Special People, Special Places

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Suggested course duration: 6 - 12.5 hours

In this course we will begin to explore how we are connected to people and places.  From our earliest experiences, interactions between people and places combine to form memories that impact on our development and which are part of our life story about who we are. Early significant experiences can be long lasting into adulthood. Sharing stories about places that have special significance for us can be a powerful way to empathise with others' experiences as well as helping us to understand who we are and how we relate to the world around us.

By thinking and working through this course, you will consider how our identities can be shaped by our relationships with places and people through both cognitive and affective elements and why this is important to planning. Completion of this course is intended to be a CPD activity, rather than a 'resource grab'. You are encouraged to adapt the ideas presented here to develop your own resources or unit of work. The intention is that completion of the unit will result in the development of new skills and pedagogical techniques, and offer opportunities for reflection.

A Starter Activity: Where would you rather be?

Suggested completion time: 5 - 30 minutes

Globe tossing is a fun way to warm up classroom talk about places. Use an inflatable globe and ask the catcher to say where they would like to go if they could go anywhere in the world and why. The choice of places will reflect children's existing knowledge of global locations – places they have visited for holidays, places they have heard about in the media, countries of birth or places where other family members might be living or have recently moved to.

  • What issues has this highlighted in your class?
  • How confident are your pupils at naming and identifying places on a global scale?
  • What is the breadth of their global experience?

Activity 1: Significant places

Suggested completion time:1 - 2 hours

Think about the following quote:

'...Most of us remember the place where we were brought up in some considerable detail and often recall it with fondness. These first impressions of the outside world stay with us throughout our lives and provide a rich source of experience.' S. Scoffham (2004) Primary Geography Handbook, Ch1, p.17

Now look at the following word map that has been created using the online Visual Thesaurus resource and reflect on the array of meanings and connected words that arise here. Do any surprise you? What kind of word associations with 'place' might your pupils make?.

A significant place might be somewhere where children remember doing something special, where they remember being especially happy, or a favourite place they often visit. The scale chosen can be very relevant and will depend on what you know about your class. Are special places likely to be chosen from the locality, from places within the UK or from anywhere in the world? Think carefully about how you structure this.

If you can do this activity in a large uncluttered space such as a PE hall, you can designate the space as being representative of the scale and ask children to imagine where their special place might be and stand there. For example, if focusing on the UK, identify where North is (or choose one end of the space to 'be north') and use a large map to help children 'locate' themselves within the room. It is helpful if they can think about their place by moving into a space where they can sit, close their eyes and imagine what it's like to be back there.

Ask children to tell the person next to them where their special place is and why they have chosen it. Share some responses with the whole class. You could also ask children to:

  • close their eyes and strike a pose that helps them remember how they felt when they were there.
  • choose one word that best describes how they felt when they were there
  • draw a picture of their place and write a postcard to school
  • get into small groups and, with a laminated map of the world / UK / local area, explain where their place is and why it's special.

Thanks to Julia Tanner for these ideas. Read her article 'Special Places: Place attachment and children's happiness' in Primary Geographer. GA members who subscribe to this journal can download the article for free.

Image: Resting Area by Michel Filion. Made available under a Creative Commons license.

Activity 2: What have we found out about each other?

Suggested completion time: 1 - 2 hours

Having shared some memories of significant places – how will you use this information with the class?

How will you discover and represent common and different threads of experience?

What places were chosen and why were they significant? How might you categorise responses?

You might want to:

  • map places chosen
  • identify emotional links (what was the most frequently cited emotion?)
  • identify the number of given associations with family and friends
  • note the range of activity related associations
  • Use this activity as a stimulus for thinking about 'ME' and 'Who I am' see 'Mapping Me' (link to download Word doc) a sample framework of questions that you might explore
  • See the GA resource 'You are what you read'
  • Ask pupils to bring in some artefacts that help them talk about a special place or about their home and family

The summer 2009 issue of Primary Geographer (Issue 69) has a focus on Britain and Britishness with lots of practical ideas about projects relating to identity. Many of the articles demonstrate the use of a cross curricular approach, using geography as a curriculum resource. View issue contents.

You can download articles for free if you are a GA member with a Primary Geography (formerly Primary Geographer) subscription.

Using a range of different techniques and media to convey data collected and different kinds of spatial patterns is an important geographical skill. What techniques might best enable you to:

  • make the information accessible and exciting
  • cater for different learning styles?

Think about the contexts regarding your pupils' needs that you have identified for your learning journey.

Different kinds of ICT software, some freely available, can enable data to be shown in very accessible and visual ways that help children to make sense of the array of information about the world that they encounter. In this image below, Wordle has been used to create a 'world cloud' showing a group of children's responses to their 'special' places in the school grounds and why they valued them. The words in larger fonts were those most mentioned.

Activity 3: Special People

Suggested completion time: 1 - 2 hours

Before starting this activity we are going to think a little more about what we mean by 'community' by taking a look at this extract from the DCSF's guidance on the duty to promote community cohesion.

Community from a school's perspective

For schools, the term 'community' has a number of dimensions including:

  • the school community - the children and young people it serves, their parents, carers and families, the school's staff and governing body, and community users of the school's facilities and services;
  • the community within which the school is located - the school in its geographical community and the people who live or work in that area. This applies not just to the immediate neighbourhood but also to the city or local authority area within which a school is located;
  • the UK community all schools are by definition part of this community; and
  • the global community formed by EU and international links.

