Thursday, 28 June 2012

Moorish Mosaics

This morning was an unusual morning, in that I spent all of it with Year 3.  I've taught them Spanish since they were in Year 1, and they are a cracking little class.  The only problem was that last week they finished the Year 3 Scheme of Work and I needed to find a whole morning's worth (2.5 hours) of things for them to do.

I received via Twitter a brilliant suggestion from Jackie Berry: Islamic patterns which could include some maths symmetry work.  

After some research I found this resource from the V&A and this link about symmetrical patterns at the Alhambra in Granada.  I decided to adapt the V&A resource to work on Moorish Spain and the mosaics in the Alhambra. This would be a perfect fit into the Scheme of Work, as we have just finished making mosaic suns in the style of Gaudí at the end of our "Shapes" unit.

Here's what we did:

1.  We recapped where in the world Spain is and also noticed on the map how close Spain is to North Africa.

2.  We found Granada on a map of Spain.

3.  I described the arrival of the Moors in 711AD and how they stayed in Spain until 1492.  We worked out how long they stayed (781 years) and talked about what a long period of time that is.  We looked at a map of the Moorish occupation in about 1000AD.

4.  We talked about the Moors' legacy, in particular the language.  We noticed several words that we have been using this year that are Arabic in origin.  I explained that when we are learning Spanish, we are essentially learning a mixture of Latin and Arabic.

5.  Continuing the theme of the Moors' legacy, we looked at a photo of the Alhambra with the snowy mountains behind it, and also some photos of the interior.  We noticed how some of the pillars reminded us of the pillars of the market place in Gaudí's Park Guell.

6.  We looked at some samples of the tile mosaics from the Alhambra and discussed the differences between these mosaics and those of Gaudí in Barcelona.  I was amazed by how much the children could remember about Gaudí's mosaics and their insightful comments about the Moorish mosaics.

7.  We noticed that the main difference between the two styles of mosaic was that the Moorish mosaics are very symmetrical, and Gaudí's are more random (for want of a better, more artistic word!)  We practised making symmetrical patterns on the IWB.  I then gave them each one of the triangle sheets from the V&A site and with great gusto they set about making symmetrical patterns:
When I do this again I will draw the mirror lines on the sheet before photocopying. This boy drew his own on and found working out the symmetry much easier.  This kept them occupied for a good half hour.

8.  After break we set about making some much larger scale mosaics.  We noticed that the Moorish mosaics only use black, blue, green and gold on a white background.  We used the irregular hexagon, the eight-pointed star and the octagon from the V&A site.  We invented our own patterns as we couldn't work out how to make the shapes fit together.  I think I might be a bit more adventurous next time!

Here are our finished mosaics:

If you'd like to have a go at this yourself, you can download the resources from MFL Sunderland.  You can read more about my Gaudí unit here.

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