Architecture and English – primary

Looking at architecture and what architects do is a fascinating way to find out how English and maths are used by people in their everyday lives. The following activities look at how English is vital to architects in communicating ideas or describing buildings. Collins Big Cat series have a new book on architecture and you could begin this series of activities by reading the book with the children and answering the questions together at the end of it.

Activity One – Vocabulary

LO: Recognise that different aspects of life have their own vocabulary.
Learn to use subjs=ect specific vocabulary in their work.

Almost every aspect of life has its own unique vocabulary. Doctors use medical terms, sports use positions on the pitch and car mechanics have a language of their own too. In architecture there are many unfamiliar words used to describe parts of buildings and processes.

On the board draw a simple picture of a house and ask the children to name parts of it. They’ll come up with roof, door, walls, windows, chimney and maybe tiles, window sills, window frames and letter boxes too.
Now show them a picture of other buildings and ask what they would call the new aspects of the buildings – e.g. columns, pillars, arches and railings.

Now introduce them a list of architectural terms such as those found at: 

This website has pictures of each term making it easier for the children to understand.

Ask the children to make an illustrated glossary of ten architectural terms

At Home: Draw your own design of building using some of the architectural terms you have in your glossary. Label them correctly on your picture.

Activity Two – Timeline of house styles

LO: Be able to identify features of homes and relate them using prior knowledge to a period of history
Use timelines effectively to say how old buildings may be

Copy and paste the following pictures onto a whiteboard presentation or print onto paper.

Ask the children if they can arrange the pictures in chronological order and say why they made their choices.
Now ask them to find out if they were right by checking the historic periods when the building types were current.

At Home: Ask the children to take a photograph of their home and find out when it was built. In school, add the photographs into the timeline and ask the children what they can tell from the ages of the properties.

Activity Three – Writing Instructions

LO: Be able to use the grammar of instruction writing including chronological words
Write instructions in order so that they are practicable

Talking Point: How would the children go about building a house?

Take the children on a walking tour around the school building and point out different aspects of it. Ask them what is underneath the building and what stops it sinking into the ground. In what order would they build a house?
Back in class, remind them of the rules for instruction writing including using chronological words; first, then, next etc. remind them that there are few adjectives but plenty of adverbs and that they need to use some of the vocabulary they encountered in Activity One.

Now ask them to write out a set of instructions for someone building a house.
When the task is completed, read some out to the class and ask if the instructions would work.

At Home: Look at homes from different parts of the world. Decide whether they would be easier to build than ones in their country. What materials have been used to make them and why?

Activity Four – Writing a Travel Guide For an Important Building

LO: Writing for a purpose; using an appropriate style for the audience
Use subject specific vocabulary for writing

In this activity, the children will use the architectural vocabulary they have encountered to describe a famous building as in a travel guide. Use examples that have many architectural features such as the US Capitol Building, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Parthenon and the Alhambra Palace.

You will need to allow the children to have access to photographs of the buildings and Google Images should have the ideal ones for them to use.
To begin with, they should print copies of three different aspects of the building and label the architectural features they can see.

Next, ask them to turn their observations into a piece of writing detailing what architectural features can be seen from each aspect.

At Home: What architectural features do their homes have? Imagine your home is a famous building and describe it as a guide book would.

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