Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Case Study Techniques for Geography

Here are the steps I teach Case Studies to my students.

the first step in books students make a big fact file usually on a double page or 4 page spread. This is full of different colours for different elements that an examiner could ask from the spec. So students colour code the spec so they acknowledge and grasp what this part of the case study is testing.

In the top left of the fact file students Map where the case study is scaling down from Global scale to national then to regional/local.

They then have to describe where as captions for each of the maps. Students usually play pin the donkey blind folded where a student using compass directions guides a partner to add a spot on their map for where it is they must use country names. I keep using iPads with apps like like Tap Quiz maps or Inter Atlas Pro to locate case study places to keep them fresh in their mind and I can see them using navigation tools. Some students who like using ICT make Google Earth Tours for homework to fly to locations and add place marks with written descriptions of the locations.

Next step the causes so a diagram and written explanation - this can often be a jig-saw where students piece together the features or a solo sequencing challenge timed for how long it takes each group to sequence the steps. Students at the end of a lesson will repeat this to see how much quicker and how accurately they can create a complete sequence. The student lap the room giving peer feedback.

Next a table of primary / secondary
effects - an activity for this could be a solo hexagon one where they classify the hexagons into either primary or secondary then try to connect specific primary that lead to specific secondary every time they make a connection they have to say out loud the word BECAUSE to show how using literacy they are connecting so in an exam paper they then include the word to connect it for L3 answers.

Back to the table in the books students colour code for severity and classification into social, economic and environmental.

Often link these with a diamond 9 ranking activity with mini clip art pictures as stimulus for them. I find by doing it this way and creating the rank system when they write an effects description and explanation they sequence it from the most important down to least with trigger for severity and they categorise paragraphs into social, economic and environmental. So simple tools but effective outcomes.

The following element to the fact file are the responses. We usually use a decision based exercise on how to save islanders for say Haiti, Kobe, Montserrat. The kids like that so they get a budget and list of options they rank sort them and in a table give advantages and disadvantages then plot on an open cross graph with 4 points. these can be use to the top of the page. Disregard at the bottom. Highly Impact to the right and low impact to the left.

Students then plot on a map where they would put say monitoring equipment, emergency shelters and then the class evaluate each groups and play through the scenario sometimes in a big fly on the wall documentary using a video camera for homework/lunch time. They love those!

Sometimes we build models like for Montserrat with playdoh and then use shaving foam to demonstrate pyro clastic flows or lahars using a wooden box structure melting some ice with mud and creating a flow down to a Lego village and watch it set by drying the mud out and it turns hard so students see the secondary effect of the secondary effect. We use the same box to demonstrate tsunami waves.

For revision / homework students make top trump cards for their case studies and revision cards such as a simple French flag to demonstrate France Ageing population so students make the flag look old then with the 3 colours that symbolises on the back of the card 3 years full pay; after 3 years job guaranteed; Child care at 3 and have 3 or more children and get additional benefits. This is my favourite weapon for students and it seems to have the biggest impact on memory retention.

For Montserrat they make a big rat card and add features like 17 whiskers for 17 deaths.

Both of this activities really work with them remembering the case study facts to get access to L3 answers.

Finally they sit an end of unit tests with lots of exam papers we give then a shorter period to answer them as I want them to write precise but concise littered with key case study facts but using command word prompts. So making sure students know the command words and what they mean are important.

In the Final stages of the case study the students critique mark each others work using green pen. So they are KIND, SPECIFIC and HELPFUL in learning advice on how to improve. It is an important skill that students seek out how marks will be given and consolidates this. I have found getting students use to the language examiners use and want for specific levels, extremely important. As a result I would recommend that all of you teachers of geography gain experience as an exam marker. Plus you get a lot of standardized answers with top L3 and lower so you can get specific students to focus on peer assessing and understanding of their written expectations. So very handy!

Finally Students write their re-drafts in the back of their book and flip it round so it seems like a different book. Makes their revision easier for the most important case studies. Then during the year skill sections will be added to the back of the book so they create their own revision book.

That is it my method for teaching about the case studies. I hope this helps.


  1. Dear John,

    My name is Jamie and I run a website called The Tutor Website. We provide education advice to students, parents and private tutors in the UK. We've recently written an article called Top 20 Geography Websites, Blogs and Resources and we're pleased to say that we've included your blog in our list.

    I was wondering if you'd consider linking back to the article from your website?


    Jamie Thomson

  2. You have a brilliant techniques on case studies. I hope many of the teachers can rad your post so that they get some idea from your post in making case studies.

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