What makes a House a House
by Lori Woitalla

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Grades 2-3

Suggested Curriculum Area:
Social Studies

This lesson will examine the ways in which the environment influences the house design.


  • Children will be able to describe how the physical environment, weather, and local materials, influence the type of house a family builds.

  • Children will draw a house according to a given set of information based on the above-mentioned characteristics.

Background information for teachers:

The environment influences the materials used to build. Local materials are often defined as building materials that are found at or near the building site. Wood houses are often built where there are many trees. In the desert, mud is a local material. In tropical regions, grass and bamboo are often used.

It is also important to look at the type of weather an area has. If a house is to be built where there are seasonal changes it needs to accommodate all the seasons. If a house is built where there are floods, it must be built off the ground.

Lesson Outline


A house provides shelter from the weather, and safety from enemies such as wild animals. Houses are places where people come together. Where they find comfort and keep belongings. You can learn a lot about a culture by studying the houses they live in.

Many areas are considered when building a house, such as physical environment, weather, and local materials.


1. Start by having the children either take or bring in a picture of their house and bring in a collection of pictures of houses around the world.

2. Compare the similarities and differences of the houses brought in by the children. In Wisconsin, most houses have a slanted roof. We have screens and glass on our windows. Most houses have windows. Most are made of wood.

3. Discuss with the children why our houses look this way. This area of the world has many trees so wood is readily available. Mosquitoes and other flying insects are in Wisconsin so we need to have screens on our windows. We have glass in our windows because of the changing seasons. We need to be able to keep the cold out in the winter. We also have snow so our roofs need to be slanted to allow that to slide off the roof.

4. Discuss whether all the houses in the U.S. are the same. Why are houses in the north different from those in the south? (Environment, weather, materials to build with, customs of the people living in the area.)

5. Read to the children A House is a House for Me by Mary Ann Hoberman and discuss each of the houses in the story. Show the children where these houses are on a map of the world.

6. Show pictures of houses around the world and ask the children to guess where they are located. Ask them what clues they used to decide. Answers should include the environment, weather of the area, materials in the area, wealth of the country, etc.

7. Hand out the cards containing environment, weather, and local materials information.

8. Have the children draw a house according to the information on their cards.

Amount of time
1(forty-five minute session)

Materials list
- Pictures of students' houses
- Pictures of houses from around the world
- House description cards
- Paper to draw house on
- A House is a House for Me by Mary Ann Hoberman, Penguin USA ,1993 Paperback, ISBN: 0140951164


website http://www.hgpho.to/wfest/house/house-e.html

Houses and Homes, Author: Ann Morris, Publisher: HarperTrophy: ISBN: 0688135781

A World of Homes: A Beginning Social Studies Big Book. Author: Kari Jenson Gold with Janet Reed, Publisher: Newbridge Educational Publishing, ISBN: 1-56784-305-0 / 1567843050.

How a House Is Built Author: Gail Gibbons, Publisher: Holiday House, ISBN: 0823412326

Connections to Standards
Social Studies A.4.4, A.4.5, A.4.7, D.4.2, D.4.3, E.4.4, E.4.13


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