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Sense of Belonging: Homes and Communities #2: If I Built a House, by Chris Van Dusen

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Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, children get to think wildly and creatively about the kinds of spaces they wish they could have at home.  Chris Van Dusen is a masterful storyteller and illustrator.  If your kids do not know his work, they will be fans after this lesson.  Make sure that you highlight Van Dusen’s works in your library.  Or, if you don’t have them, order them for your collection as soon as you can.  This lesson is easy, fun, extends the kids thinking, and introduces them to a very special author/illustrator.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



Use imagination to design a dream house.  (AASL 4.1.3, “Respond to literature and creative expressions of ideas in various formats and genres.”)

Suggested Time:

30-45 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each student will complete an original drawing of a house with unique, imaginative features.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Last week we started thinking about what we need to feel at home.  The little pirate did not like his home on the ship.  What kind of a home did he want?   (Answer:  A home that stands still, with a view from the hill, and a roof that is blue like the sky.)  Having a place to live helps us feel secure and safe.  To extend our thinking about homes, today you’ll get to use your imaginations to design a house that can be anything you want it to be!  The sky is the limit!!

If you know the work of Chris Van Dusen, you’ll be very excited that we’re reading another of his books today.  If you don’t yet know Chris Van Dusen, hold on to your hats!!  It’s going to be an exciting day to discover a new author/illustrator.

2. Main:

Share If I Built a House by Chris Van Dusen.  The illustrations are rich and detailed, so give the children plenty of time to soak them in.  Point out the use of color and perspective and Van Dusen’s wild imagination.

Ask the children what they would do if they could design the home of their dreams.  What would be inside?  A roller coaster?  An anti-gravity chamber?  A basketball court?

Pass out the assignment and tell the children that they will have 15 minutes to design their own home, just like the boy in the story.  What will they design?

Ask them to be sure to do their own work.  Their project should not look like their neighbor’s project!

3. Conclusion:

Bring the class back together and have a few students share what they have created.  If there is space, make a display in the library.  If not, prepared the pieces for display elsewhere in school.

  1. If I Built a House by Chris Van Dusen
  2. Student Handout (attached)
  3. Colored pencils or crayons

Students should notice that the book rhymes!  They will enjoy this since well-crafted rhyming books are always kid-pleasers.

Emphasize that the children must do their own thinking and must not copy one another.  Encourage the children to do something different from their neighbors. If several children insist that they want the same feature, be sure that they distinguish their work with different team colors, different flavors, different features, etc.

Recommended Books for This Lesson:

If I Built a House by Chris Van Dusen

Key Words:

Homes, Houses, Imagination, Design, Chris Van Dusen, Architecture

Student Handout, If I Built a House