Teaching the Explore

British Isles vs the UK

Explore some facts with the pupils about the British Isles.

  • The United Kingdom refers to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Island.
  • Great Britain is the official name of England, Scotland Wales, and associated islands.
  • The British Isles is the geographical term that comprises England, Scotland, Wales, Northern island, the Republic of Ireland and approximately 5000 islands scattered around the coasts.

Where is the UK located in the world?

Look at the UK using atlases, digital photographs, Google Earth. Where does it sit on the world map?
Ask pupils to describe where the UK is in relation to the rest of the world using positional language. The answers are on the following slide.

  1. Is the UK above/below the equator?
  2. Is the UK in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere?
  3. Which bodies of water surround the UK?

What are the geographical features of the UK?

Discuss what a geographical feature is with pupils, using the following examples.

  • Mountains
  • Bodies of surrounding water
  • Rivers/lakes
  • Key landmarks
  • Major cities

Once features have been identified, watch a short video that gives an overview of some of them in the UK.

This will help to provide an example for each category. Ask pupils to create a mind map and add information from the video to the relevant section of the mind map. The answers are on the following slide.

Main task

Using atlases and the internet, pupils will label a map of the UK (using the worksheet). On the map, you should label the following geographical features.

  1. One mountain
  2. Two bodies of surrounding water
  3. Three rivers/lakes
  4. Four landmarks
  5. Five cities

There are some possible answers on the next slide.


Lead a class discussion to explore developing a new city withing the UK. Ask pupils to think about what they would need to consider and how geographical features would influence this.
Get the pupils to consider weather, landscape features, lifestyle, agriculture, economic stability and culture. Discuss their ideas as a class.

Assess, reflect, connect

Assess the pupils understanding by asking them to:

  • Write three geographical features you could identify on a map.
  • Name two of the UK’s geographical features that are influenced by its location on the planet.
  • Name one body of water that surrounds the UK

Thematic maths opportunity

Maths opportunity: Pupils should use a map to write the four and six-figure grid references for their geographical features and landmarks of the UK, as labelled in the Main task (above).