Skip to main content

Meeting Year 7 for the first time……

This post outlines my rough plan for meeting Year 7 for the first time.  It is hoped that readers will find something useful here.  Before the description begins – I must add that this is the rough outline – we’ll just have to see what happens at the time!

The first unit is called Amazing Places and the aim of the first lesson is to define what makes a place amazing.  This takes two forms, the first has a 140 character limit, and the second a 50 word target.

Before the lesson, exercise books are placed on the desks and the Flickr slide show below is played on screen while music plays – usually a mix of the Manics, Sterophonics, Tom Jones and Feeder.  I will meet each students at the door, telling to sit where they like for now. The task on screen is to think of at least 10 adjectives about the places being described. Personally, I always have something to do and keep the start of my lessons very similar.  I expect students to come in and start learning, the first lesson is no exception.  This also gives me some time to watch behaviour: who do I need to chat to quickly? Why one is shy? etc

Next, I welcome them to the school, to Geography and to my classroom.  I introduce myself and tell them that the only thing they need to remember about me at the moment is that I’m Welsh. The rest they will figure out as we go.  Then quite a tight routine:

Register and seating plan. I need seating plans to learn names and manage the group.  On calling the register I ask them to answer with an adjective that describes the place (the music has stopped, but slideshow still goes). I write their first name down and ask for pronunciation corrections etc. I remind them that I’ll move them if it will make their learning more effective.

Expectations. With any new class this is what works for me: ‘Hands up if you haven’t been in a school before?’ Reactions range from deathly silence to a little giggle to a few brave hands raised.  ‘That means that you all know how to behave in my classroom.  I expect you to learn hard and do your best. The rest you’ll learn as we go along’. I then get all classes to write down their expectations of geography and what they expect from me in the front of their books.  If it’s something private, they use a post it that I can remove.  I find this very useful.  At the same time, the front of the exercise book is written in – name and group is all that’s needed.

After this, we chat about the activity.  I explain where it is and the fact that I think it’s amazing place – any guesses why? This goes to the heart of personal geographies, imagination and understanding places and spaces.

Time for a reminder about the main task.  Here I plan to use some Post-It notes in order for pupils to collaborate (I don’t believe that you must use technology in order to collaborate).  We plan to watch a few videos.  During which they are to think of as many phrases, adjectives etc as possible.  Pupils write them on to the post its and stick them in groups.  Pupils can get up at any time. The videos are embedded below in the order I play them in. Between each one, a quick reminder about the task.  Pupils can ask questions and work with each other  as they like.


I usually introduce the homework at this point.  I use John Davitt’s Learning Event Generator here. The task is to describe their amazing place. A place that is personal to them.  Bring in a photograph and produce a description in the style chosen by the generator.  I think that it’s important to set high expectations of out-of-class work straight away.  They will have two weeks in which to complete the task.

Alone in the wild clip.

I then ask the class to write their two definitions of what makes an amazing place. This sets the expectation that the class is expected to apply their thinking and learning, and also allows me to remind them about how to organise work. I’ll mark this work as soon as I can – following up those that didn’t complete (trying to find the reason why). I also try to create a Wordle of their expectations of myself to share at the start of the next lesson.

The end of the lesson reflects on the two styles of writing. What was difficult about the task? Which style was easiest to use? What would have made it better?

Here we end with another homework task that is optional but linked to the Vivo reward system: create a better definition of what makes an Amazing Place and email it to me. I use a photograph of how I’d like each desk to look before they leave.

In summary

  • I try to avoid the use of PowerPoint, but have a technology rich lesson. 
  • Collaboration is modelled, but in a non-tech way
  • The important of writing and communication is prominent.
  • I don’t start with ‘What is Geography?’ We just start doing it!  also avoid the importance of geography as I truly believe that the subject will speak for itself.  Many of them have already done Geography (some with us during transition projects).
  • The concepts tackled are big.  I don’t believe in dumbing down for ability or age, as I believe that, explored in the right way, all students are able to grasp the ‘sense of place’ concept.
  • I like teaching at a high pace, so this approach may not suit all.
  • This is just a plan – student comments or recent events may provide some additional material.
  • This lesson is all about setting high expectations of learning.  Behaviour will follow and I have found that treating the class in this way works for me.


  1. Thanks for sharing these ideas David. I don't suppose you fancy writing my second and third lessons? ;)

  2. Hi Noel, No worries! Although I may pass on lessons two and three ;-)

  3. Fantastic! Now if that had been my geography lesson when I was in Y7, I might have made it past Y9...

    And lots to take away from this as great teaching ideas. Many of which I may well use with my Y3s.

  4. Some fab ideas here - I teach English and love the way you've set up some of these tasks. Think I may pinch them :) Cheers!

  5. Lara and MissM, thank you for your kind words. One of the things I try to do is use skills and activities that can be transferred to different contexts. It would be great to here how you get on if you do decide to use any of these ideas.

  6. I really like these ideas. I did something similar with my first class last year, and they loved it.
    Just wanted to ask when you get the students to group their post-its - how are they being grouped?


  7. Thank you - I'm a non specialist teaching geography to year 7 for the first time and this is a brilliant lesson. Thanks again.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

#GAConf22: A paradigm shift for anti-racist, decolonised teaching and inclusion

 " You can't start a fire,  You can't start a fire without a spark" Bruce Springsteen.  Well, it's been a fair while since I felt the motivation or the need to blog. Whilst not a story for now, over the past five years I've danced along the knife edge and, often, the call of the abyss has been both tempting and compelling. Certainly, my failing in both my personal and professional life have been numerous. But. This is not about me, but the people that have (re)ignited the spark to the fire in my soul. I realise that this is from the perspective of a privileged, white, middle class male view. I even have a beard. I am scared of getting it wrong on this topic. Teach me if I am wrong, it is from the position of a learner. I was looking forward to the GA Conference this year, the first face to face since 2019. I have to say that Alan , as president, and the Geographical Association's team did a fantastic job at being inclusive. The hybrid format allowed peopl

What makes a learning experience profound? Personal reflections and possible implications for classroom practice.

I have recently begun a Leadership Pathways journey.  As part of the first core day, we were asked to reflect on a profound learning experience. This got me thinking about how many profound learning experiences I have both been involved in, and how many I have been able to give to others.  Our group came up with a huge long list, but these are my five. Emotional Connected Demanding Reflective Collaborative As always, these are personal thoughts and quite mixed up.  I put them here so that I can look back on them (plus they’d get lost inside my world-cup-free brain) 1. Emotional I can’t think of a time where deep learning hasn’t engaged my emotions.  From being awe inspired to that tingle feeling when a student gets a light bulb moment.  From this-is-the-happiest-day-ever, to I-think-I’m-about-to die.  How often do we engage the emotions of those we teach?  Here, I would argue that having a safe learning environment is not always conducive to profound

Trust and support our school leaders, the role of the governing body in the Covid times

One of the roles that I love is being the Chair of a Governing Body.  The aim of this post is to share what we are doing, as a Board, during these difficult time.  I will refrain from commenting on the role of the Government, DfE and local authority as I intend for this to be both a positive and useful post. What is clear is that governing bodies have a crucial part to play. I am grateful both to the brilliant Clerk and the National Governance Association whose Covid advice pages are fantastic. Firstly; from the outset, the brilliant leadership team that I work with have my unwavering and public support. Regardless. As this is a fast evolving crisis, often with pages of advice, guideline and directives to decipher and digest on a daily basis. As such, the role of governing bodies is twofold: 1.  to prioritise the providing of support to the Headteacher and all colleagues in the school, and 2. to allow them to get on with operational matters and decision making. The role of