Thursday, 12 February 2015

On point, what is it?

I was about to launch into a geography lesson today when one of my students asked me,
"Mrs RP, can you tell me what geography actually is? I mean, "on point", what is it?"
And sirens went off in my head. So many questions and comments ran across the ticker at the bottom of my mental news feed:

  • What on earth do you mean?
  • Gosh, I'm glad you felt safe to ask that!
  • How did we get to a point where a year 7 student doesn't know this?
  • How did I not know that she didn't know this?
  • How many other students don't know this?
  • What do I do now?
  • Where is my butchers' paper?
  • This fluid change of direction is going to stress my kids with ASD and anxiety. Gotta keep an eye on them.
I asked the rest of the class if anyone could answer her. Dead silence. I mean... Crickets.

So I threw out my lesson plan.  I had a chuckle because all I could think of was @Venspired's poster:

We pulled out the butchers' paper and broke down the word into morphemes.  Many of my kiddos are taking a purely morphemic approach to their spelling capacity matrices and so they lead this part of the lesson. We started with geo in the middle of the page and brainstormed as many words we knew with this in it. We tried to find a link, but got stuck on geothermal so we did the same for therm. It grew from there. There were pages all over the place as we built our understanding of various morphemes. Eventually our task minder reminded us what our original question had been and we were able to return to geo and come up with an early understanding. 

Not satisfied with this, we wanted to check.  Individually we used carefully chosen search terms to find online definitions. We combined these with what we'd already discovered and then shared our findings with a partner.  Each partnership then shared with the class and we developed a working definition: 
"Geography is the learning and knowledge about the world around us and people's relationship with it."
This isn't too different from ACARA's definition:
"Geography is a structured way of exploring, analysing and understanding the characteristics of the places that make up our world, using the concepts of place, space, environment, interconnection, sustainability, scale and change. It addresses scales from the personal to the global and time periods from a few years to thousands of years."
It wasn't what I'd planned but you know what? It felt great to throw out my plans and follow their lead. Our next lesson will be much more successful as a result anyway. (And how stupid do I feel for not checking that they knew this basic concept?)

This relates to the following Australian Professional Standards for Teachers...
Standard 1 Know the students and how they learn
Standard 3 Plan for and implement effective teaching and learning
Standard 4 Create and maintain supportive and safe learning environments


  1. Ky said some of them thought they knew what it meant but were not 100% sure....

    It's great that they were brave enough to ask the question that takes courage

    1. It's fantastic! This class is already coming together and taking group risks in their learning. (Not to mention all the individual risk takers in there!) It's such a privilege to teach them. Thank you for sharing your young person with me. And for commenting!