Disciplinary literacy in Geography
Disciplinary literacy in Geography means how to communicate like a Geographer... or a Geologist, Biologist, Climate Scientist, Environmental Activist or any of the other careers that Geography leads to.
Writing in Geography is special. It is different from other subject areas, even within Social Sciences. It has more evaluation than in Commerce and Business, and it is more passionate about managing the environment.
Specialised literacies are central to the syllabus for Geography, especially in Inquiry Skills, such as:
Processing geographical information
evaluate information sources for their reliability and usefulness (ACHGS049, ACHGS056)
apply geographical concepts to draw conclusions based on the analysis of the data and information collected (ACHGS052, ACHGS060)
Communicating geographical information
present findings, arguments and ideas in a range of communication forms selected to suit a particular audience and purpose; using geographical terminology and digital technologies as appropriate (ACHGS053, ACHGS061)
reflect on their learning to propose individual and collective action in response to a contemporary geographical challenge, taking account of environmental, economic and social considerations, and predict the expected outcomes of their proposal (ACHGS054, ACHGS062)
And then the content indicators for each topic relate to different genres, or purposes for writing. See other posts for more on genre.
3 main genres of Geography
In Geography, there are three main genres that all teachers and students should know about. Knowing about the genre helps students know how to answer the question or instruction and how to understand language features that they can use for multiple tasks, not just once.
The main genres for Geography are:
Students in Geography are expected to read and write many descriptive texts that classify and describe aspects of the world. The main types of descriptive genres that students need include descriptive reports (e.g. features of karst landscapes) and classifying reports (e.g. types of freshwater resources).
Explanations are huge in Geography. There are four types of explanations that students will encounter:
system explanations (e.g. how a food web works)
sequential explanations (e.g. how a supply chain works)
factorial explanations (e.g. causes of land degradation)
consequential explanations (e.g. effects of land degradation)
Explanations are by far the most common genre in Geography and they appear in every topic's syllabus content.
Geography students are asked to evaluate many geographical phenomena and use evaluative language to show a sophisticated position on many issues including place and liveability, environmental management, and more.
If you're interested in finding out more, there are new resources for Geography 7-10 that cover all of these genres and more. Here's the link.
Teachers of Geography can evaluate their assessment program for each year level and identify the genres of the tasks they give students e.g. evaluate liveability of a place (evaluation), explain the causes of poverty in Australia (explanation), and so on. This builds a common understanding for teachers that can be built on in the classroom. For more on how to analyse the assessment program for literacy demands, send a request for the free booklet Improving Literacy in Secondary Schools.
References and readings
Weekes, T. (2007-2021). Literacy Works for Geography
To reference this post, please cite:
Weekes, T. (2022, January 17). How to communicate in Geography. [Blog post]. Retrieved from www.literacyinsecondaryschools.com.