Houses for the Three Little Pigs
By Paul Reynaud, February 27, 2017
- Elementary School
- Smithsonian Design Institute
- Language Arts
- Social Studies
4 45-minute periods
Students respond to design challenges suggested by The Three Little Pigs. Using details and characters from the story to pose design challenges, they make houses designed to withstand the Big Bad Wolf’s ferocious blowing. Then they design houses that blow over easily, to give the Big Bad Wolf a happy ending for a change.
Core Curriculum ELA— RL.K.1.2 Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson. RL.1.3 Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details. RL.2.3 Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges. Next Generation Science Standards K-2-ETS1 Engineering/Design K-2-ETS1-2 Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem. K-2-ETS1-3 Analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solve the same problem to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs.
ELA—Reading: Literature Students will:
- Retell familiar stories, demonstrating understanding of their central message.
- Describe how characters in a story respond to challenges.
- Identify ways everyday objects and structures (e.g.—houses) meet the needs of the people who use them.
- Demonstrate understanding of relative locations of objects (e.g.—inside/ outside) through the use of appropriate vocabulary.
Understand and address the needs of their audience.
- Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem.
- Analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solve the same problem to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs.
- Computer/DVD player
- Disney Silly Symphonies Three Little Pigs
- The Three Little Pigs retold and illustrated by James Marshall
- KEVA blocks
- Legos (classroom set)
- Straws and Connectors
- Wooden blocks
- Hollow blocks
- Three-speed portable room fan
- Student journals
- house:a building that serves as shelter and protection for humans or animals.
- prototype: a first or early example that is used as a model for what comes later
- architect: a person who designs buildings
- engineer: a person who has scientific training and who designs and builds complicated products, machines, systems, or structures
Day 1: Read story or show cartoon of The Three Little Pigs. Ask students to tell what problem the pigs had to solve (they had to build houses for themselves, they had to protect themselves from the wolf). Ask what job(s) the house had to do for the pigs. List answers on chart paper. Ask whether they can think of any other jobs a house should be able to do (shelter, protect, provide comfort, be beautiful…). Tell students that their project today is to build houses that do some (or all) of these jobs. At worktables, students have bins of Legos, KEVA blocks, wooden blocks, Magnatiles, straws and connectors. They are to build houses that 1) stand up on their own, 2) have an inside and an outside, 3) do at least one of the jobs we listed above for houses. Students work in small groups at worktables for about 20 min. Students share their houses and explain what jobs they do. Day 2: Have students participate in group retell of Three Little Pigs story, making sure they identify
- the little pigs’ problem
- details of how the houses solved their problem (or not)
- What are houses for? What jobs do they do?
- How can we build houses that will protect the little pigs?
- Why did some houses stand up to the huffing and puffing? What made them stronger?
- What will we have to do to change our houses when we have a different challenge—making houses that will fall down? How will we make houses that look safe but that fall down to huffing and puffing?
Days 1, 2, and 3 have “tests” for completed houses. Students self-check to make sure they’ve satisfied all requirements, then share their prototypes with the teacher and the class. Day 4 is a journal entry, which can also serve as an assessment. Differentiation: Students may work individually or in teams, and the teacher circulates to support, encourage, and make suggestions. Students who complete the design challenge quickly can 1)help other students, 2)do a similar challenge with different materials (plastic blocks, hollow blocks, plus-plus, etc.), 3) work on an independent challenge of their own devising.
Enrichment Extension Activities
We compare and contrast houses from around the world—stick houses, straw houses, brick houses, and many others—examining images downloaded from the internet. Students described weird or beautiful houses in their own neighborhoods and we discussed the design problems they solved. We did a series of fairy and folk-tale lessons: bridges for the Three Billy Goats Gruff, cranes and elevators for Rapunzel’s tower, traps for the Giant in Jack and the Beanstalk, et al.
The four-day, week-long lesson was ideal for Kindergartners, but I think that my 1st graders would have enjoyed a day or two more of house building and design exploration. Both groups grasped the problems easily and came up with some ingenious designs but Kindergartners didn’t like making houses designed to fall down. When I do the lesson again, I’ll probably spend less time explaining and more time with students at work-tables. I’ll rely more on the discussion time after we’ve made our houses and put them to the test.