This week’s message (Friday 22 September 2023)

Friday 22 September 2023

Thanks to all of you who took part in our Summer Competition this year. Check out the pics on this News page – we love them!

Remember we’ve a vacancy for parent governor on the governing board of Sphere Federation. If you’ve got some time to commit to the role, please consider helping to contribute to the strategic leadership of St James’ CE Primary and Sphere Federation as a whole. Read more about the role. If you’re interested, please submit an expression of interest by  22 September 2023. Please use this form.

The rest of this week’s message comes from Mr Wilks, who oversees all the topics in school…

What do we mean by topics?

Topics are the vehicle for delivering much of the learning in foundation subjects (history, art, geography, for example). Each half-termly topic has a driving subject – the main focus for teaching your child the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in life. The driver changes with each topic.

Although there’s a focus on one subject in each topic, there are opportunities for enrichment through other subjects. For example, learning in a history driven subject may be enriched by observational drawing of an artefact. In this example, the enricher is art.

For more information about the intent, implementation and impact of our topics, click here.

What is this half-term’s topic?

This half-term we’re geographers. The topic is called Where in the world am I?

We’re focusing on the geography of the United Kingdom and helping to develop children’s sense of where they live through the use of fieldwork. As you read about the learning planned in each phase, you’ll see how the learning progresses across the primary age range.

Children in Years 1 and 2 will learn about the different countries that make up the United Kingdom and their capital cities. They’ll learn about the difference between physical and human geography and identify examples of both in the local area. They’ll also learn about the four compass points and use geographical vocabulary to describe what is north, south, east or west of them. A big chunk of the learning will have a focus on fieldwork. They’ll think of questions about the locality. For example, what types of trees are growing in the school grounds? They’ll then collect and present data to answer the question.

Children in Years 3 and 4 will develop their locational knowledge by using maps and atlases to locate some of the other cities in the United Kingdom. They’ll learn about counties and use the eight compass points to describe locations. The big focus for this phase is on maps. They’ll learn how to use Ordnance Survey maps and their keys. They’ll learn about four figure grid references and use these to locate features. They’ll then apply this learning more locally by mapping a route in the locality.

Children in Year 5 and 6 will learn about national parks, using maps to locate them. They’ll then learn about urban green spaces and their importance before learning about how Leeds has expanded over time. Importantly, children will get an understanding of how a geographer works by completing fieldwork in the locality. They’ll gather data about the amount of carbon stored in trees and present that data.

How can you help?

To kick off with, check out the links for each phase to explore more about the United Kingdom, Ordnance Survey and national parks.

Regardless of the year group your child is in, Google Earth is a brilliant tool to help develop children’s understanding of their sense of place in the world. Zoom right in on your home and then zoom out to reveal the area of Leeds that you live in. Zoom further out to see what city you live. Zoom further for the county. A little further and you might start to spot some national parks. Further still and you can see the country that we live in. Keep zooming and you’ll see the continent we live in (though this isn’t labelled). Before you know it, you’re floating in space and circling the Earth!

Google Maps is another great tool for investigating where you live. Try the street view option and you can walk along your street. You can even toggle between different data points to see what your house or garden looked like in previous years. (My lack of gardening skills were laid bare in a staff meeting when we compared my unkempt garden in 2019 to the lush, wildlife haven the previous owners had lovingly created in 2008!)

Have a quiz with your child about some locational knowledge to help them remember important information. I’ve listed some examples below. Use the age-related expectations on page 16 to find the right pitch for your child.

If you can, go to the library and get some geography related books, especially an atlas. You could compare maps of the same place to see what type of information they show. For example, you find lots of maps of the United Kingdom. One might show the countries and capital cities. Another might show the mountains, rivers and national parks. Another might give information about the climate.

Children could draw a plan/map of their bedroom with a key. Older children could try to do this for each room of their house. Children could also create a map of a mythical location with an accompanying key.

For children in Key Stage 2 (Years 3-6), there are lots of different games and activities on Ordnance Survey Mapzone. I especially like the jigsaws in the Map Puzzles section of the Games.

Also for KS2 children, there’s a lot of information and some tasks and quizzes on BBC Bitesize.