or command words), the more comfortable they are with using them verbally and – most importantly – in an exam setting. Obviously, take that with a pinch of salt, I say ‘most importantly’ simply because this concerns GCSE pupils and I understand a lot of you will not see exam performance as the ‘most important’ thing. Ultimately, you are equipping them with the tools to be able to succeed as geographers – because without a robust vocabulary, they will not be able to communicate their wonderful ideas as well as you want them to.

The aim of the game is simple, identify key terms from their definitions. However, its importance to our approach to interleaving to aid long-term memory and recall, as well as the benefits it has on mock exam/exam question performance is unreal. It has variations, of course, and that’s what the printed cards are for (see Google Drive link below): I can get the whole class to complete a pack (e.g. 3.2.1 Urban Issues and Challenges) with me standing at the front giving clues before the bell rings after we’ve packed away, or I can give a pack to pupil, and they have play Articulate with their partner, or I send one pile of cards around the class and we have to get to the person at the back as quickly as possible with only 3 passes – the possibilities are endless. Two things need to stay at the forefront of your teaching whilst doing this, though:
1. Increase the challenge: if they know the words too well after a while, start asking to follow up or probing questions to embed their understanding and fluency with the vocabulary.
2. Do it often: you need to be doing this often but in a planned manner. That way, in an ideal world, your lesson began with the increasingly popular recall Do Now quizzes (e.g. Geog Your Memory, which is @Jennnnnn_x’s I believe?) or the amazing Find it and Fix it (not sure who made this one!) which focused on a variety of past and present topics, and then ends with you picking a set of key terms from the topic you did, say, last half-term and quickly testing your class.

Increase the challenge

Example of increasing the challenge

Example of increasing the challenge

I won’t patronise you – you know this is referring to dune regeneration, one of three soft engineering strategies mentioned in the AQA GCSE specification. Hopefully, in time, your pupils will become bored of the mere sight of this image and definition as they’ll know it so well. But don’t they just know the image? Aren’t they fooling me? Have some even memorised the order and blurted it out in a concerted effort to get me to stop banging on about this and let them go to break?
No… Not if you follow it up. Great stuff, Ali, you know the definition. But I am not stopping there! Please give me a cost of using sand dune regeneration? And a benefit, please? Where was our example of this being used successfully and what was one of the benefits there? Why is sand dune regeneration significant? Who might disagree with its use? Now Ali does not just remember the image or the definition (although you’ve definitely seared that into his mind!), he remembers the rest. If this appears in the exam or if it could be used in the exam, you’ve helped to equip this pupil with the requisite knowledge of the word to be able to successfully ‘apply’ it (the key element of Assessment Objective 3). You will no doubt have got Ali to use this in a practice exam question but having used it verbally with some confidence (after several attempts, if needed – that is fine), he is slowly becoming an expert of this word. Excellent… one down, hundreds to go!

Do it often
I don’t want to launch into an analysis of the evidence behind interleaving, daily/weekly/monthly reviews or cognitive load theory (partly because it is so widespread nowadays), so I will keep this simple: It is well-known that (good) practice makes perfect, so do not use this sparingly. I see my Year 10s twice a week, so I used it twice a week – simple. It’s mostly at the end of the lesson (although, like I said I can and do mix it up) so there’s a little bit of a routine now, mostly because of my consistent use. As I said, I do not just use this – in fact, I think being too rigid will be counter-productive, bore you, bore the kids and not lead to great results. I mix it up with the Keyword of the Day and something a colleague of mine (@watts_education) introduced me to – the A to Z summariser.

What I do repeat, however, is the focus on making the pupils ‘word experts’ and ultimately more ‘word conscious’; by questioning pupils and discussing words/phrases, especially ones like ‘nutrient cycle’, ‘irrigation’ or ‘agribusiness’ which they won’t hear outside your classroom, they will eventually grow more confident. I remember one of my pupils launching into an explanation of orbital eccentricity and the Milankovitch cycle – 5 months after I’d taught it – when another had responded to a question of mine with a puzzled look. I’ll be honest; whatever you think about the quality of your teaching, the first time this vocabulary-focused approach ‘does this’ to one of your pupils, you too will wear a puzzled look.

Hopefully, this technique, along with the necessary probing questioning, which must accompany it, combined with its repeated use, will help your pupils become just a little bit more ‘word conscious’.

