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Mar 3, 2015
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Prior Knowledge: A House is a House for Me

Grade Levels: 1 - 3


This lesson is designed to teach primary students how to activate prior knowledge before they begin reading. The lesson teaches students how to make text-to-world connections using the book A House Is a House for Me, by Mary Ann Hoberman. In this lesson, students help complete a KWL chart by making text-to-world connections before reading the book and then make new text-to-world connections after reading. This lesson is the second in a set of activating prior knowledge lessons designed for primary grades.


  • A House Is a House for Me by Mary Ann Hoberman

  • KWL Chart

  • Chart paper

  • Drawing paper


  1. Planning and Diagnostics

    For students to be able to use prior knowledge and participate in this lesson, they need to be able to understand how the text and their world are connected. They should have completed the introductory lesson, connecting the text to themselves, and have experience making those connections.

  2. Hook/Engagement

    Help students make some initial text-to-world connections by activating some of their prior knowledge about houses. Draw a two-column chart on the blackboard or on a piece of chart paper. Label the first column "Houses for People" and the second column "Houses for Animals." Ask students to first talk about what a house means to them. Then, ask students to give you some examples that belong under each heading. For example, students may cite apartments, igloos, tents, huts, pueblos, and caves as homes for people. Students may cite nests, holes, cabins, deserts, cages, doghouses, and birdhouses as homes for animals.

    Explain to students that the author of the book A House Is a House for Me talks about lots of different houses for things besides people and animals, but making these initial text-to-world connections will help them understand the book. Tell them that they are going to make even more text-to-world connections as they listen to this story.

  3. Vocabulary

    • sow: an adult female pig

    • Cree: a member of an American Indian people of Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan

    • Hopi: a member of an American Indian people of northern Arizona

  4. Measurable Objectives

    Explain to students that they will make connections to the world as they listen to A House Is a House for Me, and that they will use a KWL chart to record their connections. Student pairs will write and draw answers to questions they formulated about the text as well as new text-to-world connections.

  5. Focused Instruction

    Explain to students that good readers think about what they already know about the topic before they read. Connecting the story to something they already know about the world, for example about houses for people; animals; and things, will help them better understand the story.

    Use a KWL chart, such as the one below, and model text-to-world connections. Read the title, A House Is a House for Me, aloud to students and show them the cover of the book. Ask them to name some of the people, animals, and things that they see on the cover, and then talk about what kinds of houses these people, animals, and things might live in. Then, take a picture walk through some of the pages of the book that show animals, people, and things in "houses." Guide students to understand that this book shows different types of houses for people, animals, and things. It shows houses for things in a way that students might not initially think about. Help students to activate their prior knowledge and make some text-to-world connections by asking them to think of some general things that they know about houses—for any person, animal, or thing. Model several initial text-to-world connections about houses to help students:.

    "This book ties people, animals, and things together by showing that they all have houses. When I think about what a house is, I think that it must be comfortable for the person or animal in it. A house also protects whoever or whatever lives or stays inside of it."

    Write this information in the first column. Ask students to volunteer some other things they know about houses, and then write their ideas in the first column. Encourage students to be general enough so that they don't begin listing a house for each specific person, animal, or thing.

    Next, model several questions that you have about houses now that you have begun to think about what you already know:

    "I know that this book is about houses, and I know some important things about houses. But, I would like to know how nonliving things can really have houses. I would also like to know about the title of the book. What kind of house is for me?"

    Write these questions in the second column, and then have students think about other things they want to know.

  6. Activating Prior Knowledge: Connecting Text to World
    I know...I want to know...I learned...
    I know houses...

    are comfortable.

    protect who or what is inside.
    Do nonliving things really have houses?
    What kind of houses do they have?

    What does the title of the book mean?

    What is a house for a ___?
    In a way, nonliving things do have houses. For example, a plane lives in a hangar and a cookie lives in a cookie jar.

    People can live in all types of houses like a tree house and a tepee.

    Every living and nonliving thing has a house.

  7. Guided Practice

    Tell students that as you read A House Is a House for Me aloud, they will think about the questions they asked and listen for the answers. Model some text-to-world connections as you read; for example, talk about your knowledge of houses for marine life, or how you have learned to make new text-to-world connections when thinking about a teapot as a house for some tea or a sandwich as a house for some ham. Point out how reading this book has helped you think of what a house is in a different way.

    This book helps students think about a house in a slightly different way than they did in the "Engagement" activity. Have students write or draw answers to:

    A _______ is a house for me.

    Students can draw a picture of where they live, or they can be more creative with their drawing and draw a picture of themselves inside a tent on a camping trip or in a tree house, and so on. Once students are finished with this activity, ask them to share their answers and to make a text-to-world connection to explain their answers. As students are giving their answers, ask them to show you the pages and point to the pictures that helped them answer their question.

  8. Independent Practice

    Ask students to write and draw an answer to this sentence.
    A _______ is a house for ________.

    Students should write and draw about one person, animal, or thing from the story. Encourage students to share by explaining their drawings.

  9. Assessment "Let's talk about what you've done."

    To assess whether students have learned how to make text-to-world connections, listen to their explanations of the drawings they did in the "Independent Practice" activity. Then, write this sentence again:
    A _______ is a house for ________.

    First, ask students to complete the sentence when you give them half of the answer. For example, you may write "castle" and students should tell you "king." Or, you may write "a kennel" and students should tell you "a dog."

    Then, tell them to complete the sentence with some person, animal, or thing that was not in the book. Have them write and draw about it. Once students are finished, ask them to explain their sentence and picture. Listen to assess whether students have successfully made a text-to-world connection.

  10. Reflection and Planning

    Determine which students understand how to make text-to-world connections and which students need help. For students who need more help, talk about a story you have already read with students and help them to make text-to-world connections with that story. Once they have mastered this, then have them use a KWL chart to make text-to-world connections and activate their prior knowledge for a new book.

For more information on teaching your students to connect texts to themselves, see Activating Prior Knowledge. Other lesson plans include Prior Knowledge: The Popcorn Book and Prior Knowledge: The Three Little Pigs.

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