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Fieldwork: Starting out – What is a geographical question?


Developing pupil questioning skills through their own idea of a local place is a great way of allowing pupils to recognise the ubiquity of geography and that it is not a static subject. Simple frameworks, like the 6 ‘W’ questions may allow pupils to think about other aspects of the local area which they have not thought about before, even though they are likely to be very familiar places.

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Length of time

One day.


Suitable locations

The area immediately outside the school or somewhere that is very familiar to a pupil.


Equipment needed

A base map of the local area chosen by pupils; clipboard.


Key skills and objectives

  • Using a map to navigate a particular location.
  • Using a key to geolocate specific information on a map.
  • Using a framework (such as the 6 ‘W’s) to generate interesting geographical questions.
  • Evaluating the written work of a peer.
  • Restructuring a question after receiving feedback.


Suggested delivery

Prior to the fieldwork, it might be necessary to establish with pupils the basis of good geographical questions using the 6 ‘W’ questions as a framework (what, where, when, who, why and how). Pupils might like to practice creating these questions about observations they have from within their classroom.

Pupils should think about a place they know well – this might be their street, local park or even the area immediately outside their school.

Visiting that area, and with a paper basemap of the area, pupils use a key to mark on the location of 6 ‘W’ questions that pupils have as they observe their chosen location. Pupils should aim to write six geographical questions (one for each ‘W’ question starter) which are linked to either human or physical geography, depending on where they are observing. The key is used to geolocate those questions to specific features that the pupils see as they are walking around their location.

Swapping with or showing their map to a peer, the peer then chooses one question that they feel is the weakest – it may be that the question is not very geographical, not specific to something on the map or it may be that the question is not very interesting. The pupil should then rewrite that question using a different focus and try to improve it.


Potential risks to consider

  • Pupils should only cross roads under direct supervision and in small groups. Leaders should use formal crossing points wherever possible.
  • When studying or recording information on their basemap, pupils should be reminded not to do this while walking to avoid any trip hazards.


Possible follow-up activities

Pupils might like to choose one or two of their ‘W’ questions and ask an appropriate and knowledgeable adult these questions, reporting back to their peers with any interesting answers.


Useful links


This collection of Fieldwork activities were created by Paula Richardson and the Fieldwork and Outdoor Learning Special Interest Group (FOLSIG) for the National Festival of Fieldwork, the GA invites everyone to take part during the summer term.

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