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Putting Books to Work: THE HOUSE THAT GEORGE BUILT

by Kimberly Osko
February 14, 2014

THE HOUSE THAT GEORGE BUILT (Charlesbridge, 2012)
Written by Suzanne Slade
Illustrated by Rebecca Bond
Grades K-5

Putting Books to Work: The House that George BuiltTHE HOUSE THAT GEORGE BUILT takes K-5 readers on an informative and fun journey back to the early days of the White House. The creation of the most famous house in America is revealed in picturesque step by step progression with beautiful watercolor illustrations by Rebecca Bond. Slade reveals how George Washington was part of building this presidential project from design to deadline.

Readers will be delighted to observe the colonial landscape and the construction process evolve from beginning to end. It wasn’t easy, and Washington faced many challenges, the story speaks to perseverance! This Junior Library Guild selection (and 2013 Bank Street College of Education Best Book of the Year) shares two writing styles: informative historical narrative and rhyming verse in cumulative memorable prose children will love to repeat!

The Author’s Note discloses little-known details about the White House project. From the contest Washington held to the many additions, a lot has changed to the house that George built, especially after it was set fire during the War of 1812. Readers will be surprised to learn it has received many improvements and every US president has lived in the White House except Washington himself.

Putting Books to Work: THE HOUSE THAT GEORGE BUILTWhether teachers are looking to introduce President's Day or inquisitive students are learning about the construction process, this book is a valuable resource. THE HOUSE THAT GEORGE BUILT can help connect K-5 classrooms to the history of the White House, Washington DC, Election Day, or an American symbols and landmarks study.

Cross-curricular connections: Science, History/Social Studies, Writing/Language Arts

Ideas for Classroom Use:

Building the President’s House 

Read THE HOUSE THAT GEORGE BUILT picture book.
Students will write a descriptive paragraph(s) which explains how the President’s House was built including the raw materials and order of construction. 

Modification option: Teacher may specify the number of construction steps to be included in narrative (more for older grades or less for younger grades.) 

[Addresses : CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.2, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.3, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.2, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.4, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.1, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.2]

Changes to the President’s House

After reading “The Changing President’s House” section in the back of the book, students will write a descriptive paragraph(s) which shares several improvements made 
to the White House after it was built, including details of who made each and why.

Modification option: Students will reference the White House website below and find one improvement not listed in the book to share in narrative.
Changing White House Timeline

[Addresses: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.4CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.4, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.1, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.2]

The Best President’s House Improvement

In a class discussion, ask students to answer the following question and provide reasons for their opinions—“What was the best addition/improvement made to the President’s House and why?”

[Addresses: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.1

Student Improvement Ideas

Students will write a narrative about their own plans for a new improvement or addition to the President’s House or grounds. Narrative will include well-chosen details about the improvement and its potential benefits (for President’s family, White House staff, visitors, or country.)

[Addresses: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.3CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.4, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.1, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.2]

WebQuest, Research and Write Descriptive Essay

Students in Grades 3, 4 or 5 will collaborate in groups and research past improvements to the White House, take a short video tour, and write a descriptive essay with three supporting details describing an addition or improvement from their group using this instructional WebQuest.

[Addresses: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.3CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.4, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.1, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.2]

Additional Resources and Activities:

THE HOUSE THAT GEORGE BUILT book trailer

The White House - Symbol of Leadership (K - 3) 
These White House Historical Association activity sheets explore what being a “symbol” means, and describe how the White House is a symbol. They also share how the White House became white, include a printable coloring sheet of the White House, and provide an opportunity for students to draw their own plans for an expanded White House.

Every Day is President’s Day at the White House (Grades K - 3)
This link provides White House Historical Association activity sheets which help students imagine what it would be like to be president. Activities include writing a new law, choosing supplies for the Oval Office, and a quiz which explores the decisions presidents must make.

The Colors and Shapes of the White House (Grades K - 3)
These White House Historical Association activity sheets ask students to draw plans of their own homes, then compare their plans to the White House plan. Photographs of two rooms in the White House are provided so students can search for various shapes in the room.

Building the White House (Grades 4 - 8)
This White House Historical Association link provides activities for students to learn how the White House has expanded through the years, and instructs students to create their own expansion ideas.

The White House Time Machine
This website lists important historical events relating the White House from 1790, when the site for the nation’s capital was first selected, through the year 2000. Each entry in the time machine has a link to related media clips and/or additional content.

Kimberly Osko is the children’s librarian at Lily Lake Grade School in Maple Park, IL. She recently graduated with a Library Information Technology degree from the College of DuPage and is one the first Illinois Paraprofessionals to earn the Certified Library Support Staff or CLSS, a new national program from ALA. She enjoys helping 4th and 5th graders create book trailers and has presented at the Illinois School Library Media Association conference in 2012. Kimberly is also proud to be an Illinois Monarch Award Committee Member.

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