Abdurrahman Pérez (@mr_perez5)
August 2019

The AQA GCSE Geography keywords cards are here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1PFF7PwWKl19wwsjGOSj71qtU4ZaVOhXL?usp=sharing
The AQA A-Level vocabulary is here:
The keyword of the day (adapted Frayer Model): https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/16NpWw2gDtubKsBdj1BL0LFLU0fDIspCV?usp=sharing
A to Z summariser:

Internet Geography is offering a platform for guest bloggers for this academic year. Got a teaching strategy, interest or anything geographical you’d like to share? Please contact us. We’re unable to offer a financial award but we’ll send you a little treat in the post.

How to THINK STEEP in Geography, life, the universe and everything!

Guest blogger Josie Luff (@geojosie) discusses the evolution of STEEP, a great technique to encourage students to think synoptically.

I’ve been using SEEP (Social, Economic, Environmental, Political) in my Geography lessons since I started ‘formally’ teaching as an NQT 12 years ago.

I was reading through the Examiners Comments on some A level specifications for that years’ exams and noticed they were bemoaning a ‘lack of synopticity’.  Being a mature student of Geography at the wonderful Open University and gaining QTS later in life, I was embarrassed to admit it was not a term I had come across before.  What can ‘synopticity’ mean?  And, more importantly, if I didn’t know what it meant, how would my students?

Having attended a course on ‘Teaching A-Level’ with @jmbgeog during my NQT year, I began to understand.  But how could I get this across to my students and teach them to not only use and include synopticity in their Geography thinking, speaking and writing, but to see the world and ask questions about people and places outside of my classroom with their Geography hats on?

I needed my students to see the context of a place, not just the surface views offered by looking at an isolated natural hazard or a change in population structure.  I needed them to see, know, understand and question the wider view of a place.

And so, SEEP was born.



I created a selection of questions that I wanted my students to ask about a place and then be able to answer once they had learned about it.  The original questions would then hopefully lead onto them asking other questions and could be used by me to prompt them into using the specific keyword language of Geography.  I then categorised these questions into Social, Economic, Environmental and Political. While Social, Economic and Environmental are relatively self-explanatory and data-rich, I decided on Political as I wanted to include the history of a place and how this history, both modern and pre-modern, impacts on a place today.  Equally, Political also contains questions about rules, beliefs, traditions and cultures to enable my students to understand WHY some things can/can’t or do/don’t happen in a place and whether it is the same for everyone in that place.

As time moved on, I began to think about the use of technology in my classroom, my teaching and my student’s lives.  Everyone has a phone, don’t they?  The first iPhone was available in 2007.  That’s the year my current Year 7’s and Year 8’s were born.  They have never NOT been connected to the wider world, but they needed to understand HOW that world worked, or not.

SEEP became STEEP.

STEEP - encouraging learners to think synoptically

STEEP – encouraging learners to think synoptically

Each September, I begin my first lesson with STEEP and some images of an event or place that has been in the news in the past year. We start with @geography_meg  wonderful CLOCC to get them looking in an atlas to find out where this place is, whether it is connected or not to other places and to find out what they might already know about it.  This can take a while as they ‘discover’ things they didn’t know (including how to use the Index!).  We try to work out WHAT it is like for the people that live there (sometimes getting side-tracked looking at the amazing Dollar Street website www.gapminder.org/dollar-street), but also WHY it is like this.  Next, we look at the natural environment of a place, the climate, geology and the natural resources and how this has helped or hindered development and whether technology or lack of it, has made a difference to this place.  We use facts and data to look at whether everyone has everything they need, socially, environmentally and economically but also investigate HOW histories, connections, beliefs, traditions, languages, and cultures have created this place to be the way it is now.

When investigating a Case Study, we collect our STEEP learning on a Case Study Sheet so we can return to it for facts, knowledge and our synoptic thinking.

Case study bare bones template

Case study bare bones template

Case study bare bones template 2

Case study bare bones template

Click to download resources

By doing this, I’ve found my students have a much wider view of the world and that to truly be an #ExcellentGeogapher they need to know I will not accept ‘because it’s hot’ as a good enough answer!

We investigate the world, it’s people and places, synoptically!

Josie Luff
August 2019

Internet Geography is offering a platform for guest bloggers for this academic year. Got a teaching strategy, interest or anything geographical you’d like to share? Please contact us. We’re unable to offer a financial award but we’ll send you a little treat in the post.

