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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG): the heart of geography
Why involve students in making the curriculum?
How can we work with the Importance of Geography statement?
How can we work with the Key Concepts?

Revealing the importance of geography - How can we work with the Key Concepts?

Revealing the importnace of geography

These underpin the study of geography, identifying what learners need to learn in order to make progress. For students to understand the key concepts they need time to explore them both as discrete concepts and also as they appear naturally in the curriculum approach as created by the geography department. This does not mean that students need to explicitly reflect in lessons on which key concepts are being addressed each time but it may be that through discussion with your students you jointly decide the value (or not) of such an approach.

Key Concepts

1.1 Place
a. Understanding the physical and human characteristics of real places.
b. Developing ‘geographical imaginations' of places.

1.2 Space
a. Understanding the interactions between places and the networks created by flows of information, people and goods.
b. Knowing where places and landscapes are located, why they are there, the patterns and distributions they create, how and why these are changing and the implications for people.

1.3 Scale
a. Appreciating different scales - from personal and local to national, international and global.
b. Making links between scales to develop understanding of geographical ideas.

1.4 Interdependence
a. Exploring the social, economic, environmental and political connections between places.
b. Understanding the significance of interdependence in change, at all scales.

1.5 Physical and human processes
a. Understanding how sequences of events and activities in the physical and human worlds lead to change in places, landscapes and societies.

1.6 Environmental interaction and sustainable development
a. Understanding that the physical and human dimensions of the environment are interrelated and together influence environmental change.
b. Exploring sustainable development and its impact on environmental interaction and climate change.

1.7 Cultural understanding and diversity
a. Appreciating the differences and similarities between people, places, environments and cultures to inform their understanding of societies and economies.
b. Appreciating how people's values and attitudes differ and may influence social, environmental, economic and political issues, and developing their own values and attitudes about such issues.

  • Student friendly version of key concepts PDF | MSWORD
  • Key concepts wall statements PDF | MSWORD

Student friendly versions of the key concepts can be arrived in two ways, either through teachers suggesting language that they feel will make the concepts more accessible to students or students themselves working through activities to arrive at student created versions.

Suggested Student friendly versions of the key concepts

  • Place: what are man made and natural places like?
  • Space: how do man made and natural places fit together in the ‘world jigsaw'?
  • Scale: understanding the big picture as well has what we experience day to day
  • Interdependence: we all have an impact on each other
  • Physical and human processes: events can change the physical and human world
  • Environmental interaction: people use the natural world and have the ability to change it
  • Cultural understanding and diversity: People from around the world lead different ways of life


Activity one

Post-It activity relating to key concepts

Students in small groups are presented with Post-Its and asked to write their initial thoughts about what each of the key concepts means to them. This can be achieved through having a Key Concept statement on different walls or on different tables around the classroom.

Once students have completed their initial thoughts on the first key concept then they can either:

  • As a group move onto the next key concept and repeat the task in the same group
  • Jigsaw so that one student per key concept makes up a new larger group where all key concepts are represented for discussion and sharing. The students then return after an allocated time to their original group to share their findings


  • Post-Its
  • Enlarged A3 key concepts on individual card


  • Sample of the comments from a range of students who carried out activity one PDF | MSWORD


Activity two

Building on activity one, students could then work with the more detailed descriptions of the key concepts from the geography document.

Students carry out a DARTs activity with the key concepts. Students in pairs annotate A3 versions of the Key Concepts.

They can choose to focus on aspects which they:

  • Do not understand
  • Want to know more about
  • Think are missing
  • Give examples of how these translate into everyday life
  • Feel are not represented in the geography as presented to them currently at school
  • Want to question


  • A3 versions of each key concept.

Activity two will allow you to discuss as a department and with your students which key concepts your students perceive they understand and which they find difficult to grasp. In order to support students' developing understanding of these key concepts there may be opportunities for older geography students to work as co-researchers with Key Stage 3 students. Activity three could be one way forward.


Activity three

Students create their own descriptions of the key concepts

Students in groups (possibly supported by older geography students) now work towards producing their own student descriptions of the key concepts to help other students understand how they are significant to them and what these key concepts mean in relation to their everyday lives.


  • Variety of media possible: Word process, visual, DVD

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