In addition, schools themselves create communities - for example, the networks formed by similar or different types of schools, by schools that are part of the specialist schools network, or by schools that work collaboratively in clusters or in other models of partnership.

From DCSF (2007) Guidance on the duty to promote community cohesion.
Download the full guidance on Teachernet.

What communities do your pupils feel part of?

If you were doing an enquiry about 'special people' with your pupils, how might you use a circular Venn diagram such as the on to the right? (Click image for a larger version). What criteria would you use for filling in each section? Who might go in the 'special people in the world' section? Would you ask pupils to think about world famous media figures such as pop stars and footballers? Or anyone on the world stage that pupils felt impacted on their lives? Who might pupils feel should be included?

Download this diagram as a Word Document

How might you use pupil responses to this diagram to:

  • inform class discussions about special people and why we choose them?
  • Identify and celebrate difference as well as note similarities?
  • Make connections between our own and other's lives?
  • Introduce the notion of 'interdependence'?

Do we share many of the same 'special people'? And at what scale do we have most in common? Is it at the scale of 'home', 'local' or 'global'? Are they people we know in person or people we know about?

  • How can you support your pupils to make sense of our relationships with others at different scales?
  • How will you help pupils to make connections between significant people and places and their developing identities?
  • How has structuring these initial activities helped you to reflect on your own practice?

Activity 4: Mapping people and places in our everyday lives

Suggested completion time: 1 - 2 hours

Using small scale maps centred on pupils' homes, ask them to identify places and people they might visit during the course of a week and mark these as points. Join the points together to show the range of everyday experience and their 'roaming range'. This could be done freehand or using free software such as Scribble Maps which allows you to draw directly onto a Google map. Information can be added to the map markers, e.g. 'home', 'school' etc.

What could these maps tell us about ourselves and our everyday lives? What would the maps look like if you restricted it to places visited on foot? Or expanded it to include holidays taken over the course of a year?

Use vector mapping or print pupils' maps on laminate to show overlapping experiences.

These activities have scratched the surface of our connections with people and places. How might you develop the ideas presented in this course? What about our connections to people and places through the food we eat or the clothes we wear? Or thinking about the interdependence of our energy use?

Conclusion: Relating place to other geographical concepts and skills

Suggested completion time: 1 - 2 hours

Place is one of the central concepts in primary geography. How does enabling children to share their personal geographies contribute to views of place as shared space that is dynamic, changing and often contested? Is this preferable to views about places that are fixed and static?

Scale is a geographical concept that enables children to think about activities at local, national and global levels and how they are linked as though through a zoom lens. For example, local phenomena cannot be understood properly without viewing the wider context. How did you use scale when adapting the activities to suit your pupils? Why did scale matter?

Space is a geographical concept that enables us to map and locate human and physical phenomena and the relationships between them. How and why are 'spaces' given meaning and transformed into 'places'? 

Interdependence is a geographical concept reminding us that the study of geography is an holistic one, taking account of the interrelationships between people and places. How well does your practice enable pupils to make connections between their everyday lives, and other people and environments?

Using maps and globes is a geographical way of communicating information. How well did either the use of a globe or a map (of the U.K. or of a local area) support children conveying information about their special places?

Think about your responses to all or some of the questions posed above. 

How might your developing knowledge of geography and some of its central ideas and skills impact on the learning activities you provide for pupils?

How might the activities in this course contribute to other areas of the curriculum? For example, what aspects might either be considered to be, or developed into, learning about citizenship? Which aspects might link well to history?

Can there be sound links made to other curriculum components such as English, Maths, ICT or Art?

Finally, as you reflect on this course, how will you measure the impacts on your learners?

Jot down some ideas about how you might develop this as a unit of work linked with other curricular areas. Are the links sound?  

How does this help you prepare and plan for your learning journey?

Think back to your starting conversation with your pupils – how might the outcomes of this work be shared and with whom?

Your Learning Journey

Suggested completion time: 1 - 2 hours

Having completed the course, reflect and evaluate how you have engaged with the knowledge base to engage pupils and develop your own practice. Below are some prompts for you if you are still refining the preparations for your learning journey and some for you to consider if you are on your learning journey.

Preparing for your learning journey

Discuss with your year group partner(s) and / or mentor what ideas you might develop and how you will do this.

  • How have these examples and ideas help you to plan coherent and relevant learning for your pupils?
  • How did you adapt them?
  • What curriculum links did you focus on to link with the geography? Why did you choose them?
  • How have you enabled pupils to make connections between the local and the global?
  • How did you place value pupils' contributions and personal geographies? How did this impact on their self esteem and the value they place on themselves as individuals and as a group?
  • How do you think these activities contribute to sustainable thinking and social cohesion?

On your learning journey

  • What changes, if any did you make to your original plan? How did professional learning conversations with your coach or learning mentor influence this and the outcomes of your learning?
  • How did you evaluate your own learning?
  • What feedback did you receive from pupils or colleagues?
  • How did you share this learning with others? What feedback have you had?

Where next?

You may now wish to move on to another course in this family in order to widen and deepen your knowledge base. It is important that you end by completing the Plenary section, as this allows you to reflect on your learning.

The courses

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