Acronyms in geography to improve writing

Acronyms are a great way of supporting students when writing like a geographer. They provide a simple framework for students to follow when answering different types of geographical questions. If embedded throughout key stage 3 and 4 they are powerful tools for learners to draw on in the tension-thick exam hall.

Having reached out to Twitter for acronym suggestions, we’ve pulled together a range of strategies that may be useful to you and your students. Many thanks to everyone who contributed!

We do not recommend teaching students all of the techniques below. It is more useful to cherry-pick a small number to try. Also, while acronyms provide support and structure to students there is a risk that answers can become too formulaic. Students need to be taught how to use these acronyms effectively – knowing when and how to confidently apply or deviate from them.

If we’ve missed out a useful acronym please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. If you have any resources you’re prepared to share based on these strategies please send a copy to admin@internetgeography.net.

Acronyms for thinking synoptically

STEEP – Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental & Political (includes Historical)
Why use it?
A useful way of encouraging students to make connections.

The image below, provided by @geojosie, provides a structure for using STEEP.

STEEP - encouraging learners to think synoptically

STEEP – encouraging learners to think synoptically

Acronyms for answering geographical questions

SEE – State, explain, example
Why use it?
Provides a simple structure when answering questions. Students will give an answer (state), explain it and back it up with an example.

PEE – Point, explain, example
Why use it?
Provides a simple structure when answering questions. Students will give a point, explain it and back it up with an example.

The video below, by Kit Rackley of GeogRamblings, explains the technique in a geographical context.

PEEEL – Point, explain example, evaluation and link
Why use it?
Further development on the PEE acronym.

PEDaL – Point, evidence/explain, develop, link
Why use it?
Useful for explaining answers and making links back to the question.

PETAL – Point, evidence, this means that, as a result, link.
Why use it?
A development of PEDaL that provides further structure to explanations and considers impacts.

PELE – Point, explain, link, evidence
Why use it?
Legendary footballer!

SHEEP 🐑 Social, historical, economic, environmental, political
Why use it?
Supports development of answers, particularly for high tariff questions.

Acronyms for geographical distribution/patterns/locations

CLOCCK – Continent, latitude/longitude, ocean/sea, country, compass, kilometre
Why use it?
A technique for describing geographical locations on a map.

GSE Generally, specifically and exception
Why use it? 
Useful for distribution/location questions

Acronyms for graphs/data

TEA – Trend, example, anomaly
Why use it?
Useful for analysing graphs.

TREE – Trend, rate of change, examples/evidence, exceptions
Why use it?
Useful for analysing graphs, this structure ensures students cover all possibilities when analysing data.

TEAL – Trend, example, anomaly, links
Why use it?
Useful for analysing graphs.

PALMS – Pattern, anomaly, least, most, stats
Why use it?
Useful for analysing graphs and maps.

PADL – Patterns, anomalies, data, links to topic(s).
Why use it?
Ideal for resource-based questions.

PDA – Patterns, data, anomalies
Why use it?
Ideal for ensuring students include data in descriptions.

FART – Figures, anomalies, rate and trend.
Why use it?
The students will remember it! Useful to remind them of rates and trends in data.

GEE it’s a graph! Generally, examples include, exceptions include…
Why use it?
Particularly useful for sentence starters.

TRASH – Trend, range, anomalies, smallest, highest
Why use it?
A comprehensive range of areas to cover when investigating data.

Acronyms for factors affecting climate

WORLD – Wind direction, ocean currents, relief, latitude, distance from the sea
Why use it?
Simple structure for explaining factors that affect climate.

Acronyms for exam technique – reading the question

GAMES – Geography (what knowledge will I apply?), ask (what is the question asking me to do with that knowledge?), marks (how many is it worth and how will I get top marks?), extra (do I need to use resources, maps, graphs etc.)
Why use it?
A great way to encourage students to consider what the question is asking them to do.

BUG – BOX the command word, UNDERLINE the key term/topic, GLANCE back at the question regularly.
Why use it?
Sometimes students can be guilty of regurgitating their geographical knowledge in an exam without actually answering the question. BUG the question is a great technique for students to deconstruct exam questions and increase their chances of picking up marks by writing an answer appropriate to the question.

