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This was fun. At the beginning of January I was working with Social Subjects to develop ideas for an S1 weather investigation. Fortunately, the news organisations had recently found a couple of new terms to play with: the ‘weather bomb and the ‘displaced polar vortex’.

Run for your lives!

A quick hunt online produced a variety of headlines on the topic:

sane
Cold Weather for UK

excited
Arctic blast to leave UK shivering this weekend

and hysterical
Britain on RED alert: ‘Displaced polar vortex’ to unleash crippling snowstorms next week

The process I suggested was to ask pupils to find an article which mentioned ‘weather bombs’ or ‘displaced polar vortices’. They were to read it, figure out what the report was actually forecasting, and then find out what the weather had genuinely been like that day. We would then discuss the different reports, and discuss how and why different media organisations report weather to their readers, thus creating a neat little Social Subjects literacy session practising source evaluation and search skills.

I still think it’s a good idea, but there were just a few issues which meant the class didn’t quite go as planned.

Firstly, the teacher was absent through illness. We had planned the teaching between myself (research information) and the class teacher (weather forecasting information). Without the geographical expert, life promised to be a little complicated, but we decided to try out the research part anyway.

Then the pupils were totally bemused when asked to name organisations that would report news or weather. With some coaxing and clues, they came up with a variety of television channels, but no newspapers whatsoever. This surprised me; it simply never occured that they wouldn’t know at least a couple of titles, and it meant that they couldn’t tell where reports had come from.

Finally, on this occasion the pupils were being asked to find their own reports so I hadn’t provided a list of sources. This caused a few problems when pupils were identifying weather reports then total mayhem when they tried to find out what had actually occured, because they hadn’t yet been taught how to structure their searches. Most investigations can be resolved to simple searches of the ‘tell me about topic x’ type which provides a collection of websites for just a word or two. Finding out what the weather had been in the UK on a given date was a different problem: quite straightforward when you think about it, but of course, pupils are not renowned for being ‘quite straightforward’.

All in all, the pupils and myself learned a great deal that period, but it didn’t necessarily concern weather.

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