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Embracing creativity in examination classes

Whilst many teachers appreciate the fact that there is more emphasis on UK Geography and a wider range of topics within the new GCSE specification; the additional content has had a challenging impact on the quality of teaching and learning. I have been involved in many discussions with teachers from various subjects who have aired similar concerns. Geography teachers want to deliver excellent lessons, yet they feel they do not have sufficient time with the demanding content.  

Creating new schemes of work and resources for a new speciation can be an exciting but arduous task. When I delivered the new specification to the first cohort, I set myself a target. I did not want to simply rush through the content with swift delivery but enhance my creativity (and the creativity of my pupils) through different pedagogical approaches and resources.

I decided to complete some active research with my GCSE class in year 11. Throughout the year I had devised and created a range of new resources and I asked them for feedback. The results were surprising as even the exceptionally talented pupils who attained a grade 9 felt textbook lessons were less effective. They really enjoyed the interactive and creative tasks. That in itself is not surprising, but I did think there would be more variety in the responses to the range of resources I had utilised.

Only one resource that I created was time consuming which was based around a ‘live’ decision making group exercise. Many of the favoured lessons did not take long to prepare such as play-doh ox-bow lake formations, 3D models of the global atmospheric model, debates, poems, raps, acting out landform formations and my longitude and latitude dance. These are tasks that I have employed over the years, but I had ditched them to get through the content with haste.

Not every lesson can be an imaginative creation but I aimed to employ creativity in such a way that it was not time consuming. I want to inspire future geographers, but I also had the desire to conserve laughter and enjoyment within the class. In a time where pupil wellbeing is a growing concern with the extreme pressure for achievement the enjoyment of learning can be lost.

After a discussion with a Sports Studies teacher during a teaching and learning meeting I decided to try something different which required minimal preparation time for me and the chance to challenge pupils with something different. The idea of utilising flipped learning and allowing the pupils act as the teacher was a task I had never attempted before.

It was a great success and I have now utilised this idea at KS3 level too. I choose a case study topic, or a physical process and I ask the pupils to create a task for the following week. I allow pupils to work on their own or in pairs and I provide them with a list of options. The pupils have enjoyed the flexibility and creativity of the task. It has been a pleasure to assess animations and videos illustrating the process of longshore drift. I have acquired a range of board games, webpages, online games, power points, word searches, models etc to explain the opportunities for development in the Thar desert. The pupils have the chance to be creative and I get to enjoy watching them teach each other. Generally, I use one lesson to introduce the task and allow pupils to plan the task and their homework is to complete it. I have found that many pupils have spent much longer completing the task as it links to another interest such as designing web pages.

This task cannot be attempted frequently perhaps once or twice a year, but it allows pupils to embrace their creativity and independent learning.

Caroline McNiece