Acronyms for decision making

MADASS – My choice, advantages, disadvantages, alternatives (compare to), sustainability, sum up.
Why use it?
A great way to encourage students to consider balance when completing decision-making activities.

If you are an Internet Geography Plus subscriber you have free access to the new resources we’re developing to support students in the use of acronyms to improve their answers to geographical questions. Click the image below to access. Get a low-cost subscription here.

PETAL Geography

Using Images in Geography #3 Thinking like a geographer

Increasingly students are being expected to ‘think like a geographer’ by applying skills, knowledge and understanding to unfamiliar contexts.

The use of photographs and question stems is a useful way of encouraging students to ‘think like a geographer’. After all, students have to learn how to ask questions to be able to apply themselves to unfamiliar contexts.

Before this can be done, students need to have a basic understanding of what geography is, and this post is based on the premise that they have an awareness of the main geographical concepts your curriculum is based on.

The first step in achieving this might be to introduce the concept of using images to think like a geographer. Modelling how a geographer might use a photograph to consider the geography of a particular location to demonstrate the process through thinking aloud would provide cognitive strategies that students could adopt. Thinking aloud by the teacher will provide students with a way to witness expert thinking, usually hidden from them.

The next step in encouraging students to think like a geographer could be to provide scaffolding and model geographical questions using images.

General question stems, applicable to most geographical photographs,  could be introduced to less experienced students of geography. Examples could include:

  • What are the main geographic features shown in the picture?
  • What are the human features of _____________?
  • What are the physical features of ___________?
  • How are the physical and human features of __________ linked?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of _______________?
  • How does ________________ affect ________________?
  • How does ________________ link to ________________?
  • How does the location compare to __________________?
  • What processes cause ________________________?
  • How would changing ____________________ affect ____________________?
  • How is this _________ interdepedent?
  • What issues relating to sustainability affect ____________?
  • How does __________________ link to what you have studied in geography in the past?
  • What do you not understand about _______________________?
  • In what way is _____________ related to _______________?

Alternatively, you could use more concrete prompts to encourage students to think like a geographer. Examples include:

  • Identify the geographical concepts evident in this image
  • Write a sentence/paragraph to reflect what is shown in this image
  • Use these words as a prompt to figure out the main geographical issues evident in this image.
  • Select two details that elaborate on the main geographical issues in this area and are important to remember
  • How might changes in this area have a positive/negative impact?
  • Describe and explain the issues of sustainability in this image.
  • Explain the potential impact of climate change on this area.
  • What are the human and physical processes in this area and how do they interact?

As students become more experienced asking geographical questions, the teacher could then move onto providing students with prompts such as who, what, when where, why and how before removing the scaffolding completely. Of course, this can be done at any time that is appropriate for individual students.

As students are analysing the photograph it is a good opportunity for the teacher to circulate and check and challenge student thinking. Providing hints, prompts, suggestions, and feedback when students encounter difficulties is encouraged at this stage.

Following this, targetted questioning is a useful way to check understanding and address misconceptions that students might have.

Anthony Bennett

Related posts: 

Using Images in Geography #1 Identify, classify, rank and justify

Using Images in Geography #2 Scroll it

Further reading

The Use of Scaffolds for Teaching Higher-Level Cognitive Strategies

Extreme weather in the UK – 2019

Extreme weather in the UK – 2019

From heatwaves to flash floods, the UK has experienced several extreme weather events this year. Extreme weather is when a weather event is significantly different from the average or usual weather pattern and may occur over one day or a period of time. Flash flooding, drought, storms, cold spells and heatwaves are all examples of extreme weather in the UK.

The UK experienced two extreme weather events within a fortnight in July 2019. Below we explore their causes, impacts and the relationship between extreme weather events and climate change.

July 2019 Heatwave

In July, the UK experienced its hottest day on record when temperatures reached a record-breaking 38.7°C at Cambridge University Botanic Gardens. An extreme pattern in the jet stream caused the heatwave. The jet stream separates hot air in the south and cold air in the north. An extreme kink in the jet stream, caused by an omega block (a high-pressure pattern that blocks and diverts the jet stream) allowed a mass of hot air to flow up from northern Africa and the Iberian peninsula – following a similar extreme weather event last month that made it the hottest June on record.

The heatwave had a significant impact on the UK transport infrastructure.

Rail transport experienced disruptions due to the risk of railway lines buckling, damaged overhead electric wires and high temperatures on trains. The train company LNER allowed customers with tickets for the 25th July to travel on Friday 26 July, Saturday 27 July and Sunday 28 July.

