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Simple but effective ideas: Iceland does not exist


I have to say that I’ve been struggling this week with fatigue and a little loss of inspiration.  There’s also a shed load going on so I hadn’t really had a huge amount of time to put too much planning into my Year 7 lessons this week.  So with a little inspiration from Daniel from my friends at the Geography Collective and the words of some bloke I met at a GSMA meeting ringing in my ears (It’s about the device not the behaviour… #whateverWinking smile).

The lesson started by a classic map detectives activity.  Students had to consider the map below taken from the Icelandic Met Office website.  I asked them to tell me what the map showed. I banned them from answering with ‘Iceland’ or ‘the earthquakes in Iceland in the past 48 hours’ and hinted toward some mapping work from a previous lesson where we considered the positioning of the tectonic plates.


This allowed me to get around the room and help those who needed it.  Answers ranged, but most got to the main thrust:

  • Earthquakes occur where the plate boundaries are or around Eyjafjallajokull.
  • Earthquakes are concentrated in the South West corner of the country, with a narrow line through the main icecap.

I then wrote the following on the board:


We then conducted a traditional think, pair, share activity where I asked the students how they would go about proving that the country did exist, after all nobody had been there.  The following resources were available:

  • Students own devices (a tapoestry of devices) accesing our schools WiFi network so 1:1 access was achieved;
  • A range of school phones and tablets;
  • Any book in the room (there are many).

What followed was a heated discussion – for example how do we know that Google maps can be trusted when it has Iceland shown? Answer – does it look the same on Bing maps?  How do we know that it is Iceland? Answer – turn on the webcam layer, find one and then compare to today’s Iceland weather observations.  We also looked at various News websites.  The list we boiled down was our evidence had to be:

  • Reliable;
  • Back up (not by the A-Team but by other sources of information);
  • Contain specific facts that could be verified (such as population numbers, who founded Iceland), or
  • Be something that affected the UK.

I also showed the following video, just because it was cool and gave some thinking time:

Then the class were given 20 minutes to produce a one minute speech, with names in a random name generator to share.

The lesson was a bit ad-hoc, but the resulting work was of high quality, assessable and a bit of a laugh for all involved (especially as everyone decided that I wasn’t to be trusted….)


  1. David
    I'm so jealous. My geography lessons were never this good. I've now been to Iceland twice and am determined to go again.
    This year we climbed Hekla and visited pretty much everywhere else.
    Time for a weird Iceland fact. The country is obsessed with Golf and as a result has more golf holes per head of capita than any other country on earth.
    While I love volcanoes and anything to do with plate tectonics, I also love golf. The plan is that the next visit will incorporate chasing a ball round a field.
    Can't wait for Katla to blow. The power of nature is inspiring.

    Iain McGlade - iain.mcglade@euroele - @kiltedsplendour


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