How to speak like a glaciologist

Monday, 22nd June 2020

Jo Coles

south east iceland jokulsarlon midnight sun rth

You may well have seen our previous resource ‘How to speak volcano’ which refers to the need for students to be able to participate in geographic conversation, whether that means students talking with teachers or peers, or simply reading around the subject, or keeping up with the news, etc. It is not just a critical part of being able to access exam language and apply themselves, but it is also a foundational part of learning a subject fully and so being able to ‘speak like a geographer’ is fundamental. You may have seen many geography teachers sharing their ‘speak like a geographer’ display boards, encouraging students with ‘heavenly words’ or discouraging them from using ‘banned words’ – see some excellent examples @jennnnnn_x and @missgeog92 on twitter for inspiration.

I am sure you will agree that having a broad and complex vocabulary has always been essential, but perhaps we mostly focused on this once students reached GCSE level rather than starting from day one in key stage 3 as well. Yet when you see the level of literacy that students in primary school are expected to understand, it is clear we need to have even higher standards for grammar and vocabulary in order to keep momentum up and avoid that dip that all too often takes place during transition.

The resources attached are split into ‘conversational’ and ‘professional’ categories, roughly corresponding with challenging your upper key stage 3 / into GCSE students, and then moving into A level standard. These are mix and match keyword definition exercises, and are generic enough to apply to any exam board specification.

Suggested teacher activities:

  • Print out the key words resource sheet and their definitions and arrange into a card sort, or matching exercise
  • Play key word bingo and use the definitions as clues
  • Talking heads: have students quiz each other on meanings and spellings
  • Re-define: students read the definitions aloud to each other, then put it into their own words to write their own definition. Then move to a different partner and read your own definition – can they tell what it is? If not, redefine again. If they do, the new partner can see if they can improve the definition or simplify it.
  • Have students complete a piece of extended writing, for example to answer a case study or exam question such as “Describe and explain how a glacial landscape changes from source to snout”. Upon completion, students can self or peer assess to highlight how many key words they have successfully included and whether the definitions are correct.
  • For extended writing, you could also use learning grids populated with different key words

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