Houses for the Three Little Pigs

By Paul Reynaud, February 27, 2017

Grade Level

  • Elementary School

Category

  • Smithsonian Design Institute

Subject Area

  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

4 45-minute periods

Introduction

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.

National Standards

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.

Objectives

ELA—Reading: Literature
Students will:
  • Retell familiar stories, demonstrating understanding of their central message.
  • Describe how characters in a story respond to challenges.
  Social Studies
Students will:
  • 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.
 
Engineering /Design Students will:
  • 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.

Resources

  • Computer/DVD player
  • Projector
  • Screen
  • Disney Silly Symphonies Three Little Pigs
  • The Three Little Pigs retold and illustrated by James Marshall

Materials

  • Magnatiles
  • KEVA blocks
  • Legos (classroom set)
  • Straws and Connectors
  • Wooden blocks
  • Hollow blocks
  • Three-speed portable room fan
  • Student journals

Vocabulary

  • 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

Procedures

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)

Tell students that now they will try to help the pigs solve their problem. Now that the students have experience as house builders, they can be master architects and engineers. Their clients or audience will be the pigs. Today, at worktables, they will build for an audience: they will keep the pigs’ problem (what were they..?) in mind as they build their prototype for a wolf-proof house. Today, their prototypes must 1) stand up on their own, 2) have an inside and an outside, 3) be able to withstand the huffing and puffing of our stand-in Big Bad Wolf—a portable fan.

Students work in small groups for about 20 min.

As students finish their prototypes, we try them out in front of the portable fan—low speed, medium, and then high.

If time permits, we share which materials and which designs worked best.

  Day 3:

Discuss previous day’s experience: did we solve the pigs’ problem? What worked best? What didn’t work? Did our houses do their job?

Tell students that today they have a new client, or audience—the Big Bad Wolf. He wants houses for the pigs that look sturdy and nice but that will be sure to fall over when the huffing and puffing begin. What have we learned about building houses? Are there any shapes or sizes or materials that make it easy to blow a house down. Students share ideas and experiences with the materials. Students go to worktables to build prototypes of Little Pig houses for the Big Bad Wolf. Today, their houses must 1) stand up on their own, 2) have an inside and an outside, 3) be easy to blow over with the portable fan. Students work in small groups for about 20 min. As students finish their prototypes, we try them out in front of the portable fan—low speed, medium, and then high. If time permits, we share which materials and which designs worked best for the Wolf.   Day 4: Discussion of yesterday’s design challenge: did we solve the wolf’s problem? What worked best? What didn’t work? Today you will share one of your best designs in your journal. You will draw an accurate and detailed picture of the house that you thought worked best and you will write about what job your house did—e.g.: “This house solved the pigs’ problem. It was strong enough to protect the pigs from the Wolf” or  “This house blew down even when the Wolf was blowing on low speed. It solved the Wolf’s problem,” etc. Remember to tell which problem your prototype solved and which client it helped. As students finish their journals, they move to worktables and build houses that solve problems of their own devising. If time permits, we share these “free choice” houses.

 Discussion Questions to Consider:

  • 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?
 

Assessment

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.

Teacher Reflection

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.

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