America’s Favorite Landmarks

By Miranda Thompson, June 13, 2007

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Architecture

Subject Area

  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies
  • Technology

Lesson Time

Six ninety-minute class periods


In this activity, students will use Google Earth and a variety of Web sites to explore America’s most prominent and famous buildings. They will compare and contrast the architectural styles that are found in the United States. They will write a position paper defending or arguing against their chosen building’s rank on, or arguing to add a building that is not on the list. Finally, they will use Google SketchUp to design a 3-D model of one of their favorite Philadelphia or United States landmarks.

National Standards

ISTE_NETS*S_3.8.1: Use content-specific tools, software, and simulations (e.g., environmental probes, graphing calculators, exploratory environments, Web tools) to support learning and research. ISTE_NETS*S_5.8.3: Select and use appropriate tools and technology resources to accomplish a variety of tasks and solve problems.
Literacy/ Writing
1.4.9.C: The student will be able to write persuasive pieces. (View Core Curriculum / Standards Alignment) 1.4.9.C.1: Include clearly stated position or opinion. 1.4.9.C.2: Include convincing, elaborated and properly cited evidence. 1.4.9.C.3: Develop reader interest. 1.4.9.C.4: Anticipate and counter reader concerns and arguments. 1.4.9.C.5: Learn methods to advance the argument or position.
Social Studies
7.1.9.B: Explain and locate places and regions 7.1.9.A.1: Development and use of geographic tools 8.3.12.B: Identify and evaluate primary documents, material artifacts and historic sites important in United States 8.3.12.B.3: Historic Places 8.1.9.A: Analyze chronological thinking 8.1.9.A.1: Difference between past, present and future

Common Core Standards:

Anchors for Reading

Key Ideas and Details:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3 Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

Craft and Structure:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.5 Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6 Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10 Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Anchor Standards for Writing

Text Types and Purposes:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

Production and Distribution of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Range of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening

Comprehension and Collaboration:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Anchor standards for Language:

Conventions of Standard English:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

Knowledge of Language:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6 Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.



Students will do the following:
  • respond to writing prompts and create an argument for or against a building
  • conduct Internet research on architectural styles
  • practice and refine oral presentation skills
  • use Google Earth to analyze locations
  • create 3-D representations of famous US landmarks
  • evaluate, analyze, and interpret information from multiple sources
  • use digital photography to record the features of a local landmark
  • use SketchUp to create a 3-D model of a local landmark



  • computers with Internet Access and word processing software
  • clipboards
  • pencils
  • paper
  • digital cameras for the fieldtrip


Unfamiliar art and architecture terms can be found at the online architecture illustrated dictionary:


Class 1
  • 15 minutes: Have students pull up the “America’s Favorite Architecture” website on their computer. They should browse all of the buildings listed on the website and choose one that they either love or hate.
  • 45 minutes: After choosing one building that they love or hate from the list, students will research the historical significance and style of their building: o o
  • 30 minutes: Students should compile their notes and research on the building. They should choose their stance as to whether the building should be included, excluded, moved up, or moved down on the list of “America’s Favorite Architecture.”
Class 2
  • 20 minutes: Have the students read two articles about “America’s Favorite Architecture” as examples of persuasive essay writing. They can also use facts that they find in the articles in their own argument.
  • 10 minutes: As a class, review the writing rubric. (See Assessments)
  • 10 minutes: The students should review their notes and continue any additional research they need for their paper. If the students want to create an outline for their paper, they should use this time to do so.
  • 50 minutes: Students should write their arguments for or against the landmark's inclusion, exclusion, and rank on the list of “America’s Favorite Architecture.”
Class 3
  • 15 minutes: Students can complete any last minute preparations and additions to their arguments.
  • 30 minutes: Each student should switch papers with a peer, and complete a peer review of the arguments following the guidelines on the rubric.
  • 45 minutes: Each student will present the main points of their arguments to the class (2-3 minutes). As a class, create a list on the board compiling the students'choice of best and worst architecture landmarks.
Class 4
  • Walking Tour: The class will take a fieldtrip to 3 important landmarks  within walking distance of the school. (In Philadelphia, go to Independence Hall, Philadelphia Colonial Row home, Old Pine Community Center/Graveyard. This project can be done in any town, not just in Philadelphia).
  • Students will spend 15 minutes in each location photographing and sketching the landmark from all sides. If there is not enough time in class, the students can visit a town landmark for homework as part of the research process.
Class 5
  • 30 minutes: Each student should complete a SketchUp online tutorial in order to learn how to use the software.
  • 60 minutes: The students should practice using Google SketchUp to create a 3-D replica of their chosen building.
Class 6
  • 45 minutes: Students should continue working on the 3-D model of their building on SketchUp.
  • 45 minute: Each student should present their project and complete a self and peer assessment. (Rubrics are attached.)


See attached rubrics for writing and design assessment.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Students may create a Web site or post their papers and designs on the Web as part of a school-wide technology initiative. ( is an example of a site used by Constitution High School.)

Teacher Reflection

The students had varying degrees of success in both the writing and design aspects of the lesson. The SketchUp project was more time intensive and difficult to use than I had first anticipated. In the future, I would modify the assignment by giving students more time to learn SketchUp before requiring such a labor-intensive project.

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