Recently I have been teaching the drawing and interpretation of plans and elevations to my set 4 in Year 8; I love teaching this topic as it can be really hands on and can create quite an atmosphere if done well. I love how active the kids are when I set competitions for which teams can build shapes out of multi-link that have the given plan, then watch them have to adapt when I give them the front elevation, or side elevation, or both. So I thought I would take this opportunity to share three of my favourite approaches/activities for this topic.
1) Wall smashing: Remember those cartoons we used to watch when we were young where a character would run off through a wall, leaving a nice character shaped hole; usually with their arms flailing in fear? Welcome to a front elevation! I have yet to find (or get around to making) a compilation with lots of these clips one after the other, but you can find the individual cartoons online and play them if you like, or often the visual images will do. Getting kids to draw these rather than starting with the boring old shapes made of multi-link can be a nice introduction, and if you are brave enough you can create some scared jumpy children as you slam your hand into the table or wall to show you smashing a shape through a wall to create an imaginary elevation or plan.
2) Potato or sponge printing: I don't use this one a lot, but it can be great for certain kids that cant break the need to represent in 3D and understand that these are supposed to be 2D representations. Anyone who has young children will have played the game where you cut a shape into a potato or sponge; dip it into paint and then print onto paper. I prefer sponges as they can often be cut with classroom scissors and get across the idea that if you have depth this impression is destroyed when you print, as the sponge simply flattens.
3) Build and draw around: Pretty much as you would expect really, kids get the opportunity to build the shape and if needs be draw around it. I tend to use the shapes in the plans and elevations lessons at www.MyMaths.co.uk (slides 1 or 3) as they have the added bonus of the animation that changes from the isometric into each of the elevations and plan as well as having the faces from each view coloured. These are all shapes that can be built from multilink, giving pupils a real view of the shape. A lot of pupils won't need to build the shapes (although a lot like to anyway) but for some building the shape is a really useful way to be able to manipulate and view it from the different angles. Those that are really struggling can actually then place the shape flat onto paper and draw around it (note - if you haven't done this before make sure pupils understand they have to hold their pencil perpendicular to the page at all times, or it wont necessarily work). Rarely will you get completely accurate drawings because of the textures of the cubes and some difficulties keeping the pencil perpendicular, but it is usually enough to convey the message and can help pupils then draw a more accurate representation once they know broadly what they are aiming for.
So there you have it, if you feel like your teaching of plans and elevations has gotten a little stale over the years, or you are just starting out and looking for nice introductions to the topic, why not try a little hands on work to freshen up those lessons. There is a link to a prezi here which shows the mymaths link and also the shapes I use for the building competition.
P.S. - Top tip: Did you know that plans and elevations are called orthographic drawing in D&T? Why not talk to your D&T teachers to discuss their approaches and see what resources they use. This could even be tied into a cross-curricular project where they complete orthographic drawings in maths that they use in D&T to build a product (how about a shape sorter where all the shapes go through all the holes when held a certain way!?)