Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Youthful and Ageing Populations

I found these two very comprehensive videos on youtube on the UK (focusing on Devon) and The Gambia. We'll study Uganda in class but the underlying theory is the same and there are many similarities between Uganda and The Gambia in terms of the balance between population and resources.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Thoughts of an AS Geography Examiner

This summer I worked as an examiner for AQA and whilst doing so I thought it would be useful to write down some things I learnt about answering exam questions. Having to mark people down for silly mistakes or just basic lack of exam technique was painful at times! Unfortunately the way exams are these days means that a lot of it is about your ability to answer questions in the right way rather than how much geography you know. Obviously you need detailed geographical knowledge as well but I would say someone with less knowledge but better exam technique is going to come out with a better grade than someone who can reel off hundreds of case studies with supporting facts and figures and explanations.

I know it's a long way before the exams, we're right at the beginning of the year, but it's never too early to start developing good habits when it comes to applying your knowledge. Hopefully, with enough practise, you'll be so used to it that you can focus on the geography rather than trying to interpret the question and avoid making unnecessary errors that could cost you a grade. So, without further ado, here's some things I wrote down while marking.... I hope it helps! (nb this mainly applies to AS nothing about essays at A2 in there I'm afraid but much of it applies to both levels).

  • Don't write outside the area of the question (e.g. in the margin) if need more room use a separate sheet of paper and indicate this in your question, otherwise part of your answer will get cut off.

  • Write clearly in black ink, so many of them didn't scan properly or the handwriting was illegible

  • Answer needs to be very very focused on the question and command words, there is no point adding in random stuff that's not relevant to the question just to try and fill the space. If anything this is annoying for the examiner who has to trawl through trying to find the good parts of your answer.

  • Lists or bullet points or writing in note form will confine you to low level 1.

  • Study OS maps very carefully, e.g. in one questions people consistently counted the wrong number of churches and assumed that a 'place of worship' was a church, when in fact it could have been a mosque, synagogue etc. A-level lessons often do not have much time to spend on studying OS maps so this is something you should practise your own time too.

  • If asking to compare you MUST compare! Do it point by point, do not write 2 separate paragraphs and expect the examiner to compare for you!!

  • Please learn definitions correctly! This is the easiest thing ever, even if you don't understand it you can just memorise it and still get your 2 marks, 2 marks are not worth losing due to laziness. Ask your teacher for a list of key words/look in the textbook and start learning them now!

  • Think about things carefully and try not to oversimplify, e.g. renewable energy isn't always sustainable or good for the environment, the phrase 'three gorges' comes to mind...

  • I really can't be bothered to read illegible answers... (i did try of course, but you are not doing yourself any favours if the first impression your answer gives to an examiner is 'oh God, seriously? this is English??'). You know that exams are marked on the computer now, so imagine how illegible your illegible handwriting is going to be once it's scanned... then imagine that you and your 10 000 friends from the 'my hand writing is so illegible it looks like an alien code' society decided to sit the A-level geography exam.... 

  • Marking the same question over and over and over gets pretty boring, especially when everyone uses the exact same case studies from the exact same textbook... there's nothing wrong with being original and giving your own opinions occasionally (rather than the opinion of the guy who wrote the textbook), it might wake the examiner up from their marking stupor and encourage those sitting on the fence between levels to mark you up instead of down...

  • e.g. HIV in Botswana.... One child policy in China.... snore....these are great case studies if that's what you did in class, but please tell me something new or interesting about them

  • If the question asks you to discuss, please DISCUSS!!! don't just describe stuff, this is so tediously boring and sad to mark...(so much valuable and carefully learnt information... so carelessly regurgitated onto the page...) It was so uplifting when a student put in their opinion, compared two viewpoints, weighted up two situations, decided which negative impact was the least worst, considered short and long term, the past and the future, different aspects of something, variations in TIME/SPACE/SCALE etc etc and I could say, woohoo! they've reached the next level!

  • Saying there is a clear trend or lots of variation will not get you any marks, you must say what the trend is!! Duh!!

  • Few students seem to understand what 'implications for social welfare' means! And even fewer can comment on it 

    Learn what 'comment on' means and how this is different to simply 'describing'.

  • Using a black fine liner was clearer than a biro, and please don't write so microscopically tiny as exam scripts aren't scanned in HD.

  • Don't cross stuff out unless you're 100% sure! It could be right...

  • When comparing stuff 'A is 20% and B is 30%' is NOT a comparison! You need some comparing words such as 'whereas... only....much lower at...' in there!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Smiles and Tears

Results day tends to bring about one of 3 reactions...

1) Joy and relief that you've achieved the grades you worked hard for (perhaps you were one grade off but you still got into uni)

2) Disappointment and distress that you haven't achieved what you were hoping for, despite working hard. Or your fears of failing after all those lessons you missed due to your personal circumstances have come true.

3) Disappointment and distress at the realisation that spending all year partying/procrastinating/being otherwise distracted or just lazy has resulted in you failing/doing rubbish in your exams.

If you were in category one today (as some of my A-level students were) CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!!! =D. Or as I like to say, WOOOOO YEEAAHH!!!!

Feel free to dance around the room, hug random strangers (please stay away from anyone who is too strange looking) or eat an entire chocolate cake in one sitting. You could even have a revision notes bonfire but your notes are probably too precious to consider doing that and you probably plan to keep them neatly filed away for at least the next fifteen years until you're forced to get rid of them to make space for your new baby! Whatever you do, make sure you enjoy a well deserved celebration, you should feel very proud of yourself! I hope this inspires you to continue your hard work and success into the future.