High temperatures, up to 39.4°C, were recorded on the tube in London.

Manchester Metrolink put in place temporary speed restrictions across its network as speed limits on most commuters lines were cut from 60mph to 30mph.

Lidos in Peterborough, London’s Tooting Bec and at Hemsley in York had to turn away prospective swimmers after reaching capacity.

In Bristol, a major water main burst due to hot temperatures making the ground shift leading to pipes contracting and expanding, left thousands of people without water. Vulnerable people had bottled water delivered to them, and tankers provided water in the area.

According to the comparison website, Price Spy, some retailers increased the price of fans and portable air conditioners by up to 40% within a month.

Animals also suffered during the heatwave. SEA LIFE Blackpool cooled the seawater for the first time in 30 years

The heat led to the cancellation of five of the six greyhound races due to take place on Thursday 25th July.

Police in Devon issued a warning to the public not to leave pets inside cars after officers rescued a dog locked inside a vehicle for more than three hours.

The hot daytime temperatures led to evening thunderstorms across the country.

It was not just the UK that experienced high temperatures. Many countries across Europe also experienced record-breaking temperatures including Germany, The Netherlands and France.

In the Netherlands, the national institute for public health and the environment issued a “smog alarm” due to severe air pollution in parts of the country due to ozone in the air.

July/August 2019 Flash-flooding

July also saw intense rainfall across parts of the country including central areas, the north-east and north-west of England. Several low-pressure systems affecting the UK caused the rainfall.

Low-pressure systems affecting the UK 29-07-19 – Source BBC

Met Office issues two weather warnings for Wednesday (Image: MET OFFICE)

The conditions were a long way from the previous week’s record highs as blistering sun basked Britain.

The Environmental Agency issued multiple flood warnings and alerts covering central, north-west and north-east England following heavy rainfall from the 28th July 2019.

An Environment Agency incident room for the north-west was set up in Warrington on 28th July.

Heavy rainfall caused widespread flooding in North Yorkshire on the 29th of July. The fire service received 115 calls concerning flooding incidents in Leyburn and Reeth on Tuesday evening. Photographs and videos from the nearby village of Grinton showed a bridge, used in the 2014 Tour de France, in ruins.

Commuters faced chaos Wednesday morning as heavy rain flooded the railway between Manchester Piccadilly and Crewe/Stoke-on-Trent, causing both lines to be blocked.

Northern Rail suspended trains between Ribblehead and Kirkby Stephen after a landslip between Dent and Ribblehead.

A major incident was declared late on Wednesday 31st July in Poynton, Cheshire, where thunderstorms and flooding forced drivers to abandon their vehicles and caused damage to property.

The wet weather also disrupted the railway line between Manchester airport and Wilmslow early on Thursday 1st August.

In the afternoon of Thursday 1st August the 1500 of the 6500 residents of Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire were evacuated due to the increased risk of the dam wall at Toddbrook reservoir collapsing.

Whaley Bridge

Residents of Whaley Bridge in Derbyshire were asked to leave their homes due to a severe flood warning indicating danger to life. Police told residents to gather at a local school, taking pets and medication with them.

Evacuated residents were told to arrange accommodation due to limited space, but some local pubs and community halls offered to take in evacuees.

Pictures on social media showed panels on one side of the dam had collapsed.

Significant overflow from the reservoir, caused by heavy rain, undermined the reservoir presenting a risk of collapse. The Canal and River Trust drained the water from the reservoir in a bid to reduce the pressure on the dam wall. The fire brigade also used ten high-volume pumps, with the capacity to move 7000 litres of water per minute,  to remove water from the reservoir.

Offers of shelter for people displaced by the flooding in Whaley Bridge were made on social media.

The local secondary school was used as a command centre for emergency services.

An RAF Chinook helicopter has been used to drop ballast to divertwater courses flowing into the reservoir and shore up the dam itself.

Elsewhere in Derbyshire, the A6 between Buxton and Bakewell was closed, and ten cars in the Scropton were recovered from floodwaters.

In Leicestershire, an international Scout and Guide camping event at a farm near Ibstock ended early due to the “unprecedented” wet conditions.

Is our extreme weather linked to climate change?

Extreme weather events are becoming more common, starting earlier and becoming more intense.

