20 October 2017

A-Z glossary: Buildings and places

By Engaging Places | 10 October 2014
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The A Z glossary for buildings and places can be used as:

  • a straightforward research tool for teachers and students
  • a reference point for students during a unit or scheme of work on buildings and places
  • introductory activities for a new learning session or scheme of work on buildings and places
  • a way of developing classroom discussion.
Photo of secondary students in a classroom

Petchey Academy students participating in the O.Space launch at Building Exploratory 2008 © Tom Wipperman / CABE

Themed glossaries
Each theme includes a definition for each letter of the alphabet (where possible.) Click on the themes below to go to each glossary topic.

  1. Buildings
  2. Place and design
  3. Unusual architecture
  4. Streets
  5. Public space
  6. Historical architecture and buildings
  7. Construction
  8. Building conservation
  9. Building features
  10. Building materials

Five in-class activity suggestions, using the A-Z glossary, for key stages 2 or 3 (which can be adapted to suit any key stage) are also available.

Activity for ‘buildings’ (theme 1)
Key stage 2

  1. Divide the class into teams of four to six students.
  2. Give each team an A3 sheet with the alphabet written down the left-hand side.
  3. Give students 10 minutes to think of a building type for each letter of the alphabet.
  4. The winning team is either: the first team to complete the list, or the team that has listed the most buildings at the end of the timeframe.
  5. A representative from each team places their answers on the whiteboard.
  6. In class discussion, compare the lists, looking at similarities and differences. Discuss any unusual terms that come up, definitions and whether there are any words that have more than one meaning. Did any team come up with a building for the letters Q, X, Y or Z?
  7. Compare the lists with the buildings list in the Engaging Places glossary. Topics for discussion could be whether there are any buildings they hadn’t heard of, different building types and what makes certain buildings unique.
  8. Ask students to research in pairs a building type that is new to them.
Photo of a girl writing on a whiteboard

Highbury Fields school student at the Royal Festival Hall © Alys Tomlinson

Activity for ‘unusual architecture’ (theme 3)
Key stage 3

  1. Ask students to work in pairs. Give each pair a word from the Engaging Places A-Z glossary theme ‘unusual architecture’ (theme 3).
  2. Students discuss what they think the word means and develop their own definition without referring to a dictionary or website.
  3. Give each pair the true definition of their word so they can discuss whether the meaning is what they expected. Pairs can also research their word using reliable resources (see further information below).
  4. In turns, each pair presents a true and false definition of the word to the rest of the class.
  5. The class votes for the definition they think is correct. Tallies are collated, and the results are revealed once the last term has been described. This activity can lead to some interesting class discussion.
  6. Students create a poster or a 3-D model of their word to represent its purpose and design features.

Activity for ‘building materials’ (theme 10)
Key stages 2 and 3

  1. Provide pairs of students with the name of a building material from the A Z glossary theme ‘building materials’ (theme 10).
  2. Give students three minutes to think of a specific building that uses that material and to describe how it is used.
  3. Each pair tells the rest of the class (or within small groups) which building they have thought of and where they think the material would be used.
  4. As a class, consider the rare materials on the list. Discuss what those materials are and how they are used.
  5. In small groups, students investigate the complete ‘building materials’ list. Use the school grounds and local environment, taking photos of materials and asking students to describe how each material is used. Students can present their project using video, a visual display or a written summary.

Activity for ‘historical architecture and buildings’ (theme 6), and ‘building features’ (theme 9)
Key stage 3

  1. Divide the class into teams of four to six students.
  2. Provide each group with images of the interior and exterior of a building, for example San Lorenzo (Florence), the Royal Festival Hall, a Victorian house, a local shop or shopping centre, and the school building.
  3. Ask each group to identify and list any words from the A Z glossary theme ‘historical architecture and buildings’ (theme 6) that they think are relevant to their particular building.
  4. Ask each group to annotate the photographs with features from the A Z glossary theme ‘building features’ (theme 9) that they think are present on their building.
  5. Each group chooses two of their identified terms to share with the class.
  6. In class discussion, look at the terms that have been chosen. Use prompt questions, such as ‘Where would you expect to find these features?’ and ‘What clues do they give about when the building was designed and built?’

Activity for ‘streets’ (theme 4)
Key stage 2
Use the A Z ‘streets’ list (theme 4) to support teaching through the CABE teaching resource, Our street: learning to see.

Further information
Castle terms

Building material terms

Encyclo, online encyclopedia contains a reference glossary on ‘architecture and buildings’ drawing from 42 online glossaries (UK based, established February 2008)

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