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Title: Identifying the Classics


I was recently a guest in a grade 5 social studies class. The class was studying ancient civilizations, and as one of the lessons, the teacher decided to focus on classic architecture. I thought that the idea for the lesson was amazing and I just had to share it on-line. I think it is especially effective for ESL learners because it involves a great deal of hands-on work, makes use of lots of visuals, it introduces and reinforces new vocubulary, and it relies heavily on cooperative learning and small group collaboration. These are key components for supporting ESL learners.

Principal Areas of Study: Social Studies, language, art, and geography

Grade level: Five

Unit: Ancient Civilizations

Time period: 1lessons (full day)


Good weather, maps, worksheets, photographs, pre-organized architecture kits, pre-written labels, clip boards, TTC tokens, sauvvy volunteers, and signed parent permission forms to allow students off school property

Mental Set:

Ask students what they think of when you say the word 'classical'. What does 'classical' mean to them? For ESL students, make sure to write the word out for them or write the entire question out for them. Accept a few ideas from the class and move on without giving them too much information regarding the term classical. Simply inform the students that they will be looking at classical architecture for the day and seeing it first hand when visiting certain buildings in Toronto.

Ask students to form small groups and distribute a pre-organized kit to each group. The kits contain different pieces of a classical building - the key features of classical architecture including the capitals, friezes, architraves, entablatures, pediments, bases, steps, door, etc. Each of the pieces are separate from one another. Students must collectively work together to design a building using the many pieces given to them. They must use all of the pieces in their design and they must present their best version. They must put the pieces together and secure onto a large piece of paper with tape. The designs will be posted on the wall for everyone to see.

The class will be asked to identify the models that are most structurally sound. Remember, all of the designs will be accepted, however, this only one design that is structurally sound. Provide the students with an explanation if they are unable to determine the factors that make a design structurally sound. Remember to refer to the visuals as much as possible so that people can better understand.

The next part of the activity involves labeling the different and distinctive parts of classical architecture. Again, the teacher can use visuals and strips of paper with the new words. Label the parts, repeat the new words chorally and test the students by removing the labels. Do this several times to reinforce the new vocabulary.

Discuss the three different kind of column found in classical architecture, doric, ionic and corinthian. Demonstrate the differences through actual pictures.

Discuss the golden rectangle which is a tool that one can use to determine whether a building falls under the classification of classical architecture.

Distribute another set of kits to each small group. This time have students examine a photograph to determine characteristics of classical architecture. Along with the kit, students will be given worksheets where they will be expected to record information and complete questions outlined in the worksheet.

Review the answers upon completion and review all of the new terminology to that point.

The second half of the lesson involves getting out into the city to observe examples of classical architecture. Each student will be given a worksheet and clipboard to record information. The students will travel in small groups and they must follow a map and work on a set of scavenger hunt activities. There should be 4-6 buildings that the class stops at. Depending on your time, you can throw in some tricks to add some fun to the activity. One way of doing that is having students stop at a building with little or no classical design features.

Although difficult to set up, it would be ideal for each of the volunteers to have some prior knowledge about the buildings so that they can share this with the students.

Finally, when the whole class comes together again, responses to the questions contained within the worksheets can be discussed. The teacher can end the lesson by asking students a second time about what comes to mind when they hear the word classical. This was raised at the beginning of the class, but it would be interesting to hear from the students at the end of the day.

Submitted by: Erika Carlson

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