If you're in the second group (which others of my students unfortunately found themselves in today), please try not to feel too upset. Take a step back and try to look at things objectively. If you were hoping to go to university is this still an option? You might not have got your first choice but do you have a back up or could you get in through clearing? Maybe this is a sign that A-levels aren't for you and you'd be more successful at something else? Or maybe you know exactly what you want to do and you need better grades to achieve it so the only way is to retake the year? If so, a year might seem like a long time, but don't despair! Think of what else you can do in this year (work experience, save up money, extra curricular activities) and how good your grades could be at the end. Lots of people have a year (or more) out and it ends up being a positive thing. You'll be more mature and more prepared for uni. Whatever happens, perhaps it's a 'blessing in disguise', maybe if you had got the grades you wanted and got into the uni you wanted you would have hated it or something worse would have happened to you. I know this is hard to believe right now but often things that we think are bad actually lead to something good, and vice versa. Just remember, don't give up! you can do it if you try!! A-level students, feel free to contact me for advice and I will try to help if I can!

Finally, if you are feeling upset about being in group number 3, (I hope you're not one of my students!) well, so you should be!! I'm afraid I don't have much sympathy for you. However, if you are now regretting your indolence and resolving to turn over a new leaf, I fully support you, that is admirable, if you really mean it. I hope you have learnt from your mistakes and won't repeat them! If you really do mean to change make a plan, get some help, get organised, make a real effort this time. Good luck!

Friday, 9 August 2013

Billboards and Camanchaca

Browsing facebook again and I noticed a headline 'Drinking Water out of Air' (check out the video below). Intrigued I read how a group of engineers in Lima have designed a billboard that captures humidity from the air to provide clean drinking water in city where many people don't have clean running water and much of the water they can get hold of isn't suitable for drinking.

As with anything the system isn't perfect. it requires electricity to run (perhaps solar panels could be installed? take advantage of the sun as well as the humidity!), it must be expensive to install (this could be funded by whoever had their adverts displayed on the board) and require some type of maintenance (though perhaps local people could be involved in this?) and unfortunately many areas around the world with water shortages probably don't have high enough humidity, but overall it's great to see innovative solutions to environmental challenges being tried and tested.

It reminds me of 2 things we study in the Deserts unit at AS. Further south along the coast from Lima a more low-tech solution to water shortages in the Atacama desert, Chile, has been successfully used to for some time to make agriculture possible in one of the driest places on earth.

© Laurent Abad (Flickr) 

Years can pass by at a time without rain falling in this area, yet near the coast the Humboldt current cools the warm air above it producing the camanchaca (love that name it sounds so descriptive), clouds of fog which blow over the land in the mornings like white blankets. They not only look beautiful but allow plants, and animals such as guanacos to survive in an area that would otherwise be too dry.

The other thing it reminded me of was another example of environmental engineering that was proposed as a solution to mitigate desertification in the Sahel (last video for this post I promise!).

All this almost makes me wish I'd done engineering! I'm not sure if they're planning to actually try this out but apparently the 'Great Green Wall' initiative has already been started so perhaps this will be tried in combination if anyone can ever get it together to undertake such a huge project in such a hostile environment. If the project is successful it could have a huge positive impact in one of the poorest more insecure regions in the world. 

Thursday, 8 August 2013


Normally when you hear 'UK' and 'Baby Boom' in the same sentence you assume I'm explaining the bumps on our population pyramid and referring to the one that happened after the last world war, but turns out from 2011-12 'one' became 'one and a half' born every minute.

You can see more details in this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23618487

Great if the UK is one of your population policy case studies as this will give you something to say in those tricky 'assess the success' questions...

And here was me thinking that there'd always been loads of babies everywhere and I was only recently noticing it after having one myself, but perhaps I have become an unwitting victim of the very policies I've been teaching about!

MISSING: 60 Million Girls

Someone posted this link on Facebook today. Mention gender imbalance and most people think of China, but according to this article in some places in India there are only 3 girls to every 10 boys. In total it is estimated that there would be an extra 60 million women in India (the entire population of the UK) if it were not for sex-selective abortions, female infanticide, sex selective neglect or even murder.

Seems hard for us to comprehend how such attitudes of ignorance still prevail in some places of the world, so strong are people's beliefs they are willing to kill over them. We really are lucky to live in a largely tolerant and peaceful society. I really hope that one day people all over the world will get to enjoy the freedom and security that we do.


Tuesday, 6 August 2013


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About this Blog

Hi there! I'm Hafsa/Miss Hafsa/Mrs. Garcia and I love GEOGRAPHY and TEACHING. I decided to create this blog to support my A-level Geography students who are studying the AQA exam board, so this blog would be particularly useful for other AQA Geography students.

I use it as a place to showcase student work, to link interesting articles I find online and sometimes to write my own and. I want to encourage my students to look beyond the textbook and encourage others to become interested in Geography too.

Geography was always my favourite subject at school; studying the amazing natural landscape, examining how people interact with their environment, being outside in the field, understanding how natural processes work, finding out the real story behind the news headlines.

I decided to study Geography for 4 years at university, after which I wanted to carry on using my subject and sharing my passion for it in my every day life, so teaching, in particular A-level teaching seemed the perfect way to do this.

I hope you find this blog helpful, if you have any questions or comments please don't hesitate to contact me using the comments section below.

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