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Developing Interpretations

Using newspapers and other media is highly motivating for students. To balance sensational headlines on disasters, geography can challenge images of people as passive, helpless victims of such events. Indeed, to be fully understood, disasters need to be put within a political and economic context.

1. Initial stimulus

Newspaper articles on (or a single image) depicting a ‘natural disaster’ can provoke a range of questions from students (see Online Newspapers – these can be supported by websites such as the Seismic Monitor).

2. Mediation of geographical understanding

The initial focus is on the physical geography behind the event, and can build on earlier work in this area.

3. Making sense of the matter

Groups of students take one perspective (e.g. international aid agency, local humanitarian organisation, national government, individual who has lost their home) and creatively compile a report of the event. Students can explore just how natural a ‘natural’ disaster is.

4. Refining thinking

Pairs of students are asked to look at a newspaper report on an event and complete a ‘Why? Why? Why? chain’. Adding more ‘whys’ as they wish. Where necessary, prompt students to identify the social, economic, environmental and political causes.

5. Reflection

Groups present their ‘Why? Why? Why? chain’ to the class. As the chain will lead to ideas beyond the starting point, the teacher should challenge misconceptions where they arise.

Resources and Links

Download the Venn diagram designed to help you plan your ‘Developing Interpretations’ activities.

  • Seismic Monitor – maps recent volcanic and earthquake activities and makes local information accessible, which can be used as support material

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