Bringing the benefits of Primary Geography to Let’s Think (2)

Written by Stuart Twiss

In the last blog, Bringing the benefits of Let’s Think to Primary Geography Part 1 « Let’s Think ( we looked at the claims made by Let’s Think, how that depends, in part, on lesson structure and how, in this primary Geography project we saw, as in other Let’s Think interventions, a profound impact on the children’s engagement.

The project achieved its main outcome of some trialled lessons but we also wanted to understand, with the teachers involved, how that came about and the impact it had on them as experienced practitioners. 

We came to learn that our short development had a dramatic impact on their practice as Let’s Think teachers, was influential on their deep knowledge of the psychological basis of Let’s Think lessons and on their knowledge of Geography.  It gave them agency as teachers and prompted wider developments in their schools. 

We were profoundly affected by the pupils’ reactions to those lessons based on Sustainable Development Goals and learnt in this that if the content matters to children, their agency has an impact on their reasoning too.

Understanding our development

We were a team made up of tutor in Let’s Think science and mathematics, a tutor in Let’s Think English, an Associate Professor of Education with a Geography specialism and passion for sustainability, an acting headteacher, and three teachers who had been trained in Let’s Think through English. Four women, two men, aged from our 30’s to our 60’s. All ‘White British’. Some knew each other but some had only met through the project. We would work across three junior schools close to Chandlers Ford in Hampshire.

What we wanted to achieve as a secondary outcome of the project was an understanding of how we would need to be as practitioners to create such lessons.  What does a team of people have to do to produce Let’s Think lessons in a new subject? What would they gain from the process?  

The process of lesson development

The model of lesson development approximated to Lesson Study with, ‘creating Let’s Think lessons in primary Geography’ as the professional development goal.  Each lesson would come from a planning day, where the team aimed for this ideal in different content areas, requiring different reasoning.  The content was representative of content applicable to Sustainable Development Goals. The reasoning was drawn from the work of Piaget.

The whole team worked on these ideal ‘Let’s Think lessons in primary Geography’

  • The ‘seed’ of any lesson was some experience or question that had been prepared by a Let’s Think tutor, something that, in a Geography context might be puzzling to this age of children at their developmental stage. This ‘seed’ was often shared with the teachers in a brief lesson simulation, giving the teachers some experience of where the challenge lay but not enough to be a lesson on Let’s Think pedagogical principles, just yet.
  • Because teachers often acknowledged, in the development of the lesson, that their Geography knowledge was weaker than in other areas there was usually a teachers’ briefing note, typically running to 6 pages of text, links and examples, and placing the lesson content in the broader context of the Geography concepts, the powerful knowledge of the subject. Teachers had read this in advance.
  • Because we were developing lessons based on Piaget’s empirical studies of children’s reasoning, reasoning that was relevant to Geography, we studied on our planning day how children reasoned at their stage of development and were therefore ready to present a challenge to that. 
  • The lessons were simulated on the planning day, being tested against other teachers’ understanding of an ideal Let’s Think primary Geography lesson and then redrafted by the project team to give a best fit to Let’s Think pedagogy. 

Therefore the teachers, through a day of planning with the tutors and a Geography specialist came to each new lesson prepared. They had developed subject knowledge, knowledge about the reasoning typical for this age of child and had participated in the creation of the lesson they would now trial. They were also experienced teachers and teachers who had developed their practice in let’s Think, chiefly through Let’s Think in English. 

  • The lessons were then planned for their class by the teacher, and observed in a first trial by another member of the project team. These observations were the basis of shared reflections which were used by the teacher to make further modifications, and create lessons that were then shared with the whole team at the start of the next lesson planning day.


So what was the impact of this process?  Verity reports that the project contributed to:

  • 3.1 The development of a cohesive, professional team (Core Team and teachers) who enjoyed and felt challenged by the process of resource development and piloting.
  • 3.2 The Core Team, teachers and learners recognised that the project positively supported their acquisition of geographical knowledge, skills and professional development. In many cases this led to individual and whole school behaviour change relating to mitigation of climate change for protection of people and planet.
  • 3.3 The Core Team and teachers reported development of theoretical thinking and deeper
  • understanding of Piaget’s reasoning patterns that informed their wider practice as educators.
  • 3.4 The development team trusted each other’s expertise as professionals and recognised the discrete and overlapping skills, knowledge and interest each member brought.


Benefiting the teachers and schools involved.

What was an unplanned for but tangible outcome was the benefit to the schools and teachers involved.  We knew we were having fun but Verity identified the following benefits and this points to the success of working in the way we did, developing lessons with the teachers.

3.5 Teachers were more confident and enthusiastic in their teaching of Geography and their own subject knowledge. Teachers intend to use and develop resources from the project in future years.

3.6 Both teachers and learners reported on the importance of listening and how the project and the lessons allowed for the practice and pedagogical development of this skill.


Benefiting the Let’s Think Forum

Working in a new subject, with new people and in particular teachers inexperienced in creating Let’s Think lessons helped us as experienced Let’s Think Tutors, articulate our thinking more deeply, attend more carefully to the legacy of Piaget and return to the initial work of his group.  We studied in greater depth the importance of the social construction of new knowledge and reasoning and how co-operation and dialogue play an important role in the classroom.  We are still working on the question of how dialogic teaching and co-operative learning work together to construct new reasoning in a classroom and hope to write about that soon.


What next?

We will put Verity’s full report on our website.

We will publish the 6 lessons and supporting materials on the Let’s Think website.

We are wondering whether it is better to develop a full suite of 30 Geography lessons for years 4 and 5 or whether to hold with 6 in Geography and instead develop 6 for History, 6 for Art, 6 for Music, etc in effect building a Foundation for Primary Thinking.  Your thoughts on the direction to take and this blog are welcomed.


Please write to [email protected]


Thanks to the wonderful Let’s Think Primary Geography project team, known collectively as ‘The Dung Beetles’ in honour of one of the lessons:

Sarah Cunningham

Kathy Walker

Holly Bristow

Tom Leigh

Leah Crawford

Dr Verity Jones