My first lesson with Year 8

This post follows on from a similar post about Year 7. Year 8 explore rainforests during the first term, and end the Autumn term with some on-site Guerrilla Geography.

The expectations and seating plan are similar to the Year 7 post, so I won’t go in to too much detail here. Please remember that this is the planned lesson, what actually happens will depend on how things go!

As pupils enter (and I meet at the door), the image below is displayed. (found on this blog and created by Orno Verde). The task is to figure out what the unit will be all about.  I’m not expecting single word answers here, but a more in depth answer. I’m also going to ask pupils to write down a forest experience, as there are clear parallels between British and Tropical forests in terms of structure and processes. These will be shared during the register.


After the register, seating plan and a reminder of expectations I set the homework which is to create a rainforest poem.  The poem must link visually to the rainforest and describe the rainforest surroundings. I rarely leave setting homework until the last part of the lesson. Setting it early allows the task to be explained in more detail and provides an opportunity to seek clarification.

A discussion follows based upon the image.  The unit as a whole explores what the rainforest is like, but also the interaction between people and their environment.

The next stage of the lesson is an early opportunity to develop literacy – needed for the homework task.  Two resources are used for this.

The first a Flickr Slideshow, embedded below, plus rainforest sounds.  During this, pupils develop a wordscape based upon what they see and hear.  Wordscapes are a blend of written words, phrases and images. For example, the word ‘rain’ could be made to look like a rain drop.

They are allowed to use colour, but only three and those should link to the rainforest.  Using the Flickr slideshow allows some early discussion about the reliability of social media. Our Schemes of Work often use similar methods at the same time across different year groups.

The second resource are short clips from Planet Earth. Particularly useful are these two clips as they focus on the forest floor and decay. During this resource, the wordscapes are swapped around and a partner adds more words, images, colours.

This clip is linked to in a later lesson when exploring the relationship between people and the rainforest.  At the end of the Jungle Episode is the ‘Diary’ of the camera man who took these images.  This allows a link to geographical work, and also the fact that these images were taken not far from a settlement. This means that we can explore the idea of the Jungle always being remote.

We end by coming up with three bullet points to help someone building a shelter in the rainforest. Then self-assess those ideas by watching this:

Ray Mears is one of my Geography Heroes (I have been known to threaten detention to those that don’t know Ray Mears ;).

The final stage is to emphasise what the floor of the rainforest is like – this links to a future lesson where Bruce Parry explores the untouched, primary rainforest.  One of the misconceptions that young people have is that the floor of rainforests are naturally dense with vegetation – they aren’t!

Before we pack away, pupils are asked to think for 30 seconds silently about their homework.  Then talk about their idea for 6o seconds with a partner.  I’ll then ask for any suggestions and remind pupils how to get help.

When the homework is due in I plan to hold an exhibition of rainforest poetry.

Of course, I’ll have to work this in somewhere 😉

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