Teaching Geographical Concepts and Skills in Primary Social Studies, pp. 5 of 13

The inquiry frameworks for teaching geographical concepts by Geoff Dekele (1998) and Paula Owen and Wendy North (2006, cited in Catling and Willy, 2009, p 67) are shown in Figure 2. Generally, both frameworks are similar despite the differences, with Dekele’s focus on stages and Owen and North’s focus on questions. Their similarities lie in the generation of key questions, data collection, analysis and presentation and reflection.

An example of teaching primary social studies using inquiry is shown in Strategy Example 2.

Key Geographical Skills

Students can better acquire geographical knowledge of spatial characteristics of places if they are equipped with certain geographical skills. These could be skills related to the use of pictures, photograph, maps and globes (Mackintosh, 1998, Catling & Willy, 2009). However, according to Lambert (2007), these skills should be subordinate to the development of student conceptual understanding of geography.

How to Teach Geographical Skills?

Using Pictures and Photographs

One cannot assume that students know how to look at, understand and interpret pictures and photographs. Research has shown that young children tend to focus on details and see them as unconnected instead of seeing the picture or photograph as a whole. Hence, they need to be taught how to select relevant details and see the whole rather than the parts (Mackintosh, 1998). Mackintosh (1998) has suggested several ways to help students “see”, “read” and “interpret” pictures which are described in the subsequent paragraphs. These are:

  • Provide pictures/photographs with titles to help students gain an overview of what each is about.
  • Help students see the whole picture/photograph by directing their attention to the foreground, middle ground, background, the left and the right side of the picture/photograph and use appropriate positional language such as near to, next to, far from, north of, east of, etc.
  • Put labels with specific vocabulary around pictures/photographs as appropriate to guide students’ picture reading.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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