A Tale of Two Schools

By Jacqueline Taylor, April 25, 2008

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • Architecture

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies
  • Technology

Lesson Time

Three fifty-minute class sessions, a field trip to the local public library and a field trip walking tour


In this activity, students will utilize newly acquired research skills to compare and contrast two schools functioning in their area.* Try to choose schools that are architecturally different from one another and built years apart. Students will walk around the neighborhoods noting design and home styles near each school site. They will visit the archives of the local public library and look up newspaper articles indicating the opening of the schools. They will use the resources at the library to research school design and the schools they are studying. They will also be introduced to the Sanborn Maps, both in person and digitally.
*Two options of schools to use in New Orleans, LA are Warren Easton High School, which opened in 1913, and Schaumburg Elementary, built in 2003.

National Standards

Standard 4. Level III. Understands the nature of technological design Benchmark 2. Knows that the design process relies on different strategies: creative brainstorming to establish many design solutions, evaluating the feasibility of various solutions in order to choose a design, and troubleshooting the selected design. Benchmark 7. Knows that construction design is influenced by factor such as building laws and codes, style, convenience, cost, climate, and function.
Language Arts
Standard 4. Level III. Gathers and uses information for research purposes Benchmark 2. Uses library catalogs and periodical indexes to locate sources for research topics. Standard 8. Level III. Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes Benchmark 6. Makes oral presentations to the class (e.g., uses notes and outlines; uses organizational pattern that includes preview, introduction, body, transitions, conclusion; uses a clear point of view; uses evidence and arguments to support opinions; uses visual media)
Social Studies
Standard 2. Level III. Understands the historical perspective Benchmark 6. Knows different types of primary and secondary sources and the motives, interests, and bias expressed in them (e.g., eyewitness accounts, letters, diaries, artifacts, photos; magazine articles, newspaper accounts, hearsay)
Visual Arts
Standard 2. Level III. Knows how to use structures (e.g., sensory qualities, organizational principles, expressive features) and functions of art

Common Core State Standards

English Language Arts Standards Writing 

Grade 6-8

Text Types and Purposes:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.1 Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.1.A Introduce claim(s) about a topic or issue, acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.1.B Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant, accurate data and evidence that demonstrate an understanding of the topic or text, using credible sources.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.1.C Use words, phrases, and clauses to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.1.D Establish and maintain a formal style.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.1.E Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2 Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2.A Introduce a topic clearly, previewing what is to follow; organize ideas, concepts, and information into broader categories as appropriate to achieving purpose; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., charts, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2.B Develop the topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2.C Use appropriate and varied transitions to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among ideas and concepts.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2.D Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2.E Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2.F Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented.
  • (See note; not applicable as a separate requirement)
Production and Distribution of Writing:
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.5 With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas clearly and efficiently.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
  • Range of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for reflection and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

English Language Arts Standards: Speaking and Listening

Grade 6-8

Comprehension and Collaboration:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.1.A Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.2 Analyze the purpose of information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and evaluate the motives (e.g., social, commercial, political) behind its presentation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.3 Delineate a speaker's argument and specific claims, evaluating the soundness of the reasoning and relevance and sufficiency of the evidence and identifying when irrelevant evidence is introduced.
  • Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.4 Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.5 Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. (See grade 8 Language standards 1 and 3 here for specific expectations.)

English Language Arts Standards: Reading Informational Text

Grade 6-8    

Key Ideas and Details:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-8.1 Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-8.2 Determine two or more central ideas in a text and analyze their development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-8.3 Analyze the interactions between individuals, events, and ideas in a text (e.g., how ideas influence individuals or events, or how individuals influence ideas or events).
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-8.6 Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author distinguishes his or her position from that of others.
  • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-8.7 Compare and contrast a text to an audio, video, or multimedia version of the text, analyzing each medium's portrayal of the subject (e.g., how the delivery of a speech affects the impact of the words).
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-8.8 Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient to support the claims.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-7.9 Analyze how two or more authors writing about the same topic shape their presentations of key information by emphasizing different evidence or advancing different interpretations of facts.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-8.10 By the end of the year, read and comprehend literary nonfiction in the grades 6-8 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

English Language Arts Standards: History/Social Studies

Grade 6-8

Key Ideas and Details:

  • CCSS.ELA-yt54LITERACY.RH.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.3 Identify key steps in a text's description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).
  • Craft and Structure:
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.5 Describe how a text presents information (e.g., sequentially, comparatively, causally).
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.6 Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author's point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.10 By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 6-8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.


