Important Buildings

This week our post is by co-eltpics-curator, Sandy Millin. I leave you in her capable hands (or at least typing fingers):

This post is based on the ‘Important Buildings‘ set from #eltpics. It would be particularly good for higher level students (high pre-int +), especially those who are interested in history. There is a selection of ideas so you can mix and match to adapt them to your students.


On the board, write the phrase “A building is important if…” Encourage students to come up with as many possible endings as they can in pairs, then vote for the most interesting suggestions from the class/decide on a top 5 set of criteria.

Buildings mosaic

Made using the Mosaic Maker (image credits below)

Show the students the set of photos above (or any others you choose from the Important Buildings set).

  • Can they identify any of them?
  • From what they know of the buildings, do they fulfil any of the criteria the students decided on in their sentences?
  • Do they think any of them are truly ‘important buildings’?
  • Where do they think the buildings are?
  • What kind of people use/visit them? What for?


Give the students the ‘story’ of one of the buildings. They should read it and try to decide which one is being discussed. You may need to pre-teach the words ‘incomparable’, ‘inscribed’ and ‘icon’, or you could encourage students to work them out from the context.

This building is the greatest Norman building in England, perhaps even in Europe. It is valued not only for its architecture but also for its incomparable setting. For this reason it was inscribed together with the Castle as one of Britain’s first World Heritage Sites. In a nationwide BBC poll held in 2001 it was voted the nation’s best-loved building. Like Hadrian’s Wall and the Angel of the North, it is an icon of north-east England, its image is instantly recognisable to people who love this part of Britain.

The answer is ‘Durham Cathedral’, the bottom right image (my favourite building and my photo, so I chose that story, adapted from the Durham Cathedral website, but you could choose another!).

Once they have read about the building, the class can decide on why it is important, based on the information in the story.

They then create stories for the other important buildings, including reasons why they are important.


Give the students a selection of facts which they match to the buildings, justifying their decisions. For example:

  1. This is the tallest building in the world.
  2. This building is also known as Westminster Palace.
  3. A man who was born in Ireland designed this building.
  4. A huge fire destroyed most of this building in 1834.
  5. This is the largest mosque in Cairo.
  6. This building is not finished yet, but you can still visit it.
  7. The building opened on the 4th January 2010.
  8. Work on this building started in 1882.
  9. A pharoah is buried here.
  10. 50,000 people could fit into this building.
  11. When it was finished in 1902, this was one of the tallest buildings in New York City.
  12. This building was founded in 1093.
  13. This building was designed by an architect from Istanbul.
  14. This building is very close to the Sphinx.
  15. This building is 2m wide at it’s narrowest point.
  16. The builders started work on this building in 72 A.D and finished it in 80 A.D.
  17. This building has six stories, four above ground and two below.
  18. The tower of this building is 66m high.

2 / 4 Houses of Parliament (top left)

6 / 8 Sagrada Familia (top middle)

11/ 15 Flatiron building (top right)

1 / 7 Burj Khalifa (middle left)

9 / 14 Pyramid of Khafre (centre)

5 / 13 Alabaster Mosque (middle right)

3 / 17 The White House (bottom left)

10 / 16 The Colosseum (bottom middle)

12 / 18 Durham Cathedral (bottom right)

I found out all of these facts using Wikipedia, but you could use local tourist websites, or the specific sites for the buildings, if they have one.

At home, students find out two facts (or more) about an important building in their city / country.


Students brainstorm a list of questions about one or all of the other buildings. If you have internet access, they work in small groups in class time to find out the answers to these questions and create a presentation, blog post or poster based on the building they have chosen. If not, they do this at home and bring it to class the following week to show/present to their fellow students.

Building tours

Some of the buildings from the image above allow you to take virtual online tours. These include:

Students brainstorm ideas about what they might see on one of these tours. After they have taken the tour, then write/speak about what they remember from it, and what else they would like to find out about the building.

Grammar/Vocabulary focus

This set would be great for teaching passives, comparatives and superlatives or narrative tenses. Vocabulary-wise, you could work on the functions/uses of buildings, architectural features (for ESP) or prepositions of place.

Your stories

As always, if you took one of the pictures from this post, it would be great if you could share what you know about the building.

We would love to hear how you use this set in your lessons, which ideas work for you and if you have any others.

Photo credits

From top left: 1. Parliament (@pysproblem81), 2. Sagrada Familia (@cerirhiannon), 3. Flatiron Building, New York City (@jocelynlpayne), 4. Burj Khalifa, Dubai – tallest building in the world (@hmbaba), 5. The Pyramid of Khafre (@abfromz), 6. Alabaster Mosque (@abfromz), 7. The White House (@cintiastella), 8. Colosseum, Rome (@chriscattaneo), 9. Durham Cathedral (@sandymillin)



One thought on “Important Buildings

  1. Hi Sandy,
    Very nice ideas! I like working with pictures of buildings in their own city to quiz them on thing they may really ring a bell and then be useful for showing visitors around. Like you, when I last did this, I had the students focus on passives (built, laid, torn down / placed, planned, finished/ constructed, erected, created), comparatives and superlatives. What I didn’t do too well in that lesson was getting them to put together a tour of their own and leading each other around, which I would do next time.

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