The graph below shows an increasing trend in meteorological (storm), hydrological (flood) and climatalogical events (extreme temperature).

Graph to show increasing trend of extreme events

Are extreme events becoming more regular? source – Met Office

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report (2014) showed that changes in many extreme weather and climate events have occured since about 1950.

There is evidence that humans have contributed to changes in temperature extremes, heavy rainfall events, and an increase in extreme high sea levels in a number of regions.

Extreme weather does not prove the existence of a warming earth, but climate change is likely to exaggerate it. According to the Intergovernmental Panal on Climate Change (IPCC) “a changing climate leads to changes in the frequency, intensity, spatial extent, duration and timing of extreme weather and climate events, and can result in unprecedented extreme weather and climate events,”.

Based on more than 150 studies into the link between human action and weather events around the world the following conclusions have been drawn:

  • Extreme heat: Almost all studies on extreme heat events indicate human influence.
  • Drought: About half the studies on drought show significant human influence.
  • Extreme rainfall: A smaller but increasing number of studies on extreme rainfall detect a human signal.
  • Tropical storms and hurricanes: The picture here is complex. There is strong evidence that increasing sea temperatures increase the intensity of tropical storms. Rising sea levels also increase the risk of coastal flooding. However, there may be an overall decrease in the global total number of tropical cyclones.

A study published early in 2019 by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich said the summer heatwave that occurred across northern Europe last year would have been “statistically impossible” without climate change driven by human activity.

The impact of coastal erosion at Hemsby

On December 5th 2013 the east coast of England was affected by flooding not seen on a scale since 1953. The combination of a high spring tide, an area of low pressure and high northerly winds was responsible for the floods. On the Holderness Coast, a large section of Spurn Point was eroded, leading to the destruction of dunes and collapse of the road linking the spit to the mainland.

In Lincolnshire 1,400 homes were flooded, including 300 in Boston, Lincolnshire, according to Environment Agency (EA) figures.

Further south at Hemsby, on the Norfolk coast, seven properties fell into the sea. Since the storm surge in 2013 and subsequent ones in 2017 and 2018, a considerable number of bungalows were perilously close to the sea. Seven homes on The Marrams in Hemsbey were demolished in March 2018 when they were left uninhabitable due to the collapse of the sandy cliffs.

The Google Earth image below, taken on 5th November 2017, shows The Marrams. The image shows some of the remaining properties in 2017.

Hemsby on 5-11-2017

Hemsby on 5-11-2017

However, the recent aerial photograph taken on 25th July 2019 shows just one property remaining.

Hemsby on 25-07-2019

Hemsby on 25-07-2019

An environmental impact assessment, completed early in 2019, will pave the way for planning permission for a “rock berm” to be put in place.

According to the BBC “Once planning permission is granted, the process will begin to raise the money needed to install the rock berm, likely to cost between £3m and £9m.”

Funding for the project will be a combination of local business contributions and central government.

Sandsend Coastal Protection Scheme – What is the unintended consequence?

In 2016 hard engineering defences were constructed between Whitby and Sandsend. Concrete steps, replacing damaged defences, now protect the 800m section of the coast.

Concrete steps at Sandsend

Concrete steps at Sandsend

The defences have been designed to protect the A174 Sandsend Road between Whitby and Sansend. Soft engineering solutions, such as the stabilisation of the boulder clay cliffs have also been introduced. The new coastal defences protect the main road from closure. The image below shows the newly reprofiled cliffs with vegetation to secure the cliff.

Sandsend cliff stabilisation

Sandsend cliff stabilisation behind the A174

The £9 million project is a partnership development between The Environment Agency and North Yorkshire County Council. The defences avoid regular road closures previously caused by boulder clay landslips in winter and during periods of bad weather.

Work on the lower sections of the new scheme involved building 450 steps using an innovative system that carried concrete along a rail built into the defences.  The concrete mix was strengthened by mixing 5mm plastic filaments.

However, subsequent poor weather and strong winds have caused erosion to the sea wall exposing the plastics. Estimates suggest that this is happening over 75% of the structure. Erosion is evident at the bottom of the structure, which is continuously in contact with the sea and beach. As a result of this, plastic filaments are now standard on the beach.

Plastic filaments at Sandsend

Plastic filaments at Sandsend

Critics of the scheme are campaigning to avoid the use of similar construction techniques in the future.