Students will: • work together in groups • go on a walking tour around different buildings • create and maintain journals of various interests and observations of design while on tours • learn to appreciate the architectural styles found in their community • create sketches of various local schools • utilize a local public library for research purposes • compare and contrast different styles of architecture • research important buildings in their community • create a mock-up of the two schools they researched, compared, and contrasted



• journals • sketch pads • drawing utensils • computers • graphic organizer • clipboards • digital cameras


• Sanborn Maps • Horizontal lines • Vertical lines • Curved lines • Diagonal lines • Texture • Color • Layering • Retrofitting These are terms that the students are familiar with. They will define them in their own words.


The purpose of this activity is to involve students in the appreciation of the architecture in their area. (This lesson uses New Orleans, LA as an example, but it can be utilized anywhere. Students are acutely aware of the importance of preservation in this area, as so much of it was lost due to Hurricane Katrina.) 1. Break the class up into groups. The students will work in their group throughout the entire activity. 2. Inform the class that you will be conducting a walking tour around the school, noting the types of houses in the area, their design, the school’s design, and materials used in and around the school site. Students should take notes, draw sketches, and photograph (if possible) what they notice on the walking tour. The walking tour may take an entire class period. 3. After the walking tour, hold a class discussion about what was noticed on the walking tour. Take notes on the chalkboard listing everything the students noticed or did not notice (which may help draw conclusions about the area, the school, etc.). 4. Take students to the archives section of the Public Library. Introduce them to the card catalogs, microfiche machines, and Sanborn Maps. 5. Students should research a select number of Public Schools from the oldest in the city to the newest using their sketch pads and journals to take notes and draw sketches. Students should pay attention to architectural styles, development around the schools, materials used, reconstruction, etc. 6. Students should also research school design. Are elementary schools designed differently than high schools? How do architects design buildings differently depending on whom will be using them? Do certain environments encourage learning? 7. Have students choose another school in their city to compare and contrast with their own school. (For New Orleans, students could research Warren Easton High School, which has been functioning since 1913 and Schaumburg Elementary which was built in 2003 and rebuilt following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.) 8. Students will utilize a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast the architectural style, design, and environment of the two buildings. 9. Students will create sketches of the two buildings, noting the environment around the schools and the important design features. 10. Students will write an Artist's Statement which will be delivered orally to the class.
11. Students will utilize the Promethean board to share information and research they learned to the class. Encourage discuss among the class and take notes of key points.


Students will be evaluated based upon research in the Public Library, participation in class discussions, generation of questions, thoughtful and creative writings, and redesigns of the schools they researched. Differentiated instruction will occur in natural settings by engineering cooperative learning groups and defining roles and responsibilities of members.

Enrichment Extension Activities

This can be expanded by employing writing and creative arts techniques. To synthesize, students may plan and sketch a Dream School describing the color, floor, ceiling, neighborhood, interior, decorations, furniture, technology, sounds, and windows they would utilize. The next step would be an arts connection, where they could build their Dream School using various modalities such as poster board, cardboard, clay, or Legos. They could host a design fair of their own and invite others, including leaders in the community, to view their Dream School prototypes. Students can utilize their new research skills to search for their ancestry, as this topic is of great interest to the students.

Teacher Reflection

Students were very successful during their visit to the Public Library for research. Assessment indicated creativity across all ability levels. Students could benefit from using the microfiche machines to view old, newsworthy editions of their local papers. Providing information to the students about what they would be viewing and doing at the library reduced distractions and enabled students to work successfully during their time spent in the archives. The research activity was very successful, although the students could’ve used more time to view the Sanborn Maps. Students utilized prior knowledge to ask questions and make inquiries during the school tours. After the activity, students felt empowered to request a return to the public library to research their roots.

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