Why We Live Where We Live

In this unit, we read about unusual homes from around the world – some fictional, some real – and think about how we express ourselves in our own homes.

Grade level: 2nd-3rd

Background: This is one of my favorite, favorite, favorite units. …that’s all.

Big questions: Why do we live where we live? How do we express who we are? What makes a good neighbor – and a good neighborhood?

Resources: The Big Orange Splot (Daniel Pinkwater), Bottle Houses (Melissa Eskridge Slaymaker), If You Lived Here: Houses of the World (Giles LaRoche)

Website: http://crazyhouses.tumblr.com/

For art project: large paper roll, construction paper, pencils, scissors, glue, crayons, and markers

Instructional plan

Session 1:

Read: If You Lived Here: Houses of the World (LaRoche). Discuss how houses can look very different in different parts of the world, as well as within our own neighborhoods. How do these houses reflect the parts of the world they are in – the climate, the colors, the materials available? Locate the places described in the book on a globe or map.

Brainstorm as a class and write on the board: what are some common attributes of homes where we live? How do those attributes reflect our environment? (Lots of apartment buildings because we’re in a city. Brick walls because it’s cold here. Slanted roofs & rain gutters because it rains a lot etc.)

Extension: Students pick one of the houses from the book and create a T-chart comparing their own home to the house from If You Lived Here. What do they have in common? How are they different? You can also have students draw their home. Depending on your students, be a little cautious here; you may have students who are homeless or otherwise uncomfortable sharing their housing situation, so let students know that it doesn’t need to be THEIR home – they can share a relative’s or friend’s home, or just a home from their neighborhood.

Session 2:

Show pictures of unusual houses online. What do these houses tell us about their owners – their personalities, their interests? What can we know about them just from looking at their house?

Discuss some ways that we express who we are. What posters do we hang on the walls of our rooms? What do we choose to wear on the weekends? Does this ever conflict with the needs of other people? (if we share a bedroom, following the school dress code)

Read: The Big Orange Splot (Pinkwater).

Why did Mr. Pinkwater write this book? Talk about why Mr. Plumbean’s neighbors wanted to keep their “neat street,” and why it was important to Mr. Plumbean to have his house the way he liked it. Did his choices hurt anyone? Can he still be a good neighbor if he has a different house? Was the street better at the end?

Introduce art activity, to be completed in week two.

Activity: Each student will use construction paper and crayons and markers to design a house that looks like their dreams. When the houses are finished, we will put them all on a butcher paper “street” to hang in the hallway or library.

Session 3:

Continue work on art project. Begin to build “street” on butcher paper – students can decorate around their houses (their “yards”) as well.

Session 4:

Complete art project and hang street on the wall.

Read Bottle Houses (Slaymaker) and show some real photographs of Grandma Prisbey’s Bottle Village. Talk about “outsider art” – we have a whole museum of outsider art in Chicago!

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