Geography and Oracy

Following on from Debbie’s post about History and Debating, I’ve been thinking about oracy can be the key to a productive and engaging Geography classroom. 

What are we asking from students in Geography classrooms, especially when looking at Human Geography? What is Geography?

Perhaps it is fortune-telling: 

“Geography blended with time equals destiny” 

  • Jospeh Brodsky

Perhaps it is about creating cultural understanding and connection: 

“The study of Geography is about more than just memorising places on a map. It is about understanding the complexity of our world, appreciating the diversity of cultures that exists across continents. And in the end, its about using all that knowledge to help bridge divides and bring people together”  

  • Barack Obama 

However you would define it, Geography requires students to have a real breadth of knowledge, and draw on a lot of cultural capital. They need to be historians, geologists, anthropologists,  sociologists and political scientists. 

Think about some of the questions you might be asking your students to answer:

  • Who is responsible for tackling climate change?
  • Do MEDCs have a  duty to help LEDCS?
  • Is tourism good for local communities? 
  • How do we ensure food security?
  • Do you agree with Tim Marshall’s argument in Prisoners of Geography?
  • What is the Anthropocene? Can we prove it exists?

Students need to be able to unpick complex relationships between people and land, and understand the varied dynamics that exist between them. I’d argue that discussion and debate are fantastic ways for students to develop both cultural capital and the skill to consider and evaluate multiple perspectives. 

Here are a few ways you might want to embed oracy within your Geography teaching: 


Give students a statement, for example ‘Tourism is Good for Local Communities’. In pairs or small groups, they have to discuss whether this statement is ‘always’, ‘sometimes’ or ‘never’ true. Give them a few minutes to discuss in their pairs/groups and then open it up to a whole-class discussion. 

This is a great way to encourage students to explore ideas from a more nuanced perspective. The ability to compare and to evaluate claims is essential for those ‘How much do you agree…’ long mark essay questions at A Level and GCSE. 

Town Hall Discussion 

Sort the class in to four or five teams. Each team will represent a different interest group in an issue such as “Should we build a new leisure centre?”. They will have to research the issue being discussed and how their interest group feels about it. Then each team will present their opinion in term, with the ‘town hall committee’ (either a group of students or a teacher) listening to each interest group in turn and decide who gave the best presentation. 

For an example Geography Town Hall-style lesson, see our Fogo Island lesson plan

Let us know how you use oracy in the geography classroom by emailing


Alice Coombes-Huntley

Head of Programmes 

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